Bike session: Get your gears right to race faster

Nail your pedalling efficiency with this session from Matt Bottrill to improve race-day performance

Credit: James Mitchell

I’m a big believer in using a variety of cadence in training, so you can be ready for all course profiles; whether it’s hilly, undulating or flat, if you introduce variety into your cadence you will soon start to see improvements in your performance.


Every individual has an optimal cadence, so if you can track this through training then you can soon start to work out what your optimal range is. Using a rev counter can really help with this. Power devices have this built in, but if you’re running heart rate or working on the feel-good factor then I’d also start working on a variety of cadence from overgearing to high revs of 110+.

How to use your gears to improve cycling technique & strength

How to pedal efficiently

A triathlete’s guide to bike cadence

In this session, we make a selection of gear changes, with the focus more on cadence rather than power. Concentrate on the force of each gear change and the flow of each pedal stroke. Really try and get a feel for how each gear changes and how this feels. Try and perform each session in race position, this will help your core to adapt to n aero position.

Matt’s top 2 tips

1. Choose the right gear

Gear choice is critical for the demands of your race, so make sure you have the right gear ratio. If you start to track your cadence you can soon work out the optimal gear range for specific courses.

2. Track your pedal efficiency

Tracking pedal efficiency is a great way to see where your optimal cadence lies. Devices like the Wattbike analyse your PES (Pedal Effectiveness Score) and track pedal imbalances.



14mins easy @90rpm

Main set

27mins moderate (9 efforts) starting in top gear, e.g. 53 x 23. Every 3mins change the gear down 1 sprocket
(e.g. 21-19-18-17-16-14-12-11) until you hit the bottom sprocket

Once in the bottom sprocket and last 3mins are complete, return up the block, but only holding 1mins per sprocket @moderate pace
(e.g. 11-12-14-16-17-18-19-21)


9mins easy at high cadence

Adapt for beginners

Just complete 1min in each gear and the same on returning up the cassette.

Adapt for Ironman


Complete two sets of the session. On the second effort the fatigue will really set in but dig deep to hold the position.


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