Forum home Road cycling forum Road beginners

Cadence - whats the point?

RuddRudd Posts: 264
edited February 2009 in Road beginners
I just got a new cycling computer which came with a cadence function. I didn't buy it for the cadence but thought since it had it might aswell use it! So whats the point of knowing your current and average cadence? How is it a trainiing aid. Do any of you try and aim for an average cadence while riding, how do you know what to target? Thanks


  • I use the cadence function a lot for intervals when I'm training, or on the turbo, as a way of making sure I'm maintaining output.

    Also a good way of measuring progress/fixing variables...... for example 80rpm in 42*19 on turbo gives xxxBPM.

  • pneumaticpneumatic Posts: 1,989
    I'm no expert but my understanding is that cadence is about pedalling efficiency. On the flat, a reasonably fit rider should be able to turn out 80 or so and that seems to be better for the legs than grinding away at lower rate (in a higher gear).

    When I got my first cadence computer, I tried to raise my cadence to about that level on training rides and it made a significant difference to my performance. On hills, it still drops to 60 or so, but that seems to be ok.

    the magic figure is 92.6 (?). Boffins in Russia declare this to be the optimum cadence for a racing cyclist, but then, when was the last time they won anything?

    When doing intervals, you can spin off up to 120 for a short burst, but probably not sustain it for very long.

    Fast and Bulbous
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • doyler78doyler78 Posts: 1,951
    This month's C+ has an interesting article on cadence. There is at least one guy out there that believes riding at high cadences isn't always optimal, especially when doing endurance rides as our bodies have their own natural rythmns and our cadence should coform to those as much as anyother rythmic thing we do. He does however admit that there hasn't been enough research in this area to make any firm conclusion but certainly seems worth the looking into especially as much else about our riding styles is pretty personal so why not this.
  • edhornbyedhornby Posts: 1,780
    Cadence is a potentially complex subject depending on how seriously you are training/racing/riding etc.... at the roughest level, on the flat, any thing less that 75 is a bit on the slow side and anything over 100 is kinda too high - so aiming for a number in the 80-90 range is good, as long as it feels comfortable

    I know that sounds really wooly but there are lots of other variables that affect what the optimum value should be - gradient, fitness, gearing, training goals etc....

    on your recent rides what were the average cadences?
    "I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel, how good is that"
    --Jens Voight
  • Gav888Gav888 Posts: 946
    I wish I had a computer with cadence now, at first I wasnt bothered but now im doing more structures training rather than just going out for a ride, cadence comes in very useful.

    Ive just started re-training myself to ride at 100 rpm, having read this weeks Cycling Weekly I though I would give it a go having been in the 80's before, and its hard work and having to keep counting how many revolutions in 10 seconds, then times by 6 becomes a pain, esp on a hill :evil:
    Cycling never gets any easier, you just go faster - Greg LeMond
  • RuddRudd Posts: 264
    very helpful all, thanks. I will look at the figures more closely next time I'm out and try and keep the numbers in a range.
  • k-dogk-dog Posts: 1,652
    The optimum cadence varies from person to person.

    One of the best ideas I heard was from Chris Carmichael (Lance's coach). He advocates doing a short TT effort over a fixed distance - something that would take 5-10 minutes so I suppose about 3 miles.

    Do that at 80 rpm, then 90, then 100 etc (obviously varying the gears so you are still working as hard as you can). Your optimum cadence is the fastest one obviously - he says that you should see a decrease in time as your cadence increases until there is a point where you become less efficient and then you get slower.

    As we saw with Lance v Ullrich and countless other examples different cadences work better for different people.
    I'm left handed, if that matters.
  • eheh Posts: 4,854
    Cadence on a computer is useful on the turbo, less so out on the road. To be honest it isn't that hard to get a pretty go estimate just using a stopwatch.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    If you watch novice cyclists say on charity rides - they invariably pedal pretty slowly - 60rpm or less sometimes.

    Now just watch a bunch of pro cyclists and count their rpm - its always >80 rpm.
  • pneumaticpneumatic Posts: 1,989
    cougie wrote:
    If you watch novice cyclists say on charity rides - they invariably pedal pretty slowly - 60rpm or less sometimes.

    Now just watch a bunch of pro cyclists and count their rpm - its always >80 rpm.

    Alternatively, watch a novice going up a slight incline. Thrashing away at 120+ in a very low gear while the bike creeps up the gradient at a pace that allows snails to take evasive action.

    I have often been overtaken on Alpine climbs by older men with legs like seasoned oak who just ease past me looking comfortable with their regular cadence. No strain, no pain, just gain. That seems to be the zen state that appropriate cadence takes you to.

    Fast and Bulbous
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • Cadence is something most every rider should work on, that is in most cases getting it to higher rate is a good thing. It used to be that 82-96 rpm was considered to be optimum, now many top riders go to 110-110 rpm . The advantage? Get speed with less effort, better blood and oxygen supply to your legs as the increased muscle contractions pump more blood. Less stress on your legs, especially knees (ligaments and patella), and reduce injuries. Increasing the maximum rpm you can reach, but not hold, will make your muscles fire more efficiently . At least one national team requires that their riders be able to hit 300 rpm. If I'm going to ride "serious" in the coming season I make myself hit over 200 rpm on the ergo-meter (trainer) and over 160 on the road, Using a fixed gear bike with lower gears (369X18-20, especially in early season), helps as well ( and a lot of the hair I have is gray)
    ride well
  • AesonAeson Posts: 1
    Cadence is very important - its just a fancey term for RPM. Being aware of it helps you learn proper shift points and avoids hitting the lactate threshold (where your legs tighten up and feel like they are going to explode) too soon.

    It can also be a great training buddy. So often we are looking at speed. I would suggest once a week you train on cadence. Set your computer to 85 or whatever you are comfortable with and try to keep it right there the entire ride. Your feel for shifting will improve.

    Another large compenent is Motor-learning. The Dr's call it neuromuscular memory. In a nutshell, your mucles will learn to perform the way you train them. If you practice spinning faster, your mucles will begin to understand and adapt. In cycling going faster is a higher cadence activity. You can always tell a beginner, when on that final sprint they hammer down, stand up and pedal slow and hard. A trained cyclist goes faster by increasing cadence and pedaling harder.
  • PostieJohnPostieJohn Posts: 1,105
    I was reading about this, in this month's cycle sport.
    The interview was with Columbia's bloke, and explained what they did, on a 4km, 7.5% gradient.
    Which just so happens to be similar to my local climb.

    Okey dokey, I thinks, lets switch computer to cadance (I don't use it), and see how I match up.

    Unsurprisingly I can ride the first couple of hundred yards, like a pro. (80rpm)
    Sadly for me, the next few hundred yards saw me hit the wind down target (50 rpm)

    Although I did find having the 80rpm as a target quite useful as a 'new tool' when out and about, never knock new targets, I certainly got up the climb quicker than usual.
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    pat5319. I would love to see anyone doing 300 rpm. I can just get over 150 on my 65" fixed (42*17) and that is 30 mph so these guys can do 60 mph on this gear. Rubbish. 120/130 is as much as anyone can hold for long on the road.
    While most of the 'advantages' of higher cadence you quote are right you have missed out the downside which is a much higher load on the cardio vascular system. This becomes the limiting factor for prolonged high cadence. Optimum cadence is a very personal thing but you should ride with as high cadence as you can hold comfortably. We are not all Lance Armstrong (watching the T of C I don't think he is at the moment either).
  • DomProDomPro Posts: 321
    After reading this article in Cycling Weekly i thought I'd give the cadence theory a shot by seeing if I can maintain around 90rpm. Which I work out as 15 revs per 10 second period (yep, i have no computer to do the maths!)

    Anyway, I made quicker time and my average speed was a tad higher and it felt like I kept up a better pace - the hills were somehow easier. Although i'm unsure whether this is caused by me being a bit fitter, the effect of new Micheling pro race 3 tyres, or I was just having a good day. Nevertheless I will definitely be keeping a higher cadence from now on.
    Shazam !!
Sign In or Register to comment.