If you’re just heading on a casual ride for the day, cadence really isn’t something you need to concern yourself with. But once you’re looking to do a lot of riding, especially on a multi-day ride like Cycle Oregon, a thoughtful and intentional cadence can really help your legs and your ride in the long run.
It is widely believed that 90 rpm is the ideal cadence to avoid leg fatigue, but that number is really geared toward racers. Others say 60 rpm is just fine for recreational riders. Just like most aspects of body-related techniques, cadence is different for everyone.
“A super high cadence or a low cadence may or may not work for you,” says Jared Gell, the head coach of Competitive Instinct Multisport and director of retail at Pacific Swim Bike Run in Stamford, Connecticut. “But practicing riding at a higher than normal cadence does help your pedal stroke become more efficient. Ultimately, even if you continue to ride at 65 rpm, the increase in efficiency will allow you to ride faster using less energy.”
How to Measure Your Cadence
Competitor recommends this formula:
Basic: Count how many times your right knee comes up in 30 seconds. Double it.
Middle: Keep track with a simple bike computer that includes a cadence sensor.
Advanced: Use a CompuTrainer combined with SpinScan technology to show your output throughout a full pedal stroke.
Aim to have equal pressure for the entire 360 degrees of your pedal stroke, and don’t let your more powerful muscles (glutes) plus gravity create a “woosh” sound on the downstroke.
What is Cadence?3>
Cadence (or pedaling rate) is the number of revolutions of the crank per minute; roughly speaking, this is the rate at which a cyclist is pedaling/turning the pedals.
Are you a masher? You might not even know that you are. Many people tend to hammer down on their pedals instead of achieving an even pedal stroke. They use their leg muscles to jam the pedal down, instead of employing hip flexors, glutes and other muscles to help out.
You can test to see if you’re a masher with this quirky exercise:
While clipped in, pedal with just one leg. Then try pedaling with the other leg. It won’t be easy, but if you find it’s wildly uncomfortable on the upstroke, chance are good you have a very uneven pedal stroke and could stand to work on not stomping down so hard on the pedal.
Increase Your Cadence
There are some potential health benefits to spinning faster. Some sources indicate that a faster spin will reduce the amount of work your heart is doing.
Many sources suggest attempting to increase your cadence by 10% every year.
When pedaling faster, if you’re bouncing in the saddle you’re risk injury. You need to find that balance where you increase your speed, but you are still firmly planted in the saddle with all of your muscles assisting. As you’re finding this balance, remember to also work on your pedal stroke. Keep your feet flat (not pointed downward or upward), pull your heel backwards on the upswing and have a smooth stroke.