I am a 41 year old clyde who always had some sort of bicycle. Schwinn Varsity in high school, Huffy MTB after that, Giant MTB, and finally the contraption I am riding now, which is a rigid MTB that I am slowly turning into a road/cyclocross bike. My bikes served me well, either taking me around the neighborhood (some of the time) or being my clothing rack in my apartment (most of the time).
Last year I took up hiking and walking for fitness, and after these long walks, I would come home and put my coat on the coat rack (bike). I began to look long and hard at the situation and decided that I need to use my bike more (outside the apartment) and began to ride to work and back (under 5 miles each way). I even started buying things to replace cheap and worn parts on the bike.
OK, back to the present day:
I joined this website, mostly because I am seeing progress and wanted to learn more. Alot of people on here talk about things like clipless pedals, cadence computers, bike shorts, etc. I say to myself "I dont need any of that junk. Thats for bike nerds! All I want from my computer is speed and distance"
Well after reading this site, I soon began to realize that either -A: everyone is lying! or -B:everyone is riding farther, faster and more comfortable then me!
Hmm.. So I bought a computer that has cadence based on people saying that cadence is important. I always would ride in the top gear (42-11) on my MTB geared frankenbike. So I installed the computer and went for a ride. I checked my riding style and figured out that my normal ride is 15-17mph at a cadence around 50. I read that a cadence of 90 is good, so I tried by lowering the gear and peddling faster. It was much faser then I thought! I moved to the middle ring (32) and got comfortable at around 80-85 cadence and went for a ride longer then usual for me.
Riding at an 80-85 cadence was alot different then mashing the high gear that I usually do. My bike accelerates much faster from a stop now that I am at a lover gearing (32-12) or (32-12). I did not seem to aggravate my muscles during the ride, even though I rode longer. I did get winded a few times on the uphills that never bothered me while peddling slower/harder. I also nociced that my average speed dropped by a mile per hour. After I got home I wished the ride was longer because my legs felt great. The next morning my legs felt better then usual. I guess I have to work on my cardio now. I would also like to get that mile per hour back.
The faster cadence is a lot easier on the 'ol knees also. More speed equals less mechanically-loaded knee joints. As we get older the knees appear to be somewhat of a problem for "most" Clydes and many of the smaller people whether they're cyclists or not.
I can tell the difference when I go from the 80-85 cadence to the slower 60-65 rpm that I favored in the beginning, which was a long time ago now!
Good to hear your using your coat rack as a bike also!
Yea, I got the cadence on a recommendation by the wrench at my LBS. It is a great tool and now that I have been using it for about 6 months and I can tell now without looking were my cadence is. It comes pretty natural after a while.
Puch Marco Polo, Saint Tropez, Masi Gran Criterium
I think you'll learn to spin much better now that you are monitoring cadence. Hopefully you are using clipless pedals with real cycling shoes as well. They will help you maintain the high cadence but also permit you to upshift into a slightly higher gear while maintaining that higher cadence. I think keeping it above 85 most of the time is a good goal for most situations. For very steep climbs it is natural that your cadence would drop below that. Now that you're not a pedal masher, I think you are wising up to how to use your body to cycle longer distances mostly unscathed. By keeping your motor running longer you'll burn more calories and (at least in theory) lose weight.
One thing I've noticed as a spinner (high cadence rider) who never learns his lesson and goes out of condition in the winter (or for years at a time when I've become more sedentary), is that you can get "overuse" injuries to some of your ligaments and tendons from trying to become too good of a spinner too fast. I get a fair amount of soreness in my hip flexors, and hamstring tendons. The hamstrings and the tendons that insert at the back of the knee play a big role in spinning. When you wear cycling shoes and are clipped in you are using the upswing of the pedal stroke in addition to "mashing" on the downstroke. This upstroke can be developed by what you're doing now - concentrating on you spin. As another poster mentioned, with time a lot of this becomes second nature and, with experience, you become much better at knowing your gear based on how hard it is to push and you know if you are spinning in the most efficient cadence.
As you regularly spin faster, the strenthened muscles can actually elongate slightly, allowing you to raise your saddle some, thus giving you the potential to become faster.
I don't know how tall your are or you leg length, but you might take a look at your crankarm length as well. Mountain bikes sometimes have too long of crankarms and support a slower cadence. Shorter cranks are slightly easier to spin a higher cadence on. The slightly bigger circle, some would say is miniscule, but to stay on top of a gear, maintaining a brisk cadence over varying terrain, you have to concentrate and watch that cadence function on your new computer. I'll bet you'll be shifting more and utilizing more gears than you did before. I've found that some cycling specific leg stretches mid-ride or even after your ride can work out the tension, increase range of motion and decrease injury. If you were interested I could did out my stretching reference book so you could look it up.
Way to go on your progress by the way. I'll bet your bike likes being a bike again and not a clothing rack!
I had a Cateye Micro Wireless computer which I liked, but wanted to add cadence (thanks to these forums), so went with the Cateye double wireless with cadence and was surprised to learn a few things.
1. Before the computer, I felt like I was pedaling around 90 rpm. The computer showed me the reality was about 75-80 rpm (not computer average, but what I observed on the read out).
2. It was hard at first to keep a 90+ cadence. I wasn't used to pedaling that fast.
3. After about a month (maybe 10 rides), now I find I can keep my cadence at 90 rather easily. I can tell when I drop down to 80 rpm and look down at my computer to confirm and then will drop a gear or two if I need to get back up to 90+.
4. When I really focus on spinning, I find my speed moves up a notch. Unlike the OP, I did not see a drop in speed keeping my cadence higher, but it remained about the same or maybe went up 0.5 - 1 MPH.
5. Since keeping a faster cadence, I, too, don't feel as tired after a ride, but that may be partly due to time in the saddle and not completely due to faster cadence.
So I'd say yeah, ... there is something to this "cadence" stuff.