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  1. #1
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Pedaling and cadence don'ts

    I know you hear all the time from that you should pedal a high cadence. Generally it's a no-brainer, but there are some cases, especially with clydes and/or people just learning or recently getting back into cycling, where high cadence is a self-defeating bad habit.

    I hate to see someone pedaling their ass off with a high (60rpm+) cadence in a gear so low that they really aren't getting anywhere...and usually get their HR up into the red zone in the process, even on the flats - usually evidenced by short spurts of pedaling with lots of coasting in between.

    Don't get me wrong, spinning a high cadence is a good thing...if you can do it in a reasonable gear and pretty much continuously. Constantly coasting because either your muscles or your cardio can't handle it means you're pedaling too fast. Increase the gear, slow the cadence, work on your pedal stroke, keep your heart rate at about 80% of max and only coast when it's fun...not as a break for you heart/legs. Keep them legs moving...soft pedal if necessary. You have to learn to recover while pedaling and you need good, long, steady distance (LSD) base miles to build up your base fitness and form before you go trying to do Lance-rate cadence and/or racer-type interval training. You can work on increasing your cadence and doing intervals (aka rolling roads to many) once you have a good foundation of fitness, form and miles to build on.

    Of course this only applies to those of you who have goals on the bike that include more than just having fun. If riding slow and coasting most of the time is what makes you happy, then by all means, enjoy!
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    60rpm is a high cadence? news to me!

  3. #3
    Not safe for work cyclokitty's Avatar
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    I admit it, I LOVE coasting. So fun. But I do my best to limit the coasting for "sightseeing purposes" and keep pedalling the majority of
    the time.

    It took me a while to figure out the difference between pedalling a consistent, useful cadence and bouncing around like a lunatic with fleas in her shorts.


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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    I like to stand up and coast.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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    I knew I was doing something wrong. I don't know anyone else who cycles, or even has a bike so I threw myself into this blindly. I have been doing exactly that (spinning really fast in short bursts, then needing to coast to catch my breath and rest). Once I even needed to pull over and get off the bike. I have been getting very discouraged lately, like this was not meant to be. I will try the slower method. Maybe I will gain some endurance and this hobby can take off! Thanks!!!

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    One of the reasons I have a trainer in the living room is so I can set the bike up and just spin 90tpm for an hour or more. There's no coasting on a trainer, so you have to keep pedaling. Good way to find your stroke and then take it out into the rest of the world.

  7. #7
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chevychic55 View Post
    I knew I was doing something wrong. I don't know anyone else who cycles, or even has a bike so I threw myself into this blindly. I have been doing exactly that (spinning really fast in short bursts, then needing to coast to catch my breath and rest). Once I even needed to pull over and get off the bike. I have been getting very discouraged lately, like this was not meant to be. I will try the slower method. Maybe I will gain some endurance and this hobby can take off! Thanks!!!
    This is absolutely not what it was meant to be like, no.

    It's all Lance Armstrong's fault! LOL. Before he came along, only serious competitive cyclists talked much about cadence, and now we're in a situation in which "Lance pedals a faster cadence than most of the pros, and Lance keeps winning, therefore we should all pedal a faster cadence". The only problem is that Lance can pedal a faster cadence because he already has an exceptional cardiovascular system and has trained professionally all his life. In other words, his faster cadence is a consequence of his prowess, not a cause of it. It was a deliberate strategy that he and his coach worked out to play to his particular strengths.

    Telling novice cyclists that they should be pedalling at 90rpm as if cadence was some sort of end in itself is just wrong. Most of them won't be able to do it and some will become discouraged, think they're doing something wrong, imagine they're just not cut out for cycling. They should certainly be encouraged not to simply grind along in a gear that is too high, it's hard work and bad for the knees. But there's no formula. The answer is just to select the gear that allows you to pedal at a rate that feels comfortable and allows you to maintain your momentum without huge effort. That is what gears are for, and it's simple - your body will tell you what your natural cadence is. As you get stronger, you'll find your cadence tends to get faster naturally, because you are stronger and your cardiovascular system will sustain a higher level of effort without strain.

    Once you are more experienced, and fitter, if you want to challenge yourself physically by all means pick a cadence - say 85 - 90 rpm - and try to sustain it for an extended period. It's good training. Until then, forget about it and enjoy riding your bike.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  8. #8
    Senior Member nancyj's Avatar
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    I disagree that non-racers were the only ones talking about cadence before Lance Armstrong.

    In the late 70s I know bicycle tourists were talking about cadence a lot. It just made more sense to spin high in low gear going over a mountain pass. The goal was to prevent knee injuries. Now maybe it leaked over from racers but to me the touring crowd was always different than the racing crowd. It was big then and bikecentennial made it bigger I think.

    Part of the reason for using the rollers in training (and not only racers used them) was to have a good cadence without being herky jerky.

    I agree it is technique here. I would rather see someone riding slow than bouncing up and down with their bike weaving but 80 RPM is just not that fast. can't even imaging going at 60

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
    60rpm is a high cadence? news to me!
    I'm just using that as a benchmark. If you have to rest by coasting every five minutes while doing 10mph on the flats - your cadence is too high and your gear is too low.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclokitty View Post
    I admit it, I LOVE coasting. So fun. But I do my best to limit the coasting for "sightseeing purposes" and keep pedalling the majority of
    the time.

    It took me a while to figure out the difference between pedalling a consistent, useful cadence and bouncing around like a lunatic with fleas in her shorts.
    pics or it didn't happen.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  11. #11
    Perma-n00b Askel's Avatar
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    Everything I know about cadence I learned from riding a single speed mountain bike.

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    Senior Member piper_chuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
    60rpm is a high cadence? news to me!
    News to me too.

    To the OP, I would counter that learning to cycle right, including at a "high" cadence, is actually something most people should do from the start rather than waiting until one has accumulated some magical number of base miles. High is relative, but 60 most definitely is nowhere near a high range. Higher cadences allow a person to exert less force on each pedal stroke. Doing so helps reduce stress on the knees and other joints. I've seen a variety of suggested beginning ranges including 60-80 and 70-90. I think somewhere around 70 or more is a good number to shoot from at first.
    Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

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    Senior Member piper_chuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    I'm just using that as a benchmark. If you have to rest by coasting every five minutes while doing 10mph on the flats - your cadence is too high and your gear is too low.
    Then perhaps a different "benchmark" is needed? When I first started riding I actually did spend time spinning and then coasting. Over a relatively short period I found that the time spent spinning was increasing and the time coasting decreased. While I was doing this I was also focusing on technique, spinning circles, etc, rather than just pushing down on each pedal stroke.
    Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

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    Senior Member piper_chuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    Telling novice cyclists that they should be pedalling at 90rpm as if cadence was some sort of end in itself is just wrong. Most of them won't be able to do it and some will become discouraged, think they're doing something wrong, imagine they're just not cut out for cycling. They should certainly be encouraged not to simply grind along in a gear that is too high, it's hard work and bad for the knees. But there's no formula. The answer is just to select the gear that allows you to pedal at a rate that feels comfortable and allows you to maintain your momentum without huge effort. That is what gears are for, and it's simple - your body will tell you what your natural cadence is. As you get stronger, you'll find your cadence tends to get faster naturally, because you are stronger and your cardiovascular system will sustain a higher level of effort without strain.

    Once you are more experienced, and fitter, if you want to challenge yourself physically by all means pick a cadence - say 85 - 90 rpm - and try to sustain it for an extended period. It's good training. Until then, forget about it and enjoy riding your bike.
    Yup, 90 RPM for a novice isn't usually going to work well. They'll be bouncing all over the seat. One thing that I've discovered is that "a rate that feels comfortable" for most people is quite slow. Pedaling at the oft recommended cadences appears to be counter to what most people think they should do. Only after spending some time developing spinning technique does a person start to realize that spinning faster has value.
    Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

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    Some guy with a bike serra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
    60rpm is a high cadence? news to me!
    You'd be surprised! Several people here bike to school, it physically hurts my knees to see them smashing high gears at 30 rpm. I'd be impressed by the gear they were using if they were going faster than 12 mph...I really don't know how their knees can take it.

  16. #16
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
    I've seen a variety of suggested beginning ranges including 60-80 and 70-90. I think somewhere around 70 or more is a good number to shoot from at first.
    That's like walking...about the same rate of leg movement.

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    Member Joltman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    I hate to see someone pedaling their ass off with a high (60rpm+) cadence in a gear so low that they really aren't getting anywhere...and usually get their HR up into the red zone in the process, even on the flats - usually evidenced by short spurts of pedaling with lots of coasting in between.

    60+rpm is high ? My knees complain below 65. I'm comfortable anywhere between ~70 and 105 rpm and i'm good for about 100km with the cadence in that range.

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    As a teen, I never even KNEW about cadence; once I got back into serious riding (40+), I was on my 2nd bike before the word was even mentioned, even by my fanatic-cyclist buddy.

    I've always just found a cadence that was comfortable for the pace I wanted to set -- not too high (pedaling like a maniac and not getting anywhere), and not too low (not lugging and grinding my knees). It turned out to be around 80.

  19. #19
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    On the other hand, what I see most often is people pedaling so slowly that they have to LEAN into each pedal stroke to support the high gear they're in.

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    I tend to like to cruise in the 95ish range. Since I'm riding fixed a fair portion of each ride tends to be somewhat higher or lower cadence than that. I think the most important thing is for one to find out which cadence works best for his/herself. That optimal cadence will change depending on one's form and riding terrain as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Increase the gear, slow the cadence, work on your pedal stroke
    People typically start-out using too high gears (because it's "faster"). A higher cadence does a lot to smooth out one's pedal stroke.

    If one is starting out, trying to maintain a high cadence is a mistake because it takes time to get there. (60 RPM isn't "high".)

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by nancyj View Post
    I disagree that non-racers were the only ones talking about cadence before Lance Armstrong.

    In the late 70s I know bicycle tourists were talking about cadence a lot. It just made more sense to spin high in low gear going over a mountain pass. The goal was to prevent knee injuries. Now maybe it leaked over from racers but to me the touring crowd was always different than the racing crowd. It was big then and bikecentennial made it bigger I think.
    This.

    Higher cadence is pretty common among any group of experienced cyclists.

    Quote Originally Posted by nancyj View Post
    I agree it is technique here. I would rather see someone riding slow than bouncing up and down with their bike weaving but 80 RPM is just not that fast. can't even imaging going at 60
    60rpm is a fairly good initial target. It isn't surprising you can't imagine doing that! Most novice cyclists can't imagine doing 80 RPM!

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    On the other hand, what I see most often is people pedaling so slowly that they have to LEAN into each pedal stroke to support the high gear they're in.
    And it's not uncommon for people to injure their knees doing that!

    =================

    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    Telling novice cyclists that they should be pedalling at 90rpm as if cadence was some sort of end in itself is just wrong.
    Is there really anybody telling "novice cyclists" this?
    Last edited by njkayaker; 07-05-10 at 05:25 PM.

  22. #22
    I am the Snail~! Peter_C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    I'm just using that as a benchmark. If you have to rest by coasting every five minutes while doing 10mph on the flats - your cadence is too high and your gear is too low.
    This topic (I suspect) is because of watching me the other day. At higher (to me) speeds, say like 14-15MPH I was mostly gasping at 80-85RPM. Chipcom suggested going up one gear, and lowering my RPM a bit. In my case it made it a bit more comfortable while maintaining a higher than normal (for me) speed.

    And yes, at 90RPM I tend to bounce like a ping pong ball...
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  23. #23
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    Hi Chevy, here is something else to think about as you slow your cadence and get into a rhythm. Sounds funny- but do you know how to pedal? funny, huh?

    most people think- "sure, just puch down on the pedal"! Lots more to it than that! for know think about maintaining a continuous cadence - and (here is the tricky part)- don't let your leg "rest" on the pedal as it comes up on the backstroke! Most beginners do this and don't realize they are making the other leg work twice as hard- besides trying to move you forward, now you are "lifting" the dead leg. Make it an active motion and lift your leg as it comes back up.

    Try this when you are going slow, get comfortable with it- then ask other questions here - lots of good advice here- and more to learn about pedaling.

  24. #24
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
    News to me too.

    To the OP, I would counter that learning to cycle right, including at a "high" cadence, is actually something most people should do from the start rather than waiting until one has accumulated some magical number of base miles. High is relative, but 60 most definitely is nowhere near a high range. Higher cadences allow a person to exert less force on each pedal stroke. Doing so helps reduce stress on the knees and other joints. I've seen a variety of suggested beginning ranges including 60-80 and 70-90. I think somewhere around 70 or more is a good number to shoot from at first.
    Getting pendant about numbers waxing poetic about numbers does nothing to attack the root problem...people pedaling too fast, in too low of a gear, getting nothing accomplished but sending their heart rate into the red zone causing them to stop pedaling to rest.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
    Then perhaps a different "benchmark" is needed? When I first started riding I actually did spend time spinning and then coasting. Over a relatively short period I found that the time spent spinning was increasing and the time coasting decreased. While I was doing this I was also focusing on technique, spinning circles, etc, rather than just pushing down on each pedal stroke.
    No, what is needed is to quit obsessing over numbers and more concentration on a proper pedal stroke and cadence that one can maintain...at least until a base level of fitness is gained so that one can improve without doing more harm to themselves than good.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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