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  1. #1
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    Purpose of cadence?

    I started riding in earnest 6 months ago to lose weight, improve my fitness, and get away from the stress of the office. In that time I've logged 3400+ miles, lost 23 pounds and feel incredibly better than I have for many years. I've upgraded some of my equipment too and this weekend installed a Cateye Strada DW cyclocomputer on my road bike. It displays cadence which the previous computer didn't do. How can I use this information to help me continue with my goal of better fitness?

  2. #2
    the dream shall never die galyons's Avatar
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    A smooth, spinning cadence, 80-100 rpm is more efficient than slogging at the typical lower rates. I am assuming that your knees are as old as you, , so a quicker cadence is also better for the knees, especially when climbing.

    IMO, these are the two important reasons for us "non-racer types" to pay attention to cadence.
    Also see: Importance of cadence?

    YRPMMV,
    Cheers,
    Geary
    Last edited by galyons; 09-06-09 at 09:52 PM.

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    You will get advise to study much information available in books and online.
    If you are like me, I rather just bike. I have done that for over 15 years and learned a few things. Higher cadence is better then low cadence. I go 80 to 100 RPM and can go 100 miles without harm. I use a Heart Rate Monitor to good effect. A good one is Polar with a chest strap rather then the wrist watch type. That way you can monitor HR, Cadence, Speed and Fatigue.
    An important component is nutrition. The experts suggest 200 or more calories per hour of hard biking. That is in addition to regular meals. Water and Electrolytes are also a necessity.
    ------------------------
    Interval biking is a good thing. Biking steady will not make you much faster. Interval biking will do that. I often stand up and power above 20 MPH on the flats and try for 18 to 19 MPH average on a wind neutral ride (Round trip).

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    Yes Gaylons....my knees are the oldest part of my body. I appreciate your response and the link

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    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayM View Post
    Yes Gaylons....my knees are the oldest part of my body.
    Decades ago I started bunging up my knees through swimming (hyperextension), a soccer injury, pushing large gears while cycle touring, and ski injuries. Cycling at reasonable cadences (90-120 rpm most of the time) has helped me recover from injuries and maintain joint health and strength in supporting muscles and ligaments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldbobcat View Post
    Decades ago I started bunging up my knees through swimming (hyperextension), a soccer injury, pushing large gears while cycle touring, and ski injuries. Cycling at reasonable cadences (90-120 rpm most of the time) has helped me recover from injuries and maintain joint health and strength in supporting muscles and ligaments.
    I did not know that.

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    Oldbobcat I hyperextended one of my knees wet exiting a kayak at an inopportune time. On top of a lot of abuse from Texas HS football (glad my son chose baseball & golf for his activities) and years of running 10K's, bicycling seems to be the only strenuous activity they will tolerate.

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    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayM View Post
    I started riding in earnest 6 months ago to lose weight, improve my fitness, and get away from the stress of the office. In that time I've logged 3400+ miles, lost 23 pounds and feel incredibly better than I have for many years.
    Congratulations, by the way!

    BTW, I became a fan of faster cadences in my 20's. I'm convinced that's why I have my knees today.

    Sorry I don't have any specific tips on how to get a smoother / faster cadence, other than thinking about it. I'm never too embarrassed to grab a lower gear if I need a lower gear to avoid "mashing."

    There are all kinds of drills one can do but I've never done them.

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    I do have one tip which has helped me a lot: Use a trainer. There are no distractions and all you have to worry about is Cadence, HR and Speed.
    Everybody says it is hard and boring but do it standing up for 3 minutes, sitting down for 6 minutes and it is no longer boring. You will learn the importance of cadence fast.

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    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    I do have one tip which has helped me a lot: Use a trainer. There are no distractions and all you have to worry about is Cadence, HR and Speed.
    Everybody says it is hard and boring but do it standing up for 3 minutes, sitting down for 6 minutes and it is no longer boring. You will learn the importance of cadence fast.
    The use of a trainer is excellent for tying out small differences in your "stroke". I can concentrate on improving just one part of the pedal stroke at a time. If you ride clipless, this is where you can practice the "circle" in the pedaling stroke and where you can observe the difference in performance you get from it.

    A side benefit is that while using the trainer, you can make very small adjustments to your bike to see how they work out.

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    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    cycling on pavement should be a smooth experience. working with the wind, your heart, the bike and the road the goal should be to make it all come together smoothly and with the least amount of effort for the distance and speed you wish to attain. cadence is one of those parts.

    I have always preferred to monitor my cadence and heart rate naturally (without devices). On the few occasions I have used devices, it just confirms that I am accurate enough on my own. I have nothing against those gadgets (I love all gadgets) its just that they get in the way of the overall experience I'm looking for.

    Trainers and long flat roads or long quiet bike paths are useful to get it to all come together. even though I ride mostly out on hilly roads I still like to get onto a trainer or (even better) ride the Cape Cod canal trail to brush up on my technique.

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    Well I did buy a trainer on the same trip to the bike shop to get my cadence computer so will try the ideas for their combined use. I ride alone a lot, but have a couple of friends along on occasion and can see them spinning in a lower gear while I mash along on the big ring. I should add that I have a triple and live on a very flat coastal plain. I think as I refine my techniques further I'll be looking at a heart rate monitor, or like Gear, learn to do it naturally.

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    Senior Member curdog's Avatar
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    I rode for years with no attention to my cadence. Consequentially, it was difficult for me to spin at a higher cadence after deciding it would improve my riding. After about 6 months of conscious effort, my cadence usually runs in the 85-90 range. The interesting thing to me is that I have difficulty spinning at a lower rpm now. In other words, I haven't been successful in maintaining a lower rate, say 80 rpm, when even making a effort to do so without changing the gear.
    On Saturday I had a guy pass me, who must have had a cadence of 140. It was almost comical to watch. Even though successful with a higher cadence, his body was bouncing all over the place. He had no solidity in his core. Really bad form, which I think must have caused a bit of a** discomfort in the "end."

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    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    Rollers. No choice but to be smooth and maintain a brisk cadence.

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    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gear View Post
    cycling on pavement should be a smooth experience. working with the wind, your heart, the bike and the road the goal should be to make it all come together smoothly and with the least amount of effort for the distance and speed you wish to attain. cadence is one of those parts.

    I have always preferred to monitor my cadence and heart rate naturally (without devices). On the few occasions I have used devices, it just confirms that I am accurate enough on my own. I have nothing against those gadgets (I love all gadgets) its just that they get in the way of the overall experience I'm looking for.

    Trainers and long flat roads or long quiet bike paths are useful to get it to all come together. even though I ride mostly out on hilly roads I still like to get onto a trainer or (even better) ride the Cape Cod canal trail to brush up on my technique.
    That will certainly take care of the wind part.....

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    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    There is a basic underlying assumption when speaking of cadence. First is the pedal stroke. Then the cadence. That smooth pedal stroke is the first thing a rider wants to achieve. Sometimes it takes a lower cadence to get that part right. Then you move to a higher cadence. Cycling is basically repetitive motion. That means we have some kind of "muscle memory", so the quicker you learn that smooth pedal stroke, the easier it is to transition to a higher cadence.

    Did you see yesterday's Vuelta a Espana on cable TV? Towards the end of the race, there were two riders up front and the commentator was saying that the second guy had a pedal stroke that was no longer smooth. He compared the two riders. He said that second guy is no longer pedaling is circles but in squares. His whole body started to move in a jerky motion. The first rider had the smooth pedal stroke and his upper body stayed still. Now, this could very well be because they were riding over 5 hours and after multiple climbs, so he was tired.

  17. #17
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Garfield started hitting on it-I assume you have clipless pedals. Learn to use all of the pedal stroke first. An easy way is unclipping one foot and use the other foot to pedal all the way around on some flat lightly traveled roads (trainer works best). Feel your foot pulling the pedal backwards at the bottom of the stroke and them up at the back of the stroke. Do this for several mins until it becomes more natural. Then switch legs-repeat.

    Then ride with both feet clipped in and concentrate on keeping your new pedal stroke while keeping your cadence in the 90's on flats and above 80 on climbs. When perfected, you's always have both legs contributing to the pedal stroke making it a much stronger action.

    You will improve your Cardio conditioning and also pick up speed with the same effort by using more of the pedal stroke.

    I never watch speed while riding-I ride by my HR first and then watching my cadence. After a while you'll be able to guess your cadence by feel.

    Hope this helps!

  18. #18
    Pat
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    I have not bothered to have cadence on my computer in ages. But if I even a hint from my knees, I generally drop down a gear and spin faster.

    Spinning takes a little getting used to. It will cause a burn in the quads initially. But the mucles repair themselves quickly. Knees are made up largely of cartilege which really never ever repairs itself. So I plan to keep what I got as long as possible.

  19. #19
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    One personal observation on the spinning in cirlces thing. I focused on doing that quite a bit and ended up with a very sore knee. The part of the stroke that got me was pushing my foot forward across the top of the circle, just before the downstroke. I probably replaced bad technique with a different bad technique!

    Now I focus on keeping my stroke smooth and not necessarily "circular". Net result is that I'm using my quads more, but saving my knees.

    As far as cadence goes, I like to stay in the 90 - 100 range. Surprising how your body dials in on a specific rate and just wants to settle in on it.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Oh oh! I'm going to get flamed again. My personal experience doesn't match the consensus.

    First of all, forget about the bike for a minute. If you were going on a journey by foot you could choose to walk, to jog, or to run. Running will get you there faster but you'll have to breath harder. I'm thinking that most people, if they don't care how long it tqkes to get there, will prefer to walk.

    Why should riding a bike be different? Years ago I heard a lady bike shop owner say: "If your legs are tired, shift to an easier gear. If you're breathing too hard, shift to a harder gear." I think that's good advice. That's pretty much the way that I ride my bike.

    Through spinning classes in the gum I have learned that high cadence, low resistance "sprints" kick my butt. I start panting and my heartrate redlines in no time. On the other hand, I thrive on high resistance, low cadence "hill climb simulations".

    Now lets put these three data points together. If I choose to simulate a walk on my bike, I generally hold my cadence in the 70's. I do a lot of that and, honestly, many other experienced riders do too. If I choose to maintain a little "sportier" tempo, I'll generally keep my cadence in the 80's. I can hold that pace for a pretty long time. To me, any cadence above 90 is running. I have to consciously think about holding it there and I'm not able to keep that pace for any extended period.

    A lot of the experimental data regarding bicycling is based on Olympic caliber riders. That's fine if you want to race, but it's not the majority of riders. Not even close. I think that most non-racers would be better advised: "If you're breathing too hard, shift to a harder gear and slow down your cadence."

  21. #21
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    ^^^

    I don't think the walk/run comparison on the bike holds up very well because of the ability to change gear ratios. However, I am a firm believer in "if it works for you then do it!" There are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B on a bike and they all work.

    I have problems with foot comfort. High resistance at low cadence causes a lot of pressure on my feet leading to pain. For me, light resistance at a higher spin rate does the trick. I can't really comment on what is "most efficient" - that stuff is out of my league. I'm just looking for ways to spend time on the bike and this works for me.

  22. #22
    the dream shall never die galyons's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tntyz View Post
    ^^^

    I don't think the walk/run comparison on the bike holds up very well because of the ability to change gear ratios. However, I am a firm believer in "if it works for you then do it!" There are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B on a bike and they all work.
    I agree with the disagreement. One does not exert more "pressure" walking versus running. There is an incrementally increased resistive load riding in progressively higher ratios. (higher gear inches, low pedaling rate) Dropping a few gear inches lowers the resistive load, pace is maintained by increasing the spin rate.

    There is no machine involved in the walk versus run scenario. The resistive load is your weight, which does not change with pace. What does change is the impact on the body as there is more ground contact impact, (literally pound/feet), due to the relationship of weight+speed at impact.

    Perhaps the more critical factor is how far from Point A to Point B one wants to travel on a long term, consistent basis. Spin smoothly, ride longer, reduce wear on ones knees!

    Cheers,

    Geary

  23. #23
    ES&D t4mv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
    rollers. No choice but to be smooth and maintain a brisk cadence.
    +1

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    Why should riding a bike be different? Years ago I heard a lady bike shop owner say: "If your legs are tired, shift to an easier gear. If you're breathing too hard, shift to a harder gear." I think that's good advice. That's pretty much the way that I ride my bike.

    "
    This is how I ride and is the advice I offer to others. Only thing I have found is that my "Normal" Cadence at the start of a season is around 85. Within a few weeks of Training- I will be up to 90 and later may rise to 95.

    Then I get to a hilly ride. Depends on the gearing and the bike but one of our hilly rides will involve 3,000 ft of climbing on 4 hills and a few little rises in between. By the 3rd steep hill- I find that my cadence could drop to around 70 and "IF" the last hill is the .7 mile 16%er- then I will be a lot lower. Legs may burn a bit but I do make the hills and I do not walk them.

    We all seem to be saying a cadence of 90 plus but everyone is different. If yours is below 80- then it may be worth a bit of training to get the cadence up. But there is no magic number that works for everyone.
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  25. #25
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    As part of the training for CC touring I had to do 16.5 MPH on a Trainer for 6 riding hours.
    I have tried and could not do it at lower cadence. It got harder and harder as time went by.
    Somewhere around 90 RPM is my comfort range for such an murderous undertaking.
    I now apply this experience for long distance fast touring. Low cadence feels better for a while but not for 150 miles/day.

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