Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: New Orleans, LA
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Let me start out by saying that cadence is strictly pedal speed in RPM and has nothing to do with heart rate except that faster pedal speed will increase your heart rate. In fact, if your heart rate remains low even when pushing a big gear, using a smaller gear and spinning faster will push your HR up. Big gear/low cadence vs smaller gear/high cadence is one of those situations where perceived effort is not a reliable indicator of HR. It may fatigue your legs but not get your HR up.
Depending on what type of computer you have you may be able to add a cadence kit for very little money. Check the specs on it to see if it has cadence capability, ask the shop where you got it, or check the product into. If yours does not have a cadence option, the Sigma 1200 or its updated successor model 1400 is only $25-30 and the cadence pickup is about $7. Having the cadence displayed is way easier than trying to count it, and it is always right there for you to glance at along with current speed so it is easier to maintain your target cadence.
If you already routinely pedal 18-24 mph, working on increasing your cadence will make you at least more efficient and at best, even faster. It may be a breakthrough for you. At some point you run out of gears and the only way to go faster is to spin the cranks faster. Your legs get stronger almost naturally as you ride, but you have to train them to spin faster and build more fast twitch muscle fibers.
If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!