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  1. #1
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    Rank beginner cadence

    I'm essentially 28 years old, fat, and basically out of shape. My question is this. Everything I've read is that beginners should try to ride at 80rpm cadence and try to do long "slow" rides to build up some aerobic endurance.

    What I'm experiencing is that (before I got a computer that tracked cadence) I can ride in my neighborhood (which is hilly) for about 30 minutes and average maybe 8mph for about 30 minutes. When I ride along our city's nice flat bike/pedestrian trail, I was able to average 10-12mph and go for an hour the first time out. But, when I switched out my computer for one that has cadence, I was only pedaling at 60rmp (which is probably akin to how I rode when I was a kid and could ride all day long)

    Once I started trying to pedal at 80rpm, I seem to wear out pretty quickly. I haven't tried it on the nice bike trail, but I tried it on a trainer at low resistance and was only able to last 18 minutes. When I rode around the neighborhood, I was (to my suprise) able to go for about 30 minutes aiming for 80rpm, but I wound up averaging 70rpm when I looked at the computer at the end. I'm pretty sure I couldn't go for an hour.

    So, here's my question. At this point should I just suck it up and go at 80rpm as long as I can stand it or should I go out there at whatever cadence I do for 60 minutes and as I get in better shape, add rpm's instead of bumping up gears? I still have the platform pedals that came with my bike, so I know there's a limit to how much I can do until I can save up to upgrade those.

    I should probably also mention I (possibly foolishly) signed up to ride for a local 20 mile fun ride (which seemed realistic at the time since I was able to do 12 miles on day 1 when I was just riding and not worrying about anything). The ride is in early October. I basically am just doing it to hang out with friends and hopefully get a T-Shirt.

    And I thinking about this too much given where I'm at or do I need to just suck it up and it'll start to be more fun once I'm a little stronger? I used to LOVE riding when I was a kid and was in high school.

  2. #2
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    are you switching to a lower gear when you ramp up the cadence?

  3. #3
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    Yes. When I was doing 60 rpm I was hanging out on my middle cog and using that range of gears (hope I got the terminology right). When I tried to speed the cadence up, I'm using mostly the smallest cog and it's range of gears, except when I start going down hills, in which case I had to bump up to the middle cog to get some resistance when I was pedalling.

    I suspect the fact that I'm aerobically unfit is why I'm wearing out faster at the quicker cadence. My muscles really only hurt when I was trying to pedal fast in high gear instead of switching to a big gear and standing (which was what I did in high school on my single speed beater).

    I guess the crux of my question is if I'm better off riding at a slower cadence longer or the recommended cadence for a shorter period of time. I know the goal is to be able to do 80rpm for an hour and then build from there over the long term. But, the trick is what's the best way to get to 80rpm for an hour?
    Last edited by mrcase; 08-27-06 at 01:33 PM.

  4. #4
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    do you have good bike fit and can be comfortable sitting on the bike for your expected time ?
    bad height fit doesn't help your pedal stroke.

  5. #5
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    I think so. I bought my bike at my local bike shop and they checked the fit at the time and adjusted my handlebar and seat for me. When I stand with it between my legs there's an inch or so leighway and when on the pedals, my legs are just slightly bent when the pedal is at the bottom. Now, I did switch out the seat myself, but it seems pretty close to parallell to the ground.

    I have to shift around some occasionally to stay comfortable, bottom-wise. But, I expected that.

    So, basically, 80rpm on low gear should theoretically be no sweat for out of shape folks?

  6. #6
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    Fuji Shill HWS's Avatar
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    So, basically, 80rpm on low gear should theoretically be no sweat for out of shape folks?
    80 is fine. Spend some time getting to know the bike, build some base miles and get to really enjoy riding. Your cadence will increase as you get more fit along with your speed.
    Last summer it was all I could do to maintain a cadence of 90 in any gear. I thought I was going to spin the cranks off the bike. This year, I spin at 100 to 110 for 2 hours at a stretch. 90 seems like mashing now.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrcase
    So, basically, 80rpm on low gear should theoretically be no sweat for out of shape folks?
    Depends on which body systems are the most "out of shape". As you discovered yourself, riding with higher cadence/lower gear ratios demands more from the heart and lungs, while low cadence / high gear ratio is harder on the muscles and joints. ("If your lungs are on fire, use a higher gear. If your legs are on fire, use a lower gear.") It sounds like right now, your muscles are in better shape than your cardiovascular system.

    If riding at 60 rpm lets you take longer rides and have more fun, then I wouldn't worry about it too much at first...the most important thing is to ride, and to enjoy the ride enough that you're looking forward to the next one. As your heart and lungs improve, you'll find it easier to increase that cadence. One thing that might help is to end each ride with a mile or two (or more, as you improve) at 80-90 rpm or higher. It'll be good for your lungs, it won't cut your ride short since you were about to stop anyway, and it'll let you improve your skill of pedaling efficiently at higher cadences.

    Glad you decided to take up riding. Have fun out there, and I'm certain that by October you'll be more than ready for that ride you signed up for.

  8. #8
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    if you are "fat" and have large legs, this could be a little challenge at the start.
    I also have big legs and having big legs is a slight disadvantage since you have more weight to spin and keep moving as opposed to someone with lighter legs.

    Spinning high cadence requires a degree of neuromuscular memory, not just trying to force your leg muscles to sprint out at high rpm.

  9. #9
    Climbing Fool terrymorse's Avatar
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    At your stage in the fitness curve, the most important thing is to just spend time riding. If that means a slow cadence, that's fine. As your fitness improves, your natural cadence will increase.

    When training becomes "serious" (I hate that word), you can consider doing cadence drills to teach your body to spin. But for now...

    Get out and ride! Then ride some more!
    Managing Director, Undiscovered Country Tours

  10. #10
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    suck it up. keep pedaling 80-90 rpm and holding it there
    even if you need low gears...spin more than mash but don't overdo it

    hills don't count at 80-90 rpm until you know you are ready.
    many pros do hills at 60rpm and do fine. they save the high rpm
    for flats and downhills (but they also can set and hold 130-140 no problem)


    higher rpm creates bigger and more efficient lungs and heart
    when tired of doing the high rpm, dive back down to 60 and ease back

    all that really matters is riding and time in saddle don't forget that. and a desire
    to improve. it'll happen naturally if you have a spark in ya

    keep extending your time at 80-90 every ride if possible, even if only
    for a minute. it'll pay off faster than mashing bigger gears at 60 rpm


    about cadence and possibilities... I can (and regularly do) hit 209rpm in
    bursts my stationary. but it is not a pretty spectacle. between 179-209
    I lose some form. it is only for giggles...(and helps me wind out my singlespeed
    in real-world riding). no real power or benefit from
    doing these at that level -except- it makes 150 seem like childs play.
    and it does train the nerves to fire at speed. I can only spin up to
    170 then I have to burst to get above that.

  11. #11
    Enjoy the ride! Gray Dog's Avatar
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    Everything I've read is that beginners should try to ride at 80rpm cadence and try to do long "slow" rides to build up some aerobic endurance.
    A year and a half ago I was in the same place you are +20 years. Today, there are 45lbs less of me because I stuck to the simple idea. "I am not, nor will I ever be Lance so enjoy the ride!"

    My original cruising cadence was in the 60's but today it is mid 80's. Next year, who knows. What I do know is that I have developed a love for cycling that grows every time I get on my bike. I am in better shape not only physically but mentally and spiritually. I am continually learning what makes my body function at its best but I realize that I am more like a Pinto than a Porsche...and that's ok.

    Enjoy the ride!
    Last edited by Gray Dog; 08-29-06 at 08:21 AM.
    A man's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink. -W C Fields

  12. #12
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry too much about cadence at this stage. Just stay in the middle-gear in front and use the rear to change gears in small steps. Work on spinning smoothly in circles all the way around. Practice one-legged riding for 20-30 seconds at a time to get a feel for which muscles needed to be activated in the dead spots. This will make you more efficient because you won't need to use power from the opposite side to push up the leg on the upstroke; that power can go into driving the bike forwards instead. When you get smooth and spin in circles, the cadence will automatically increase.

    Another good exercise is spin-ups on downhills. Start at the top of a hill in an easy gear around 70-80rpms and stay in that gear spinning smoothly as you accelerate down the hill. Spin smoothly right up the point where you start bouncing and back off and maintain that same cadence. This will also teach you how to soft-pedal, that is, spinning fast but putting very little force on the pedals. You're basically coasting and spinning just slower than is required to actually drive the bike.

    It's cause & effect, high-cadence is the result of a smooth pedal-stroke. Just slamming it into a lower gear to force you to spin a lobsided pedal-stroke faster will just have you bouncing around like crazy, and still be inefficient.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 08-29-06 at 05:29 PM.

  13. #13
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    Thanks guys. I guess I'll just pedal at whatever tempo comes naturally for now and as I get stronger, bump up tempo instead of gears. It was pretty awkward when I was trying to force 80rpm. It almost sounded like a wratchet wrench, which doesn't happen when I pedal slower. Until I upgrade pedals, I may be fighting a losing battle.

    Thanks for all of the advice!

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