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Cadence

Old 09-19-11, 11:54 AM
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Cadence

I read several places that your cadence should be around 80-90 pedals per minute. I checked my cadence today and found I was usually somewhere between 55 and 60. I feel fairly comfortable at 65-70 on flat roads, but there are few of those where I ride and my usual 25 mile ride is all up and down, although it always seems there is more up than down. I am 65 and just started riding again about 4 months ago after a 30 year period in which I almost never rode. Should I try for a higher cadence or just enjoy my ride. I guess I'll get stronger as I ride, but should I really try to push it now?
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Old 09-19-11, 12:05 PM
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It is important to try a higher cadence, most cyclist find it to be easier on the muscles and joints. It also provides a healthy cardio work-out.
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Old 09-19-11, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by buzp
I read several places that your cadence should be around 80-90 pedals per minute. I checked my cadence today and found I was usually somewhere between 55 and 60. I feel fairly comfortable at 65-70 on flat roads, but there are few of those where I ride and my usual 25 mile ride is all up and down, although it always seems there is more up than down. I am 65 and just started riding again about 4 months ago after a 30 year period in which I almost never rode. Should I try for a higher cadence or just enjoy my ride. I guess I'll get stronger as I ride, but should I really try to push it now?
You should just enjoy the ride. There are advantages to higher cadences, and you should certainly try to minimise the strain on your knees by selecting a suitably low gear, but if you have just started riding again aged 65 I can almost guarantee that you will find it very difficult to maintain a cadence of 90.

There's a lot of misunderstanding about cadence. People will tell you it is more efficient, but that depends on what you mean by efficient. Actually the reason most beginners use a cadence of around 60, as you do, is that to do so is the most efficient in terms of oxygen consumption for a given power output. So at a cadence of 60 you are placing less strain on your cardiovascular system than you would by adopting a cadence of 90 while maintaining a similar speed.

So, why do people advise a higher cadence? Because it is less tiring for the muscles, as well as being easier on the joints. Low cadence is easy on the heart but tough on the legs. High cadence, the reverse. So the reason that experienced cyclists and the very fit use a high cadence is because they can: they have power to burn, so to speak, so they can afford to put more stress on the CV system in order to ease the pressure on their muscles, and thus go faster, for longer. But beginners typically do not have the aerobic capacity to do this, if they try to use a cadence of 90 straight off the bat they feel like a demented hamster and tire themselves out.

Enjoy the ride. As you get fitter, your cadence is likely to increase naturally. To help it along a bit, try to pedal most of the time in a gear that is one lower than you think you could manage - this will challenge you enough to improve your fitness, and be kind to your knees, without exhausting you. And don't sweat the numbers. Some professionals use cadences lower than 90, people differ.
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Old 09-19-11, 12:21 PM
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I agree with Barrettscv, that you want a higher cadence. You say you checked it; do you have cadence on your computer, or were you doing it "manually", using a watch and counting each time your foot is at the bottom of a revolution? That is very difficult to do.
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Old 09-19-11, 12:21 PM
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You will also find it more difficult to acheive a higher cadence if you aren't using some form of foot retention (either clips and straps or clipless). As mentioned above, it is something to work towards but not something to obsess over. Ride, have fun, get healthy.
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Old 09-19-11, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by buzp
I read several places that your cadence should be around 80-90 pedals per minute. I checked my cadence today and found I was usually somewhere between 55 and 60. I feel fairly comfortable at 65-70 on flat roads, but there are few of those where I ride and my usual 25 mile ride is all up and down, although it always seems there is more up than down. I am 65 and just started riding again about 4 months ago after a 30 year period in which I almost never rode. Should I try for a higher cadence or just enjoy my ride. I guess I'll get stronger as I ride, but should I really try to push it now?
I started at 66 and it's taken me 3 years but when you get your average cadence up into the 80-90 range you'll ride faster and last longer and be able to get up the hills better.
Always enjoy your ride but push up the cadence for a bit and then relax. I used to spin out at 95-100 but now I routinely hit 110-120 and don't get dropped nearly as early as I did last year
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Old 09-19-11, 12:42 PM
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By all means, enjoy your ride. What is the point otherwise?

There are advantages to working up to being able to spin a higher cadence. Less wear and tear on the legs and making it easier to maintain steady speed up hills for starters. Keep in mind that the idea at first is to use lower gears so you are spinning faster cadence at the same speeds, not to spin the same gears faster and thus increase speed. That will come later.
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Old 09-19-11, 12:42 PM
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I think cadence depends on what you want out of cycling. If you just want to cruise around, it really doesn't matter all that much. If you want to ride longer distances, tour on a bicycle, ride fast, etc. cadence is more important. I would suggest however, that if you want to avoid knee injuries and your cadence is below 75 rpms, there is room for improvement. Improvement can come over time. I know many touring cyclist that rarely get into the 90s with their cadence, but feel less efficient when dropping below 75. I learned to up my cadence over an entire summer trying to increase the numbers no more than two or three rpms per week. If I was riding at 60 rpms I would attempt to ride for 10 to 12 minutes at 62 rpms. Then I'd increase it to 15 minutes on the next ride. The point is, you can increase cadence is small steps.
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Old 09-19-11, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg
By all means, enjoy your ride. What is the point otherwise?

There are advantages to working up to being able to spin a higher cadence. Less wear and tear on the legs and making it easier to maintain steady speed up hills for starters. Keep in mind that the idea at first is to use lower gears so you are spinning faster cadence at the same speeds, not to spin the same gears faster and thus increase speed. That will come later.
^this^
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Old 09-19-11, 03:31 PM
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Thanks for the responses. I will keep trying to up the cadence slowly. I've already gone from an average speed of around 10 mph to over 12 since I got my bike last May, I guess it is just going to take time, like everything else now that I am what we used to call a "senior citizen".
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Old 09-19-11, 04:36 PM
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If the bicycle police catch you peddaling at such a low cadence, you will receive. a ticket. We can't have cyclists going around peddaling like that!
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Old 09-19-11, 05:31 PM
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I am with the higher cadence crowd. Less abuse on the knees is number one but all the other reasons good also.
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Old 09-19-11, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by buzp
Should I try for a higher cadence or just enjoy my ride.
Why not both? I make sure there's joy in every ride, whether I'm going to the store, going to work or out for a "pleasure" ride.

When I first started I rode with a similar cadence. On advice from the forums, I tried increasing it, monitoring my efforts with a cyclometer that measures cadence. The first time I hit 72 RPM I thought my legs were going to fly right out of their hip sockets. It took a while but these days if I'd under 90 RPM it feels like I'm pedaling in glue.

I don't know whether cycling alone helped, or higher cadence helped or none of the above, but I had knee problems when I started cycling. Walked with a limp for decades. That got sorted out in short order. Partway through my first year, maybe 2,000 miles behind me, I noticed I wasn't limping any more and my knee no longer hurt. Preventing knee injury was my motivation for higher cadence. Fixing whatever the problem had been in there was a wonderful side effect.

I used the technique BluesDawg recommends. Riding along I shifted to one gear easier, increased my cadence to maintain the same speed.
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Old 09-19-11, 06:21 PM
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Enjoy your ride of course. Once a week I go out on a spin ride of about 20 miles. I spin above 90 the complete ride & most of the ride 95 or higher. Now I'm comfortable above 100, I climb better & ride faster. I ride with a group who has a 65 yr old who spins above 90 & heart rate above 150 quite often. Try spinning above 90 sometime & do like I do, stay in the small ring most of the time & it will make you more efficient & you'll enjoy your ride even more, have fun.
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Old 09-19-11, 06:53 PM
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When I started back to road cycling last year I was comfortable at 80 rpm but now I'm most comfortable in the 90-95 range. I'm 54 but I believe I can pick it up even more as I improve.
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Old 09-19-11, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by buzp
Thanks for the responses. I will keep trying to up the cadence slowly. I've already gone from an average speed of around 10 mph to over 12 since I got my bike last May, I guess it is just going to take time, like everything else now that I am what we used to call a "senior citizen".
I won't accept that excuse as a valid response.

This is a cop-out that society spoon feeds us. It is only true if we believe it.

As to cadence, you have a lot of great advice here, and there are contrary views in the bicycle world. Mostly, enjoy the bicycling, and measure the smiles.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-20-11 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 09-19-11, 07:43 PM
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Spin class pushed me higher-faster. On the intervals you're encouraged to push it up to 110-120, you find you're rarely dropping below 85. It translated over to real riding almost immediately. As annoying as spin class was, it served several purposes; cadence, good for practicing aggressive out the saddle sprints, my spin set-up was bars many inches below the saddle ...which helped me to get comfortable in the drops and lowered my bars. Easy peasy way to change your riding style. And, if you not enjoying it you simply get off and take a steam.
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Old 09-19-11, 08:04 PM
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I've been riding about 3 years and have worked on my cadence slowly over time to where my sweet spot is up to about 85. I can spin 90 but it just doesn't feel right yet. Friends who have ridden all their lives have told me they just cannot get to comfort at 90 RPM. I guess my point is not to question the benefits of spinning but to suggest that there is no single magic number. +1 to those who suggest enjoying the ride... and work slowly on improving your spin rate without obsessing about it.
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Old 09-19-11, 08:10 PM
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In physics, work is force times distance or, for rotation, torque times RPM. So if you increase RPM (cadence) from 60 to 120, you can reduce pedaling force force by 1/2 and still maintain the same speed. I'm 63 and find that greater RPM's work for me, I'm most comfortable at 95-100.
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Old 09-19-11, 09:05 PM
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You haven't told us what kind of pedal system you are using - platforms, cages, "clipless", etc. As already pointed out, if you're using platforms, you probably aren't going to get to fast spinning so easily.

There's no magic cadence that's right for everybody, but as a general rule, beginners spend too much time turning harder gears slowly. I know I did. In a general way, you're already headed in the right direction - when you are going your cruising speed on a flat - whatever that speed happens to be - try going to the next larger cog and maintaining the same speed.

But don't stress about any of it. Keep riding and putting in the miles, making sure you enjoy them. The rest will come.
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Old 09-19-11, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by TomD77
In physics, work is force times distance or, for rotation, torque times RPM. So if you increase RPM (cadence) from 60 to 120, you can reduce pedaling force force by 1/2 and still maintain the same speed. I'm 63 and find that greater RPM's work for me, I'm most comfortable at 95-100.
This is why when I started cycling I immediately began working to get my cadence over 100 RPM. I have a history of joint issues and I didn't want to blow my knees out on a bike. It's worked for four decades, so I'm disinclined to give other methods a whirl. However, I have a good friend who started cycling on a bent trike a couple of years ago and he says his knees get sore if he raises his cadence above 60 RPM.
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Old 09-19-11, 09:41 PM
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I'm 65 and usually ride 100-110 bpm both on the utility bike with clips and straps and the road bike with SPDs.

I see no difference in cadence with the different pedals.

I've been riding more than 40 years and our team coach, the one season I raced, was always after us to increase our cadence.
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Old 09-19-11, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by buzp
Thanks for the responses. I will keep trying to up the cadence slowly. I've already gone from an average speed of around 10 mph to over 12 since I got my bike last May, I guess it is just going to take time, like everything else now that I am what we used to call a "senior citizen".
Balderdash!!! Don't ever let anyone pigeonhole you into a category based on age, race, gender, or any other meaningless factor! That is an evil plot by some unthinking cretins in society.

The Army has it right: "Be All YOU Can Be". We will be well advised to honor that motto as well.

Definition: All YOU Can Be is defined by you and no one else. Coaching by others but measure of success by only you.

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Old 09-19-11, 10:01 PM
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Are you using a cadence sensor?

If not, suggest you pick up a computer. I'm using a wired Cateye Strata (SP?).

It has helped me a lot,

I'm 65, have been biking only a couple of months.

I started out faster, probably because I was running fifteen or twenty mile a week.

Even so, got a new bike, had them put a computer with cadence - Almost all of the time, I have it on the cadence screen.

It helps me realize if I'm loafing, helps me stay in my best "power bandwidth" and have increased my cadence to 85 - 90 range.

Helps me extend my range in a particular gear, pick shift points better, etc.

Great training tool for me.

I don't worry about what I read on the forum, etc, not trying to reach a particular spin, etc.

But I am using it to be a better rider, and it's a tool that makes my training better, and helps me enjoy riding.
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Old 09-19-11, 10:27 PM
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I am fortunate to have an accomplished cyclist and trainer teach a spin class I frequent. I can not say if he is correct but..He explains that a higher % of your fast twitch muscles (high power short duration) are employed at low cadences. A higher % of the slow twitch muscles (lower power high endurance) are employeed at higher cadences. The rub is the slow twitch muscles dont really like or know how to go fast and must be trained to do this. He routinely has the class spin much faster then anything I do on the road. Again this is how he explained it. I can say that my comfortable cadence has gone up considerably, I am now not aware of the high cadence.
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