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Cadence or HRM?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Cadence or HRM?

Old 07-13-12, 05:51 PM
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IP Freely
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Cadence or HRM?

This is my first year of road cycling after a year or so of bike commuting. I'm in reasonable shape, but definitely no pro, and don't plan on racing any time soon.

I have a Sigma 1609 STS computer on my Felt F5. For about 35 bucks, I can add the wireless cadence transmitter to it. I think I'm pretty good at spinning, and generally don't feel like my cadence is an issue (except maybe when climbing steep grades).

For a similar price, I can get a cheap heart rate monitor. I've got two questions for the board's collective knowledge:

(1) Is a HRM going to be more valuable to me than knowing my cadence? I'm the kind of guy that needs a lot of data to keep myself interested, and I feel like a HRM would be more useful in helping me know how hard I'm working.

(2) Are the cheapo HRM's worth it? I don't think there's any way to get a HRM that works with my current Sigma, so I guess I'm going to get one with one of those watches and just mount it to the handlebars. Am I going to have to spend significantly more than 35 bucks to get a HRM that I can rely on?

For now, let's spare the "get a Garmin" responses. Maybe in a couple years, but for now it's just Strava on my iPhone.
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Old 07-13-12, 10:05 PM
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My experience with having both:

After setting my HRM for me, all it did was sound the alarm even when I was well below my max. It turns out that I have one of those low heart rate type of people, so even when most people are maxed out, I'm not. So I stopped wearing it. OTOH, I always like to know what my cadence is especially when climbing so I can "monitor" if I need to spin to my ideal 80-90 RPM.

YOu don't really need either of these devices. However, of the two, the Cadence readout is the most useful.

Having said all that, if you have a heart condition, or just starting out, or maybe have a history of heart issues, I think the HRM is necessary.
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Old 07-13-12, 10:20 PM
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I agree Palomar. I currently do not have a heart rate monitor but I do have cadence and I use that as much if not more than my speed readout.
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Old 07-13-12, 10:26 PM
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I find both of them useful. Flip a coin.
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Old 07-13-12, 10:38 PM
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^ +1. I ride with cadence, HR, and power; I wouldn't want to give any of them up.
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Old 07-13-12, 10:58 PM
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Cadence is the biggest item I display on my Garmin 500. I wear a HRM but do not track while I ride only after.


The one stat I watch that makes me go faster is my average speed - so it's 2nd biggest item on Garmin screen.
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Old 07-14-12, 12:05 AM
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I currently do not have a heart rate monitor but I do have cadence and I use that as much if not more than my speed readout.
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Old 07-14-12, 01:11 AM
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I have both. If I had to pick one, I'd go with the heart rate monitor. Reason being is that there are all sorts of intervals and training routines that can be built around knowing and varying your heart rate; whereas, I only used my cadence meter in the beginning to learn to spin at 90. Since I don't vary my cadence (other than to do some spin ups), I don't watch it any more.

You can get a Polar FT1 for under $50 from heartratemonitorsusa.com.
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Old 07-14-12, 03:26 AM
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The ability to breath is my indicator.....
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Old 07-14-12, 03:43 AM
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After a year or two cadence is useless. Once you develop your spin that's pretty much it.

As was already mentioned above, there are plenty of workouts available for free online that are based on HR. None are based on cadence. Even if you're not intent on racing and are only riding for fitness the feedback from a HRM is far more valuable and useful than cadence will ever be.

Cadence is for kids, silly rabbit.
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Old 07-14-12, 07:29 AM
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I have both and can't even remember the last time I looked at cadence.
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Old 07-14-12, 08:14 AM
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Cadence is useless. Throw it out the window.

HR is ONLY useful if you know what to do with it. This usually requires knowing either training zones or lactate threshold , both of which are determined through actual field testing, usually with a 2 x 20' max effort, or if your experienced, an all-out hour effort. As can imagine, these hurt like hell. And then once you know that, you have to be on a training program that utilizes this information.

Without this info, HR is also as good as useless. But then, so would power if you don't know how to use it, and neither are intuitively obvious how to use. What you DON'T do is just go out and ride the way you always ride, download the numbers, and hope to improve. You have to use the numbers to guide your training.

I am on a HR-based training program for a half-ironman now and it's working great. I've been surprised at how hard my bike efforts are even at aerobic HR pace after riding 150 miles per week consistently. (Gotta throw running and swimming in there too - I hit 18 hours of actual training hours last week, and that doesn't include any travel or prep time.)
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Old 07-14-12, 08:18 AM
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Cadence is not useless but the importance is overblown in many cases.
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Old 07-14-12, 08:23 AM
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Get the cadence add-on and a $25 Target HR monitor watch. The HR watch is medically-accurate(ECG), as there is a pulse sensor inside the unit. I hate the HR chest strap, as they get downright nasty and uncomfortable after many miles.
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Old 07-14-12, 08:27 AM
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The normal garmin HR chest strap is not noticeable once you put it on. fwiw
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Old 07-14-12, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Dopolina View Post
After a year or two cadence is useless. Once you develop your spin that's pretty much it.

As was already mentioned above, there are plenty of workouts available for free online that are based on HR. None are based on cadence. Even if you're not intent on racing and are only riding for fitness the feedback from a HRM is far more valuable and useful than cadence will ever be.

Cadence is for kids, silly rabbit.
+1. Like driving a car, you should instinctively know what gear you're in and the engine speed you're at without having to look down to check all the time.
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Old 07-14-12, 08:39 AM
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Thanks for the help guys, though the responses are only making it harder. Might just have to buy both!
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Old 07-14-12, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by IP Freely View Post
Thanks for the help guys, though the responses are only making it harder. Might just have to buy both!
Now you're talking.

You'll fit in here just fine.
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Old 07-14-12, 09:19 AM
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Sorry to jack the thread... But I'm a muscular rider... fast on flats and rollers, but trying to be a better climber. I know monitoring cadence meticulously will help in that improvement? Anyone here in that boat and what number do you strive to keep cadence at?
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Old 07-14-12, 09:29 AM
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I find both of them useful too.
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Old 07-14-12, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by lung View Post
Sorry to jack the thread... But I'm a muscular rider... fast on flats and rollers, but trying to be a better climber. I know monitoring cadence meticulously will help in that improvement? Anyone here in that boat and what number do you strive to keep cadence at?
Yes.

But seriously, like most answers here, it depends. Grade, distance, gearing, level of fitness, etc. Some like to spin, others mash it. Some sit when climbing, others off the saddle.
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Old 07-14-12, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by lung View Post
Sorry to jack the thread... But I'm a muscular rider... fast on flats and rollers, but trying to be a better climber. I know monitoring cadence meticulously will help in that improvement?
Is that a question or a statement? monitoring cadence isn't going to help much with your climbing.

To the OP. Get the HR and use it for training. If you want your cadence you can just count your pedal strokes for 10 Secs and you'll be close enough. There is no benefit to having a real time readout of your cadence.
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Old 07-14-12, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by lung View Post
Anyone here in that boat and what number do you strive to keep cadence at?
I tell riders new to cadence that they should start with 80 and adjust to personal taste. Higher is better from a cardio perspective: if it takes you two minutes to climb a hill, doing so at 60RPM means 240 pedal strokes, while 90RPM means you can spread the hill climb over 360 strokes.

I used to be a 90+ rider (85 at beginning of season, 95 by end). Now I ride tandem with my wife, who was a 60+ rider. So...we're now a 74-82 team, with the hopes of slowly creeping that up. With a 9-speed 11-32 cassette, our jumps are significant, so there's usually only one gear that works, so I have to shift a lot.
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Old 07-14-12, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Dilberto View Post
Get the cadence add-on and a $25 Target HR monitor watch. The HR watch is medically-accurate(ECG), as there is a pulse sensor inside the unit. I hate the HR chest strap, as they get downright nasty and uncomfortable after many miles.
I had a watch type HR monitor with a chest strap. But I could never see the monitor unless I let go of the bars and turned my wrist. So I used a 2 inch piece of water pipe insulation and strapped the monitor to the bars. That worked great.

I've never had any discomfort with a chest strap, and I've had three different brands.

Cadence
I checked cadence by using the ride timer on my bike computer, counting one pedal for 20 seconds and multiplying by 3. So I had a pretty good idea of my typical steady state cadence. But now, with a Garmin showing the cadence averaged over the last 3 seconds, I really like having it on the display. I'll see the cadence slipping down toward the lower 80s, and then I'll shift a cog and get it back to the low 90s. But if I had to pick, I would choose HR over cadence any day.

HRM usage
I didn't use the HRM for training with set HR goals and times. I do use it to remind me to pick up the effort if I start easing off.

I use it all the time for pacing.
Everyone is different, but these are my ranges, based on experience (plus or minus a few beats per minute):
under 130 An easy pace.
130-140 A light workout.
140-145 A maintainable but fairly hard pace. I can do this for hours.
146-153 Working hard, good for maybe 10 minutes at a time.
154-160 This is difficult. maybe a few minutes at a time. If a group keeps up this pace, I'll get dropped eventually.
161-165 I can do this for maybe a minute, (might do two minutes if really motivated?)
166-173 short bursts only. Have to recover.

On long mountain climbs, I'll stay in the low 140s and know I can keep going for hours. Otherwise, I'd be tempted to push harder at the beginning.

Last edited by rm -rf; 07-14-12 at 11:01 AM.
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