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What is Cadence in Cycling?

What is Cadence? Does it matter and what does it actually do? It’s simple really. Cadence is how fast your legs turn per minute, or how many revolutions of the crank arms per minute and it can vary quite significantly between individuals. Everyone will have their own natural cadence in which they feel the most comfortable when riding. You will see this variance in the pro peloton, your local club and in different disciplines of the sport. Some people like Chris Froome and some track riders including sprinters will ride higher gears, whilst time-trailists and possibly mountain bikers will have a slower cadence (due to the nature of their discipline). Mountain bikers are faced with steep technical climbs and uneven terrain which requires a lot of power for short sections, arguably bringing their cadence down.

There is no official right or wrong and we have not carried out any tests to argue one way or another, but is it scientific? Is it not simply what you feel most comfortable doing? The rate at which you pedal can be down to your own biology and how your muscles work at their optimum. It is argued that the most efficient way of riding is achieving a cadence of around 85-95 rpm and is often said to help in reducing fatigue on longer rides which is why you see a lot of pro riders in the big tours with a higher cadence.  It is also known that you are able to react quicker to sudden attacks, changes in pace, and sudden changes in gradient.

Having a too high cadence isn’t really looked at as being a disadvantage unless the result is bouncing around on the top of the saddle under geared. As cadence has a relationship with power, the higher your cadence is the less force you need to put out to achieve the same amount of power.

All these things to consider can get very confusing,  and like we said at the top of this piece, there is no official right or wrong. If your cadence is too low then it could lead to potential knee or hip problems as well as fatiguing prematurely. If you are always in the wrong gear then over using the muscles can lead to some discomfort long term – but this is not always the case. Terrain does come into play when cadence is discussed. Difficult off road climbs or very steep road climbs will naturally lower your cadence due to the nature of the terrain and degree of difficulty involved.

How to get the right cadence:

Some tips in achieving a happy cadence is by checking your gearing. This can help in finding a natural comfortable cadence.  Over gearing can be a cause of slow cadence along with improper crank lengths. You must also ensure that you have the correct saddle height.

Guides

How To: Choose the Right Bike Size

Whether it is your first bike, you have an on-going irritating pain or you are looking for optimum performance, getting the right bike fit is essential. This is a topic that most people know very little about and long gone are the days where your height was enough to measure you up for your new bike.

2016-03-10 14:00:21By Elizabeth Demetriou

If you are not happy with your cadence for any reason then there are ways to target it and improve on this technique. Firstly getting a cadence sensor fitted on your bike is one way of monitoring your cadence throughout your ride and being able to analyse the data and take from it what you need.

Do specific sessions to try and improve this, there are some great online videos and apps like tacx that have specific workout for cadence.



Heidi Anderson

Heidi Anderson

Writer and expert