Turning Those Pedals — Or, Cadence

Long-time readers of Bike Noob might recall that I used to have a bike computer that measured cadence. When it broke, I didn’t replace it with another cadence unit — I decided I didn’t really need that information.

One thing I found out when I did ride with that unit was that I naturally cruised at a cadence of between 82-85 rpm. Most of the cycling literature I had read indicated that you want to be up around 90 rpm. I did do a cadence workout once a week where I struggled to stay above 90 for a 15-mile ride. I believe that effort did help me, but I also think that because I was working hard on those rides, I was a little bit fitter than I am today.

But as I discovered that I was falling into a biking rut, which I mentioned briefly last month, I decided that one way to break out of it was to vary my workouts — not ride at the same speed under the same conditions all the time. And sure enough, once I started doing that, I also started to pay attention to how fast I was turning the pedals.

I realized that I had let my previous cadence efforts go by the wayside. I started doing some fartlek training again, and made sure that on the fast sections, that I upped my cadence. I don’t have anything to measure it by, and I distrust my efforts to count the number of revolutions in a 10-second section, then multiply by six — I just don’t think that’s accurate, at least when I do it.

Then, when out on a longer weekend ride, I shifted down one gear into something a tidge easier. That also allowed me to increase my cadence, and get used to spinning without necessarily working harder. And I discovered that I like the higher revs. I’m in comfort zone now that must be the result of my earlier cadence workouts. It’s almost certainly closer to 90 that 80 now.

One benefit of increased cadence is that if you have to shift to a harder gear, it’s easier to spin the pedals, because you’ve been training at higher rpm’s anyway. I’ll never be speed demon, but it’s nice to know that when I do have to accelerate, I can do it without having to gasp for breath a mile down the road.

So I think I’ll continue to make cadence a regular part of my biking routine. Not measuring it to any degree of accuracy, but just paying attention to how fast I’m spinning at certain points in my ride. My rides will be easier, my pace will be just as good, if not better, and I’ll be building endurance.

How about you? Does cadence have any role in your riding or training?


  1. says

    I consciously tried to raise my cadence, knowing that it was probably below the recommended 90 RPM you mention, but without the help of a cadence monitor. When I finally added one, about a year after such casual cadence monitoring began, I was surprised to find that my normal cadence was 90 RPM and that what I considered fast turned out to be 100-110 RPM.

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