For my birthday last month, my son gave me a new cyclocomputer, a Cateye V2C. It’s loaded with bells and whistles, and I’m still trying to figure out all the different functions. But it also has one very important function I haven’t used up to now: cadence.
Since restarting biking in 2007, I’ve read that cyclists should strive to maintain 90 rpm as their cadence. About the only time I ever attempted to gauge cadence was by setting the timer on my old unit, and when it hit a round number with a zero at the end, start counting rpms as I pedaled. Count for six seconds, multiply by ten, and you have your cadence.
A fairly crude method, but it familiarized me with the fact that 90 rpms requires some quick pedaling. Once I installed the new computer last weekend, I learned that first hand. Just taking the bike around the block a few times to test the unit, I learned that I wasn’t pedaling any faster than 77 rpms.
I like the new unit’s physical setup — even tho it seems rather bulky. On my last cyclocomputer, there was a cadence function, but the magnets were positioned too far from the sensors, and even when I shimmed them, I couldn’t get a reliable reading. This one uses two large sensors.
The big square thing is the speed sensor — the arm off to the left is the cadence sensor.
Now, I’ve had the chance to test it out on some road rides. It’s true — to reach that magic 90 number, I have to pedal a lot faster than I’ve been used to. I tended to settle into what I consider a comfortable pace, which turns out to be in the low 80s — 82 or so. If I’m trying to maintain a pace of 90 rpm, I have to shift down and pedal faster.
But that’s fine. I understand it will take awhile to get used to a faster cadence, and to the gears needed to keep the faster cadence comfortable. Next, I’ll dig into all those functions on the gizmo. Like an alarm bell that tells you when you’re out of your target cadence zone. For me, that will be between 80-100 rpm.
One benefit of the higher cadence I’ve already noticed is that I travel at about the same speeds I did when mashing the large chainring — but my quadricep muscles still feel fresh after a ride. That really came in handy on today’s club ride, where we faced a brutal and chilly northwest wind all the way back.
Does cadence play a role in your training? Any tips on maintaining your target cadence zone? Or is this cadence thing all overrated?
Thats a nice computer, I fancy one of those myself. I have the Strada Cadence, its very similar but wired.
I find it difficult to peddle at 90rpm and lower, I seem to naturally spin at 100 and often spin much faster.
Everyone is different, some like to grind at 80 and others spin at 100+ but 90 seems like a good cadence to be aiming for. I figure that as long as youre spinning at least 80 rpm then you’re ok. If youre the type that usually grinds at 50rpm then maybe then its time to revise your pedalling technique.
How long are your rides? When I am doing direct commutes to work (~8 miles one way) my cadence tends to be around 85. With Spring rolling into the Carolinas I am taking indirect routes to work and my average cadence on those rides is getting very close to 100.
I believe two factors are working on my cadence.
1) On the direct route I don’t have many long runs between stops, I think the longest runs are no more than a mile at time (going through the city of Greensboro). When I go indirect I skirt around the edge of the city and until the last few miles I have very few lights and stops allowing very long tempo runs.
2) Last year I lived in Maryland and while my direct commute tempo was about the same as here, when I went indirect the tempo only rose about 5 RPM. While the area of MD I was in wasn’t flat (Metro DC area) it didn’t rise and fall like the NC Piedmont. Here the hills rise higher but at a lesser grade. Most hills are too long to power up and spinning high RPM leaves energy to get back up to cruising speed quickly once the grade is defeated. What I’m trying to get to is this–Your riding terrain might be affecting your chosen cadence. Riding style might also be affecting things too–I hardly ever get out of the saddle except when accelerating from a stop (one hill on McKnight Mill Rd being an exception–I do that one as a test, it always leaves me gassed once over the steep part which actually makes the 4% grade that follows rather difficult to recover on).
Noob – Cadence is important for all the things you mentioned. You use more aerobic that anaerobic. You tend to be fresher as you don’t hit lactic threshold as fast as when you are pushing a big ring at 55 rpm. As far as training, its not a huge determiner. HR and Wattage are the big training tools. However ina lot of training programs you’ll see they will designated cadence as well. On spin (endurance) days long ride, low HR and high cadence. On muscle building days, bigger gear & low cadence, throw in some climbs.