Cadence is easy to monitor when riding an indoor bike platform such as the Keiser M3 or Spinner Blade Ion. The computer display provides instant feedback displaying your RPM’s based on your power output and resistance. However, I encounter a rider once in a while who is pedaling too fast, too slow, mashing the pedals, bouncing excessively or appears to have the incorrect rotations needed for the segment being taught. Here are some simple rules to help you understand cadence, its role in building endurance and stamina as well as how to quickly apply corrective measures to achieve proper cadence numbers:
What is Cadence?
Cadence is defined as pedaling speed in revolutions per minute (RPM). For example, a cadence of 80 RPM means that one pedal makes a complete revolution 80 times in one minute. If you don’t have a computer that displays cadence, you can measure your cadence with relative accuracy by counting the number of complete revolutions of one foot for 30 seconds and multiply by two.
Mistakes to Avoid
According to Spinning.com, a common mistake is to pedal very fast with very little resistance. So how fast is too fast? If your cadence is over 110 RPM, it’s too fast. But even if your cadence is under 110, it still might be too fast, relative to the amount of resistance you’ve applied to the flywheel. If you find yourself bouncing in the saddle, that’s a good indication that you’re not in control of your pedal stroke, (and therefore your cadence is too high relative to the amount of resistance you have on the flywheel). When your cadence is too high with too little resistance, your pedals are turning simply because of the momentum of the weighted flywheel. That’s right—the flywheel is doing all the work! Not only does that create an inefficient workout (since your muscles don’t have to do any of the work), but it can also be unsafe if the pedals get out of your control.
Cadence and resistance work hand-in-hand. Because of the platform you are using, the actual numbers vary based on the bike’s hardware, flywheel weight and its design (front or rear positioning). For example, the cadence range for flat roads is from 80-110rpm (Spinning) and 70-90rpm (Schwinn), and for hills/climbing the cadence range is between 60-80rpm (both Spinning & Schwinn). Keiser recommends an overall lower/upper limits of 60-110rpms. There are other platforms that could offer different ranges. Without getting sidetracked with the selected bike platform and based on common grounds between bike platforms I reviewed (Spinner, Keiser & Schwinn), try to keep these numbers in mind:
The intensity of the workout is modulated in two ways:
- By varying the resistance on a flywheel attached to the pedals.
The resistance is controlled by a knob, wheel or lever that the rider operates, causing the flywheel brake to tighten. Usually riders who can’t pedal at the resistance called out by the instructor are encouraged to ride at a level at which they feel comfortable yet challenged.
- By changing the cadence (the speed at which the pedals turn).
Pedaling at a higher rate expends more energy than pedaling at a lower rate with the same resistance. Correct cadence is between the range of 80 to 110 RPM for seated flat, standing flat (running) and jumping and 60 to 80 RPM for seated climb, standing climb, running with resistance and jumps on a hill. Sprints are taken under hill resistance building speed up to no more than 110 RPM. Seated sprints are most suitable as the rider maintains full control of posture at all times and will avoid falling due to exhaustion. A correct sprint should last from 10 to 25 seconds, leaving the rider exhausted in the 85 to 92% max heart rate range.
Instructor Tips: Evaluating & Correcting Cadence
How can you tell if one of our participants is cycling outside the recommended cadence? And, secondly, how do you correct this issue?
Riding too fast / above 110RPMs:
– Bouncing on the saddle
– Out of control pedal speed / erratic pedal stroke
– Leg speed significantly higher than mine
Riding below 60 RPMs
– Using very high gear / rider appears to be struggling
– Pauses or hesitations in pedal stroke / frequent stops
– Excessive arm movement and forward shoulder posture
– Leg speed significantly slower than mine
In this article, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/optimizing-rpm-0, an important question “Is a Higher Cadence Better?” proves difficult to answer. For example, At 60 rpm, it takes 1.0 seconds for the crank to make a complete revolution, while at 90 rpm, it takes only 0.66 seconds. Thus, the contraction time for involved muscles is 34% less at 90 rpm. Since the force of muscular contraction can limit blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscle fibers, a shorter contraction time would be beneficial in delaying the onset of fatigue. A higher cadence would also require less pedal force. By decreasing both the amount of force and the length of time that force is applied per pedal stroke, a cyclist could potentially ride longer before fatiguing. This could save the muscles for subsequent efforts and faster recovery. But is a higher cadence better in shorter, more intense efforts like a time trial, or in a threshold-type interval in your indoor cycling class? The elusive answer: it depends – on a variety of factors that are unique to the rider’s biomechanics, prevailing conditions and platform.
Final Word: Cadence Variety Ensures Success
As we have discovered, your age, weight, bike platform, ride conditions, resistance and even your state of mind are some of the factors that play into cadence values. Many of these factors vary moment-to-moment based on the instructor’s coaching, routine and music, as well as the level of lactic acid in your muscles. The critical success factor to mastering cadence ranges is simply variety. By training at a broad range of cadence and resistance combinations, you will have greater freedom to choose the most appropriate combination during your workouts.
Ride Well…Ride Strong…