Cadence

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
User avatar
Mick F
Spambuster
Posts: 49213
Joined: 7 Jan 2007, 11:24am
Location: Tamar Valley, Cornwall

Re: Cadence

Postby Mick F » 6 Aug 2012, 2:05pm

Reformed. :D
I must say - I said up-thread that my average is 65rpm - today's 25mile ride returned a 72rpm average.

Today's ride was up out of the valley - steep for 2miles, then mainly downhill to Saltash along the A388. I returned the same route.

This meant that outgoing, I was in bottom gear for two miles, then almost spinning out in top gear for much of the rest. Coming back, I hardly got into top gear and was pedalling a little faster than normal to get up the hills. Therefore I have a higher cadence than "normal".

Maybe this illustrates the differences in experience and ideas. Just like average speeds, average cadence can vary geographically. Despite flying along as often as I can, my average moving speeds hardly ever get above 14mph. Todays moving average speed was 13.8mph.
Mick F. Cornwall

User avatar
meic
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Cadence

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2012, 2:22pm

I think that if I did a ride in my normally hilly terrain then attempting to hold a cadence of 90rpm in normal conditions would probably render an average of around 72 when all the steep climbs were included in the mix.
This is from real cadence readings rather than a theoretical idea.
Yma o Hyd

tyred
Posts: 188
Joined: 14 Oct 2011, 11:17am

Re: Cadence

Postby tyred » 6 Aug 2012, 2:24pm

The majority of my rides, I would describe as hilly and undulating but without any serious climbs. I have a number of bikes but my preferred one these days is an old steel frame built with a 62" fixed gear. I seem to average around 15mph, speed obviously being limited on the descent parts with such a low fixed gear. It's mostly open countryside around here with low hedges which mean I always have a headwind at some point.

I know many people could go much faster, even on the same bike on the same roads but I'm heavier and less fit than I should be and never push myself to the absolute limit. I prefer to cruise. I just enjoy riding a bike and it matters little to me whether it's lightweight racing bike, a folding bike, a cheap 1990s mountain bike or a rod braked roadster (I have them all!), I still enjoy being out and about in the countryside enjoying the fresh air. I'm fortunate to be able to choose the bike which suits my mood.

michael42
Posts: 219
Joined: 19 May 2012, 6:42pm

Re: Cadence

Postby michael42 » 6 Aug 2012, 2:36pm

theenglishman wrote:'They*' say that a cadence around 90 rpm is the most efficient and the only way I'm managing to keep around that is to use a cadence sensor and keep an eye on it. You fairly quickly know when you're out of the zone. When I get tired I find it more and more difficult to keep up the cadence, but 'they*' say this comes with practise and increasing fitness. I can manage this on the flat but hills and my lack of fitness mean that I drop down the averages on a long ride.


This is an interesting question (one that I was going to ask)

Of course, in one sense it's easy to keep up a cadence because you can change down a gear - at least until you run out of lower gears :)
But I see your point, it's about a gear / cadence / effort combined together that gives you a particular speed.

This is why some of the discussion on cadence I can google is confusing (because people often say 'choose a gear so you are spinning and putting a light pressure on the pedals' - but you think 'well hang on - that's every gear (or sometimes less - sometimes none of the gears) depending on the terrain and it makes little sense because it's clear the guy on TV whose legs are spinning around is in a much higher gear to get that 50km/h average. Is he really using a "light pressure" and is just much stronger, or is he both pushing and spinning at the same time?

The real question isn't about cadence as such it's about which gear should you use to pedal that cadence and the question is what should this 'practise' consist of to get the answer to be "8th gear" rather than "7th or lower" - so your speed is quicker.

Of course, when the hill is steep enough that you can only get up by standing up in first, or go down as fast as you dare in 8th, there's no great puzzle. The interesting question is the times in between those extremes. So my question similar to the OP but is really about how best to increase speed.

I have nexus 8, so it's relatively easy for me to relate speed with cadence (perhaps to increase speed I should not have a nexus 8 :) Ok, but I do, and that's not changing anytime soon)

Here are my KPH at 60rpm (from sheldon's gear calc)

26.6
23.4
20.2
16.5
14.0
12.3
10.6
8.7

And at 100rpm

44.4
39.0
33.6
27.5
23.4
20.5
17.7
14.5

I'm between the two, the steepest hill perhaps I'm going at 8kph or less, in first. Downhill I hit 44-50 but I would say my average cadence is probably 70-80 just based on the speeds on the 1-per-second track logs I get from the garmin.

But, let's say I want to increase my average speed. Which at the moment on the few 30-40km courses I've pinched from my local cycling club's web page is around 24 km/h.

What's my best way of doing that? (One answer might be getting SPD pedals and shoes, and a different bike - but at the moment I can't afford either - I'd be interested how much improvement clips are likely to give though. Another answer might be 'join the club' - but their webpage says you need a road bike, so that's not happening and the other alternative clubs are all 'family rides' and so forth which go slower than I am now)

Wearing shorts appears to be at least 3-4km/h increase on my average speed compared with cycling in jeans. Unless I got shorts on the same day my average speed got better, I had done around 1000km on my new bike in the month leading up to getting the shorts and getting the faster average. (So that gives me the impression that there are a lot of tiny gains you can get for free, just by using different equipment, that can fool you into thinking you're faster)

Let's say a certain section of road is relatively flat and at the moment I'm in 6 or 7th gear @ 70-80rpm, going 27-31 km/h
Ideally I want to be in 8th gear going 35km/h+ (at which point the question about cadence will be easy, I have to spin faster - or get new gearing)

But now, if I put in 8th, I'll probably drop to 60rpm with the increased effort and end up going the same speed as I was in 7th.
That repeats whatever terrain you're on, you're either in 1st, 2nd or 2nd or 3rd...and so on...but the speed is effectively the same, your cadence simply drops in the higher gear.

The question is, to get better / faster should I put the bike in 8th and grind away until some magic day that becomes a spin? Or should I be spinning a lower gear faster and faster, above my typical cadence, trying to maintain a target speed above my typical speed today for as long as I can (and then, presumably, one magic day, I'll be fit enough to change into 8th @ 80rpm and then I can start trying to spin that gear faster?

Or should I be doing something else? Cycling longer distances than 30-40km/h at whatever speed I currently average? Or shorter distances trying to stand-up and sprint the whole time? Perhaps I should be focussing on getting up the hillier parts that slow my average down, with more "stand up" effort and not on the speed along the flat? (One difficult thing when you've just got an average speed as a target, is comparing it to someone else's because although you can see they did the same route at 18km/h in 1hr and a bit, it's not clear whether they were quicker at every point compared with you, or if they pushed up hills faster and more or less did the same speed along the flat, or just flew down a few at scary speeds)
Last edited by michael42 on 6 Aug 2012, 2:50pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
meic
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Cadence

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2012, 2:49pm

In my experience you will always get the grinding practice, it is unavoidable. I have to make an effort to get the spinning practice in.

Another point is that there is a tendency to combine the high rpm (it being called spinning backs this up) with circular pedalling and combine the low cadence with pushing up and down. While this is not always the case, it most often is that way especially as it is very difficult to have a high cadence without circular pedalling.
Yma o Hyd

Mark1978
Posts: 4912
Joined: 17 Jul 2012, 8:47am
Location: Chester-le-Street, County Durham

Re: Cadence

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Aug 2012, 2:55pm

I guess this is quite important to me at the moment as I'm only a week into cycling - although I can feel the difference already. I guess I have a choice to make as to how my fitness develops (or doesn't!) in that I should be able to train myself to be used to high cadence now, rather than my default mashing.

Mind you I'm still at the point with hills where I'm struggling in the lowest possible gear so I'm not short of mashing practice either.

User avatar
al_yrpal
Posts: 8692
Joined: 25 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Location: Cully
Contact:

Re: Cadence

Postby al_yrpal » 6 Aug 2012, 3:12pm

I don't have any way to measure Cadence, I think you need a Garmin for that. But I do have a heart rate monitor on my Aldi cycle computer. I don't always wear the transmitter but I do on the mtb and on other occasions when on the road with a group. Just nearing my 8th decade I am careful about overdoing things and keep a weather eye on the rate to make sure I am not going over the top and risking some sort of damage. Reading this is interesting the root mean squared of what you all saying seems to be cadence is what it is. My 'getting ready for a tour' regime is to ride up all the steep hills in the area on a higher geared bike than my tourer, one after the other for at least three days a week over the month before. Th is seems to be enough. I do keep an eye on the monitor on tour to make sure I am not overdoing things. As I am pretty fit and healthy I calculate my heart rate as one for someone 10 years younger than I am. The biggest danger is the mtb. On that its dead easy to go over the top and get completely knackered, its excellent preparation for a long hard tour on the road. If you want to develop your fitness I'd venture to suggest that a heart rate monitor is a better training tool than measuring cadence. The only way that Cadence ever comes into my riding regime is on hills where my lowest gear isn't quite enough, then I do conciously slow cadence so that I am able to cope at a constant but high heart rate.

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

User avatar
meic
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Cadence

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2012, 3:18pm

It is not an irreversible decision.
I am a keen fan of high cadence but find it hard to maintain, it is always easy to fall back to low cadence.

I doubt anybody is 100% at either extreme.

Typically for me I can manage a good high cadence for up to 20 miles, then the stretches of low cadence will creep in and get increasingly large.

On the other hand when I have done a very high mileage and I am completely worn out, I find I can only ride by high cadence in lower gears as the leg strength is expired.

In summary you have to work at higher cadence but low cadence will always be there no matter what you do.
Yma o Hyd

michael42
Posts: 219
Joined: 19 May 2012, 6:42pm

Re: Cadence

Postby michael42 » 6 Aug 2012, 3:46pm

meic wrote:It is not an irreversible decision.
I am a keen fan of high cadence but find it hard to maintain, it is always easy to fall back to low cadence.

I doubt anybody is 100% at either extreme.

Typically for me I can manage a good high cadence for up to 20 miles, then the stretches of low cadence will creep in and get increasingly large.

On the other hand when I have done a very high mileage and I am completely worn out, I find I can only ride by high cadence in lower gears as the leg strength is expired.

In summary you have to work at higher cadence but low cadence will always be there no matter what you do.


Again, "low cadence" "high cadence" seem to make little sense without specifics about gearing imo. Because I could probably pedal all day in my lowest gear with a high cadence. I wouldn't get very far though :)

At least it makes no sense to my puzzlement about what target I should be aiming at.

As you note, you can "only ride by high cadence in lower gears" when tired, I think what you perhaps have to appreciate that this condition is the norm for many non-tired cyclists asking about cadence :)
This implies when you say "high cadence for up to 20 miles" you mean high cadence in the highest gear you have? As I say, for me and perhaps others this isn't merely difficult to do, it's not even physically possible yet :)

So should we spin in a lower gear or push a higher one?

User avatar
meic
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: Cadence

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2012, 4:58pm

This implies when you say "high cadence for up to 20 miles" you mean high cadence in the highest gear you have?


No I mean by pushing the cadence up to nearer 100 in similar gears to those I will be riding at 80 later on.

Should you push in a higher gear or a lower one?

I would say aim for using a lower gear faster because you will probably find yourself pedalling slower in a higher gear before too long anyway until you remember to speed up again.
Yma o Hyd

Ribblehead
Posts: 366
Joined: 21 Jul 2011, 3:08pm

Re: Cadence

Postby Ribblehead » 6 Aug 2012, 5:27pm

meic wrote:In my experience you will always get the grinding practice, it is unavoidable. I have to make an effort to get the spinning practice in.


This is where fixed-wheel makes good sense. Grinding up hills and into head winds builds strength. Spinning on the flat with a tailwind, and going downhill keeps your legs supple.

michael42
Posts: 219
Joined: 19 May 2012, 6:42pm

Re: Cadence

Postby michael42 » 6 Aug 2012, 5:59pm

meic wrote:
This implies when you say "high cadence for up to 20 miles" you mean high cadence in the highest gear you have?


No I mean by pushing the cadence up to nearer 100 in similar gears to those I will be riding at 80 later on.

Should you push in a higher gear or a lower one?

I would say aim for using a lower gear faster because you will probably find yourself pedalling slower in a higher gear before too long anyway until you remember to speed up again.


Thanks for your reply.

Right ok, I understand where you're coming from now.

I shall experiment later on a route that has a 20km section up and down the same stretch of bypass. Last (and first) time I did this route I averaged 28km/h on the 10km down, but I stopped for a drink and so got 26km/h on the way back (so better than my average over all and nearly 18mph, but I can't help thinking the guys that average 18mph overall, given the same route would probably be much faster on this section rather than quicker through the villages to and from it) It's not entirely flat (nowhere is I suppose) but it's close.

But, given the experimental 100rpm, I'll try to do the whole thing changing gear based on the 100rpm chart in the above post rather than the 60-80rpm chart I probably use naturally. Going on that chart, if it were perfectly flat, I should be able to do the same average spinning 5th gear the whole way, or spin 6th and aim to do 34km/h as much as possible dropping to 5th only if I can't manage it - and I should forget 7th gear completely unless I can spin it to 40km/h - that would definitely be different to my typical gear use now. I can use the ride to and from the bypass section to warm up and recover.

michael42
Posts: 219
Joined: 19 May 2012, 6:42pm

Re: Cadence

Postby michael42 » 6 Aug 2012, 6:15pm

Ribblehead wrote:
meic wrote:In my experience you will always get the grinding practice, it is unavoidable. I have to make an effort to get the spinning practice in.


This is where fixed-wheel makes good sense. Grinding up hills and into head winds builds strength. Spinning on the flat with a tailwind, and going downhill keeps your legs supple.


Right, for me to this I'd have to put my bike in one gear and not change it. That's as close as I could get. The question would then be which gear :)

Although, I've a feeling simply doing hilly routes would be enough for me at this stage, fixed gear would just mean walking up hills and perhaps counter-productive.

It's not like I lazily spin up hills in first gear now, it's a lot of effort and grind to get up some of them using the lowest gears I've got :)

I'm a bit wary of injury too doing too much standing up and grinding.

There's one pretty steep but short hill near me on a quiet road, I'd probably be as well pedalling up and down it over and over for an hour or two.

User avatar
Ash28
Posts: 581
Joined: 8 Jun 2010, 7:03pm
Location: West Midlands

Re: Cadence

Postby Ash28 » 6 Aug 2012, 6:33pm

I wonder if experimenting with crank length would help Claireysmurf. I have been riding single speed with 175mm cranks. I find now that I am much more inclined to push higher gears and honk up hills on a geared bike and would say my cadence has decreased. When riding another bike with 170 cranks I find I miss the extra leverage and seem to spin faster.
The Only Cyclist In The Village

User avatar
Claireysmurf
Posts: 612
Joined: 18 Nov 2011, 12:10am
Contact:

Re: Cadence

Postby Claireysmurf » 6 Aug 2012, 6:37pm

Ash28 wrote:I wonder if experimenting with crank length would help Claireysmurf. I have been riding single speed with 175mm cranks. I find now that I am much more inclined to push higher gears and honk up hills on a geared bike and would say my cadence has decreased. When riding another bike with 170 cranks I find I miss the extra leverage and seem to spin faster.


Is there typically any link between physical height and need for longer or shorter cranks. I am 5ft 11 (180cm) with 31 inch inside leg...so not tiny!