Cadence - what is cadence? This may not be the best title for a blog if nobody understands what it means. It is simply how quickly you turn the pedals round, so you can think of it as the tempo or rhythm too. It is one of the best-kept secrets in cycling and it is important because it can make your cycling experience much more enjoyable.
As more and more people get into cycling you see a lot of cyclists “grinding” the pedals round. By this I mean they are turning the pedals around very slowly but using brute strength to get them round.
What is wrong with that you may ask? Well, several things, firstly and most importantly it is a very inefficient way to ride your bike. You will get tired at a much faster rate than if you “spin” the pedals more fluidly. A good analogy is driving a car, if you drove everywhere in 5 gear the car would really labour at points or stall if you didn’t change down gears. By using sheer force to turn the pedals your legs and body will tire much faster and on a long day out that is not what you need. Have you been out on your bike and at the end of the day you have very sore thigh muscles? Well, that’s the reason – you have been ‘grinding’ too big a gear.
The other issue is that by grinding the pedals round should the gradient of the terrain change quickly; in a big gear you will not be able to react quickly enough. In the worst case, you will end up stalling and coming to a halt. This is so easily avoided if you use the correct gear.
Ok you say, so what is the correct cadence? To give you some idea, professional cyclists will often have an average cadence of about 80 (80 full revolutions of the cranks per minute). But we are not professional cyclists, therefore a comfortable cadence could be 60 -70 revolutions per minute. If it is not something you are used to it is quite a change to make and could be uncomfortable to start with. You can measure it yourself by counting the number of revolutions per minute, but many bike computers have cadence sensors that will tell you exactly how fast or slow you are pedalling.
The rate at which you pedal will be controlled by using the gears so the whole cadence subject is all about using your gears well, something that will come with time and practice. Try using a low gear that still turns the pedals with enough resistance to move the bike forward. Not that you are having to really push the pedals, just enough to keep them going at the same tempo for a kilometre or so. Once you get into a rhythm you will find your whole cycling experience changes.
If you ride an e-bike, another interesting point is that as our bodies have a point at which the pedalling rate is most efficient, so do the motors on E-bikes. The main motor manufacturers Bosch, Shimano, and Yamaha all have their own suggested optimal cadences at which the motors work best and if you follow them, it will save battery power and your legs as well.
Save your legs from muscle ache - spin your pedals.