What Is Cadence in Cycling – How to measure & Improve Yours

what is cadence in cycling

What is Cadence In Cycling?

The word cadence is often thrown around in a lot of different fields.

From sports like running and cycling to music, and more recently, even business.

That’s because the concept of cadence is as satisfying as it is useful.

But What is Cadence in Cycling?

When it comes to beginner cyclists, it’s often neglected or completely unfamiliar.

Cadence is one of those things that you’re likely to ignore until you get an injury.

That was the case for me. And it made me stop and think about how I was using my body.

In this post, we’ll cover what cadence is as well as how to get to the best cadence for your body and specific cycling goals.

What Is Cadence?

The best way to understand cadence is to think of the act of cycling.

When you ride long-distance, your body doesn’t have to focus on the movement of your legs.

It’s pretty unlikely you’ll get sore muscles from a bike ride. But if you move fast enough, it gets harder for you to breathe.

When cycling, the rhythm of your pedal cadence can be everything.

When you keep good cadence while cycling, you can cover more ground with less physical effort.

What Is Bike Cadence – Pedal Cadence?

riding a road bicycle view from the rider's perspective

Cadence in cycling is defined as the speed or number of revolutions you make with the pedals per minute, or RPM.

It’s a rhythmic movement that can maximize your efficiency.

The process of reaching a good cadence is a little more refined than that.

It revolves around your body’s coordination and your own experience with cycling.

Why Is Cadence Important in Cycling?

Cadence is a very important metric, especially for professional cyclists.

For starters, it’s how to measure a cyclist’s power.

How hard you push the pedals times how fast you push them equals your power.

  • Cadence takes the pressure off your muscles and puts it onto your cardiovascular system.
  • Cadence improves your body’s ability to process oxygen and deliver it to your muscles.
See also  11 benefits of cycling for a healthy body & mind

Why Is Higher Cadence Better?

Cyclists that have better cardiovascular fitness prefer higher cadence.

While those who have stronger muscles will be more comfortable with lower cadence.

You can vary your cadence higher or lower depending on your level of fitness.

But cycling at low cadence using higher gears (smaller sprockets) can strain your leg muscles, knees, and hips.

This type of strain impacts your performance in the short and long term.

Cycling in high gear with low cadence tires your muscles faster.

Which decreases your stamina and makes muscle recovery harder.

In the long run, low cadence can make muscle and knee injuries more likely.

Cycling Cadence for Beginners

beginner riding a road bicycle

Most beginners don’t pay attention to their pedal cadence.

So, how should beginners get started with cadence-focused workouts?

Here are some points beginners should understand about high-cadence cycling.

What Is Good Cadence for Cycling?

Before we get into the details, it’s important to note that there isn’t one cadence that’s best for everyone.

Good cadence depends on your level of fitness.

If you’re aiming for pro cyclist levels, a good starting cadence goal is 80-90 RPM.

Most professional cyclists have a cadence ranging between 90-110.

How to Improve Cadence in Cycling?

The first step is to measure your cadence while riding on a flat road with no wind. Next, get an accurate measurement of your current pedal cadence.

When you know your current cadence, you can train to improve it.

To do this, you will need a bike computer or GPS watch that can measure your pedaling speed.

Most bike computers will have this feature, but you may need to purchase a separate sensor if yours does not.

How to measure your Cadence?

man using a stopwatch to time bicycle pedal cadence

You can buy cadence sensors that also measure speed. But you can also measure your cadence manually. You will need a timer, though.

  • Warm-up before starting.
  • Choose on a flat stretch of road.
  • Set a timer to 30 seconds and set your dominant knee to its highest position.
  • Begin riding when you start the timer.
  • Count how many times that same knee returns to the same position over 30 seconds.
  • Now double the final number.
  • Repeat this process over a few rides and calculate the average number.

Make sure to count the number of times your dominant knee goes up only.

So if you start with the right knee in its highest position, don’t count the times your left knee goes up.

See also  Cycling Training Plan For Beginners

From that point on, use a lower gear (smaller sprocket) than the one you’re used to and try to maintain the same speed.

This will feel like your pedaling is too light and will take some getting used to.

Once the lower gear feels normal, it’s time to add some high-cadence workouts.

These workouts will require a cadence sensor.

Once you have your cadence measured, you can begin to experiment with different gear ratios to find what works best for you.

It is important to find a gear ratio that allows you to maintain a comfortable pedaling speed while still providing enough power to make it up hills.

If you are having trouble finding a comfortable gear ratio, it is often helpful to start with a smaller chainring and work your way up.

For example, if you are used to riding in a 42-tooth chainring, try starting with a 38-tooth chainring.

You can always go back to a larger chainring if necessary.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your ideal gear ratio will change as you get stronger and faster.

As your legs get stronger, you will be able to pedal at higher speeds without tiring as quickly.

That being said, you may need to experiment with different gear ratios on a regular basis to find what works best for your current fitness level.

What is Gear Ratio in Cycling?

The gear ratio of a bike is the number of rotations the rear wheel will make for each revolution of the crank arms.

The most common bike gear ratio is 2:1, which means that the back wheel will rotate twice for each full turn of the crank arms.

Other common ratios are 1:1 and 3:1.

What is the best gear ratio for cycling?

The answer depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • Terrain: Smooth, medium, or rugged
  • Whether you’re riding on flat roads, an incline, or a decline
  • The Rider’s strength and fitness
  • Personal preference

A common sense starting point is to use a gear ratio that allows you to pedal at a comfortable cadence (around 60-80 rpm).

From there, it’s often a matter of experimentation to find the perfect gear ratio for you.

Best Cycling Cadence for Weight Loss?

Cycling for weight loss can be a great idea. Especially when you can do it outdoors while enjoying some fresh air.

If you intend on cycling for weight loss, you will use heart rate to track your progress, rather than pedal cadence.

Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

The Wrap-Up

We recommend training your body to cycle with high pedal cadence.

A trainer can help you choose the right balance for your specific goals, fitness level, and equipment.

(As with all exercise plans, check with a health professional before you begin!)

What’s Next…

If you enjoyed this article, go check out How To Teach A Child To Ride A Bike!

Happy Cycling!

About Informed Cyclist
Michael Rogers
I’m Michael, a cycling fanatic and the founder of Informed Cyclist. I started this site to give back to the sport I love! My mission is to bring the very best cycling advice & know-how to my readers. I hope you enjoy this site as much as I love working on it. I put a lot of heart & effort into it!

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