Cadence issues

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Ikarian, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. Ikarian

    Ikarian New Member

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    Hi everyone-
    I'm geting back into cycling after about a decade off. One of the things I'm noticing about riding is that it is not as simple and automatic to me as it once was. I seem to have difficulty pedaling at a set speed. Rather I will pedal at an accelerating rate by default and then coast for a few seconds, repeating this cycle throughout my entire ride. I can't seem to just 'cruise'. Is this normal? I have also noticed that I tend to be much more comfortable at a considerably higher gear than most of the other cyclists on the road. I usually stick to my 2nd or 3rd highest gear when riding on a flat surface, whereas most other cyclists tend to be pedaling about twice as fast and thus a lower gear. Is this odd, or a matter of preference? Thanks!
     
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  2. jhuskey

    jhuskey Moderator

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    Everyone varies and in the professional world of cycling this has been a debate as in the masher versus the high cadence turbo.
    Ullrich vs Armstrong for example. That being said and given the same set of values on the same terrain the accepted average is between 90 and 100.Even without a computer hookup for cadence you should be able to calculate your cadence by simple counting. You will then know what you ae presently doing as far as cadence.
    My opinion is that it is better to develop a steady cadence if you are doing distance riding. Sprinting, breakaways are another matter.
     
  3. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    I generally agree with the previous post. However, a cadence as high as 90-100rpm can be difficult to achieve for someone new to cycling. Also everyone's "normal cadence" is naturally a little different. I am most comfortable at a cadence of about 80-85rpm. However, if I think I am going to need to accelerate quickly I switch into an easier gear, and spin up the legs, and am thereby prepared to accelerate. This is just easier on the knees and tends to give a faster acceleration instead of a delay before accelerating that tends to happen when in bigger gears/lower cadence.
     
  4. decca234uk

    decca234uk New Member

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    I don't ride at 100, like you I prefer a constant speed in a higher gear. i find it difficult to ride at 100 and like the above poster prefer around 80. It's better for long rides if you can maintain a steady cadence rather than sprinting and free wheeling but having said that if your motivation for riding is fitness and pure enjoyment and you are happy riding the way you ride, then who can argue with you.
    If you're not competing and you're happy. Ride on.
     
  5. 64Paramount

    64Paramount Active Member

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    To the OP I think it's just a matter of getting in the right gear and getting used to pedaling again.

    For myself, I don't think I pedal as quickly as I did when I was younger. (My bike computer doesn't measure cadence, so this is by feel) If I try to really pedal quickly for any distance, it causes me some knee pain.

    Most of the time I think I pedal about the same cadence and just change gears to maintain a steady pace.

    I will spin pretty fast for short intervals, like when a traffic light turns yellow and sometimes I just sprint for a while because it's fun. :)
     
  6. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    I've observed this "technique" in many casual riders. It may work fine if your average speed is about 12mph, but at higher speeds you will loose too much speed coasting and use too much energy regaining speed. Also, your companions will find your accelerations and decelerations annoying.

    Learn to hold a steady speed with a steady cadence. You don't need to spin like a racer, but 70-85 rpm will give you sufficent torque to overcome small obstacles and aid joint health. Push a little on the uphills and rest a bit on the flipside, but keep the cranks turning for endurance, efficiency, and good group ride manners.
     
  7. Ikarian

    Ikarian New Member

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    Thanks for all the responses!

    Right now, I think I'm cranking out about 50-60 RPM (old musician's trick - the Stars And Stripes Forever is traditionally played at 120 BPM, and is easy to guage off that - slightly slower than 120 for each foot to hit the same mark). I'm a bigger guy, so when I pedal faster than that, I get uncomfortable due to, well, having too much of me to go around.

    My average speed right now is about 15 MPH (don't laugh, still new at this, and carrying a lot of extra weight to slow me down).

    To elaborate a little bit on my problem, I can't seem to pedal at a rate that maintains a constant speed. In my current condition listed above, if I pedal at all, I accelerate. If I try and back off my cadence, my chain goes slack (or however you would term the act of pedaling slower than the gears are turning).

    I guess the answer is to start working on backing down my "cruising" gear to a lower one (right now I "cruise" on my second highest gear on a 24 spd bike). Right now my goals are getting more comfortable on the bike (can't do more than about 15 miles without wrist and seat issues), keeping a constant and steady cadence (not accelerating/coasting as mentioned above), and increasing my cruising speed (I assume weight loss is going to be my key here, carrying about 60 extra lbs at the moment). Any tips are appreciated, and I'm always rooting through this board looking for new training ideas. Thanks!
     
  8. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    Right about that. In your state of conditioning I would not even use the big ring except when powering down a hill or in front of a stiff tailwind. Use the sweep hand on a watch to practice your cadence. Quite frankly, if you train for that 70-85 range, you'll burn more fat and your knees and hips will work for you a lot longer.

    For comfort, the best advice I can give is to get your center of gravity over your hips. Most often this involves sliding the saddle back on its rails and sometimes lowering it a bit.
     
  9. SDMichael

    SDMichael New Member

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    I find that if my seat height, saddle position (forward/back on the rails), handlebar reach, etc. are all correct, 90 RPM just... feels right. I have cadence on my computer but even without it I often can just 'sense' when I'm at 90 MPH, and more than 2 points above or below 90 definitely feels 'off.' Ninety gives me no bouncing, no pelvis wobble, no knee, back or butt pains, and an efficient pedal motion that makes my ride enjoyable.

    But of course that will vary from person to person. If 90 to 100 feels uncomfortable to you, make sure you get your local shop mechanic to check your saddle height and other geometry parameters to make sure you've got a great fit.
     
  10. OldGoat

    OldGoat New Member

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    Hmmmm.....90MPH @ 90RPM.....must be one helluva big gear up front!:D
     
  11. SDMichael

    SDMichael New Member

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    :eek: LOL.... it's one of those old circus bikes, large cog the size of a barrel! :D
     
  12. Bike4Him

    Bike4Him New Member

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    I think you've said this twice. If you pedal you accelerate. What's the problem with that? Keep pedalling and you'll plateau at your comfy cadence and your speed will increase, shift to maintain the cadence uphill or down. Keep your effort steady uphill as well as down and use the gears to level off the effort. If you work on maintaining effort, and not speed, then you'll also be readying yourself for group rides as well. Your speed will naturally go up on the downhill and down on the uphill but the effort will remain somewhat constant.
     
  13. Ikarian

    Ikarian New Member

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    Thanks to all for the advice. I took my first ride in about 10 days today, and stayed off my previous "cruising gear" the whole trip. I was finally able to maintain a steady cadence, and to pedal continuosly for a much longer period. While my legs were heating up pretty fast, particularly at the beginning, the rest of the ride was a little smoother thanks to this adjustment (went down to my 2x5 gear for most of the ride as opposed to 3x7, or however you notate your front/rear gear). Seems like I moved a lot more of the workout to my heart instead of my legs (which is good).
     
  14. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    The way it's supposed to work. Have a good ride!
     
  15. root

    root New Member

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    There is no "right" cadence, but generally untrained cyclists will tend to pedal at about 60 RPM, and people who are more fit about 90 or more.

    Personally, 110 RPM feels just right to me esp. in lower gears, but this is just a preference. Many things affect this like your position on bike (esp. seat forward/backward position), crank length (shorter cranks are better for spinning faster) etc.

    Generally, getting in better aerobic/cardio shape will raise your cadence more, since it seems to me like you are cycling more like it is weight lifting rather than cardio workout :D.

    Also, spending a lot of time on spin bike in the winter is a great way to keep in shape and develop higher cadence/cardio fitness, since spin bike keeps you pedaling at a constant rate and it's generally easier to pedal faster than slower (maintaining the momentum of 45 lb flywheel is easier than repeatedly slowing it down and speeding it up).
     
  16. Creatre

    Creatre New Member

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    Interesting this thread came up. I noticed the more fit I got, the easier it was to hold a steady cadence. I've always been able to ride a fairly fast cadence - 80-100, but now I feel awkward riding less than 100. At first I would get to a speed, and do similar to what you said, almost back off and then get on it, then back off because I felt like it was pushing myself. As the fitness got better I realized I could actually maintain that cadence, even though my brain almost told me no. I also did some cadence exercises where I would spin at 110-120 for 2-3 minutes a few times a ride. After a couple weeks of a few sessions of this, it greatly increased my cadence and my performance.
     
  17. root

    root New Member

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    That's good. But don't forget about warm up as well. It takes me about 55 min of easy riding before my muscles are primed and ready to go. If you go hard before your muscles and joints are warmed up and "opened" for better blood flow, they will burn.

    You specify gears by specifying number of teeth on the front/back. This works because on road bikes gears and cog sizes are standard, so it carries over from one bike to another easily. So, for example 53x17 says a lot to another cyclist whereas 1x3 doesn't say much because cogs are highly customizable and some people's cog may start with 23 teeth and others may have 27 teeth as their largest cog at the back.
     
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