Cadence vs. Heart Rate



jpwkeeper

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Jul 25, 2004
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OK, I see a lot of discussion about keeping a high cadence (90+ is what I've been told is a proper cadence). I've also read a lot about easing off the effort to get your heart rate into a certain range so you can go longer, and to slow down if you're above the range you're shooting for.

So, if my cadence needs to stay around 90, how do I back off the effort? Will switching to smaller gears help get the HR down?

The reason I ask is that, as an extreme newbie to cycling and not in very good aerobic shape, I think it's the cadence that's kicking my behind. I have a friend of mine who is riding with me at a similar level of fitness (he may be a bit more fit, but not enough to made this much difference), and after our ride I'm blown and he's fine. He's riding a mountain bike with knobby tires on the pavement (he sounds like a swarm of wasps), while I'm riding a road bike (an old one, but a road bike nevertheless). His goal is to stay in the same gear the entire ride, so he pedals much slower than I do. My goal is to keep my cadence above 80, so I change gears constantly. I go up if I drop below 80, and down if the pedals start to float (I might be saying that backwards, but you get the drift).

I'm using perceived exertion, not an actual HR monitor, but you get the idea.

To get the HR down so I can ride farther, should I lower my cadence, or should I push smaller gears? I'm confused. I'm getting ready to add distance to my ride (I won't say the numbers because you'll all laugh), but I'm sort of wondering how I'm going to do it.
 

dhk

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Sep 1, 2003
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jpwkeeper said:
OK, I see a lot of discussion about keeping a high cadence (90+ is what I've been told is a proper cadence). I've also read a lot about easing off the effort to get your heart rate into a certain range so you can go longer, and to slow down if you're above the range you're shooting for.

So, if my cadence needs to stay around 90, how do I back off the effort? Will switching to smaller gears help get the HR down?

The reason I ask is that, as an extreme newbie to cycling and not in very good aerobic shape, I think it's the cadence that's kicking my behind. I have a friend of mine who is riding with me at a similar level of fitness (he may be a bit more fit, but not enough to made this much difference), and after our ride I'm blown and he's fine. He's riding a mountain bike with knobby tires on the pavement (he sounds like a swarm of wasps), while I'm riding a road bike (an old one, but a road bike nevertheless). His goal is to stay in the same gear the entire ride, so he pedals much slower than I do. My goal is to keep my cadence above 80, so I change gears constantly. I go up if I drop below 80, and down if the pedals start to float (I might be saying that backwards, but you get the drift).

I'm using perceived exertion, not an actual HR monitor, but you get the idea.

To get the HR down so I can ride farther, should I lower my cadence, or should I push smaller gears? I'm confused. I'm getting ready to add distance to my ride (I won't say the numbers because you'll all laugh), but I'm sort of wondering how I'm going to do it.

Your doing it right. Changing gears to keep the cadence at 80 or higher is the way to go. Your HR will come down with continued training, just be patient because it will take a few weeks and lots of miles. After all, you're talking about improving your cardio-vascular system: heart, lungs, and the pipes that carry the oxygen to and from your legs.

Even without an HR monitor, you can check your pulse using a watch. Just check for 6 seconds and multiply by 10 to get an approximate reading.
 

Shreklookalike

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Aug 10, 2004
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dhk said:
Your doing it right. Changing gears to keep the cadence at 80 or higher is the way to go. Your HR will come down with continued training, just be patient because it will take a few weeks and lots of miles. After all, you're talking about improving your cardio-vascular system: heart, lungs, and the pipes that carry the oxygen to and from your legs.

Even without an HR monitor, you can check your pulse using a watch. Just check for 6 seconds and multiply by 10 to get an approximate reading.
Another thing to consider is this. Your friend might be in a little bit better shape now, but his riding method won't improve his cardio-vascular system as well as your high cadence will improve yours. Over time, you'll probably wind up in better shape than your buddy.

Also, it's probably more accurate to count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6, or for 15 and multiply by 4 etc. After all, if you only count for 6 and multiply by 10 you'll come up with an answer that may be 9 or more beats per minute incorrect. The longer you can count accurately and the smaller number you multiply by, the closer you'll be to your actual heart rate.
 

Smartt/RST

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Aug 9, 2004
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jpwkeeper said:
OK, I see a lot of discussion about keeping a high cadence (90+ is what I've been told is a proper cadence). I've also read a lot about easing off the effort to get your heart rate into a certain range so you can go longer, and to slow down if you're above the range you're shooting for.

So, if my cadence needs to stay around 90, how do I back off the effort? Will switching to smaller gears help get the HR down?

The reason I ask is that, as an extreme newbie to cycling and not in very good aerobic shape, I think it's the cadence that's kicking my behind. I have a friend of mine who is riding with me at a similar level of fitness (he may be a bit more fit, but not enough to made this much difference), and after our ride I'm blown and he's fine. He's riding a mountain bike with knobby tires on the pavement (he sounds like a swarm of wasps), while I'm riding a road bike (an old one, but a road bike nevertheless). His goal is to stay in the same gear the entire ride, so he pedals much slower than I do. My goal is to keep my cadence above 80, so I change gears constantly. I go up if I drop below 80, and down if the pedals start to float (I might be saying that backwards, but you get the drift).

I'm using perceived exertion, not an actual HR monitor, but you get the idea.

To get the HR down so I can ride farther, should I lower my cadence, or should I push smaller gears? I'm confused. I'm getting ready to add distance to my ride (I won't say the numbers because you'll all laugh), but I'm sort of wondering how I'm going to do it.
Your experience is not only common, it's documented in several research studies that look at fitness, economy and physiologic response to cycling at different cadences.
When asked to cycle at different workload/cadence combinations, untrained (ie: with little to no experience) cyclists typically self-select a cadence around 60rpm, while well trained cyclists self-select a cadence of around 90rpm. There are several variables here that get thrown around without properly defining them, so the issue gets confusing as to why this is the case and whether a higher cadence (90rpm) is "better" than a lower one (60rpm). "Better" = improved performance (eg: time to complete a give distance; sustainable power output for a given time), not increased or decreased "efficiency" or lower heart rate or lactate, etc.
Sufice to say, a higher cadence will put more of the workout on your cardiovascular system (which is far less subject to fatigue) and less on the working muscles themselves. This has many benefits, and as mentioned, will ultimately prove to be the proper technique for your training.
And if your friend is dragging you around town while on a mtn bike, I think you gravely underestimate his fitness...I recommend some top secret training, and then hand it to him when he least expects it.;)
 

gruppo

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Aug 14, 2004
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dhk said:
Even without an HR monitor, you can check your pulse using a watch. Just check for 6 seconds and multiply by 10 to get an approximate reading.

6 seconds is too short of a time to get reliable results. The standard (even in the medical field) is to check for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
 

jpwkeeper

Member
Jul 25, 2004
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Smartt/RST said:
Your experience is not only common, it's documented in several research studies that look at fitness, economy and physiologic response to cycling at different cadences.
When asked to cycle at different workload/cadence combinations, untrained (ie: with little to no experience) cyclists typically self-select a cadence around 60rpm, while well trained cyclists self-select a cadence of around 90rpm. There are several variables here that get thrown around without properly defining them, so the issue gets confusing as to why this is the case and whether a higher cadence (90rpm) is "better" than a lower one (60rpm). "Better" = improved performance (eg: time to complete a give distance; sustainable power output for a given time), not increased or decreased "efficiency" or lower heart rate or lactate, etc.
Sufice to say, a higher cadence will put more of the workout on your cardiovascular system (which is far less subject to fatigue) and less on the working muscles themselves. This has many benefits, and as mentioned, will ultimately prove to be the proper technique for your training.
And if your friend is dragging you around town while on a mtn bike, I think you gravely underestimate his fitness...I recommend some top secret training, and then hand it to him when he least expects it.;)
I've got to hand it to you guys, you've really given me some good information and encouragement.

You are right, as well. I may be completely blown by the end of the very short ride, but my legs only feel it for an hour or two afterwords and then they're fine.

However, I think my original question has been lost somewhere. If I were monitoring my HR, is it possible to back off of my effort without backing off the cadence? Will switching to easier gears be enough? It seem that would make it easier on the legs, but not necessarily the ticker. Or should I just starting to conceed some RPMs of my cadence on the hills? I'm thinking of getting an HRM, but at my current level of aerobic un-fitness it might be worthless.
 

lyot

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May 30, 2004
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jpwkeeper said:
I've got to hand it to you guys, you've really given me some good information and encouragement.

You are right, as well. I may be completely blown by the end of the very short ride, but my legs only feel it for an hour or two afterwords and then they're fine.

However, I think my original question has been lost somewhere. If I were monitoring my HR, is it possible to back off of my effort without backing off the cadence? Will switching to easier gears be enough? It seem that would make it easier on the legs, but not necessarily the ticker. Or should I just starting to conceed some RPMs of my cadence on the hills? I'm thinking of getting an HRM, but at my current level of aerobic un-fitness it might be worthless.

you're doing well, but keep in mind that you don't need to try to 'run' before being able to 'walk'..Build up the effort gradually..It's not a problem if you're lowering your cadence when riding uphill..Doing a 80-90RPM uphill is quite fatiguing and if you are not such an experienced cyclist, it will make your heart rate go way up, to an extent it will make yourself blow up.. I think a good rule is this : first start building up the #rides you do per week, secondly start riding more miles and thirdly, build up the intensity.. It's in my opinion useless to do step 3 before you've done step 1..

have fun
 

Smartt/RST

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Aug 9, 2004
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jpwkeeper said:
I've got to hand it to you guys, you've really given me some good information and encouragement.

You are right, as well. I may be completely blown by the end of the very short ride, but my legs only feel it for an hour or two afterwords and then they're fine.

However, I think my original question has been lost somewhere. If I were monitoring my HR, is it possible to back off of my effort without backing off the cadence? Will switching to easier gears be enough? It seem that would make it easier on the legs, but not necessarily the ticker. Or should I just starting to conceed some RPMs of my cadence on the hills? I'm thinking of getting an HRM, but at my current level of aerobic un-fitness it might be worthless.
Sorry for being a little vague. What I meant to imply was that it is your final performance that matters, as opposed to your pulse being a few beats higher or lower; thusly your HR should not be the primary determining factor for anwsering your question. As for measuring your performance, it has been demonstrated that a higher cadence (once you have adapted to it) will improve your performance in any effort lasting beyond a few seconds or in subsequent repeated efforts, such as over the course of a long ride/race. This holds true regardless of whether the subjects studied averaged a higher pulse, or VO2, or lactate - in the end, performance is improved. I should note however, that pro cyclists demonstrate lower values for all of these variables at a cadence of 100rpm vs 60rpm, demostrating that adapting to a higher cadence shows physiologic, as well as performance benefits on many levels.
Switching to a lower gear will lower your effort as long as you don't simultaneously increase your cadence: just give that pulse some time to realize it.
 

dhk

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Sep 1, 2003
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Smartt/RST said:
Sorry for being a little vague. What I meant to imply was that it is your final performance that matters, as opposed to your pulse being a few beats higher or lower; thusly your HR should not be the primary determining factor for anwsering your question. As for measuring your performance, it has been demonstrated that a higher cadence (once you have adapted to it) will improve your performance in any effort lasting beyond a few seconds or in subsequent repeated efforts, such as over the course of a long ride/race. This holds true regardless of whether the subjects studied averaged a higher pulse, or VO2, or lactate - in the end, performance is improved. I should note however, that pro cyclists demonstrate lower values for all of these variables at a cadence of 100rpm vs 60rpm, demostrating that adapting to a higher cadence shows physiologic, as well as performance benefits on many levels.
Switching to a lower gear will lower your effort as long as you don't simultaneously increase your cadence: just give that pulse some time to realize it.

Excellent points. Believe what you said is that simply going for the most efficient HR to produce a given speed early can result in using muscle glycogen and strength too quickly, leading to a greater loss of efficiency and speed late in the event.

If I use too big a gear early, or muscle up hills without shifting down enough while I'm still fresh, I find my HR tends to climb after an hour or two, and then stay high for the rest of the ride. Don't know if this occurs because muscle glycogen is depleted, or some other muscle fatigue mechanism, but it's not the quickest or most fun way to ride a long event.