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Tips to pedal like a pro. Improve your cadence

19 November, 2020

How to improve your cadence? We have heard that the higher it is, the better. Look at the professionals, their cadence is kept at 90 rpm. And everyone around says that the ideal value is within these limits.
But is it really so?

one question that’s often asked is, “Does technique make a significant difference to your performance, or is it just ‘the harder you pedal, the faster you ride’?”

It seems that we have matured the exposure of yet another myth. Or not another one. Or not a myth. Or not ripe. The topic is very controversial, like many others that we raise here.
So let’s figure it out.

Many experienced riders stress the importance of suplesse, or the art of pedalling. Riding in the small chainring on training rides can help you learn good form and become smooth and extra efficient with each pedal stroke.

Yes, indeed, everyone is always advised to ride at a cadence of about 90 rpm. The argument is that pedaling efficiency increases with cadence. 

This stereotype is firmly entrenched in the minds of cyclists around the world.
In addition, cycling has been around for a decade and, for sure, someone has already done research in this area since the beginning of the century. 

What does Science Say about it?

Improve your cadence

Suzuki Y. , For example, found out in 1968 that people with an abundance of slow muscle fibers (they have little strength but little fatigue) decreased efficiency from 23.3% at 60 cadence to 19.6% at 100 rpm.
Coast JR, Cox RH, and Welch HG reached similar conclusions in 1986. Trained cyclists running at 85% of their maximum VO2 and being in the area of ​​highest efficiency on numerous parameters ended up in the 60-80 rpm cadence.
Sidossis LS, Horowitz JF and Coyle EF . in 1992 they found that oxygen consumption increases with increasing cadence, which means more energy is required at high rpm.

Okay, then all the antiquity. Surely, modern research is much more accurate and takes into account more factors. But that’s not the only way for improve your cadence. Technology may also have a part to play.

Leirdal S. and Ettema G. in 2011 took 75% of the maximum VO2 as a basis and conducted studies on different cadences. They allowed the cyclists to choose an arbitrary cadence that was most convenient for them. 

And then we drove them at a frequency 10 revolutions less from the selected one and … got the same result – the slower you turn, the higher the efficiency. 

In 2015, Nimmerichter and his team took over the cadence issue. They picked up trained cyclists and drove them at a fixed power over level and sloping surfaces. In both cases, 60 rpm was significantly more efficient than 90.

However, if you find yourself in the professional environment, you will invariably be offered a cadence increase. 

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These studies, among other things, have shown that with increasing power, the most effective cadence also grows. So, it’s time for improve your cadence.

Moreover, Beneke R. and Alkhatib A… in 2015, they found that a high pace of 90 rpm reduced carbohydrate intake. 

That is, maintaining a high pace allows you not to burn carbohydrates and use their energy when the cyclist needs it. 

Picking the right cadence could help you ride even faster. Cadence is measured in pedal revolutions per minute, and the best way to monitor it is with a cycling computer that has a cadence function.

Now let’s transfer the acquired knowledge to the race. The speed of the peloton in it changes rather quickly and low revs do not contribute to rapid acceleration. 

This is because the slower you spin, the more effort you have to apply to the pedals. The rider is simply pushed to the end of the column. Increasing the cadence to 90-100 rpm will reduce the effort on the pedals and increase your chances of a decent fight due to the ability to quickly build up speed.

Simple logic works here – it’s easier to lift 100 kilograms in 100 approaches of 1 kg than to lift all 100 kg in one approach. Yes, there is energy loss with increased cadence, but this is a forced payment for quick access to power and fast acceleration. And don’t forget about the carbs saved for the finish sprint.

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Improve your cadence and change your technique

Perfect pedaling cadence: a cyclist's brain knows best!

So, we have returned to the coveted value of 90 rpm. The professionals were right. The myth is justified, the stereotype is useful.

Nevertheless, some researchers believe that it makes sense for novice cyclists to conduct their training precisely in the low cadence. 

The fact is that their bodies are not yet accustomed to the pace of professionals, and this takes time. 

And all this is good, but only these researchers say nothing about the safety of the knees. We also did not say anything during the entire article about them, so as not to confuse anyone. 

However, it turns out that the logic of lifting 100 kilograms in 100 approaches works well for the knees. The lower the load on them, the longer they serve. The higher the cadence, the more intact the joints. 

So we came to the coveted 90 rpm for the second time.
Takeaway: The extra waste of energy, with a cadence of 90 rpm, pays off with quick access to power and whole knees. 

You can potentially improve your bike performance by changing the way you pedal, but we’re only talking about marginal gains.

So if you’re a beginner, you’re better off concentrating on training consistently, improving your equipment and maybe getting some coaching at a local club. Pedalling technique should be a long way down your list of worries.

By: Berthy Perez