Cycling cadence can be confusing. First off, it’s used interchangeably with RPM’s (revolutions per minute). In the world of indoor cycling RPM rule. In the world of out door road bicycling cadence is used. I prefer RPM’s for both because it describes exactly what we are discussing: revolutions per minute or leg speed (the amount of times your leg/foot complete a full circle per minute). Cadence can refer to a pace or rhythm and it can be used for multiple sports in varying ways.
What is the right Cadence or RPM
So which are the right RPM’s for you? Well, this depends on a few things. Are you going up a hill or down? Are training to race or for fitness? Are cycling indoor or outdoor?Are you warming up or cooling down? Even a persons genetics comes into play here. Truth is, there is no right answer. However, as general rule, a typical indoor cycling class will varying RPM’s between 65-110rpm’s just depending on the instructor and the program he or she is doing. Hill climbing could range from 50rpm’s for steep climbs to 80rpm’s for lower grades. There is also a difference between seated and standing climbs. Standing up allows for more leveraging of the pedals and less pressure on the body. However, this will break the form of your cycling and force your RPM’s to drop. Seated climbs at steep grades are very difficult and require focus and good pedaling technique to be successful. The better you become at seated climbing, the better and more efficient you will become. Overtime you will find that from good seated climbing form your speed will increase as well as your RPM’s.
Closely tied to you RPM’s is your pedaling technique. This is an art form all in itself. Most people think you get on a bike and ride….And, while this is mostly true, there is a way to training your body to optimize pedaling or circling as I call it. Many people in my cycling classes use a push/pull technique (which gets you by) but is not the most efficient. When someone is pedaling like this, you will notice there upper body ‘rocking’ from side to side. What you are looking to due is to create a smooth rotation around the center spindle of the bicycle or indoor bicycle. If you can watch a Tour De France cyclist ride you will notice little or no upper body movement (unless they are really struggling). So, in stead of thinking of push/pull, think about full rotations with constant pressure allocated fully through the circular motion (pedal stroke). In many ways your RPM’s can be augment by proper pedaling technique.
One of the greatest things I see as a trainer/coach is the full development of my students and athletes over time. From their cardiovascular development to their pedal stroke. What is important, is ride ‘your’ own RPM’s or cadence when first starting out. Ride what is comfortable for you and not what an instructor may suggest in an indoor class. In time you will develop a beautiful pedal stroke that will lead to more efficient RPM’s or cadence that you desire. Once you do this then you can experiment with different RPM’s.