Sycling Snippets

by Bobby Nefdt

12. Cadence

Cadence, or the number of pedal revolutions per minute, has been regarded as a very personal issue. This has certainly changed over recent years. Those of us who have a few years behind us have watched the battle of two Tour de France giants in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. They couldn’t have been more different in their pedalling styles with regards to their cadence. Lance revolutionised cycling with his cadence and it took a while for others to catch up.

Jan Ulrich was regarded as a diesel engine and could be seen powerfully grinding his way up climbs at about 60 rpm’s. Lance analysed the riding styles of mountain bikers and arrived on the scene in the 1999 Tour de France with a pedalling action that saw him pedalling at ±90 rpm’s up the climbs. Riding alongside the great diesel engine, Jan Ullrich, the contrast was stark.

It has since been proven that riding at a higher cadence (±90 rpm’s) is more energy efficient, particularly in longer rides. Most beginner cyclists tend to ride at a very low cadence (±60 rpm’s) and wonder why they tire so badly towards the end of a ride. Riding at 90 rpm’s does not come naturally so it takes much discipline to train your legs to turn at that speed. Even if you train your legs to turn at that speed you will find that your cadence will drop below 90 on the climbs at times but I would suggest you try to prevent it dropping below 80 rpm’s. On the flats your cadence should be ±80-100 rpm’s, with 90 rpm’s appearing to be the magic number. Most computers have cadence sensors as an accessory, and it is the most efficient way of measuring your cadence.

Becoming disciplined in your cadence will greatly improve your cycling.