Saturday, June 12, 2010


I know every keen cyclist has their own natural cadence, that is, the rate at which they turn their pedals, but I wonder when watching some cyclists pedal along at what seems to me to be a very low spin-rate, straining to turn a very large gear, one crank revolution every hundred or so metres, body racked by the strain and teeth gritted at the effort involved.

Not only does this seem to be a very inefficient way to cycle, but the extra torque and forces involved mitigate against the bicycle's mechanisms to be able to operate and change gear smoothly - see here ... - and the rider's comfort.

There is a tendency for beginner cyclists to press too big a gear - large chainring/small sprocket, often at a cadence below 60 (crank revolutions per minute), but most recreational/sports cyclists will feel most comfortable at a rate between 80 and 100. Competitive cyclists may often pedal above that rate, but this requires a smooth pedalling style and perfect positioning on the bicycle.

I don't know what the correct cadence is for you. That's like that "Am I in the right gear" question.

There are methods described on the interweb which help you to establish the most efficient cadence for you - see here for example - but most riders can achieve this by being aware of their body; are your legs spinning freely, smoothly and as quickly as can be achieved within your comfort zone? Do you feel relaxed and poised? Listen and empathise with your bicycle - a bit Californian, I know; is the power train - crankset/chain/derailleurs - working quietly and smoothly? Do you feel you're travelling as fast and efficiently as is reasonably possible and still enjoying the experience?

Most of the above applies to cycling on the more or less level. Once you're in the hills other factors apply. I'll take a look at that in a future article.

You don't need to be a sports scientist to work it out, although I'm sure you can find one if you feel the need.

There are other means of refining your pedalling action; clipless pedals, ankling and other techniques.

*Apologies for the gratuitous image of the lady displaying excellent pedalling style.