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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Couple of weeks back I made my first post here and indicated I was trying to get a new road bike after over a decade on a hybrid, riding on various surfaces. I still have not bought the road bike because I am waiting on some financial issues to get resolved. In the meantime, I am still out there pounding away on the hybrid until my ship comes in. My concern is this, I know that an appropriate cadence should be around 90. However, how should one develop cadence? Should you stay in an easier gear to keep the cadence high and gradually try to move to a harder gear, while trying to maintain the cadence? Or, should you try to start in a middle gear at, say, around a 60 cadence and try to speed up the cadence from there? I must say that I am more "comfortable" at a slower cadence right now because it gives me a decent speed, and it just feels better to me. Riding at 90 on a flat surface keeps me in the next to lowest(easiest) gear of my triple chainring hybrid, and, of course, I am just creeping along. By the way, I am 57 years old, 187 pounds, and dropping, and 5ft.7 in. tall. So what say the sages of bicycledom? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?:)
 

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Palm trees & sunshine!
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slower than you said:
Couple of weeks back I made my first post here and indicated I was trying to get a new road bike after over a decade on a hybrid, riding on various surfaces. I still have not bought the road bike because I am waiting on some financial issues to get resolved. In the meantime, I am still out there pounding away on the hybrid until my ship comes in. My concern is this, I know that an appropriate cadence should be around 90. However, how should one develop cadence? Should you stay in an easier gear to keep the cadence high and gradually try to move to a harder gear, while trying to maintain the cadence? Or, should you try to start in a middle gear at, say, around a 60 cadence and try to speed up the cadence from there? I must say that I am more "comfortable" at a slower cadence right now because it gives me a decent speed, and it just feels better to me. Riding at 90 on a flat surface keeps me in the next to lowest(easiest) gear of my triple chainring hybrid, and, of course, I am just creeping along. By the way, I am 57 years old, 187 pounds, and dropping, and 5ft.7 in. tall. So what say the sages of bicycledom? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?:)
What are your goals? Do you plan on racing or are you just riding for fun and health?

If it's the latter, who cares? The appropriate cadence is one in which you are most comfortable and feel like your getting the workout you should. Don't push too hard in too big a gear or you'll kill your knees. If you feel like you're bouncing out of your seat, go bigger. As you get in better shape you'll find you can push bigger gears and higher cadences.

I'm probably not the best to give advice though... I'm a masher. I push big gears at 80 to 85. My knees hate me but I haven't been able to change my evil habits. My pedal stroke would give a Frenchman a seizure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your response Ken

I am just in it mostly for the fun and health. But, I want to be able to stay with my pals on a long ride like the MS 150, after upgrading to a true road bike, of course. So I want to develop some reasonable speed consistent with my age and fitness. Also, I know that a higher cadence is better for cardiovascular development and is easier on the knees. During my first MS 150 about 7 years ago, I pretty much stayed in the big sprocket. After 100 miles my knees were killing me. I could barely walk. Don't laugh guys. I just didn't know any better. Now I do. So, I want to get that cadence up.
 

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An easy way to get used to riding in a higher cadence is to use one gear lower (rear deraileur on next larger cog) than you normally would for the situation. That'll put you near the high end of your cadence comfort range. When you start turning cadences higher than you have trained yourself for, your pedalling motion gets choppy and you start bouncing in the saddle. Ride in a gear that puts you at a cadence just below that point and has you putting out your usual amount of effort. You don't have to ride like this all the time, but the more you do the better you will get at pedalling higher cadences.

A computer with a cadence meter can help, mostly as a reminder that you are in too high a gear and need to shift down.

You also need to pedal smoothly. Greg LeMond's advice to pretend you are scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes works for me. Don't worry about not getting it right away, this is something that cyclists work on their whole riding career.

There is nothing wrong with using the middle chainring on level ground.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Eric.

I did about a 12 mile ride on a gravel trail last night and consciously tried to hit that 90 RPM mark. It worked out pretty well, although my bike computer does not show cadence so I had to check cadence "manually."(Can you say count in your head while checking elapsed time!!):) My speed wasn't too bad compared to what I have been doing in the past, that is, a slower cadence with a higher speed expectation. I am going out later today on pavement and will try to do a higher cadence there. By, the way, will it be easier to develop a higher cadence on that new road bike that I am hoping to get soon, as compared to this old beater hybrid that I am riding now? I must say, I really have to concentrate to avoid lapsing back into old habits and settling for a lower cadence. Oh, well, practice, practice, practice. Anyone else have some good cadence building tips?
 

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You're on the right track to start with good habits rather than untrain old ones. Learning to spin is exactly that, working you way up to a "good" cadence of 90-100. I was pushed to learn to spin when I was a lad and racing track. High rpms are the key to success there. However, in your case, you'll reap the benefits of reducing joint stress, an important thing as we get older (I'm 47).

It's easier to spin on a flat smooth road than rougher, loose surfaces. The "interruptions" make you adjust your cadence and speed to avoid/deal with the surface issues. However, you should be able to use the desired cadence at any speed. Cadence should be constant, speed will vary.

You'll notice that your perceived force on the pedals is less at the higher rpms but this ultimately changes on hills. You'll most likely over tax your aerobic system staying at that cadence up long hills. Hang in there!
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Spend the money to get a computer with cadence feature. I use a cateye wired computer, can't have cost more than $30. You can put it on the road bike when you get it. When I started riding about a year ago I could barely spin 80 without bouncing around. I now regularly spin 100+ with no problems. Try doing intervals where you shift into a lower (easier) gear and work on spinning it as fast as you can without bouncing for 30 seconds or a minute. You won't be going fast, but that isn't the point. When you get your legs used to moving faster, when you go back to mashing at 60 or 70 (or even 80) rpm it feels horrible. That's what worked for me.
 

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Cadence/Speed Chart

At 47, I am hideously old school and learned to ride at high cadences the old fashion way, with low gears. The first year I raced as a “Junior”, we were restricted to a 47x15 as the largest gear on the bike. 100 RPM with this gear equates to only about 24.5 MPH. This forced proper cycling technique because if you couldn’t spin you couldn’t you got dropped the second the pace got up there.

I am still a believer in relatively high cadence, 90-100 RPM. To monitor myself I tape a simple chart to my stem showing the speed that equates to 100 RPM in each gear combination. I just make it a point to try to stay close to these speeds in each gear. E-mail me if you like, and I will send you a copy of my excel spreadsheet the i use to grind out the chart.

Admittedly, a cadence function on your computer renders the chart unnecessary. However, like I said, I am hideously old school, and only have a very basic computer on my bike.
 

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I actually have the reverse problem, I was doing some Endurance Miles training this afternoon supposedly with a 80 to 100rpm cadence with my HR between 90 and 163, the problem was to maintain the heart rate I had to keep in a lower gear, which resulted in more spinning often around 110 to 120 so I ended up just doing a lot of coasting to keep things in the right intensity level for my training.

I may need to adjust my training plan a little as the coasting can't be a good thing...

However it never fails to give me pleasure to be happily spinning away not excerting much effort at all and pass people that are mashing away. I don't know but spinning just feels comfortable to me and I only mash in sprints and even then with my triple I feel the sprint gets to a stage where I am spinning.

My suggestion would be to get a cheap cycling computer like the CatEye Astrale 8 that has cadence, then set the main display to Cadence and the secondary to something like time and base your efforts on a cadence level and ignore the speed and distance all together.
 

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Burnum Upus Quadricepus
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Should you stay in an easier gear to keep the cadence high and gradually try to move to a harder gear, while trying to maintain the cadence?
This is exactly how I did it and it's working just fine.

Got my bike (a hybrid) in March (after 35 years of not having one) and the cyclometer in the beginning of May. I found I was in th 60-65 rpm range. Yet anything over 70 made me feel like my hips and knees were going to fly out of their sockets. I dropped a gear and added 5 rpm to start, and have added 5 rpm to my rides every few days.

Almost a month later, anything under about 85 rpm feels like I'm pedaling in glue. I'm spinning in the 90s consistently, sprinting in the 100s, and two cogs higher overall than where I started. And I no longer wish I had a walker when I get home.

Comes in real handy for evasive sprints in traffic, up hills (which are now a joy rather than a fear), into headwinds and for embarassing teenagers (which I do as often as possible). :)
 

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Scary Teddy Bear
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Agree with this

KenB said:
What are your goals? Do you plan on racing or are you just riding for fun and health?

If it's the latter, who cares? The appropriate cadence is one in which you are most comfortable and feel like your getting the workout you should. Don't push too hard in too big a gear or you'll kill your knees. If you feel like you're bouncing out of your seat, go bigger. As you get in better shape you'll find you can push bigger gears and higher cadences.

I'm probably not the best to give advice though... I'm a masher. I push big gears at 80 to 85. My knees hate me but I haven't been able to change my evil habits. My pedal stroke would give a Frenchman a seizure.

Unless you are really going to get into competitive cycling, I wonder about how important it is. For myself, a stationary trainer in the winter time doing intervals was what helped me. I would do intervals of varying intensity at varying cadences to push myself and get used to different gear/cadence combinations.....it paid off HUGE.
 
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