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I am dusting off my hybrid for the first time since college 10+ years ago. I'm riding with a friend who is also just getting back into riding. He road in the MS 150 in Kansas City several years ago. He uses a cadence computer to help him choose his proper gear. He suggested I might want to invest in the Cat Eye Astrale 8 to help me with my cadence. Other knowledgeable people have suggested getting a HRM if I had to choose between the two. Which would be better? We are recreational riders getting older just trying to stay in shape. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks.
 

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scruffy nerf herder
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My 2 cents...

bigdogsk said:
I am dusting off my hybrid for the first time since college 10+ years ago. I'm riding with a friend who is also just getting back into riding. He road in the MS 150 in Kansas City several years ago. He uses a cadence computer to help him choose his proper gear. He suggested I might want to invest in the Cat Eye Astrale 8 to help me with my cadence. Other knowledgeable people have suggested getting a HRM if I had to choose between the two. Which would be better? We are recreational riders getting older just trying to stay in shape. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks.
There is no right answer here, but honestly you have to look at where you want to be and what you want to do.

Both cadence and HR are but another quantitative statistic that can be used for a variety of means. If you are just riding for fitness and to ride the MS 150... if you ask me, you have little need for either. A computer is nice, but not necessary whatsoever. In fact... sometimes I think they detract from the riding experience... if you are riding for recreation and fitness. Case in point.... you are riding along with your buddies, and notice your HR is above your aerobic target zone... what do you do... you start worrying about the HR and either slow down your pace OR you start thinking to yourself that these guys are going too fast... and blah blah blah... if you aren't training specifically to HR, I don't see the use in having HR... plain and simple. 95% of people who train with HR monitors don't know how to effectively use them. So... you have something that will tell you your HR is X when climbing a hill.... or your average hr is X after a ride. There are so many other factors that honestly, unless you are meticulous about your training and data, by itself, it is an almost useless factor. If you want to check your fitness, take your resting HR in the morning when you get up, and maybe use the HR to keep your effort in check on recovery rides... otherwise... toss it.

Cadence.... peculiar debate aka the Lance vs Ullrich debate. Do you mash or do you spin... its a concept that more or less asks your body to tax your muscles or your aerobic system. Spinning faster, while pressing less resistance within a given range taxes your heart and lungs more than your muscles when compared to pushing a heavier gear at a lower rpm. Honestly bigdogsk.... if your cadence is 79 vs 110, what does that really tell you? Im a competitive rider, and the only time I use cadence is on my trainer in the winter. I train to keep a higher cadence, but here is the kicker. Some racers I race with... have higher cadences... other are Lower. Some of the higher are faster, some of the lower are faster... so.... where does average cadence leave me.... it doesn't. Its a factor to be considered along with everything else, and honestly... all these stats make recreational riding less fun.

You don't NEED either one, especially for more recreational level riding. However... with general fitness in mind for the aging athelete... I don't think there is anything WRONG with a HR monitor... in general. Time in your aerobic zone is important... makes sure you arent going too hard or too easy. However... without a relatively detailed training plan, and specific goals and timelines... using HR to train on a bike for recreation/fitness in and of itself is a relatively cumbersome data point to try and use effectively.
 

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Man, I'm Awesome
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bigdogsk said:
I am dusting off my hybrid for the first time since college 10+ years ago. I'm riding with a friend who is also just getting back into riding. He road in the MS 150 in Kansas City several years ago. He uses a cadence computer to help him choose his proper gear. He suggested I might want to invest in the Cat Eye Astrale 8 to help me with my cadence. Other knowledgeable people have suggested getting a HRM if I had to choose between the two. Which would be better? We are recreational riders getting older just trying to stay in shape. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks.

I say don't get either. Just go ride.
 

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If I had to recommend one, get the cadence. By paying attention to cadence, you can get it up a bit higher, which will probably help you preserve your knees as you get older and/or ride more. I don't know if your cadence should be 80 or 110, but it probably should not be 70. If you're pretty sure that your cadence already averages at least 80, then you probably don't even need the cadence function.

A HRM is most useful to people trying to achieve peak performance. From your description of yourself, this doesn't sound like you.

On the other hand, if you're a datahead, get both. Many dataheads are just amused by the numbers, even if they don't use them for anything.
 

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Still On Steel
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What the Funk said, basically.

I'm a fitness/recreational rider, too. My newest cyclocomputer, a Polar CS200, has a built-in HRM and I got the optional cadence kit, too. I like having both but I'm not sure I need either.

That said, if I had to choose, I'd keep the cadence and let the HRM go. I tend to mash if I don't watch myself, and as I age (now 53) I'm increasingly concerned about my knees, and having a cadence readout helps me keep my spin rate up where I want it.

Some people point out, correctly, that you can count your pedal strokes for 10 seconds, multiply by six, and there's your cadence; and that once you've done this a few times and get accustomed to the feel of a certain speed, you will immediately sense when you're falling well under your target cadence. That may be true, but I find that I frequently need the readout nagging at me, especially toward the end of a long ride. If you don't need the nagging, maybe the count-and-multiply method is the only "cadence computer" you need.

I don't really consider myself a datahead, and I don't do anything with the HRM numbers other than enter them into my log, but I guess I like having them, too. Having some more numbers to enter into the log seems to keep me more involved with my cycling; and sometimes, when I'm grinding down a long, straight, boring stretch of road, being able to page through the various screens on the computer provides a bit of a diversion.

But there's something to be said for the Just Ride It school of thought, too. I've decided to retro out my older bike with DT shifters, Brooks saddle, etc. and when I do, the computer (which has cadence, BTW) and all its ugly wiring is coming off entirely.

So, tough question, no easy answer.
 

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Cowboy up
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The others gave good advice. Since you asked to pick one I'd say the cadence. It can be helpful at reminding you to stay in an efficient zone. Slow spinning (mashing) seems a common issue for new riders.

The cadence comes in handy when your mind is not focusing on your form and you look down and see a low number it reminds you to either shift or pick up the pace. These are times when you would not be thinking about counting your cadence when it is helpful.

Your breathing and your ability to talk while riding can provide an approximation of your heart rate and effort level. And when you go too high with the heart rate you don't need as much of a reminder because you will know it. My guess is that it is more natural to keep your heart rate while riding in an aerobic zone because it is more comfortable. Cadence may be the opposite at first hence the gadget helps. Also the speed and distance functions that come with the cadence computer are nice to have.
 
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