Healthy Blog

Improving Cadence on the Bike – What it Means & Why it’s Important

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cadence is a great way to increase the power of your pedalling style and you should aim for a high cadence in all gears – but what does this actually mean?

Function of Cadence

Well, in cycling, power comes from pedalling force and velocity. A higher cadence increases the speed of your leg action, so that to achieve a given power output, the force you need to apply reduces.

When you create more force it raises the load on your muscles and when you increase the cadence it raises the load on your cardiovascular system.  So, a high cadence allows you to shift the load away from your muscles and put it on your cardio system. 

And the longer you can leave this load on your cardio system – the more you can conserve the glycogen energy stored in your muscles. The glycogen in your muscles is limited and you should reserve it for the times when you really need it - to split away from the pack or for a final winning sprint.

This is why you should train your nervous system and prepare your muscles using high cadence intervals.

Training to Improve Cadence

Select a light gear, keeping your heart rate well within the aerobic boundaries and pedal at a cadence of 107 – 130.  At the same time, concentrate on the form learned in single leg drills and just spin as fast as you can using this form, without bouncing.

Practise on flats at these intervals or do it on an indoor trainer.  Use intervals between 5 – 10 minutes followed by a break of equal time for easy spinning.  Be sure you don’t start bouncing.  As your body adapts to the higher speeds, increase the intervals little by little. 

Here’s a sample workout:

10-minute warm up
5-minute high cadence interval -- 5 minutes rest
7-minute high cadence interval -- 7 minutes rest
10-minute high cadence interval
10-minute cool down

Aim to do cadence drills early in your training year, so you can focus on learning higher cadence at a fairly low training intensity.  Careful attention to improving cadence on the bike gives you the foundation technique that will let you apply high cadence at greater intensity levels later in your training year.

By analyzing and practising your pedalling technique and cadence, you’re adding another brick to the pathway that leads victory!