If you want to get the most out of your workouts, power meters are a fundamental tool to be able to control all parameters, not only power. If you also want to improve your pedalling cadence, then a power meter will help you analyze what your current pedal rhythm is, the watts you use, and how to improve pedalling efficiency.
Here at ROTOR we have often spoken about the importance of training with a power meter. If you take into account all the options watt meters have, you will be able to get much more out of your training with them. One of the parameters to keep in mind when using a power meter should be cadence. Not only does it tell us how many pedal strokes we perform per minute, but also how many watts on average we apply to the pedals, and how we use them in relation to our left and right side. In this sense, systems like the 2INpower from ROTOR allow you to understand the power being applied independently through each leg. This will allow you to better your training routines as well as the biomechanics of each pedal stroke. The INpower systems from ROTOR have a built in cadence sensor located in the axle, which means there is no need to install any extra sensors and is also compatible with ANT+ systems.
WHAT IS CADENCE?
Cadence is nothing more than the number of pedal strokes (a complete cycle of 360 degrees of the pedals/cranks) which is also known as RPM (revolutions per minute). If you use your workouts to improve and increase your cadence, it will help you vastly improve your pedalling efficiency, which will ultimately help you to better your conditioning.
When we pedal at a higher cadence rate, less tension is put on our joints and muscles. By doing this, we then apply less power to the pedals and our energy use will be mainly aerobic, which in turn generates less use of our glycogen reserves. On top of this, a higher cadence rate will allow the muscles to oxygenate much better, and the build-up of lactic acid will be much lower (better oxygenation, faster elimination of lactic acid). If you have a lower cadence, you will be applying a lot more force on your muscles and joints, apart from over working your muscle fibres, it will also use more energy and power than needed, accumulating more lactic acid due to the lower oxygenation in the muscles (more work in anaerobic zones).
It is very difficult to establish an ideal cadence range. This is due to the fact that every cyclist has a different pedalling technique, which is very difficult to change. Normally, an average cyclist pedals at about 60 rpm, Meanwhile the optimum rate would be between 80 and 90 rpm. Anything above 100 rpm is entering professional territory, due to the complexity of maintaining such a high rhythm, but is an ideal rate to use less watts and for the muscles to perform in an aerobic state.
HOW CAN A POWER METER HELP US?
With the help of a power meter, (with a cadence sensor) we will be able to know how many pedal strokes we perform per minute at any given time, at specific moments during our workouts, or the average rpm throughout the whole workout. We can also measure the force we have applied at the same time, again, at any specific moment during training, or a precise moment within a pedal stroke, allowing us to identify the amount of force we use at higher or lower cadences. A higher cadence will use less force, which means a lower energy use and lower muscle fatigue.
A simple and effective way of using a power meter and improve your cadence, is to find a 1-2km stretch during training, and check the average watt output as well as the cadence. Return to the same stretch at a later date, use an easier gear ratio and try to keep the same average speed. This will increase the rpm average, but decrease the energy use in watts.
The most basic exercises to perform in order to improve your cadence consist of using an easier gear ratio (use the next size rear sprocket up from the one you generally use) and try to maintain a similar average speed. To start, you can try some easy exercises without taking into account your average speed, just use the higher cadence from a bigger sprocket. Start using by using a short piece of road that you know well and gradually increase the distance. You will see that the inverted watts are much lower, but the number of pedal strokes will increase notably.
Improving the cadence is not something that is achieved in a week. It is something that in the best of cases takes months to achieve. Changing the pedaling patterns that you have been accustomed to for years, is something that also requires changing the brain parameters in which we send the signal from the brain to the muscles and joints to turn at a certain speed.
If on the one hand the power meter is going to help you to know the energy expenditure that you will save by increasing the number of pedal strokes per minute, systems like the ROTOR Q rings will help you significantly improve your cadence. The ovalization of the chainrings will allow you to pedal higher speed due to the areas of lower ovalization (lower ratio range, higher pedaling speed). Another one of the options that you have to be able to increase the cadence quickly, is using a greater cassette ratio range, which will immediately give you a higher cadence using the same gears as before.