For context, in the world of cycling the term “cadence” can be defined as the revolutions per minute (rpm) of the cranks as a consequence of our pedalling.
In other words, it is what we perceive as the speed at which a cyclist is pedalling, where we can find differences of up to 15 rpm among professional cyclists.
Does the optimal cadence exist?
The short answer is: it depends. We can say a good cycling cadence would be the rate that allows us to save energy when pedalling. Nevertheless, this ideal cadence depends on a variety of different factors, namely:
- Fatigue levels and maximum oxygen consumption.
- Type of training and land inclination.
- Power values.
- Muscle fibre percentage.
Furthermore, we must bear in mind that there are other elements that have a decisive influence on our physiological parameters, ranging from riding solo or in a group, to wind speed, to elevation.
Despite this, and if we go over the connection between cadence, the subjective perception of effort and torque, we could say then that the most recommended and economic cadence is usually in the range of 60 to 80 rpm.
Overall, we find that pedalling at a high cadence wastes more energy and reduces muscular fatigue.
When using our slow-twitch muscle fibres, which burns fat, we will have a higher fatigue resistance and we will recover fibres with relatively little rest. We will also improve our aerobic performance as a result of the higher level of oxygen in the blood flowing to the muscles.
By increasing heart rate when pedalling at a high cadence, we will waste more energy, making our ride shorter.
Slow-cadence pedalling produces higher muscular fatigue and reduces oxygen consumption.
Fast-twitch muscle fibres make use of glycogen, thus helping generate higher pedal force.
These kind of fibres fatigue relatively faster and their recovery time is much slower. This is the reason why slow-cadence training is oriented toward shorter training sessions where speed is the priority.
What is a cadence sensor?
A cadence sensor is the device that measures the number of revolutions per minute of the cranks and pedals of your bike. That is, the sensor calculates the rotations of the pedal in 60 seconds and expresses it in terms of revolutions per minute.
Cadence sensors used to be external devices attached to the cranks. However, since the development of the ROTOR INpower power meters with incorporated sensors, there is no need to attach more elements to our bicycle.
The second generation came about with the 2INpower power meters, equipped with measurement sensors in both legs.
The data obtained by either one can be checked on the ROTOR POWER App for Android and iOs, with which you will have access to all the information you need to optimise your pedal stroke. We have written about the benefits of power meters before – we encourage you to have a look!
After going over the details, we can say that the best option is to adopt a cadence that allows us to reach a balance between our cardiovascular and muscular capabilities. As we have mentioned previously, it should be the most economic one regarding muscular fatigue, considering that recovery time is much slower.