Cadence….how to nail it?

How to figure cadence?

I understand that science says a cadence of 85 is ideal. I do that at time but find I can hold speed and energy at 80ish. I know that seems small but had me wondering how to settle on a good average cadence.

I am a casual rider putting in about 100 miles per week in training and love long suffering rides.

I read that ideal cadence is self-selected.


Yea, I think average cadence for most individuals is from 85-95. And science says that self selected cadence is usually best. Nothing to nail here. Just ride your bike and don’t worry about cadence.


No, the ideal cadence is your self-selected cadence. With most people that varies with the rotational inertia due to the wheel, and hence, your speed. Most people will prefer a higher cadence at higher speeds.

My first of only two pieces of advice is to train to widen the range of cadences you feel comfortable at. +/- 1 gear should feel alright.

The second one is that when you are new to the sport, your cadence might be quite low. Once you train, you will get more comfortable at higher cadences.


Going from 80 to 85rpm is quite complex.

You’ll need to pedal faster.


Like others, just ride. It will sort itself out. My usual Z2 cadence is around 85 but when doing threshold intervals it will go to around 90/95 without thinking about it. Vo2 intervals go 100+ without thinking about it. You’ll automatically ride at what you find comfortable. So unless your normal cadence is really low, like 60ish, i wouldn’t worry about it to much.


Is it weird if I do the opposite of what most have mentioned above? My Z1 and Z2 is like 95-105 rpm. My sweetspot & threshold is like 80-90 rpm. I just feel more in control of my heart rate that way. However when I am racing I am back at 95 rpm. I feel this works for me because in training I want to build the muscular endurance considering I am doing a polarised plan that has me sitting at 95 rpm+ in zone 2 for 10 hours a week.


Looking roughly at the average cadences of my TT’s used to race around 85-90rpm but more recently my cadence has got slower 77-82rpm but speed wise with the same equipment and despite a lack of ‘Dutch Courage’ I’m going minutes faster. I’d rather be minutes faster than worry about cadence :wink:

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Like all generalisations, there are cases where this scientifically ideal cadence is nonsense.

As others have said, just ride as you ride to start with. By all means, spend some time and effort in trying out different cadences: tending towards 1 gear lower on the road to up your cadence from time to time for example.

Practice being smooth on the whole pedal stroke at as wide a range of cadences as you can.


To distil this and a few of the other comments, here’s my own bro-science conclusion to all the things I’ve heard about cadence over the years:

  1. Ideal cadence is self-selected and will be different for everyone (and every situation).
  2. The situations where one might self-select a non-ideal cadence are often due to having never properly explored the full range of cadences you’re capable of (or following injury, detraining, etc.)
  3. Therefore, cadence and pedalling drills are valuable, especially for newer riders.
  4. Even experienced riders can benefit from riding outside their cadence comfort zone on a regular basis to keep their range of capability relatively wide. Sometimes this looks like cadence drills and sometimes it just comes from normal riding conditions (i.e. you may be able to skip the drills if your normal riding forces you to practice this stuff anyway).
  5. If cadence isn’t the main thing you’re working on in this exact moment (a VO2 interval, a race, etc.) then you’re best not thinking about it at all, no matter how novice or practiced you are with your cadence capabilities (i.e. this is not the time to work on cadence, no matter how much work it needs).

I think of it a lot like a singer’s vocal range:

  • It’s completely individual from person to person.
  • They’re rarely using the extreme ends of it, but the wider they can stretch those ends, the more notes in their mid-range they’ll be able to use with strength and comfort.
  • New singers benefit more from scales and drills to expand their range than experienced ones, but experienced ones still do a bit of that stuff too.
  • When singing they’re just singing the song, not trying to work on their range.
  • When talking they aren’t thinking about the notes at all, but most singers have more powerful and versatile speaking voices than people who don’t practice the same sort of things.

It’s an a perfect excuse to get a single speed bike, I find when I ride mine more I’m happier operating at a larger cadence range.


Basically, that’s untrue. Ride as you want to. :+1:

I ride 80-85 casually, but I have recently tried high cadence on SS intervals (95-100). It definitely makes it feel easier than spinning at 90 like I usually do.


I hate to say it, but Hunter has it backwards: optimal cadence tends to be higher in those with more fast twitch fibers.

It’s also worth pointing out that whether altering cadence alters fiber type recruitment - at best, the data are equivocal.

TL,DR: just pedal.


Based on what?

I don’t think its weird. Lower cadence riding (at a certain power) results in higher force production and (my understanding) more muscle fibers get recruited. In theory that is beneficial for fatigue resistance and potentially some other things.

I have been a spin-to-win type for many years and started doing SFRs (50-60rpm around 90% FTP) last fall and have seen huge improvements in overall fatigue resistance, repeatability, and ability to push through tough intervals.


The problem with this hypothesis is that, as Henneman himself demonstrated, motor unit recruitment depends upon both (required) force and (intended) velocity. Specifically, you will recruit higher-order motor units at a lower force during a “ballistic” vs. a “ramped” contraction. This likely explains why studies that have attempted to demonstrate an effect of cadence on motor unit recruitment (via, e.g., PAS staining for glycogen) have met with limited success (at best).


Thanks to the serious answers here.

it is about hitting the optimum. What I like about cycling is improving on my personal data. I don’t ride for the view - we have none here.

I like the challenge of personal improvement. My cadence has improved with using TR, but I find myself faster and with more endurance and 80, which seems odd compared to 85-90.

I will keep challenging myself and see where I end up.

We’re all about improvements here :+1:

In most plans workout text will encourage you to try different cadences at different efforts. If you’ve not done it before I think it’s worth the experience and can teach you about form, eg no way I could spin 130rpm when I started, and wobbling all over the place when I tried. Now I think improved form means I can do that well if I needed to.

But to reiterate there is no optimal cadence. Coming home and seeing your avg cadence was x or x +10 is meaningless.

In my head I might think that staying seated and using my lowest gear uphill is the most efficient and do that most days, but if I feel like standing and stomping a higher gear then that’s what I will do. Have both tools in your shed.

You will likely notice a few beats difference in HR for the same power when you try a faster cadence. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just different.

I’m sure if we found the mean cadence of 1000 pro cyclists it would be in the range of 85.

However, every time I watch retro Ullrich v Armstrong battles I’m reminded of the USAF ‘average pilot’ cockpit sizing lesson.