Our Keiser M3 Training Program emphasizes the recommended cadence of 60 -110 revolutions per minute (RPM). These North American standards were established in 2002 However, even with the Keiser M3 computers and the cadence data, I still sometimes see participants riding above or below this range. At times, I teach on bikes that do not have a computer. How can we tell if one of our participants is cycling outside the recommended cadence? And, secondly, how do we correct this issue?
Riding over 110 RPMs
I usually suspect someone is riding too fast when I see some or all of the following:
• Bouncing on the saddle
• Leg speed much faster than mine (as I know what speeds I generally cycle at)
• Pedal speed that is out of control
Riding below 60 RPMs
I’m suspicious that leg cadence is too slow when I observe one or all of the following:
• Pauses or hesitations in their pedal stroke (making it look more square-like)
• The appearance of excessive gear on their bike (which has slowed their leg speed)
• Leg speed significantly slower than mine
• Excessive body movement, including upper body (usually indicating that the whole body is being asked to pedal in a gear that is too high, which again does not enable them to keep up the cadence)
How do you resolve this issue? If you have the Keiser M3 bikes with computers, lucky you! It’s so much easier to correct when you have the exact cadence number. Below are some suggestions on how to evaluate and correct cadence with or without a computer. Remember, as the trained professionals, it is our job to educate and correct all cadences that fall outside the recommended range.
Correcting with the computer
• Match your leg speed to theirs.Your bike computer will tell you what cadence they are pedaling at. You can then cue them to either increase or decrease their speed.
• Check the cadence on their bike computer. Come off your bike, walk over to their bike, look at the cadence on their computer, and again remind them of the cadence range. Reassure your group that you will be off your bike periodically to check posture and form. That way, there is no surprise or apprehension when you start walking around the room.
Correcting without the computer
• Match their leg speed. If you have a good sense of what cadence you cycle at most of the time, any speed that is significantly slower or faster than your leg speed probably is encroaching, if not exceeding, the top or bottom of the cadence range. Encourage your riders to match your leg speed, thus bringing them back into a safe range.
Use a metronome. Boring, but effective!
• Get them to place one hand above their thigh on the same side. Determine a period of time for which you’ll watch the clock- eg. 15 seconds. Ask them to count the number of times the one leg either touches or comes close to the hand they’ve placed over their thigh in that 15 seconds. Make sure they don’t count the first one if it occurs exactly when you say “go” (i.e at count zero). If the count was for 15 seconds, then multiply their number by four to get their revolutions per minute. If you count for 10 seconds, then multiply by six….you get the idea!
• Utilize music with the appropriate beats per minute (BPM), then get them to match the music speed. For example, if you choose a piece of music that is 140 BPM, their leg cadence would be 70 RPM. Use faster music for speed drills; slower music for climbing drills to take full advantage of the music beat. However, keep in mind that the mood of the music also helps set the tone, so cycling to the beat of every song may become tedious and create an overly “choreographed” feel, something that indoor cycling programs now try to avoid.
As you go about correcting cadences, remind participants that the recommended cadence ranges were set in 2002 (they’re not new), and were based on keeping all of us performing at a safe and effective speed. By monitoring and correcting our participant’s speed, we help enhance safety and performance, which, in turn, leads to better results.