Optimising Your Cadence

You may see many different cadence styles when watching cycling - Chris Froome high climbing cadence or Tony Martin low grinding time trial cadence – but which is considered the optimal range?

The Science:

A rider's cadence accounts for 10% energy expenditure when training - denoting a poor (or inefficiency) pedaling style could result in a lot of lost watts. Additionally, energy expenditure is related to cadence, so the higher your cadence generally means more energy expended. However, one study pointed out there is a bracket that is considered the optimum range.

When time trialing (a 30 minute TT in this instant) riding with a cadence at 60 rpm and 120 rpm was 3-10% inferior when compared to riding between 80-100 rpm. Although a cadence of 80 rpm was only 1.7% superior to 100 rpm.

However, there is an alternative, a cadence of 100 rpm resulted in a higher average energy turn over rate over other cadences. Essentially this means less fatigue is develop because the body is able to provide itself with energy at a more efficiency rate than other cadences. As a result, it is suggested that riding at a cadence of 100 rpm would be best for endurance rides or longer time trials (30 km >). So, how do I improve my cadence/pedalling efficiency?

Climbing Efforts:

To improve both the strength of the glute muscles and cadence there are two main exercises that can be utilised. The first is riding up a hill in zone 3 or 4 depending on how you feel but, you must remain seated the whole all the way up. This essentially does not allow your leg muscles any relief when riding. Over time increase the intensity you ride up the climb, which in turn forces you to work on your pedaling by when remaining seated.

Furthermore, a second workout that is believed to work is low cadence high resistance drills. As these workouts increase testosterone, which increases VO2 max. Ride a climb with a minimum grade of 3% and ride up the climb with a cadence range between 55-65 rpm as hard as you can go - use the descent as recovery - repeat x 4-10. Over time both pedaling efficiency and muscular endurance will improve.

High Cadence Drills:

Although high cadence drills have actually been shown to have a negative impact on performance (due to the lack of resistance which does not causes enough stress on the body for necessary adaptations to be made). This exercise is only used for active recovery style workouts. Complete as follows after 10-15 minutes warm up:

60 seconds @ 75-80% : 150-160 rpm

60 seconds @ 70-75% : self selected rpm

repeat x 5-10.

5 minutes 70-75% between sets (2-3 sets).


Cadence is clearly an important variable to training and it is worth aiming to improve pedalling efficiency. But, overall a cadence between 80-100 rpm is best depending on the length of the ride.

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