2 Cycling Workouts To Improve Your Cadence

Similar to race nutrition, bike cadence is a personal style and skill.

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A “magic number” may not truly exist, but there’s a wide consensus that a consistent cadence around 90 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) can help you avoid leg fatigue and, in turn, run easier off the bike. Similar to race nutrition, bike cadence is a personal style and skill.

“A super high cadence or a low cadence may or may not work for you,” says Jared Gell, the head coach of Competitive Instinct Multisport and director of retail at Pacific Swim Bike Run in Stamford, Conn. “But practicing riding at a higher than normal cadence does help your pedal stroke become more efficient. Ultimately, even if you continue to ride at 65 RPM, the increase in efficiency will allow you to ride faster using less energy.”

How to Measure Cadence

Basic: Count how many times your right knee comes up in 30 seconds. Double it.
Middle: Keep track with a simple bike computer that includes a cadence sensor.
Advanced: Use a smart trainer to gather real-time data as well as average cadence in a workout.

Get started with these two workouts that will help increase your max RPM. Aim to have equal pressure for the entire 360 degrees of your pedal stroke, and don’t let your more powerful muscles (glutes) plus gravity create a “woosh” sound on the downstroke.

Workout #1: 60-Minute Indoor Boost

10 min easy spinning

Drill Set: Single leg intervals: 3×5 min
• Minute 1: Right leg only
• Minute 2: Left leg only
• Minute 3: Both legs at as high a cadence as possible without bouncing
• Minutes 4-5: Recover

Main set:
Progressive spin-ups: 2×10 min with 5 min recovery.
Start in a moderately hard gear with a comfortable cadence, around 75 rpm. Every 2 minutes, shift to an easier gear and increase rpm by 5. Keep the speed or power exactly the same as cadence increases (ex: 17 mph or 150 watts)
• Minutes 0-2: 75 rpm
• Minutes 3-4: 80 rpm
• Minutes 5-6: 85 rpm
• Minutes 7-8: 90 rpm
• Minutes 9-10: 95 rpm

10 min easy spinning

–Jared Gell, USA Triathlon Level 2 Coach at Competitive Instinct Multisport and BG FIT & F.I.S.T. Certified Bicycle Fitter at Ridgefield Bicycle Company in Ridgefield, CT.

Workout #2: Quick Cadence Check

Do this workout on its own or throw it in the middle of a longer ride to refresh your legs.


10 min easy spinning, increasing to 95 rpm by the end

Main set:
• 1 min 95 RPM
• 1 min 120 RPM—back off if hips start to bounce
• 30 sec easy spin recovery
• 10 sec max cadence without bouncing (note RPM)
• 1 min decrease to moderate pace
Repeat main set 3–5 times.

Cool-down: 10 min easy spinning

–Graham Wilson, Wilson Coaching Group

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