Understanding how the multi-speed gears work on your bike can help you reach your ideal cadence, the point at which you are riding with maximum power while expending the least energy. By designing a cadence workout to use with your indoor trainer, you can improve your overall riding speed and efficiency.
On most road bikes, you have two or three sprockets at the front of your chain near your pedals. The rear of the chain is attached to a cassette that typically has five sprockets. Your bike is setup with two derailleurs, devices that allow you to shift between gears. There's one in the front and one in the rear. Your shifters are located on your handlebars. For the least resistance or easiest gear combination, shift into the smallest sprocket on the front and the largest sprocket in the rear.
Cadence refers to how many times in a minute your foot makes one complete revolution with the pedal. To change your cadence, you shift gears. As you shift into a higher gear, you put more resistance on the pedals, making it harder to pedal. As you shift into increasingly higher gears, your cadence decreases. An unnecessary slow cadence puts strain on your muscles and joints and can lead to injury in your hips or knees. As you lower your gears, your cadence increases and it gets easier to pedal. Pedaling at too high of a cadence can waste energy.
Types of Cadence Workouts
A workout that has you riding in a high gear with a slow cadence helps you build muscle mass, especially in your legs. If done too frequently, this type of workout can lead to overuse injuries. A workout that has your riding in a low gear with a high cadence has a lower impact on your joints and really gets your heart pumping. This style of workout is considered highly aerobic.
When doing these drills, either use a cadence sensor on your bike or manually calculate your cadence. Do this by counting how many times your right foot makes a full rotation in 10 seconds. Multiple this number by six. For your workout, warm up with easy spinning for 10 minutes and then ride for one minute each at 90, 100 and 110 revolutions per minute. Next, ride for two minutes at your preferred cadence and then repeat the three intervals again but this time hold each one for two minutes. Repeat the entire set again but this time hold each interval for three minutes.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.