Riding a bike over short distances is simple and relaxing, but when you start putting many miles under your wheels or climbing steep hills it can be a tough workout. Maintaining an ideal pedaling speed helps to counteract the rigors of a long ride on your body. Cyclists refer to their pedaling speed as cadence. The ideal cadence remains the same for most riders despite riding style or terrain.
Measure cadence by counting the number of revolutions per minute your pedals make. The ideal cadence to maintain during your ride is between 70 and 100 rpm. This is a comfortable riding pace that will keep you moving along without overly exhausting your legs, according to former Massachusetts Harris Cyclery technical consultant Sheldon Brown. Maintaining the same cadence throughout your ride helps you develop rhythm on long treks.
Consistent Pedal Speed
You maintain an ideal pedaling speed on your bike by shifting your gears at the right time. On a flat, hard surface like a city street you will not likely have to shift often. However, as you climb a hill, the resistance on your pedals increases and your cadence will slow. Shifting into a lower gear makes it easier to turn your pedals. When you are going downhill, shift the bike into a lower gear to increase resistance and avoid an excessively fast cadence.
If you find yourself tiring easily when you are at your ideal pedaling speed, you need to improve the muscle endurance in your legs. Shifting your bike into a higher gear than you need for hill climbing makes the pedals more difficult to push but will improve your muscular endurance. This type of cycling causes lactic acid to build up and will not be sustainable over a long period of time. However, regular training with a raised amount of resistance helps your leg muscles adapt to long rides at your ideal pedaling speed.
Charity cycling organization The Care Exchange also recommends mixing your muscle-building rides with brief periods where you shift into a low gear and pedal as fast as you can. This builds fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs.
Building Pedal Speed
The ideal pedaling speed varies from person to person. Find yours through experimentation with different gears in various riding situations. To increase your average pedaling speed and become a more efficient cyclist, you need to either improve your leg strength, cycling technique or muscular endurance. The Care Exchange advises building leg strength through weight training or riding up hills repeatedly with a high gear. Improve your pedaling efficiency by using bike shoes with toe clips to keep your feet in perfect position.