Review article: Optimal cadence selection during cycling

1, 2, 3Dr Chris R Abbiss, PhD, 4Dr Jeremiah J Peiffer, PhD, 1Associate Professor Paul B Laursen, PhD

1School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia

2Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia

3Division of Materials Science and Engineering, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Belmont, Vic, Australia

4Centre of Excellence in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care, Vario Health Institute, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia

Abstract

Cadence or pedal rate is widely accepted as an important factor influencing economy of motion, power output, perceived exertion and the development of fatigue during cycling. As a result, the cadence selected by a cyclist’s could have a significant influence on their performance. Despite this, the cadence that optimises performance during an individual cycling task is currently unclear. The purpose of this review therefore was to examine the relevant literature surrounding cycling cadence in order provide a greater understanding of how different cadences might optimise cycling performance. Based on research to date, it would appear that relatively high pedal rates (100-120rpm) improve sprint cycling performance, since muscle force and neuromuscular fatigue are reduced, and cycling power output maximised at such pedal rates. However, extremely high cadences increase the metabolic cost of cycling. Therefore prolonged cycling (i.e. road time trials) may benefit from a slightly reduced cadence (~90-100rpm). During ultra-endurance cycling (i.e. >4h), performance might be improved through the use of a relatively low cadence (70-90rpm), since lower cadences have been shown to improve cycling economy and lower energy demands. However, such low cadences are known to increase the pedal forces necessary to maintain a given power output. Future research is needed to examine the multitude of factors known to influence optimal cycling cadence (i.e. economy, power output and fatigue development) in order to confirm the range of cadences that are optimal during specific cycling tasks. Keywords: pedal rate, economy, efficiency, power output