Efficient Pedalling Speed On A Bike

Spin Faster for Greater Efficiency by Gabe Mirkin, MD

All bicyclists learn that they tire earlier when they push very hard on the pedals. Spinning the pedals faster with less pressure saves energy. However, if you pedal too fast you lose coordination, which wastes energy. The key to riding a bicycle efficiently over long distances is to find out how fast you can pedal before you become uncoordinated.

A study from the University of Kentucky shows that most bicycle riders have very low efficiency at a pedal cadence of 40 revolutions per minute. Efficiency increases between 60 and 100, and decreases substantially over 120 (Journal of Biomechanics, May 2006). Muscles are made of two types of fibers: fast-twitch fibers that are primarily used for strength, and slow-twitch fibers that are used primarily for endurance. These authors showed that riders with a greater percentage of fast twitch (strength) fibers had faster optimal cadences.

Another study from Toledo, Spain shows that even experienced racers lose speed when their cadence exceeds 100 revolutions per minute (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2006). Maximal power output, a measure of how hard the cyclists pushed on their pedals, was nine percent lower at a cadence of 120 compared with 80 and 100. Lactic acid started to accumulate and cause muscle burning when the cadence exceeded 100 revolutions per minute.

That means that the more miles you ride and the faster you ride, the higher your optimal pedal cadence will be. Most inexperienced riders will ride best at a cadence of about 60; more experienced riders ride best at 80-90, and the best riders in the world start to lose efficiency at a cadence greater than 120. If you are a recreational bicycle rider, your optimal pedal cadence is the fastest you can spin without

1) becoming uncoordinated, as evidenced by bouncing up and down on your seat;

2) feeling burning in your muscles;

3) gasping for breath; or

4) becoming so exhausted that you have to slow down or stop.

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Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports -- and the FREE Good Food Book -- at http://www.DrMirkin.com. Article Source


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