In 2012, British cycling champion Bradley Wiggins set out to win Olympic gold in the time trial. Fresh off of winning the Tour de France, Wiggins needed to adjust his strategy. His high cadence, often in excess of 105 revolutions per minute, wasn’t optimal for transferring power to the bike. He worked on dropping his cadence to go further with each pedal stroke. He went on to win gold and was knighted; he is now Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Cadence above 120 rpm often lacks the appropriate resistance, which means leg muscles are not optimally recruited, leaving you with an elevated heart rate without a lot of ground covered compared to when you pedal slower with more resistance. This can be a common problem in rhythm-based spin classes, where students tend to pedal faster than they should.
Here are four signs you may be pedaling too fast on that indoor bike:
Your hips are bouncing
The fix: You want to generate power from your hips. Adding resistance gives your muscles something to work with and allows you to own the circumference of your pedal stroke so you pull through the 6 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. This could slow your cadence down slightly, however, it will eliminate the rocking, and generate power in the process.
You add resistance whenever you come out of the saddle
The fix: Standing while cycling requires more energy to pedal than generating the same power while sitting. That’s why cyclists spend very little time out of the saddle. Become comfortable pedaling at lower cadences 65–80 RPMs in the saddle with resistance already fully present. This added resistance allows for a stable transition out of the saddle. You should feel in control as you come out of the saddle.
You don’t adjust resistance during a sprint
The fix: A sprint is more about generating power through resistance than it is about pedaling fast. Most indoor bikes have a flywheel (the metal circle below your stationary bike) to mimic a wheel rolling on the road. This cylindrical weight, once moving, aids the rider in maintaining momentum. You should feel your leg muscles being recruited as you sprint. This requires additional resistance as your legs adjust to the current effort. While sprinting, continue to add resistance and finish out of the saddle like a pro.
Your hands and arms are tense out of the saddle
The fix: Release your strong grip on the handlebars and shift your hips slightly closer to the saddle to allow your weight to be distributed over the pedals. Your core, not your arms, should be the steadying factor when out of the saddle. Consider changing positions on the handlebar and avoid the death grip.