Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Increasing Pedal Cadence without the Heart Rate

This winter I’ve been trying to smooth out my pedal stroke to gain more efficiency and I’m also trying to increase my pedal cadence. Smoothing out my pedal stroke is going really well in fact by spring I may not be pedaling squares anymore. They may be squares with rounded off corners but they won’t be squares. I’m well on my way there.

Increasing my cadence isn’t going so well. Here’s the rub. I can increase my cadence in an easy gear no problem but when I do this my heart rate climbs at least 10 bpm or more. In my mind this seems strange. If I pedal in a tougher gear with lower cadence thus using a lot more leg muscles my heart rate remains fairly low but once I shift into an easier gear taking the load off of my legs my heart rate shoots up. Is my heart confused or something? Come on figure things out heart. Low resistance = beat slow. More resistance = beat faster. Got it?

Since my heart isn’t listening to my logic I did a little research and found:

A lot of people have a lack of neuromuscular coordination when it comes to increasing pedal cadence. So basically my nerves aren’t firing the correct muscles in the correct order to make my legs go around quickly and effortlessly without an increase of heart rate.

Could this be what is happening to me? Am I really that big of a spaz? Really? I’m uncoordinated? I’ve ridden thousands of miles so I’m thinking my legs know what to do by now.

Well, I also found out that if I continue with the high cadence training that my heart rate will eventually come down to a reasonable level.

We’ll see if it works but I’m still a little ticked that my heart isn’t listening to my logic. More to come.


Jenny-Jenny said...

The whole science of the bike is amazing to me. It's cool to learn about that kind of stuff. Sorry your heart is confused, I hope it isn't confused about other things...

DC said...

Thanks for the comment today.
I did a mini expeiment on myself last year on a local trail and found that(using just my HR monitor and cyclometer) My hr was lower at a 65-70 Cadence than 85rpm while of course maintaining the same MPH. No, I won't tell you what that speed was!
RE: Trainers
I will watch "Lost in Translation"
tonite while riding. I've tried documentaries but, they don't divert my attention away from the pain. "Family Guy" and the "Simpsons" are not bad choices
so far.

Jeff said...

I think part of keeping a high cadence is cardiovascular. It takes the stress off your legs and on your lungs. So what you're experiencing I would think would be normal.

Unemployed said...

Here's your answer for a smooth pedal stroke. Find a flat area where you go go a mile of two without any stop's and pedal with only one foot clipped in for 10 minutes then switch feet and go 10 minutes. It will feel weird but after a couple of days of doing it your stroke will improve greatly.

Jenny-Jenny said...

That's a good idea about one foot for ten minutes. I could even do that on the trainer.

Jayson said...

The cadence debate is high amongst triathletes. Do you run a higher cadence, run a higher heart rate, but have better legs for the run? Or do you push a bigger gear, keep the heart rate low, but risk building up lactic acid in your legs?

Chrissie Wellington, who hasn't lost a race EVER, pushes a big gear and swears by it. Most other pro triathletes prefer higher cadence.

As for cyclist, it depends on your specialty and how you ride. Lance is a high cadence guy. Cavendish pushes bigger gears.

It's all a matter of comfort. There are benefits to being able to ride a higher cadence when needed. I've heard that your heart rate will normalize at the higher cadences after a bit of training.

(how's that for long winded?!)