Apparently, it’s not all about speed on the bike. Well, to be more specific – us triathletes need to concerned not only with our actual speed, but we also need to watch how fast we’re pedalling.

In my relatively short triathlon career, I have really had no idea of how to cycle fast. To be honest, I still don’t, but I am going to learn. My strategy for the last half of last year was “Put it in the hardest gear I can push and keep it there for as long as I can.” While this philosophy resulted in a couple relatively decent bike splits near the end of the last year, I don’t think this translated over into fast run splits.

A couple weeks ago, I was in the bike shop checking out some new gear with my girlfriend, and picked up a Cateye Astrale 8 speedometer, complete with a cadence meter. I finally got it setup on my bike and got out for my first ride this afternoon.

Right away, I noticed how the machine gave me immediate feedback when I started slacking off. Within a couple seconds of slowing my cadence, the reading immediately dropped off. There will be no more taking it easy on the bike!!

I wasn’t sure what a “recommended” cadence was for triathlons, so I settled on a target of 80 rpm for today. It was amazing to see the difference that cadence and gear selection make on speed. For example, keeping the gear constant but upping the cadence from 70 to 80 rpm would result in a 3-4 km/h speed increase. Shifting to a harder gear and keeping the cadence constant would also give me 3-4 km/h speed increase.

With only one ride, I can see how having a cadence meter is going to be a huge help in improving my cycling. With my Timex heart rate monitor, I can now continuously monitor my speed, cadence, and heart rate. I’m pretty sure that over time, I’ll be able to find the optimal cadence and heart rate to produce good speeds on the bike, and still leave me with gas for the run.

Speaking of which, I looked up some articles on cycling cadence for triathletes, and apparently higher is better. According to the articles below, the optimal running speed is approximately 90 strides / minute. Matching this on the bike eases the transition from bike to run. As someone who used to like to mash the big, heavy gears, this will be a change for me, but hopefully one that lets me knock a few seconds off both my bike and run times!

PS: Here are links to two good articles about cycling cadence for triathlons:

  1. Cycling Cadence – Trifuel
  2. Lance Watson – Tips for a Faster Bike Split

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