Okay, so you know that pedaling faster is a good thing, right? You know that a higher cadence will help you to utilize more of your cardiovascular system while lessening the stress on your muscular system, i.e., your legs! I also have to say that there is nothing that looks more pro than pedaling at a high steady cadence. And that's probably all that matters, right?
Often, you hear the magic number of 90 rpm for a good steady cadence. You have heard that greats like Chris Froome and that guy who got banned often pedaled at 95 or more rpm. How can you do this without looking at your bike computer all the time? How can you keep a steady pace when you're tired, and especially when things are falling apart? Here's what I do....
A while back, I tried to do a trainer session with my trusty old Yamaha metronome. I set it to 95 rpm and tried to pedal at the beats per minute that the metronome was kicking out. It was fun, but then I wanted to take this on the road. I was not bringing a click track out there with me! Luckily, one day it all clicked, no pun intended.
One ride, I was really out there bonking. Really dying on the bike. I cannot remember where, probably somewhere along River Road. I was trying all I could to just keep my pedals turning over. I remember starting to hear the beat from the M.I.A song "Paper Planes" in my head. Over and over and over. You probably know the song from the great movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Or, you know it from its source, the Clash's "Straight to Hell" from one of my all-time favorite albums, Combat Rock. I pedaled as the beats fell in place. I pedaled, and pedaled, and pedaled some more.
Whenever I get out on a lonely stretch, I hear this in my head as I pedal. It helps me to keep the pedals turning. I just today looked up the online tool, Online Beats Per Minute, which will calculate the rpm of a song as you tap out the beat on your mouse, screen, or keyboard. I opened the Clash's album version in one window, and I tapped the space bar along with the music. 90 bpm on the nose. (The M.I.A version is a little slower at about 85, but I know that I count a little fast when my heart rate is high.)
You can also use songs at 180 bpm. Here is a pretty good list to start with, 180 BPM Running Songs.
Find your song, and try to pedal along at a high and steady cadence. Cycling is 90 percent mental and the other half physical, as Yogi would say. Use the song in your head to keep your legs going. It's a simple, stupid trick, but it works for me. Give it a shot. Enjoy the videos, below!
M.I.A "Paper Planes"
The Clash "Straight to Hell" LIVE
The Clash "Straight to Hell" album version