It’s All About Rhythm (Just For Cyclists)

A short ride with a friend who’s a keen, happy but a relatively infrequent and new rider.

I’m not a great cyclist – never have been and never will be. I started young but didn’t ride much for many years, and now I’m in my fifties, fat and an ex-smoker to boot. However, riding 4-5,000 miles a year means I am quite experienced when compared to the average and it’s interesting to ride with someone who has far fewer miles in their legs. Nearly every time that happens, the big thing that strikes me is their lack of rhythm.

‘Cadence’ is the term used in cycling circles – your pedalling speed and rhythm.

On the whole, if you can get an even and smooth rhythm to your pedalling you’ll find cycling a lot easier. The question of the speed at which you pedal can be argued about. I’d say it’s generally better to pedal quicker than it is to push hard to achieve the same speed but, that said, when I was a lot younger I tended towards pushing harder. It has to be what best suits you, but whatever you opt for, if you can do it smoothly, at an as even a pace as possible, you’ll find the going easier over time.

Newcomers do often wonder at all the gears on a bike – the point of them is to enable you to vary the gear you’re riding in by quite small amounts as the route you’re on demands, so that the amount you’re pushing and the speed at which you’re legs are going around remains as constant as possible. In short, if the route you’re on is changing, even slightly, you should be changing gear to match it. With each even small rise, each even gentle descent, each turn into a headwind and so on – as it varies so you should be using the gears to keep your legs turning smoothly, pushing as hard as you’re comfortable with.

At least, that’s the theory.