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What Is the Right Cadence For You On Your Mountain Bike?

What’s cadence? It’s basically how fast you pedal. Why does it matter? Cadence matters since it effects how much energy you use. The more efficient your cadence, the longer and faster you can ride your mountain bike. Let’s look at some different ways to optimize your riding energy.

Not Too Easy, Not Too Hard

One mistake bikers often make is pedaling in a gear that’s too small (or “easy”). They think that if it’s easy to pedal, they’re saving energy. But if your legs are whirling around too fast for too long, you’ll get tired without going very far.

The other common mistake is to use a gear that’s too big (or “hard”). The error here is believing that using knee breaking gear leverage makes you go faster.

Pedal in Circles

It might sound obvious, but some riders just don’t get it. So instead of pedaling in squares, try to apply even pressure throughout your pedal stroke. Imagine you’re wiping dog poop off your shoe during the downstroke and follow through. On the upstroke, try “scooping up” the pedal until you come around again to the downstroke. If you practice pedaling in circles on flat surfaces, it’ll come more naturally on climbs and technical terrain.

Climbs, Flats & Descents

On climbs, smaller gears are smart, but not too small since spinning very fast can cause a loss of balance. The next time you hit a climb try shifting up one gear higher, and see if you can still clear the climb.

For extended flat surfaces, look for a cadence of around one revolution per second. You can achieve this by counting “one-one-thousand” for each pedal stroke. Adjust gearing until your count and pedaling match. Some riders even go up to 120 rpm. Experiment to find which cadence leaves you with the freshest legs.

When you go downhill, reach for a big gear that allows you to accelerate through terrain dips to maintain speed. Also, move the chain to the big chainring up front. This keeps things tight and prevents slippage if the trail gets bumpy.

Stay in the Saddle

Standing to pedal uses more energy. If you can, stay seated. You many need to stand to get over a particularly tough section, but get your butt down fast again. If you’re finding that you have to stand often, you’re probably using too big a gear.

Every Bit Counts

Remember, all motion requires energy. Plus, if you’re out on a mega ride, get off your bike and sit on the trail side when taking a break.

Happy trails!

So keep in touch and get out on the trails.

About The Author

Rod Bucton, mountain bike fanatic from Mid North Coast, New South Wales Australia…discover the shortcuts to mountain biking for beginners and while you’re at it follow Rod on Facebook or Instagram.

Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.

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