Friday, 16 November 2012

Cadence vs. Watts: Which is Which?

Indoor cycling is a popular workout activity since the 90’s. Riding a stationary bike may sound boring for the adventure-loving outdoor biker, but it has its benefits. It’s also a good time saver, as you can get the maximum health benefits in less than the time needed for outdoor biking.

Indoor cycling beginners usually get confused with the cadence vs. watts debacle. Which is which? Both are measures usually provided by stationary bicycle equipment, but there’s a big difference between the two, both in technical terms and in benefits. To simplify the cadence vs. watts confusion, let’s discuss each term and show their benefits point by point.

Cadence is the Pedal Rate

To put it simply, cycling cadence is the rate in which the pedals of the bicycle you’re riding turn. In short, cadence is a measure of pedal turn per minute.

Noticed how indoor cycling classes usually involve increasing the pedalling rate? That’s because these bikers are training to increase cadence. In the cadence vs. watts argument, cadence gets the reputation for improving cycling speed and acceleration.

When training to increase cadence, you can use stationary bikes that can simulate slopes. As the bicycle’s elevation increases, your cadence will naturally slow down to something like 50 to 60 RPM (rounds per minute). Training yourself to pedal faster in higher slopes will improve cadence.

There are also specific bicycle trainings in which your goal is to maintain a steady cadence. Such training is essential for distance racers, as it improves their ability to control their pace and enable them to maintain speed consistency throughout races.

Training to increase cadence is recommended for those who seek to improve their pedalling skills and their speed for bike races.

Watts: a Measure of Power

Meanwhile, watts usually refer to a specific measure of power that you exert while riding a bike. Unlike cadence, it is not dependent on pedal turns. Instead, watts measure the force that you exert while pedalling. See the difference?

Training to increase watts exerted during a bicycling session improves speed, force and acceleration. Unlike cadence, which can vary at various points of your cycling, watts measure the overall effort you exert during the biking session. Thus, in the cadence vs. watts debate, watching for watts should be your priority when hoping to improve cardiovascular endurance and stamina.

As such, training to improve watts is recommended for long distance cyclists, as the focus is on improving power exertion and longevity, not on speed.

Indoor cycling is a worthwhile workout, whether you’re training for outdoor cycling competitions or just needing a worthwhile physical activity. With regard to the cadence vs. watts debate, remember this: If you want to improve strength and endurance, focus on improving watts. However, if you want to improve speed, aim for increasing your cadence.

Cycling is a good cardiovascular exercise, but even if you do it indoors, you should remember to take precautions! As cycling classes are usually intense activities, consult a doctor first if you’re fit for it. Enroll in classes done in spacious and well-ventilated rooms, and bring lots of fluids to stay properly hydrated throughout the workout. Happy cycling!

Photo Credits: Flickr Creative Commons

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