The power of a spin: on cadence and choosing the best gear.

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Vanvouver is a gorgeous city, where mountain meets sea, and because it is so very liveable, its cycling culture has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Suddenly the bike paths are full of riders from every walk of life.

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The bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation known to man, requiring only 35  calories for every mile traveled, though it can certainly feel like hard work if you’re not riding efficiently.

Riding is supposed to be an aerobic activity, so for comfort’s sake, it’s important to ensure that you’re not using too hard a gear ratio. Cadence is crucial to your comfort on the bike. It’s measured in RPM, or revolutions per minute. You would never dream of starting your car from a stop in fifth gear, and yet a lot of novice riders do just that on the bike, and then stay in the big ring almost all of the time.  Aim for 70-100 rpm as you’re riding, though 90 is often considered ideal. Unless you’re moving quite quickly, or travelling downhill, it’s best to avoid the biggest front chainring. Try to remember to shift down as you’re coming to a stop, too, so that starting is easier and more efficient.

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Cycling is quite comfortable when you maintain a high cadence, so that your legs are spinning easily and consistently, and exerting the same intensity of effort as you would do if you were walking. The trick to doing this is to ensure that you gear down into an easier gear as you slow down, (easier is a bigger ring in the back cluster, and the smaller ring in the front)  and then gradually increase your gearing as your speed increases, much the same way you would do if you were driving your car. When you’re riding your bike, the engine is you, and you don’t want to place strain on your joints by trying to push too hard a gear. Your bike will shift more efficiently, too, if you’re in an appropriate gear.

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If you see another rider pedaling much faster than you, try and match their cadence. Almost all of the experienced cyclists you see will be spinning effectively at between 80-100 rpm, and you should try it, too! Practice what you see, and before you know it, you will find yourself travelling farther and faster than you have ever done before. It takes much less effort than you’d think.

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