European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 453–462 | Cite as

Cadence and performance in elite cyclists

Original Article


Many studies have attempted to describe the optimal cadence in cycling. However, the effect on performance has received little attention. The aim of the present study was therefore to examine the effect of cadence on performance during prolonged cycling (~30 min). Fourteen male elite cyclists performed two or five time trials at different cadences [60, 80, 100, 120 rpm or freely chosen cadence (FCC)]. The total work was the same between the time trials, and the subjects were instructed to complete each time trial as fast as possible by adjusting the workload with buttons mounted on the handlebar. Accumulated work and cadence was visualised on a monitor. Oxygen uptake was measured continuously and blood lactate concentration every fifth minute. Compared to 80 rpm, finishing times at 60, 100 and 120 rpm were 3.5, 1.7 and 10.2% slower (P<0.05). Finishing time at FCC (mean 90 rpm) was indistinguishable from 80 and 100 rpm. Gross efficiency at 80 rpm was 2.9, 2.3, 3.4 and 12.3% larger than at 60, FCC, 100 and 120 rpm, respectively (P<0.05). The maximal energy turnover rate was 1.7% higher at 100 than at 80 rpm (P<0.05). This could not, however, compensate for the 3.4% lower efficiency at 100 rpm. This study demonstrated that elite cyclists perform best at their most efficient cadence despite the maximal energy turnover rate being larger at a higher cadence.


Cycling Pedal frequency Efficiency Energy turnover rate Performance 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sports and Biological StudiesNorwegian University of Sport and Physical Education OsloNorway

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