Monday, July 9, 2012

An Exercise in RPMs

Last week I asked what the logical, mathematical, physics-based answer was for how to get faster on the bike: cycle in a harder gear or cycle at a faster cadence (i.e. revolutions per minute: rpm).

The answers I received (all two of them) were unanimous. Cycle in a higher rpm.

Okey dokey.

This past weekend was a little crazy as we juggled dinners out, Ragtime at Shaw, volunteering for Hospice and hosting a baby shower so we had to squeeze our runs and bike rides in where we could.

I managed to find time on Saturday evening so I headed out on my own for a 30k ride. My goal(s): see if I can get to 90rpm and, if I can, maintain it for as long as possible.

The first few kilometres were tricky as I tried to get out of the city. There are so many stop lights and stop signs that it's hard to get any speed at all before you have to slow down again. But, once I made the final turn onto Third Avenue, the road stretched out in front of me.

Now or never.

I started pedalling quickly...and quickly noticed that getting to 90rpm isn't as hard as I thought it might be. In no time I was doing 100rpm. Ok, switch gears, keep going. Still doing 95rpm. Switch again, 90rpm and holding. Speed: 30km/hour.

Within less than a minute.

That, my friends, was pretty compelling proof. Start in an easier gear, get my legs spinning and then keep changing gears until I find the one that keeps me at 90rpm. Cycle on.

My ride had several long flat stretches that let me practice this new trick. The long stretches were broken up by trips up and down the escarpment and stop signs.

During my ride I learned that cycling at a higher rpm:

  • doesn't automatically make me go faster but it makes it easier to get to speeds I normally struggle to get to.
  • is easier than I thought it would be but my legs were pretty tired by the end. It will take some practice to be able to maintain a fast rpm for an entire ride.
  • seems to affect my blood sugar differently. I was a lot lower than I thought I would be after that ride. It will take a few more rides to know for sure but I may have to adjust my diabetes routine if this was any indication.

Best part of the ride? When I was able to hit 35 km/hour on a flat stretch of road while cycling into a headwind. I can hit 30 km/hour but I have never, EVER, reached 35 km/hour without the help of a downhill or a tailwind to push me along.

There is hope for this girl yet!

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