A reader sent me a very good question a few weeks back that I’ve been looking forward to posting.  Luckily I tracked down an old pro very knowledgeable and experienced in this area to answer this question. I’ve spoken about Rob Crowe in many previous posts and I don’t think he needs any further introduction. He’s a bit of a legend around these parts. I only wish you could hear him speaking through his written words.


Question: How do I actually put to use Speedometer, heart rate and cadence info during riding? I know you’ve posted about power meters before, but that stuff goes way beyond my head. And most people don’t have those. You can pick up a simple GPS unit with some extra gadgets for $300 or less.

Answer (by Rob Crowe, Ridewiser)

Hi Speedo man!

Short of learning how to train your cycling body by ‘feel’ – which is a fairly advanced technique -  you can start learning about what’s happening using a simple speedo and cadence meter as long as you consider the cogs or gearing used at the time. Essentially, the translation of power improvement in my training performances can be seen from better average speeds across the same courses on the same gearing.

As I get prepared for this summer coming, my fitness improvement will firstly be seen in my endurance level, then strength, then power abilities – then my riding and racing will be more effective and produce more fitness at a higher level again.

For my endurance fitness, I want to see cadences improve a little from 75 up to 90 on a relatively small gearing (e.g. 39 x 15), with a speedo average coming up over a few weeks. Critically I’ll always maintain similar endurance heart-rates (130 – 145bpm for me). But I want to ‘feel’ it getting easier to complete the same course (strain on my lungs, muscles and legs goes down). Put more specifically, I will train the endurance to better my time over an 80km flattish road course, using the same small gear, getting comfortable with more revs & generally stay at the same 140bpm HR.

Once some reasonable endurance is attained (I don’t get tired, I get energized), I’ll use one particular climb repeatedly (a gradual 5% hill about 7km long ). Now speed matters less, the cadence should be lower and just stay stable, but the gearing must get bigger for similar HR’s (85%) as I get stronger. I feel I can tolerate more gear load and still maintain the same cadence against the gradient, so speed will incidentally go up, but it’s the ability to sustain good smooth pedal-strokes and breathing that I’m after. It’s gym work. Put more specifically, I will train my strength to better my gearing over a 7km uphill course, using the same lower cadence, getting comfortable with 85% effort, and will see some time improvement too.

Now that I’m fit AND strong, I can effectively train for more power (getting there faster). I’ll go and find a circuit that I know well with lots of undulations, turns, hills and descents – I want to get around it faster and faster so it’s got to be difficult. I’ll use bigger gears as my recovery improves over the rises; I’ll draw on my high and low cadence abilities; I’m now ONLY looking for time improvement! Put more specifically, I will train my power to better my velocity over a 20km challenging hilly course, using all cadences, higher heart-rates, and will chase time improvements every time I do it.