Are your legs sore after these spring bicycle rides?
It might not be that you're way out of shape, it might be that you're stressing your muscles by riding in too high of a gear. Fitness experts encourage cyclists to use smaller gears and keep a high cadence while they ride, especially now while your body recovers from its winter doldrums.
An ideal rate is said to be 92 pedal strokes a minute. Some, like six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, go higher. Armstrong coach Chris Carmichael says his pupil likes to train at 110 revolutions a minute.
A cadence counter on your bicycle computer makes it easy to check pedal strokes. If you don't have that, just use your watch or the timer on your bike computer and count off 15 pedal revolutions in 10 seconds. That's 90 per minute.
Why is a higher cadence easier on the legs? It's like the difference between going upstairs one step-at-a-time, or two-at-a-time. Your body has to move more weight against gravity when it skips steps, putting more strain on muscles and knees. Also the more frequent muscle contactions in spinning helps the heart pump blood more efficiently.
Even though I know it's better to keep a high cadence, I have a tendency slip into grinding out the bigger gears. When I catch myself doing that, I notice that if I shift back a couple of clicks on my gears the pedaling gets easier and I actually speed up.