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If you’re brand new to indoor cycling there are bound to be some terms that you’ve heard bandied around that make you pause.
Cadence, Watts and RPM are examples of metrics that you might have encountered and it’s normal to have some questions regarding what these metrics are.
How you measure them and what impact they have on your cycling?
In order to help you with understanding your indoor bike metrics, the following article will go over these metrics along with distance, speed, heart rate and calories.
Table of Contents
This metric is a measurement of the amount of power that you produce while riding your bike.
The higher the number of watts the greater the amount of power you’ve produced and the harder you know you’ve worked.
This measurement is calculated at the end of your ride and there are a few factors that go into it.
Cadence, speed and distance all contribute to your overall watts.
The faster you pedal, the harder the bike’s resistance and the longer you bike for the higher your number of watts will be.
If you’re looking to increase your strength or your endurance then watts are a great metric to focus on.
They’ll give you an overview of how hard you’re working with a simple to track number.
Increasing your endurance and power is as simple as increasing your watt output.
When you’re just beginning a good number to aim for is between 75-100watts in a one hour bike.
As you increase your strength you’ll find that you’re able to go faster for longer which will increase your watt output to over 100watts/hour.
Cadence and RPM
You might hear these terms used separately; however, they mean the same thing.
Your RPM is the number of times that your bike pedal rotates in a single minute.
So if you see 50RPM you know that you’ve turned your pedal 50 full rotations that minute.
Cadence is measured using RPM and is the measurement of your pedal speed. The higher your RPM, the higher your cadence and the faster you’re pedalling.
If you have very little resistance set on your bike then you’re mimicking the conditions of a flat road.
In this setting, a good RPM range to aim for is between 80 and 100 RPM.
If you find that your feet are flying on the pedals higher than 110 RPM on a flat surface then you might consider increasing your resistance because there’s little reward in going over this number.
If you’ve increased your resistance to mimic hills then you might see your cadence drop from 60 to 80 RPM.
If you’re looking to increase your speed then this is a great metric to focus on.
The higher your RPM, the greater your speed.
However, keep in mind that the goal is often to increase your RPM alongside your resistance.
This helps your focus on building speed over a greater variety of surfaces to mimic real-world scenarios.
Why not check out our article on Watts Vs Cadence and which is more accurate!
Speed is a simple measurement to calculate and an easy metric to understand.
Speed is measured in mph/kph or miles per hour/kilometres per hour.
Just like your car on the road, this is the measurement of how far you’ll travel in a typical hour.
So, if your bike reads 10mph you know that in one hour you’ll have travelled 10 miles.
This is a measurement that’s tied up with both cadence and RPM.
The higher your cadence and RPM the faster you’ll travel and the higher your speed mph measurement will be.
If you’re looking to increase your sprinting, short burst speed or speed over a distance then this is obviously the metric that you’ll want to focus on.
Try to increase your cadence so that your speed measurement goes up.
As you become faster try increasing your resistance as well so that you gain the ability to travel at fast speeds over a variety of surfaces.
Distance is another relatively simple measurement to understand.
Your distance measurement will increase based on how long you’ve been pedalling for and how fast you’ve been cycling.
Distance is useful in both endurance training and speed training.
If you’re looking to improve your endurance you’re going to be pushing yourself to pedal for longer periods of time to increase the distance you travel.
If you’re looking to improve your sprinting speed you’ll be keeping an eye on the distance you’ve travelled and your goal will be to complete the desired distance in the shortest time possible.
Heart rate is a metric that measures how hard your body is working in order to travel the speed and distance you’re asking of it while you cycle.
The higher your heart rate the harder your heart has to pump in order to supply your body with oxygen in your blood.
As a general rule, the harder you work the higher your heart rate will be.
Heart rate is measured in beats per minute or bpm. The higher the bpm, the higher your heart rate.
This is a valuable metric for figuring out which stage of exercise you’re in.
Begin by calculating what your resting heart rate is.
When your body is completely relaxed you can expect your resting heart rate to be roughly 60-100bpm.
From this, you can calculate your maximum heart rate.
To do this subtract your age from 220.
For example, if you were only 20 years old your maximum heart rate would be 200bpm.
This is the highest your heart rate should ever reach during exercise and to go over this would be dangerous.
Once you know your resting and your maximum heart rates you can calculate what your target heart rate is for medium intensity and high-intensity workouts.
When you’re doing a medium intensity workout your heart rate should be 50-80% of your maximum.
So if your maximum heart rate was 200bpm (as in the example above) you’d be aiming for 100-160bpm.
High-intensity workouts should have you working at 75-85% of your maximum heart rate.
So if your heart rate was 200bpm you’d be aiming for a target heart rate of 150-170bpm.
Not all bikes have a heart rate sensor.
The ones that do will have metal strips on the handlebars or attached to the bike somewhere that you place your fingers and thumb on.
These are pulse rate sensors and they measure how fast your pulse is to help you figure out your heart rate.
Some pulse rate sensors are more accurate than others so use them as a rough estimate only.
A lot of exercise bikes now have a digital display that shows how many calories you’ve burned over the course of your workout.
If your goal is to burn a certain number of calories as opposed to increasing speed, distance or power than this is a good metric to focus on.
In order to figure out the number of calories burned the computer in your indoor bike uses your cadence and RPM alongside your distance and your heart rate.
Together these give the machine a fairly accurate calorie measurement.
Putting These Metrics Together
Once you have a solid understanding of the individual metrics on your indoor bike you can take these and put them together to come up with a successful workout plan that works for you.
If you’re using your indoor bike as a training tool for outdoor marathons or races you’ll find yourself using the majority of these metrics.
You can use the speeds, cadence and RPM measurements in order to calculate just how quickly you’re moving.
The distance measurement comes in handy to plan how far you want to travel and the watts metric shows you how hard you’re working.
An endurance athlete with a marathon in the future will try to increase their distance, speed and cadence while also increasing their watts.
A sprinter might focus on increasing their speed and cadence while paying a little bit of attention to watts and only using distance as a way of gauging the length of their workout.
If you’re using the indoor bike as a way of exercising, losing weight or increasing stamina and speed for other athletic activities then you’ll end up focusing more on your heart rate and calories burned.
Your goal will be to keep your heart rate in the required zone while also lowering it as your cardiovascular endurance improves.
If you have a weight loss goal then your focus may be purely on calories.
If your focus is on cardio you’ll pay attention to your speed and cadence while keeping an eye on heart rate.
Endurance athletes will focus on watts and distance over cadence and heart rate will also come into play.
Your indoor bike provides you with a variety of metrics that are simple to use in order to manage your workout goals.
Focusing on one metric over another will help you improve in different areas; however, they work best when considered together.
Now that you have a greater understanding of your indoor bike metrics you can create individualized goals with an increased ability to track your progress.