In the past, only pro cyclists with dedicated teams could see detailed numbers, charts, and analyses on their riding.
Nowadays we all can, thanks to affordable and user-friendly modern technology.
Cycling cadence sensors are one such piece of kit, which tell you your exact pedaling cadence throughout every ride, helping you maximize your training and development as a cyclist.
But with a wealth of options when shopping for digital cycling technology, it can be difficult to know what is worth your purchase, and which product might be right for you.
Fear not! This guide will get you up to speed with the best cycling cadence sensors on the market right now. We’ll be covering:
- Why Track Cycling Cadence?
- How To Properly Track Cycling Cadence
- BikeTips Recommends: The 5 Best Cycling Cadence Sensors
Let’s dive in!
Why Track Cycling Cadence?
Cycling cadence is the rate you complete full revolutions of your pedals, typically measured as revolutions per minute (RPM). Cycling cadence sensors electronically measure and track this metric.
For the serious cyclist, it’s well worth logging and analyzing your cadence.
Accurate cadence data tells you a lot about how you cycle, and how you can improve. For example:
- Cycling at a high cadence (80+ rpm) relies on your cardiovascular fitness and suits sprint cycling.
- Cycling at a lower cadence (50-80 rpm) relies more on the strength of your muscles.
- A very high cadence (100+ rpm) is often inefficient and can tire you out more quickly. Plus, few can maintain proper cycling form at this rate.
- Too low a cadence (<50 rpm) means you might want to drop a gear! Soupy pedaling in a hard gear can cause muscle soreness and strains.
Finally, data shows that cadences in the upper range tend to correlate to higher performance. Cyclists looking to improve all-round should consider training to increase their cadence.
- Check out our Complete Guide to Cycling Cadence here!
How To Properly Track Cycling Cadence
The answer here is pretty straightforward: the best, most convenient, and most accurate way to track your cadence is with a digital cadence sensor.
These tiny pieces of kit tally your revolutions per minute, which are then fed back to your cycling computer or smartphone.
So with a good cycling cadence sensor, you’ll have complete data telling you your typical cycling cadence on every ride, and those cadence levels that you can develop and improve at.
BikeTips Recommends: The 5 Best Cycling Cadence Sensors
Best Power Couple: Garmin Cadence Sensor 2
- Prestige Brand
- Great Connectivity
- IPX7 Waterproofing Certification
Long considered the Gold Standard for cycling tech, Garmin cadence sensors are accurate, reliable, and easy to use.
Sturdy rubber straps mount the cadence sensor to your left crank arm and can be attached and ready to go in under 30 seconds.
This also means you can easily pop your sensor off one bike and onto another before your ride, handy if you have multiple bikes, or a friend looking to borrow your sensor for the day.
A nice feature is that the unit powers on and begins recording automatically when your crank arm moves. The sensor is powered by near-universal CR2032 batteries, which are easily replaced and last roughly 300 riding hours.
Where previous models used ANT+ technology to interface with your cycling computer, this model connects via Bluetooth and ANT+ simultaneously.
The sensor can interface with the platform of your choice, whether it be Strava or MapMyRide when you’re on the go, Zwift when you’re in your home, or something else.
The sensor is IPX7 certified, meaning it can withstand submersion in up to 1 m of water for up to 30 minutes. Heavy rain or snow on your ride won’t be an issue!
The unit works independently: constantly tracking and recording in the background, before uploading data when next paired to your device. It will also automatically factor in stops to create ride segments.
This unit is also frequently sold in a bundle along with the excellent Garmin Speed Sensor 2 for complete data including speed and distance traveled.
Working together, the sensors will then compare rotations with wheel circumference to give a distance traveled calculation that’s more accurate than typical GPS-based Garmin data. Particularly useful when riding out in the sticks with patchy GPS!
With the Cadence Sensor 2 weighing 11 g and the Speed Sensor 19 g, combined with their sleek drag-minimizing design, you shouldn’t notice them holding you back at all.
Best Power Couple (Runner Up): Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor
- Lighter and Cheaper than the Garmin
- IPX7 Waterproofing Certification
- Dedicated Wahoo App
A great alternative that’s lighter and slightly cheaper, this Wahoo cadence sensor weighs 7 g, is part of a similar speed and cadence sensor pair, and boasts many similar feature to the Garmin option.
The Wahoo RPM Sensor has universal Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity with cycling computers, devices, and platforms. It also interfaces with the dedicated Wahoo fitness app.
Both the Garmin and Wahoo cadence sensors mount on sturdy rubber straps which are easy to install, making moving your sensors between bikes quick and easy. And just like the Garmin, the Wahoo RPM is rated IPX7 waterproof.
The sensors will instantly power up when movement is detected in the wheel hub or crank arm. The Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor records and processes your ride, which is then uploaded automatically when you’re finished.
And, of course, it pairs well with the Wahoo RPM Speed Sensor for the full cadence, speed, and distance treble, weighing just 14g.
A unique feature is the Wahoo cadence sensor’s interfacing options with the KICKR smart trainer – the sensors are able to operate with the trainer in four modes: Resistance Levels, Erg, Simulation, and Manual.
So the Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor, and its sister Speed Sensor, are another great option for getting your cadence data.
Best All-In-One Cadence Sensor: Wahoo Blue SC
- Integrated Speed and Cadence Sensor
- Simplifies your Bike Tech
- Slightly Fiddly Installation
Alternatively, Wahoo’s Blue SC is a nifty, up-market all-in-one package that simultaneously measures both speed and cadence from a single unit.
Accordingly, it is bulkier, coming in at 36 grams. It’s a solid pick for indoor training, but still entirely viable for all types of cycling.
The sensor sits on the bike frame, mounted with a rubber band or zip tie to the rear chainstay. Magnets mounted to a wheel spoke and the crank arm pass by the sensor, which measures speed and cadence.
Installation can be a bit fiddly. Mounting the required magnets to your spokes isn’t easy, and you’ll need to take the pedal off entirely to fit a magnet to your crank arm.
So another slight drawback is that once your sensor is set up, you might want to leave it where it is, so no quick and convenient swapping between bikes or lending your kit out.
Once you’re all set up the sensor will detect both the passage of your crank arm and your wheel spokes, collecting and processing both data sets at once.
The all-in-one nature of this unit is neat and certainly streamlines the amount of tech you’ve got mounted to your bike, but it’s worth factoring in that it’s bulkier than some other options.
Best On A Budget: iGPSPORT Cadence Sensor
- Great Value
- Super Lightweight
- Strong Connectivity
iGPSPORT’s Cadence Sensor weighs a feather-light 7.8 g, despite coming in as the cheapest on our list.
Depending on where it is mounted on the bike, and what mode you set it to, this device can be used as either a speed or cadence sensor (although not as both simultaneously!).
So as long as you don’t need both sets of data for the entirety of your ride, you get a little more flexibility out of an affordable unit.
The unit uses CR2025 batteries, but as the computer chip is comparatively simpler and less energy-demanding, it holds onto its battery more efficiently than some pricier rivals.
iGPSPORT’s sensor also connects via Bluetooth and ANT+ to your devices and is compatible with Wahoo Fitness, Zwift, and Bkool.
Best Indoor Cadence Sensor: Magene S3+ Cycling and Cadence Sensor
- Indoor-Use Only
- Marathon Battery Life
- Strong Connectivity
Like the iGPSPORT unit, the Magene S3+ can be either a speed or cadence sensor – though switching modes requires reinstalling the battery.
Magene’s sensor weighs 8.8 g and is rated IP66, meaning it is totally dust resistant and can withstand some exposure to water, but not total submersion. However, this is less of a concern on the S3+, as it can only be used on indoor trainers.
Using dual Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, it interfaces with most devices and training apps.
The device uses CR2032 batteries and boasts an enormous 500-hour battery life due to its simple functionality.
Whilst the Magene S3+ is certainly a great option for the home trainer or Zwift sessions, you’ll want to look elsewhere if you’re looking to measure your cadence in the great outdoors.