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Perceived exertion and the preferred cycling cadence. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 942-948, 1998.To determine whether an association exists between peripheral comfort level, as reflected by differentiated RPE measures, and the preferred cadences of subjects who differed in cycling experience and fitness level.Twelve experienced cyclists (C), ten runners (R), and ten less-trained noncyclists (LT), all of whom were male, pedaled at three power outputs (C, R: 100, 150, 200 W; LT: 75, 100, 150 W) and six cadences (50, 65, 80, 95, 110 rpm, and their freely chosen cadence) for 5 min per condition. Differentiated ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded during the fifth minute of the exercise. It was hypothesized that the preferred cadence selected by C, R, and LT would be the same as the cadence at which the peripheral RPE was minimized. Comparison of means failed to support this hypothesis.Irrespective of rating scale (peripheral, central, overall), the cadences at which RPE was minimized were lower than the preferred cadences, except for LT at 150 W, where there was no significant difference between the preferred cadence and the cadences at which the peripheral and overall RPE were minimized. C tended toward a more curvilinear RPE-cadence relationship compared with R and LT. Mean data for all groups showed that only the peripheral RPE decreased from 50 to 65 rpm, whereas peripheral, overall, and central RPE remained essentially unchanged from 65 to 80 rpm but increased from 80 to 110 rpm. There was a trend for the cadences at which RPE was minimized for C to be higher than the cadences that minimized RPE in either R or LT. For all groups, the cadences at which peripheral RPE was minimized were significantly higher than the cadences at which either the overall or central ratings were minimized.The small magnitudes of change in the RPE score across cadence, particularly in C and R, suggest that RPE may not be a critical variable in cadence selection during submaximal power output cycling.