The transient kinetic behavior of enzyme reactions prior to the establishment of steady state is a major source of mechanistic information, yet this approach has not been utilized for cellulases acting on their natural substrate, insoluble cellulose. Here, we elucidate the pre-steady-state regime for the exo-acting cellulase Cel7A using amperometric biosensors and an explicit model for processive hydrolysis of cellulose. This analysis allows the identification of a pseudo-steady-state period and quantification of a processivity number as well as rate constants for the formation of a threaded enzyme complex, processive hydrolysis, and dissociation, respectively. These kinetic parameters elucidate limiting factors in the cellulolytic process. We concluded, for example, that Cel7A cleaves about four glycosidic bonds/s during processive hydrolysis. However, the results suggest that stalling the processive movement and low off-rates result in a specific activity at pseudo-steady state that is 10–25-fold lower. It follows that the dissociation of the enzyme-substrate complex (half-time of ∼30 s) is rate-limiting for the investigated system. We suggest that this approach can be useful in attempts to unveil fundamental reasons for the distinctive variability in hydrolytic activity found in different cellulase-substrate systems.