5 effective ride-to-work workouts

Double up and add some fun and fitness to your commute

For many cyclists, the daily ride to and from work is the best – and often only – riding opportunity of the day. With this in mind, many use this time as a chance to get some training done on the bike.

To be clear, we're absolutely not suggesting that you take risks on the road, but by mixing up the pace, effort and intensity of your ride when it's appropriate to do so, you can turn a commute into a great training session.

Riding through traffic is inevitably stop-start in nature, so use this to your advantage, focussing on high-intensity speed and power intervals in between pauses. Of course, you should never ride through red lights — instead, use them and other forced stops for trackstand practice, followed by explosive sprint starts.

5 effective ride-to-work workouts

Short interval repetitions like these will improve lactic acid tolerance and will recruit and train your fast-twitch, glycolytic muscle fibres — in other words, the ones that don’t need oxygen from the lungs to function. 

Here are five suggested workouts you can do on your daily bicycle commute.

1. Sprint training

While interval ‘reps’ will increase your ability to rise to tough challenges, all-out sprint repetitions will help to increase your flat-out speed and power. 

The difference between sprints and intervals is in the length of recovery between efforts — with sprint training, you should leave between five and 20 minutes between bursts, whether that’s a sprint up through the gears from the lights, or chasing down that fakenger on a singlespeed up ahead. 

Intervals are a series of all-out efforts with short recovery periods in between— this could be a predetermined section of lights or junctions that you sprint away from. 

2. Fartlek intervals

Alternatively, let the traffic and road conditions dictate the timing and duration of your sprints. 

Roughly translating from Sweedish as ‘speed play’, the fartlek interval workout relies on randomly occurring and lasting efforts that you take on at about 80 percent of your maximum — of course, only where safe — and works your body’s aerobic and anaerobic systems.

On a commute, this might mean sprinting away from lights or junctions, trying to keep up with traffic for 30 seconds before backing off and sitting up, or until the next red light or traffic jam makes you stop. 

Repeat this throughout your commute in a series of three to five sprints, varying the length of sprint and the length of recovery in between.

3. Cadence intervals

In any of the above sprint exercises, stop changing up the gears early as you speed up and add the extra pace with extra pedalling speed. Focus on your technique too by staying seated and concentrating on keeping your upper body stable to avoid rocking or bouncing. 

Pedalling more quickly increases your core strength
Pedalling more quickly increases your core strength

When doing cadence intervals, try to spin up to above 100rpm, or about 10 percent higher than your normal pedalling cadence. This workout improves your core strength, pedalling technique and cadence at all speeds. It’ll also help to improve your endurance and acceleration in the long run as well.

4. Get up early and go for a longer ride

There's little as satisfying as getting to show off the ride you've been on long before most will even be awake
There's little as satisfying as getting to show off the ride you've been on long before most will even be awake

Not all training has to be about hard regimes of predetermined intervals and efforts — getting in a solid block of 'base miles' can also do wonders for your overall fitness. 

We're big fans of the #AMKMKlub here at BikeRadar, with tagging on even an extra hours riding before work enough to get a decent ride in. 

Most importantly of course, you'll get the smug satisfaction of sharing your efforts online long before most will even be awake — a win-win in our books. 

5. The Food Chain Number game

Be honest, no one likes being overtaken or ‘dropped’, and this is the origin of the now somewhat legendary Food Chain Number game. 

According to ChrisLS on the now 3294-page-long thread (as of the 19/07/17) Silly Commuting Racing in the Commuting section of our forum, the FCN game is defined as this: "Dropping/pulling anyone higher in the Food Chain Number makes you stronger and more attractive. Getting dropped or trying and failing to keep up with anyone lower means your soul hires a kudos remover to lower your self worth."

Dropping this bike won't earn you any points
Dropping this bike won't earn you any points

The delightfully convoluted full ranking system is on the thread, from scooters at the top to shopping bikes with baskets at the bottom. There are also FCN adjusters, which add shame or kudos points to your ranking such as being overtaken by a beard, or overtaking someone with aerobars or Lycra.

Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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