Fitness: Make your bike time count

By Joe Beer | Monday, January 28, 2008 12.00am

Simply riding your bike will help improve your fitness and your handling skills, but there are training techniques you can adopt to make sure you get a decent workout, whether you're riding for two hours or five minutes.

Here's a menu of simple but effective sessions which can boost your fitness rate of return. From a short trip to work where you spin and grin, to a weekend ride with set intervals, it all gets easier when you know you are using your time effectively. Your power-building commute or inspirational indoor ride awaits you...

5 minutes

Spin to shops, errands, short commute or brief indoor spin in normal clothes on rollers or indoor trainer: Keep the intensity light as you have little time to warm up muscles and joints. Keep cadence high but purposeful - press and lift - don't be lazy and grind a low cadence. Enjoy what brief time you have, but fend off the urge to go flat out. 

Benefits: You are in touch with the bike so it reminds you of handling skills and reminds the legs about going in circles - vital for good coordination.It may be a very small fix but the fun of just riding can be enough to keep cold turkey at bay and highlight any mechanicals you need to sort before the next real ride

15 minutes

Short commute: After 5 mins spinning, throw in 10-second sprints from stops or every two minutes, when safe to do so

Indoor ride: As above warm up, except close your eyes and focus on counting 15 seated powerful revolutions every 2 mins. Ensure last 2 mins are light spinning

Benefits: With more time, you can have concerted 10-second efforts that push the muscle fibres at top power output but are too brief to cause excessive fatigue. It can be fun sprinting, knowing that you are boosting your metabolism and power in a very short time

30 minutes

Commute: Use the morning ride to focus on high cadence smooth pedalling (95-105rpm).

Evening ride: 5 mins steady riding; 5 mins with a 10-second modest sprint every min; 15 mins using any hills or headwind to push a big gear at 60rpm; 5 mins spin down.

Indoors: 5 mins steady riding; 5 mins with 10-second seated sprint every min; 15 mins using a high resistance to push a big gear at 60 rpm; 5 mins spin down

Benefits: Combining short sprints in the warm-up with low cadence power work gives the legs a good going over, recruiting various muscle fibres and developing your ability to pedal smoothly. It's not something to do every ride but if you've been too used to staying on the small chainring, pushing a big gear can bring a new strength to your

1 hour

Training ride: First 20 mins flat terrain light gear at 90-100rpm focusing on smooth pedal action; core 20 mins rolling terrain on big chainring pushing at 60-70rpm but keeping your upper body still; 10 mins with explosive 10-second hill efforts every 2 minutes; 10 mins cool down spin. If this is your commute, do the above on your way home two or three days a week, and on the other journeys keep a moderate to high cadence with smooth pedal action (90-110 rpm)

Benefits: Combining various amounts of effort and different terrain means many muscles are trained, and all energy systems are used in your 60 minutes.This should not be the only session you do, but complete it two or three times a week and it's very effective

2 hours

Weekend training ride:

Indoor ride: Some people have to do indoor workouts due to location, time or childcare. Keep it varied to maintain interest

For simplicity: 30 mins warm-up of steady to moderate riding;  1-hour workout (below); 30 mins light spinning

Benefits: Longer periods in the saddle teach the body to tap fats and lactate for fuel alongside glycogen (carbohydrate). Keeping your focus on cadence stops the gradual decline of rpm that can come when fatigue slowly builds.Sometimes a longer ride means more variety of terrain, which will ultimately improve your handling. To get the most from this, occasionally pick a very technical and hilly course to vary your skills; the benefits are that no road ever surprises you in the future

Remember! The 75% rule...

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