The ideal warm-up

The best way to get ready for your next event

The length and intensity of your ride dictates that of your warm-up

How should you warm up before you race? That depends, says Ric Stern, senior coach at cycling coaching company


“While it’s possible to go for a ride without warming up, for a race or fast-starting sportive, it’s essential, and should be part physiological, part psychological and part ‘engineering’,” he says.

Physiological warm-up

Don’t static stretch pre-ride – warm up on a bike. “Research supports ‘heavy’ exercise before a main exercise bout,” says Stern.

“The shorter and faster the race, the longer the warm-up, and more intense the ‘heavy’ efforts. Longer events might not need a warm-up unless they start fast, like a road race, which needs an intense warm-up.”


“A warm-up can help you prepare mentally for the job ahead and where you do it can help. For example, for a crit do at least part of the warm-up on the circuit,” Stern explains.

“This will help you learn lines, speeds and braking points. For a road race, warm up on the circuit with the warm-up routine below if possible. For a TT, it’s often best to isolate yourself by warming up on a turbo trainer using the warm-up below while listening to music.”


“It’s vital to leave some time to making sure your bike is working correctly,” says Stern.

“Check the brakes, wheels, quick-release levers and gears. Also check you have the right drink, food and bottles, plus for sportives, a pump, tubes and patch kit.”

Ric Stern’s example warm-up

  • Five minutes easy pedalling. Check that your bike works properly!
  • Five minutes at heart rate zone 1, building to zone 2
  • Five minutes at zone 3
  • 30 seconds easy
  • Two relatively hard three-minute sessions (around 10-mile TT effort) with two minutes easy between efforts. If you’re warming up it could take a few minutes for your HR to catch up – even at above race effort. Aim for the intensity of 10-mile pace, which might look too easy on your heart rate monitor at first.
  • Five minutes easy pedalling
  • Two ‘moderate’ sprints of five seconds each, for any event that may include a sprint in it
  • Five minutes easy pedalling
  • Ten minutes resting (not exercising)