Have you just started riding and you don’t know how to improve? Or you’ve been away from cycling with private or work commitments, or perhaps too much beer and TV, and you are thinking of making a come-back, but don’t know how? Then here is a guide to get you back on the road of the dirt track. At this point you have your bike, you have all the equipment you need, and you are happy with your riding position on the bike, what is the next step? First, you have to work out when you have time to spare for your cycling. We all have busy lives, and we can all find excuses to do anything but take some exercise. So, set time aside for your cycling, if it’s when you get up in the morning, before work, or a lunch break, or after work in the evening, whenever it’s going to be that’s THE time you’re going out on the bike, NO EXCUSES!
How Much Time?
What amount of time can you spare for your cycling? How much time do you want to save for your cycling? If you’re going to do an hour a day, then you will find the time. And if you can stretch that to two hours later, that’s better, basically the more, the better.
Here is the Warning!
How Long and How Hard?
If you can do half an hour at a reasonable speed without getting out of breath then that’s a great start. From there build up by doing a little more every day until you are doing an hour. Then, you can do more if you have the time. If not, don’t worry, an hour every day is enough to bring your fitness on in a progressive steady way. Once you are riding for an hour a day (5 or 6 days a week) then you can change the program a bit to the next step.
Start to Ramp It Up a Bit
So you have built up your riding to an hour, and it feels smooth, and you want more, OK, do you have the time? Yes, great, with the next move you will not do more time but will do it differently. Instead of doing an hour every ride every day, now do two hours on alternate days, two hours on Monday, two hours on Tuesday, and two hours on Friday or Saturday. On the other days, take it easy and spend time with the family or do the thing you should have been doing when you were out on your bike.
What’s the Next Step?
You should be getting pretty fit by now if you have to stick to the plan, remember an hour is enough, don’t feel guilty if you cant move up to two hours, keep at an hour, but try to get out every day for that time, and you will notice a difference, if you have moved on to the two hour rides then great, we can only do what we can in the time available. You should still be riding within yourself and not getting out of breath, but you should be fit enough to start trying a little harder.
Pick one day a week you will be able to rest after your hard ride.
On the hard day of ride, you are going to try harder. On the little climbs ride hard, so that you are out of breath by the top. Start by doing this on one or two climbs on the first hard day, building up to riding hard on all the little hills and resting in between.
If you live in a flat area, pick lamposts or bus stops to ride hard between. You can step up your training like this if you are riding one hour or two. However, be careful not to push too hard. Make sure you have warmed up properly, and remember you only need to do one hard ride a week.
How Do I Know if I am Improving?
You should feel that your ride is getting easier. You should be doing the same ride faster and you should be recovering quicker and feeling fresher after the ride and the next day. It’s a good idea to take your pulse in the morning. Average resting pulse rate is around 72 beats per minute. Make a note of yours, and it should be getting lower as you get fitter. If you are tired or have a cold or flu then it will usually go up. It’s a good guide to not go training that day and have a day off.
The Scientific Method
The best way to train scientifically is by your pulse. You can’t take your pulse as you are riding as this is a dangerous, much better idea to have a pulse monitor.
You need to know what your maximum heart rate is. This can be measured precisely in a laboratory, but an approximation is 220 minus your age. So an 18-year-old would have a maximum of 202 beats per minute and should train at 70% which would be 141 beats. Meaning, on a long ride, he would ride at around 140-150 bpm. If the 18-year-old or any of us was to ride at a higher pulse, we would get tired quicker. However, to ride at this higher pulse for a short time is interval training, and once you get fit, this is the best way to improve.
To ride between 50% and 60% is the best fat burning rate. On a regular ride, you will find you cover all these pulse ranges. A pulse monitor can be used to fine-tune your training and keep a record of your rides.
Four Season Training
If you want to move on, then read our “Four Season Training” article. Start from the easy autumn section through to the harder sections. Adapt this information depending on whether you want to race or do endurance rides or ride for fun. And the most important thing, HAVE FUN!