Cycle training plans sound like hard work; especially if you are the type of rider who just wants to get out and have fun on your road bike. However, there is a strong case for having some kind of structure to your riding schedule. This article will consider the advantages of having a training plan and why training makes rides even more fun.
Cycle Training Plans for Beginners – are they necessary?
First-time road bike riders often have a steep learning curve. A quick survey around the team brought up some interesting stories. One of our team returned to cycling in 2014 aged 45. Prior to their shiny new road bike, they had ridden a mountain bike to and from work; a round trip of fourteen miles. Twenty-two years had elapsed between owning the two bikes, so their first ride came as a bit of a shock.
“ I bought my new road bike on new years eve day 2014. I was three stone overweight and had been battling depression and stress-induced anxiety for some years. A combination of a high-pressure sales job and the breakdown of a seven-year relationship had left me broken. Cycling was to be my route to feeling better about myself…”
Sean H. Plymouth
So what happened?
With the memory of a relatively fast fourteen-mile daily commute echoing around his head, Sean set off in gale-force winds and horizontal rain. Four miles later, he ground to a halt. He was soaked, exhausted and discouraged. He still had to ride back home.
Does a cycle training plan help?
Many new cyclists give up because the effort of keeping up with more experienced riders or overcoming personal resistance seems too hard. A cycle training plan can be tailored to any ability level and help you advance quickly and measure your improvement.
Thankfully for Sean, he is stubborn enough not to quit. Having dried out from the freezing rain, Sean set about googling various cycling subjects. One of the first sponsored ads to pop up was Strava. Having installed the app, Sean made a number of interesting observations. Here are the points he found to be of interest as a beginner.
- Riders of his age cycle 100 miles plus in a day
- Riders measure performance indicators like heart rate and cycling cadence
- Communities of riders exist in all areas of the country and they ride together regularly.
- Apps like Strava show advancement over time.
When we look at Sean’s experience, many of these points seem obvious, especially to experienced riders. Unfortunately, however, adults often hang on to childlike notions about subjects, and many riders who return to cycling in adult life have little idea of the basics. A training plan can help, and the good news is that cycle training can still be fun.
What does a cycle training plan achieve?
Two of the main reasons for adopting a training plan are to make sustainable gains in fitness and to prevent injury. By setting achievable goals, you can monitor progress and enjoy hitting milestones, both of which increase the fulfilment cycling can bring. In addition, restricting certain aspects of riding, like cadence, heart rate, and distance, can help avoid injuries caused by overriding.
The best way to stick to restrictions like these is by following a mentoring plan. Whether it be an app or a cycling coach, having accountability is a significant factor in progress. Even making intention statements to ourselves is a start. A cycle training plan can be as simple as:
- I aim to ride twenty miles my week four.
- I aim to increase my average ride speed to 14mph by month six
- I will keep my range of effort to specific zones when out for rides.
While these could be viewed as goals rather than a formulated plan, these concepts form the basis of many basic cycle training plans. Using a cycle computer and GPS tracking will add a significant level of control over your riding, resulting in longer, more comfortable rides. In addition, when used in conjunction with a cycling app like Strava, you will quickly build an accurate picture of your fitness levels.
Here is a quick rundown of two main techniques that any beginner should understand, even if formulating a cycle training plan for leisure rides.
Cadence is the rate at which you turn the pedals, measured in revolutions per minute. Depending on what gear you are in, pedalling can be easy or difficult. You may have found yourself in the wrong gear pedalling furiously and getting nowhere. Equally, you will have been in too low a gear and barely been able to turn the pedals.
There is always an optimum gear where you can spin the pedals at a rate that drives forward motion whilst helping you maintain a consistent level of breathing and heart rate. Then, as the terrain changes, all you have to do is find the gear that keeps you in that happy zone. For most riders, a cadence of 75RPM to 85RPM is ideal. To measure pedal revolutions, you will need a cadence monitor fitted to your bike.
Heart Rate Zones Cycling
Heart rate zones are specific levels of effort which result in defined amounts of power output. By maintaining your optimum heart rate over a distance, you can get further without burning out. For example, you may dip into high heart rate zones as you climb a steep hill and drop into low heart rate zones as you coast for a while. The idea with heart rate zones is to stay in your most efficient zone for as long as possible.
If you are training for cycle fitness, you will deliberately work harder for some percentage of the ride and hit your peak for a fraction of the ride. However, riding for endurance is all about expending your energy at the most efficient rate. After all, you want to get to the end of the ride.
Maybe you will have seen the tour De France or other competitive cycling events? The likes of Chris Froome and Elisa Balsamo have cycling coaches, often ex riders themselves. Is it essential for a leisure rider or non-competitive rider to engage a coach?
The short answer is yes. There are many reasons why having a cycling coach will assist you in your journey, even as a beginner. The most pertinent reasons are:
- Avoiding injury
- Accountability to hit goals
- Experienced and informed data
- Training for specific purposes. (First 50-mile ride, First sportive and first multi-day endurance ride. Even your first cycling holiday).
In 2018, Sean had been off cycling for around six months. Having committed to riding to the alps and back, he engaged a cycling coach. You can find out what Sean had to say here.
Cyclxr Cycle Training Plans
We are so impressed with the gains made when using a dedicated cycle training plan that we have teamed up with British cycling coach Grant Goodman to bring Cyclxr readers their very own cycle training plan.
If you want to take advantage of one of the three available plans, all you need to do is sign up for our monthly newsletter to the right of this article. We will then forward your details of three exclusive plans covering “Beginners fitness”, “First fifty-mile ride”, and “First endurance event – 100 miles plus.”
Cyclxr is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date and informative information. Our reviews and techniques are aimed at road cyclists who want to gain the most enjoyment out of cycling while showing consistent improvement. Of course, technology and training all have a part in that, but our mantra is simple.
Enjoy the ride.