Make every mile count: cycling

Supercharge your cycle with these three workouts from coach Tom Hodgkinson.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of riding every mile at the same speed, putting the same effort into every climb and coasting downhill. These three sessions will ensure you extract maximum value from your time on the bike, so when you ride your next sportive, time trial or race, you’ll find yourself able to attack the hills, maintain a faster pace, and keep on riding hard right to the end. Tom Hodgkinson is a British Cycling Level 3 Coach and head coach at Bottom Sprocket @bottomsprocket.

Workout 1: Strength

Low cadence, high gear hill reps are a fantastic way to build cycling specific strength without having to hit the gym. You’ll need a reasonably steep hill that takes at least 5 minutes to climb and a cadence sensor.

Warm-up: Ride for at least 10 minutes, gradually building the effort and include three five-to-10 second surges at the beginning of the final three minutes. Your warm-up should bring you to the bottom of the climb.

Main Set: Ride four 5-minute blocks seated, in a gear that keeps your cadence at 60rpm or below. Keep your core strong and your upper body as relaxed as possible, but the climbs should feel hard. Recover with a 3-minute roll-down spinning your legs.

Cool down: 10 minutes of easy spinning.

Workout 2: Leg Speed

You can do this session on the road, either on the flat or on a gradual downhill, but stationary on rollers is best. If you don’t own rollers, you’re missing out on a key piece of your winter training armoury. Riding on them boosts your balance, bike handling skills and, for pedalling technique and leg speed, they’re impossible to beat.

Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of easy spinning building up to 90rpm.

Main Set: Select a light gear, this session is about leg speed, not strength or power.

  • 3 minutes 90rpm
  • 2 minutes 100rpm
  • 1 minute 110rpm
  • 30 seconds 115rpm
  • 15 seconds 120rpm
  • 15 seconds 100% leg speed but without bobbing in the saddle.

    2 minutes spinning easy

  • 15 seconds 100% leg speed but without bobbing in the saddle.
  • 15 seconds 120rpm
  • 30 seconds 115rpm
  • 1 minute 110rpm
  • 2 minutes 100rpm
  • 2 minutes spinning easy
  • Repeat

Cool Down: 10 minutes easy spinning.

Workout 3: Sweet-Spot Intervals

If you only do one bike session during the week to compliment a longer weekend ride, bang for your buck, this will give you the best returns. It’s called Sweet-Spot because it stimulates a decent training effect, primarily boosting threshold, but without requiring extended periods of recovery. You can do this session on the road or on a turbo trainer.

Warm-up: Ride for at least 10 minutes, gradually building the effort and include three five-to-10 second surges at the beginning of the final three minutes.

Main Set: Ride two 20-minute blocks at ‘Sweet-Spot’ with five minutes easy spinning recovery between. This is at the upper end of your Tempo speed and the lower end of Threshold (or upper Zone 3 – mid Zone 4 for heart rate or power). If you’re training on feel and perceived exertion, you’ll have to be concentrating on your effort and any conversation will be in short clipped sentences.

Cool Down: 5 minutes of easy spinning.

Words: Nik Crook Image: Kuznetcov Konstantin/Shutterstock