Tuesday training 3 - On the level - Bike Magic

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**How To

Tuesday training 3 – On the level

Right then speed cadets, we’ve spent the last two weeks using our brains more than our brawn. I know this will come as a shock to some, but hopefully you’ll now have an idea about what you want from your year, and how long we’ve realistically got to spend on achieving those aims. For the first week of actual training plans we’ve got some sessions that will help you work out what fitness base you’ve carried through winter. This is essential starting information whatever your aims are.

For starters we’ve worked on an optimistic ‘two rides in the week and a longer one at the weekend’ schedule. If you can only manage one ride midweek and one at the weekend, then just do the first of the training rides, as this will give you most benefit.

NB. Before we go any further, if you have any reason to doubt that your body can handle exercise for any medical, hereditary or other reason then get an MOT from your GP. He’ll be able to give you a gentler starter programme to prepare you for more strenuous work.

We’ve also contacted the guinea pigs we’ll be using for our ‘fly on the wall’ fitumentary as they prepare to slim down, speed up, or get ready to race the Red Bull and next week will see the first of the more specifically tailored sessions.

Session 1: “The not quite ‘Ow!’ hour” What?

This is a classic session for finding out your optimum training level.

  • Warm up gradually for ten minutes until you’ve got a bit of a sweat on and are ready to rock.
  • Then increase speed until you hit the level you reckon you can hold for 40 minutes of riding. If you need a clue – it’s somewhere between the point at which your legs start to burn, and the point where you start having to think about trying. You shouldn’t have enough breath to hold a conversation, but your shouders shouldn’t be rolling and you shouldn’t have gritted teeth.
  • If you go over hills, don’t blow your legs up over the climb, but make sure you keep the pressure on down the far side.
  • Don’t let your mind wander, keep thinking about the task in hand and concentrate on smooth pedal strokes and even speed.
  • As you pass the 30 minute mark you should hopefully have settled into a good rythmn and fast cruising speed. Try and concentrate on what the speed feels like in your legs and your head, and what gears you are using. If you have a heart rate monitor note what it’s saying.
  • Don’t try and accelerate to a flying finish, just maintain the pace to the end of the 40 minutes and then ride home gradually reducing your effort.

If it helps, write down what it felt like, Heart rate (if available) and where you got to in 40 minutes. Also make a note of what weather was like, what bike you were using etc. so the test can be repeated at regular intervals to check progress.


As the session is about consistency, the fewer interruptions there are the better. A flat road route is ideal, with left turning junctions if possible, so you don’t have to stop or slow down as much.

A flat off-road route will work but changing trail conditions will make it harder to compare re-runs round the same route. You should also avoid gates and slow technical sections as they’ll interrupt your rhythm.

Hills are great for raising the heart rate but make steady state riding nigh on impossible, so for this ride, avoid them wherever you can.


As it’s a strenuous session that requires concentration, do it while you’re fresh. If that means early morning then fine, but lengthen the warm up. Otherwise avoid nights you’ve worked late or had a particularly foul day.


You might be able to go hard for a few minutes, but few people will be able to push the pace much over half an hour. As a result the speed you can sustain at the end of 40 minutes is a good gauge of the speed at which your body stops burning fuel efficiently and starts to struggle as you run out of oxygen.

This “Aerobic threshold” is the keystone of any training plan to improve speed, power, long distance capability and all round fitness. Identifying what it feels like is therefore essential.

Session 2: Calorie cruising What?

A nice steady ride, designed to train your body to save sugar and cook with lard instead.

  • Basically head out for as long as you have time for (at least an hour) at a comfortable conversation pace, and avoid getting excited.
  • If you’re riding with mates let them charge off on the hills and spin gently up them, but feel free to swing through the technical stuff in a relaxed manner. Bottom line is that you should be pedalling hard enough to keep warm but not so your legs ache and you’re out of breath.

Anywhere you like, but avoid steep uphills, or anything that might cause a sweat.


This isn’t a totally effortless trundle – think of it as a brisk walk, rather than a run – so you can do it pretty much anytime.


By keeping intensity relatively low, your body can answer most of your energy needs by drawing on fat reserves. As well as helping you shift lard it also tunes the cruising engines that propel you between bursts of off-road excitement. That way you’ll have more sugar on hand when you really need it. You’ll also be less likely to suffer a sudden ‘bonk’ at the end of long rides when you switch to fat reserves when sugar runs out.

The weekend

Well done if you manage to complete either of these rides during the week. The calorie cruiser shouldn’t have tired you too much, so you’ll still have energy for a good weekend ride.

Do whatever you feel like, but while you’re riding concentrate on the two different levels you are starting to learn about. By working out how much time you spend at each intensity, you’ll have an idea what direction you need to concentrate your training in.

Anyway, have a good one and we’ll see you next week, where we’ll start looking at case studies and specifics.

Coach Potato’s Chip Tips Alternative exercise ready reckoner

Sometimes you can’t get out on a bike but you can work up a sweat some other way. How long should you spend on other exercises to get the same burn time as your cycling session?

  • Running:
    The hardest work of all as you have to keep bouncing that bodyweight back up. Half the session duration.
  • Walking:
    A steady stroll is still a work out, but double or triple times compared to cycling.
  • Swimming:
    You’re using muscles often neglected by riding but it’s great exercise. An hour in the pool is roughly equivalent to an hour on the pedals.
  • Racket sport (squash, tennis, badminton):
    Depends how hard you play, but an hours smash and volley will be as taxing as an hours singletrack thrash.
  • Gym cardio machine work:
    If you can stand the boredom then training times are about the same.
  • Gym weights:
    Heavy weights can’t be compared, but a high rep, lightweight session will work you out at the same rate as a hard bike ride.
  • Darts:
    Given the likely arena don’t even think about calling this exercise.


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