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We've all been there - you planned a beautiful cycling session, then your car needs to be taken to the garage, your best friend needs a shoulder to cry on, your significant other has arranged a surprise dinner out.

That one, two, maybe three hour ride has suddenly been reduced to 30 minutes. Never fear - the longest sessions are not always the best!

Here are some ways you can get the most from a 30 minute ride...

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How often do you stop and really focus on your cadence?

Different riders have their own styles - some fantastic (often time trial) riders will tap out a steady 80rpm (revolutions per minute), whilst others might be ticking over at 100rpm.

Best Pedaling Drills to Improve Your Cycling

There isn't a definitive 'right' or 'wrong' - however, 90rpm is the recommended pedaling speed for most riders.

Adjusting the speed at which you pedal isn't about just 'thinking about it' over long rides - you're probably hardwired into your habits and they won't change overnight. You need to practice.

Cadence sessions can be challenging - pedaling fast will make your heart pump hard, and pedaling a high resistance, slowly will get your legs burning. They take a lot of concentration, so short is good!

Here are two examples - if you don't have a cadence sensor, try counting each pedal revolution first to get the 'feel' of fast and slow, then ride with that in mind:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes, don't exclude this because it's a short ride!
  • Do 5 x 20 seconds fast pedaling, 40 seconds easy pedaling
  • Now you're warmed up. Ride at an easy pace, then every 2 minutes, spin your legs as fast as you can, until you start rocking in the saddle - these are called 'spin outs' - then ride as normal
  • Keep this up until you've got 5 minutes left, and cool down - don't exclude the cool down, however tempting!

To work on high cadence and strength - try this - but don't attempt this one if you are struggling from any form of knee niggle:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes, don't exclude this because it's a short ride!
  • Do 5 x 20 seconds fast pedaling, 40 seconds easy pedaling
  • Do 3 sets of: 1 minute pedaling at 100-110prm (or as fast as you can), 1 minute pedaling a high gear at less than 70rpm, 1 minute steady cadence at your 'normal' speed (aim for 90rpm)
  • 10 minute cool down - this is important as high gear intervals put a lot of stress on your knees. Stop if you feel any pain.
bike coffee early morning sunrise early Stop Boredom on Your Commute

Ok - so you don't have time for a calorie blasting, long ride. If you are aiming to lose weight, then a short, fasted ride might have an equally beneficial effect.

Riding fasted - before breakfast - teaches your body to burn through fat - a useful skill for it to learn, especially for endurance athletes who want to be light, and don't want to rely in constant glycogen boosting carb shots throughout their rides.

A fasted ride only needs to be around 30 minutes, and should be at a fairly low intensity. You'll burn fat on the ride, and teach your body to be more efficient on future, long (and well fed) rides. Make sure you have a good breakfast afterwards.

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So you want to really push yourself, in a short space of time?

Hill reps will get your heart beating hard, and help you to build explosive muscle power that you'll be thankful for when you want to sprint, ride flat out, or blast it up a hill. All this in a short 30 minute session*!

Hill reps work your legs, as well as your arms (if you're out the saddle), back, and core - just be careful if you're nursing any niggles, because we are going for intensity here.

  • Warm up - do a full 10 minutes, this is NOT a waste of valuable time, you're going to work hard in your intervals and your muscles need to be ready
  • Find a steep hill (we'd use a longer, shallower hill for endurance efforts, but you did ask for short!)
  • Ride up it, as hard as you possibly can, for anywhere between 20-60 seconds. Note - there's a big difference between 20 seconds, and 60. The shorter end will be providing you with explosive power, the longer end will be going into more of an endurance effort. Both will be beneficial, but consider your goals.
  • Ride back down - this is the recovery. Then, turn back round - and get back up that hill! Focus your eyes on the brow of the hill - it helps!
  • Cool down over 5-10 minutes

(*You might need to do it a few times, perhaps once a week for a month!)

sprint

Another really fun session - fartlek means "speed play" in Swedish, and it is all about playing with speed. Effectively, training is fairly unstructured - you'll ride at a steady pace, then sprint for various landmarks - lightposts, trees and the like.

This is great for developing power, strength, and top end speed. Again, these kind of gains require hard work, in short bursts - you're better off doing 30 minutes well, than putting in mediocre efforts over an hour.

  • Start with a warm up, 5 minutes followed by 5 x 20 second fast cadence, 40 second easy cadence will do.
  • Ride at a steady pace, then choose items along the way to sprint for 20 seconds - aim to do around 10 of these, then cool down. If you want to practice sprinting with less warning, perhaps in quick succession (similar to multiple attacks in a road race), opt for 'red car sprints' - sprinting every time you see a red car. Of course, do be careful in traffic.

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