track road cycling fitness exercise

Kerry Bircher, head coach at women’s focused training company Revolution Cycles gives us a number of workouts to help us become faster on the bike...

It is winter time and you have been focusing on improving your endurance with longer bikes rides at a steady pace. After several weeks of building up your mileage with low intensity rides, you have started to see some improvements and feel comfortable in your aerobic zone, with less fatigue.

Once the base work is done, it is important to pedal out of your comfort zone and expose your legs to some harder training to improve your speed and ensure that you don’t get stuck at one ‘set pace’.

To add more structure and pace, choose a couple of midweek bike rides, add some variety and you should start noticing improvements in your cadence, accelerations and overall responsiveness. Here are some speed workouts to help increase your pace on the bike, and put yourself ahead of the bunch.

track road cycling fitness exercise

There are two ways to increase your speed on the bike: push bigger gears or increase your cadence. (Cadence is the number of revolutions of the crank per minute otherwise known as RPM and roughly speaking, this is the rate at which a cyclist is pedalling/turning the pedals). If you tend to have a relatively slow leg turnover on the bike, upping your RPM slightly above normal while staying in the same gear, can dramatically increase your power and speed.

Whether you are a newcomer to cycling, ride sportives, time trial or road race, learning to pedal quickly will enable you to hold a faster speed without draining so much energy out of your legs and will develop a faster and more efficient pedal stroke.

* If you are serious about improving your cycling then I would recommend investing in a cadence meter which attaches to your bike and will be an invaluable tool to help you monitor your cadence. If you don't have one though, you can measure your cadence by counting how many times one knee rises during a 30-second interval, then double this number and you have your revolutions per minute.

This high-cadence training drill will help to develop a faster leg speed and a more efficient cycling style.

Fast feet workout: Choose a flat (ish) route and warm up for at 15 - 20 minutes at your normal cadence. Gradually increase your RPM until you start to "bounce" in the saddle and at this point you start to reduce your cadence slightly so that you no longer bounce. Sustain this higher cadence for 1 or 2 minutes before gradually slowing back down to your normal rate for 5 minutes before trying again, aiming for 3-6 sets over the course of your ride. Cool down for 15 minutes.

two caucasian sports women exercising outside.horizontal image

Nope, I haven’t made up a rude word! Fartlek, which means “speed play" in Swedish is a form of training developed in……. Sweden - in other words, you ‘play with your speed’ with unorganized intervals.

The bulk of the training session is within your comfortable endurance (aerobic) zone but the intensity or speed of your cycling varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress. The important thing to note is that Fartlek is totally unstructured, meaning no set interval times or intensities or terrain limitations which makes this a very versatile form of training.

Group ride: Before you start your training ride, the group decides on an ‘acceleration marker’ ie. a red post box, speed limit sign or blue car. Depending on the group size, when an acceleration marker is noticed, any rider can accelerate away from the pack and lead the interval as long as she is able. For road safety reasons, the riders behind don’t pass the lead rider, but sit in behind holding onto the wheel in front. When the lead rider is through, she will sit up to begin recovery, and the riders behind follow suit. The next interval begins when the next rider accelerates.

Solo ride: During a medium length bike ride of 1-2 hours surge for 1 minute every 10 minutes or so, or when an ‘acceleration marker’ is spotted. This surge is not terribly hard—perhaps only 2-3 mph faster than your normal speed, then simply return to your relaxed rhythm.

track road cycling fitness exercise

Again, on a short bike ride of 1-2 hours practice accelerating, by changing to a higher gear and increasing your cadence by getting out the saddle for a few seconds to ‘accelerate’ down the road, before resuming back in the saddle again.

Hold this faster pace while seated for a minute or so (no more than two minutes), before resuming your normal cycling pace. Recover for at least five minutes before you repeat. The effort level and intensity is outside of your comfort zone and you should look forward to a recovery, but this is not a maximum effort or sprint.

Gradually increase the number of accelerations per ride over a period of weeks.

Also think about your position on the bike whilst accelerating away, as no matter how hard you train, riding along with the aerodynamic silhouette of a sack of potatoes will wreck your average speed. During your speed intervals aim to get down into the drops with your shoulders and elbows tucked in and try to glance up with your eyes, rather than just sticking your head up into the wind.

Lastly, remember that many things influence your average speed on a ride; wind direction and strength, terrain, road surface, humidity and heat and traffic volume. Recognise that some days you need to go slow in order to get faster so enter these key speed workouts both physically and mentally rested.

Revolution Cycling is a uniquely conceived coaching company focused on female cyclists. Stirred by our own enthusiasm for cycling, motivated by increasing numbers of women cyclists and the boom in women’s sportives and road racing, we decided to design a bespoke coaching service dedicated to female cyclists.