9 Ways to Maximise Short Bike Rides
However, most of us live in the real world, where we need to fit our rides into designated slots of free time. But you can have the best of both worlds—it just takes a little bit of careful planning. Here’s a look at how you can accomplish any number of riding goals when you have an hour—give or take—to ride.
If You Have 30-45 Minutes:
Workout 1: 30-Second Blasts
Warm up for 10 minutes. Then start sprinting all-out for 30 seconds. Recover by spinning easy for two and a half minutes. Repeat for as many times as you can in the time you have (12 is ideal). Cool down with a couple of minutes of easy spinning and you’re done. This workout may not seem like much, but it’s strong medicine, so don’t do it on back-to-back days or more than twice a week.
The Benefit: Research shows that even seasoned cyclists can improve their VO2 Max by three per cent and 40km time-trial speed by more than four per cent in just four weeks by doing sets of 30-second all-out intervals.
Workout 2: Spin-Ups
Ride at your normal cadence for five minutes. Then shift into a smaller gear and spin up to as fast a cadence as possible while keeping your upper body still and your pedal stroke smooth. The moment you start bouncing on the saddle, dial it back to stay controlled. Maintain that cadence for one minute. Then, recover for three minutes. Repeat for a total of six to eight intervals and then cool down. As the effort feels easier, increase the duration of the fast spins and decrease the recovery.
The Benefit: Increasing your natural cadence can improve your efficiency by shifting some of your effort from your easily fatigued leg muscles to your more resilient cardiovascular system. If you’re typically a big-gear jammer, it will take some time before a higher cadence feels right. Short rides are the perfect time to practice.
Workout 3: Neighbourhood Ramble
When was the last time you totally unplugged, tossed a leg over your bike, and rode like a kid? Yeah, we thought so. Leave the bike computers, agendas, and padded shorts behind, jump on a bike—any bike—and ride to the post office, the park, wherever you want or need to go. Enjoy the feeling of the air on your skin, the lawn ornaments in your neighbourhood, and the sights and sounds of your local bicycle path.
The Benefit: Easy movement without effort will loosen your legs, help your body recover from previous hard efforts, and make you feel happy and recharged.
If You Have 45 Minutes to an Hour:
Workout 1: The Triple Threat
Warm up for 15 minutes. Then bring yourself up to a high intensity until you’re working very hard (a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10). Hold that intensity for three minutes. Recover for three minutes. Repeat two more times. Finish your ride at a moderate pace, including a cooldown.
The Benefit: Your max VO2 is your fitness ceiling. To raise that roof, you need to do lung-searing efforts like these that force your body to find ways to increase oxygen capacity.
Workout 2: Hill Attacks
There are two ways to do this workout. The first way is standard hill repeats: Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, find a hill that takes about five minutes to climb and ascend it hard, staying at your maximum sustainable pace or threshold (about a 7 effort on a scale of 1 to 10). Descend as you recover for three minutes. Repeat for a total of three to five times and then cool down. Or, take a more organic approach and map a 15- to 25km route that includes four to six good climbs. Hit the hills hard and ride moderately between efforts.
The Benefit: You know the mantra: Hills make you stronger. It’s true.
Workout 3: Cross the Threshold
Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Increase your effort until you hit the point where you’re above your comfort zone (about an 8 on your rate of perceived exertion, or RPE), and hold that for five to six minutes. Then back off and ride just below your threshold point (RPE 6) for five minutes. Repeat for a total of three or four times. You should be starting the next above-threshold interval before feeling like you’ve achieved full recovery. Then cool down.
The Benefit: Your lactate threshold, the point at which your body starts producing more lactate than you can absorb, is your maximum sustainable effort. With a high threshold, you can ride really hard, really long before your legs scream at you to back off. To raise your threshold, you need to get comfortable working above that level.
If You Have More Than an Hour:
Workout 1: Tempo Training
Warm up for about 10 minutes. Increase your effort to a pace where you’re working hard but could sustain it for a 40km race (RPE of about 7 or 8). Hold on for 15 minutes without faltering. Pedal easy to recover for three minutes. Repeat two more times. Cool down. As you become more fit, you can increase the tempo time and decrease the recovery time until you are at tempo for a full hour.
The Benefit: Any rider with two working crankarms can ride hard—for a while. But successful cyclists not only have the necessary power to climb a hill or bridge a gap, but also can sustain that kind of high-level effort. Tempo intervals train your body to clear lactate at higher intensities so they increase your threshold and boost your sustainable “race pace.” An hour or so is all you need.
Workout 2: Adult Recess
Find a few friends who can sneak away (your lunch hour at work is of ideal duration) and practice your group ride skills, pacelines, and town-sign sprints.
The Benefit: Time spent riding with a small group will hone your balance and riding skills, your drafting ability, and your group race tactics. Plus, it’s darn fun.
Workout 2: Steady State
Just as the name implies, steady-state rides maintain a consistent, unwavering effort. Though the overall intensity is only moderately hard (RPE 6), it is surprisingly difficult for many riders to sustain. Your pace should be such that you’re breathing moderately and breaking a sweat, but your legs shouldn’t burn. Hold it for the duration of the ride.
The Benefit: Doing steady-state efforts for an hour or more improves your body’s ability to tap into stored body fat as a fuel source, which improves endurance by reducing your reliance on stored carbs or glycogen stores, a limited resource. As you get fitter, you’ll ride longer and more comfortably without fading or bonking, and your steady-state pace will get faster.