6-Week Cycling Training Plan For Speed, Strength & Endurance

Guaranteed to give you more confidence on the road, and strength on the bike.

Selene Yeager and Leslie Bonci, R.D. |

Millions of people own bicycles, and just about everyone who has one knows how to pedal it around the block. But surprisingly few people take full advantage of all that riding has to offer. For those who haven’t yet tapped into cycling’s benefits, the list is long: It burns calories at a steady clip, helps reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, improves your memory and brain power, and makes for deeper and more recharging sleep. It’s gentle on the joints – and maybe most important of all, riding is fun.

So how can you reap this windfall of good health and a slimmer waistline? We created a plan, then we recruited a panel of real people – from beginners looking to lose some weight to fit riders who wanted to get leaner and stronger – to try it out.

This six-week, step-by-step training plan is perfect for beginners, but it also works just as well for intermediate riders. The workouts are designed to challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system and build your abilities on the bike in a carefully calibrated (but relatively short) amount of time. The more you focus and follow along, the greater the results. About those results: You’ll feel stronger, more energetic, sharper, and happier. And there’s a good chance you’ll see some change on the scale, too. So, pull your bike out of the garage and join the ride.

The Training Plan

Follow this weekly schedule for rides and workouts. For cross-training days, activities such as running, swimming, or even walking work well – just stay active and stretch daily. For core workouts, find inspiration here or get the full core training program in Bike Your Butt Off!: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Cycling (No Experience Necessary!) by Selene Yeager and Leslie Bonci.

One tip: If you can’t remember the details of the rides, screenshot it on your phone or write notes on masking tape and stick it on your bike’s top tube.

training plan

The Intensity

Below, you’ll find rough estimates of the intensity levels in each workout. So many factors affect speed (wind, terrain, bike type), that it’s impossible to take them all into consideration. Don’t get hung up on the numbers; effort is what counts. The max effort level doesn’t factor into this program, but it appears in the second half of the plan in Bike Your Butt Off!.

Week 1:

This week’s workout is all about getting you out there on the road. It will help you gain confidence in basic bike handling and control your efforts on rides.

Week 2:

This week’s workout helps you gain confidence using your gears to control your pedaling cadence and effort, so you’ll feel more comfortable tackling longer rides. For more experienced riders, pushing against bigger gears and spinning rapidly in smaller ones helps you gain strength by working different muscle groups.

Week 3:

This week’s workout emphasises bike-handling skills and pedalling at a smooth and steady pace. It will help you feel comfortable coasting through turns smoothly and taking corners like a pro.

Week 4:

At first it may feel unnatural to ride at 90 or 100 rpm, but before long you’ll notice that a cadence above 80 feels like less work, which is helpful for longer rides. This workout makes those higher-rpm efforts more comfortable and teaches you to use cadence to control your effort. Don’t sacrifice proper form during this segment of the workout. If you start rocking at the hips or flailing at the knees, lower your cadence until you’re in control, then try again.

Week 5:

This week’s workout conditions your lungs and legs to withstand the challenges of maintaining a steady effort and gets you ready to meet the demands of longer, harder rides.

Week 6:

Standing gives your legs a break and helps you up steep hills because you’re putting all your weight into your pedals – but it also raises your heart rate because your upper body has to work harder to support your torso and keep you balanced. This week’s workout will boost your fitness and riding skills.

This article was adapted from the book, Bike Your Butt Off!: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Cycling (No Experience Necessary!) by Selene Yeager and Leslie Bonci (Rodale Books, 2014) which includes nutritional information, tips, a six-week training plan, and fat-burning exercises for beginner and experienced cyclists alike.

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