How Often Should You Ride? Cycling Coaches Offer Advice

Learn how to optimise your training schedule to make the most gains. 


You probably know at least one cyclist who is always on their bike. It seems like they ride every day of the week, no matter the weather or their schedule. These riders may have you rethinking your own routine, asking questions like “How often should I ride my bike” or “Should I be cycling every day?”

First, stop comparing yourself to others, says Jen Kates, C.P.T., founder of Shift Human Performance. “All too often, we look at what someone else is doing on their highlight reel with their training, and then we look at ours and become discouraged,” she says. “You have to remember that we’re each coming at our training from a different angle.”

A solid, results-driven training plan isn’t one-size-fits-all

A solid, results-driven training plan isn’t one-size-fits-all; what works for another cyclist may not work for you. The best programme is one that’s tailored to the individual based on a variety of lifestyle and performance-related factors and can be modified as availability, priorities, and training requirements shift and change.

To help you map out a realistic schedule, we spoke with Kates, Garret Seacat, C.S.C.S., head coach at Absolute Endurance, and Eric Frazier, C.S.C.S., owner of FSE Coaching, to get their thoughts on how often to ride a bike. Here’s what you need to know.

Factors to Consider When Determining How Often to Ride

Before drafting a training schedule for a client, Kates, Seacat, and Frazier all take time to understand who their athlete is on and off the bike, considering factors like:


The first thing to sort out is your ultimate goal and why you’re riding in the first place. Are you a recreational cyclist who hops on the bike to relieve stress and bank those 150 minutes of CDC-recommended cardio each week? Or are your goals more performance-related?

A casual cyclist who mixes time on the bike with other forms of exercise, like running, swimming, or group fitness classes, doesn’t need to ride as frequently as someone who’s training for a race. And a cyclist with ambitions to make the podium will likely ride more days per week than someone who just wants to finish.

“If someone is just trying to ride their first century, they can get away with two, three, or four days a week of training,” Frazier says. But a more competitive cyclist may train closer to five or six days per week, he says.

However, Frazier notes that cycling frequency is only one variable in the competitive training-plan equation. Weekly volume in terms of hours spent on the bike is just as important. Most amateur riders he coaches ride between six and 12 hours per week. “Once you get into 12, 13, 15 hours, now you’re talking about someone who is really competitive,” he says. “The pros are doing 20 to 30 hours a week because they have the time.”

Schedule and Availability

After discussing a client’s goal, Kates addresses their schedule. “We have to be realistic about this, and we have to recognize the specific bandwidth that you can dedicate to your cycling every week because, at the end of the day, you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole,” she says.

You may want to ride five or six days a week, but if competing priorities, like a demanding job, family obligations, or a busy travel schedule, monopolise your time, riding that frequently may not be in the cards.

That doesn’t mean that cyclists with busy personal and professional lives can’t up their game or be competitive. They just have to be more intentional with their training days, Seacat explains, by potentially adding more time or intensity to their existing workouts. “That’s where we’re at more and more in the endurance world: trying to take advantage of peoples’ time the best we can,” he says.

RELATED: High Intensity Intervals to Meet Your Goals

Fitness Level and Experience

Your current fitness level will greatly influence both your overall training volume and how frequently you ride. For example, an exercise newbie in their first week on the bike will need to stick to shorter rides and take more rest days than an avid cyclist in peak condition. Otherwise, they risk injury and are bound to have a miserable introduction to the sport.

The same goes for well-conditioned athletes with minimal experience on the bike. Seacat has witnessed cross-country runners and CrossFit competitors dive into cycling with the same intensity they bring to their usual workouts. “They’re used to working out for an hour at the gym or running for an hour, and they’re like, ‘this will be no problem to ride a bike that hard for an hour.’ And then 30 minutes in, they’re super sore and can barely pedal their bike because it’s not the same muscles they’ve used in the past, and they’re just not adapted to that kind of exercise.”

Seacat also notes that new cyclists need time to gradually acclimate to what he refers to as “touch points.” “Anywhere your body touches the bike is going to be sore. Because everyday life doesn’t require you to sit on a seat like that. You don’t usually have that kind of pressure on your hands,” he says.

Training Season

It’s not uncommon for a cyclist’s riding frequency to fluctuate along with their training and race seasons. Seacat encourages his athletes to dedicate more time to strength training in the off-season, which means they often have to drop a ride or two. “Then, the closer you get to the actual season, you taper that off,” he says, and spend more time on the bike.

In geographical areas where the temperature changes with the seasons, having a fluid schedule also allows cyclists to spend less time riding in inclement weather or seeking indoor cycling options.

Injuries and Health Concerns

Your overall health, including any past or present injuries, should factor into your training schedule, especially if you’re new to the sport or are just beginning a fitness program.

“One of the things that every cyclist or anybody starting a new exercise program should do is see their doctor and get approval for that type of exercise and know exactly how much they can handle,” Seacat says. “You can be out there on your bike really far away with nobody around and get yourself in a really bad situation on accident. It’s totally worth getting that doctor’s approval to make sure beforehand.”

Also, while many people look to cycling as a way to release tension and bolster their mood, it’s important to keep tabs on your stress levels and potentially scale back on training when the pressure is on or your anxiety is high. “Stress is stress, whether it’s stress from training, stress, from work, stress from family, stress from other obligations,” Frazier says. “If I just keep grinding on an athlete when they’re not feeling good or they’re feeling stressed out, it’s just going to get worse, and their performance is going to go down. So I always fall back on more rest than anything else.”

RELATED: 10-Minute Mood-Boosting Workout for When You Need a Pick-Me-Up

How Many Days a Week to Ride

Bottom line: spending any amount of time riding has benefits. But identifying a frequency that aligns with your goals, fitness level, lifestyle and all of the other factors noted above will help you reap the rewards of training without burning out.

It may take some trial and error to solidify your ideal schedule. But if you’re looking for a starting point, consider these guidelines.

One to Two Days a Week

Depending on how you structure your time, riding one to two days a week can work for beginners and fitness dabblers, as well as more time-crunched cyclists who want to maintain or improve their fitness. The difference between a program for someone riding for fun and someone with cycling-specific goals comes down to volume and intensity.

“If someone’s a beginner and can get at least three hours of riding per week across one to two days, that would be fantastic,” Kates says. For this person, the rides are more about clocking hours on the bike and less about completing a specific type of ride or workout.

For a more serious cyclist, Frazier would challenge them to accumulate at least five hours over the course of one shorter weekday ride and one long weekend ride. “We’ll do some harder, shorter intervals on the weekday ride. And then on the weekend, let’s just build some endurance and base fitness,” he says. “Five hours is not nothing… They will get better if they have a good program and the intervals apply to their goals or event.”

Three Days a Week

“I think three days per week is probably the most ideal for the majority of people,” Kates says. It’s a feasible commitment for individuals with lives and careers outside of cycling, and there’s still time for rest and strength training, which Kates always recommends. And, with three rides, there’s an opportunity to vary your workouts and tailor your training to your goals.

“You can have one of those days be a longer day on the bike where maybe you’re putting in a little more distance or elevation, depending on your goals. And then one of those days can be an interval session that is also specific to your goals—maybe it’s a little more high-intensity. And then there’s another day that’s just going to be more like zone 2, kind of conversational, helping you build and maintain your base,” Kates says.

Four to Five Days a Week

“Once you’re getting into four or five days a week, you’re getting into the competitive athletes,” Frazier says. This frequency allows Frazier to bump up the athlete’s overall volume and vary their workouts. “Now I can give them maybe two days of intervals, and then they still have three days of long endurance rides. They’re getting great volume in and getting as much interval work as they can handle,” he says.

Four to five days per week may also be a good sweet spot for athletes who are training for a longer event, Kates says. “Maybe even a multi-day endurance event, especially if they don’t have another form of metabolic conditioning,” she says.

RELATED: How to Build Cycling Endurance Without Sacrificing All Your Time

Six to Seven Days a Week

According to Seacat, most of the people who are riding six to seven days a week are professional athletes. “The demand and the stress that it puts on your body is pretty extreme, followed by the recovery needed between those workouts. You’re recovering just as hard as you’re riding when you’re riding that much,” he says. So, if you have a full-time job or are running around after children, you probably don’t have the time to cycle every day and properly recover, particularly if you’re going long or hard on those rides.

Even when working with serious athletes, Frazier avoids programming daily rides. “I like six days because then I give them one full day off a week to recover completely. It’s not just a physical recovery but mental recovery to just kind of get away from the bike,” he says.

If a cyclist pushes back and is adamant about riding seven days a week, Frazier will program an easy recovery ride. “It’s super chill, zone 1. You’re just kind of barely spinning the legs to keep the blood moving, but you’re not working very hard,” he says.

How to Increase the Number of Days You Ride Per Week

As with any form of exercise, increasing your cycling frequency needs to be done gradually and intentionally in order to avoid injuries and burnout. Below are a few tips for safely upping your ride time.

Gradually Increase Overall Volume

Before you add another day, look at your weekly training volume in terms of hours and increase that amount by up to 20 percent. Then, disperse that amount of time across your training days.

For example, if you’re currently riding four hours in two days and want to add a third day, increase your weekly time to four hours and 45 minutes. Then, schedule two 75-minute weekday rides and one weekend ride that lasts two hours and 15 minutes.

Add Intensity, Not Time

At some point, you will max out on the number of days and hours you can dedicate to riding. This is when focusing on your workouts’ intensity, rather than their duration or frequency, can help you push through training plateaus and improve your performance.

“When we start adding the intervals, that’s where we’re adding in more intensity to get that volume up. So we’re not necessarily adding in more riding. You can start simply adding in harder rides and get adaptation that way,” Seacat says.

Look for Signs of Overtraining

If you’re experiencing symptoms like excessive soreness and sleep disruptions or have fatigue that you just can’t shake, you may be pushing yourself too hard. The same thing goes if you’re constantly getting sick or injured, feel crankier than usual, or if riding no longer seems fun.

If you notice any of these red flags, consider significantly dialing back your training or resting altogether for anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks. “If you sort of let it go and keep training too much, your performance will drop,” says Frazier.

READ MORE ON: training training advice

Copyright © 2024 Hearst