With a few tricks, hobby racing cyclists can improve their cycling form

2. August 2017

Are you a hobby cyclist who gets in the saddle for the sheer pleasure of cycling, without any regime or training plan? If you enjoy it and it fits into your daily routine, then you don’t necessarily need to change anything. However, you can also look at it this way: if you use the same number of cycling hours that you already spend on your sporting hobby in a more imaginative way, you can become faster with the same amount of effort. Is this something for you? Here you can find out where your personal strengths and weaknesses lie and what you need to work on!

You are the “short-distance cyclist” type

Strengths: You’ve been cycling regularly for years and usually go cycling after work or at the weekend. You don’t cycle for very long – you don’t have the time – so instead you cycle quickly to ensure you are exhausted at the end and feel like you’ve done something.
Weaknesses: If you go cycling with colleagues on a long trip one day and go slightly faster than usual, your performance takes an abrupt nosedive after two hours or so and you can no longer recover. 
What should you do? Relaxed units with plenty of oxygen are what you need. Your training should span several hours now and again and should also be done at a low level of intensity. Add variety to your training so you perform at a higher level of intensity for a short period of time.

Training ideas for more stamina: 

  • Continuous training for several hours: Regularly plan three to four-hour trips without any difference in altitude during which you feel you are cycling between 3-4 (on a scale of 1-10) and never need to reach your limit on the ascents. Make sure you have a relaxed posture and sitting position and cycle at a pedalling frequency of around 90 revolutions per minute on the flats. Experiment with the quantity of food and fluids. How much do you need to feel good? What do you need when?
  • 90 min with long intervals on the flats: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up and then cycle for 5 min very quickly (8 on a scale of 1-10) at a constantly high tempo alternating with 5 min of relaxed cycling at a high number of revolutions (around 90 per minute). Repeat this combination 7 times (= 70 minutes); then cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to wind down.

You are the “climber” type

Strengths: You benefit from your slender physique and low weight and find climbing relatively easy, even on the longer gradients. You generally prefer hilly terrain, where you can push up your heart rate for a short period of time on the ascents.
Weaknesses: On the flats, you have trouble keeping up with a fast group in a big gear, especially if the tempo is high and there are many changes in rhythm. As a lightweight, you don’t stand a chance in the long sprints (except on the mountain).
What should you do? You need to focus specifically on increasing your speed on the flats and make sure your units are not too long. On top of this, do special strength training for the legs as well as interval training.

Training ideas for more power: 

  • Tempo training for 1 hour: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up (exertion level 4), choose a flat route then cycle for 10 min at a medium tempo (exertion level 6); 20 min at a fast tempo (exertion level 8); 10 min at your limit (exertion level 9); then cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to wind down.
  • Strength training on the bike for 60-70 min: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up, then 5 min with an (uncomfortably) big gear at only 60 revolutions/min on a route that continuously ascends slightly, alternating with 2 min at a relaxed and pleasant pedalling frequency (around 80). Repeat this combination (5 min hard 2 min relaxed) 5-6 times then cycle at an easy pace for 15 min to wind down.

You are the “feel-good cyclist” type

Strengths: You cycle to work on a regular basis, often go on longer bike trips at the weekends and have also spent entire weeks cycling abroad. Over the years you have developed a sound physical condition. However, you are unwilling to leave your feel-good zone.
Weaknesses: When you go cycling with (younger) colleagues, the tempo is usually too high for you at the beginning. If the tempo sharply increases on a slope for a short period of time, you need to break away and continue at your own tempo. Changes in rhythm are definitely not your thing.
What should you do? You need to improve your staying power and speed, and need to be able to tolerate an oxygen deficit in the short-term.

Training ideas for more stamina and bite: 

  • Speed variation for 90 minutes: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up; then do speed variation for 70 min: set yourself visual goals and pedal as hard as you can until you reach them, e.g. the next street sign, the next tree, the bridge, etc. Push yourself to your limit for a short period of time at the end of the fast sections. You can choose the distances of the individual sections, using the topography or landmarks in the terrain as reference points. After reaching your short-term goal, ease off pedalling for one to three minutes before you aim for the next new goal and pedal really hard again. Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to wind down.
  • Strength-climbing training for around 60-70 minutes: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up until you get to an ascent that requires around four minutes to climb. Accelerate for one minute to the maximum possible speed in the appropriate gear; then continue for as long and as fast as you can in the same gear. As you become more exhausted, the number of revolutions in this gear will continuously decrease. Fight it for as long as you can. Reduce the pedalling frequency to around 60 revolutions per minute, switch down a few gears and cycle at a relaxed pace for around two minutes until you have recovered or your heart rate has significantly dropped. If the slope is still long enough, repeat this training exercise, otherwise return to the starting point and do it all over again. Repeat the whole process at least 6-7 times. To round off this training session, cycle for around 20 min on the flats at a high number of revolutions (90-100).

You are the “sprinter” type

Strengths: You are a real power pack, have a muscular physique and are not yet in the mid-life crisis (at least not in terms of age…). You are brimming with explosive energy and are nobody’s fool when it comes to short and quick sprints.
Weaknesses: Your problem lies in managing to keep up with your biking colleagues until it gets to the sprint as you are not the most resilient of athletes and it is hard for you to lug the extra kilos up the mountain.
What should you do? First and foremost, you need to improve your stamina and learn to cycle economically.

Training ideas for more economy: 

  • One-gear continuous training: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up; then do 80 minutes of continuous training always in the same gear (it’s best to select a middle gear) in not-too-steep terrain. Only switch gear in an extreme emergency (before you need to dismount) and stay sitting for the entire distance if possible. By cycling in only one gear, the pedalling frequency adapts to the terrain accordingly. Downhill requires a high pedalling frequency, and when you go uphill, you need to persevere with a low cadence.
  • 50-min cadence training on the mountain: Find a longer continuous slope and switch to a small gear. Increase the cadence (at least 100 revolutions per minute) and attempt to maintain this cadence for as long as possible (at least 5 minutes). Try to remain as relaxed and upright as possible in the upper body without becoming tense. Then take either a 2-3 min break or return to the starting point. Repeat the whole process 5 times. Alternatively: cycle two of the five repetitions out of the saddle.

You are the “time trialist” type

Strengths: You are either a triathlete or cycle the same flat route to work day in, day out. Your motion sequence and muscles have adjusted to maintaining a swift pace in a streamlined position.
Weaknesses: You're more of a slow starter or a diesel engine, and when you cycle in a group, you find the changes in rhythm difficult. Cycling in a group is not really your thing. What’s more, you don’t like steep climbs and you also don’t feel very comfortable going downhill.
What should you do? Cycle more in mixed terrain and vary the levels of intensity during the trip. You need to switch between fast and slow tempos, cycle up short slopes and improve your downhill cycling.

Training ideas for more fluidity and cycling safety: 

  • Above / below cadence for 60-80 minutes: Cycle at your usual cadence for 10 min to warm up and at a relaxed intensity on a flat stretch; then shift up 3 gears for 10 min without increasing your tempo. The pedalling frequency will then increase to around 20 revolutions/minute; cycle for 10 min in your feel-good zone at a comfortable pedalling frequency; then shift down 3 gears for 10 min without increasing the tempo. The pedalling frequency will then decrease to around 20 revolutions/minute. Repeat this shifting up/ shifting down at least twice.
  • Cadence continuous training: Cycle at an easy pace for 10 min to warm up; then do 80 minutes at the same pedalling frequency of around 90 to 100 revolutions per minute irrespective of the terrain. To ensure you can also the maintain this cadence in the changing terrain, you will need to switch gears frequently.