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Cycle Training Guidelines

To enter the Sportive you must be able to maintain a 12 mph average

southend bikeathon

Top professional cyclist Alex Dowsett said:
"I have lost count of the number of helmets I have shattered in falls from bikes.
They are absolutely essential for all cycle users but still you see many people riding without them."

The amount of training you'll need to put in before you cycling event will depend on your current level of fitness, cycling ability and the event you are taking part in.

For 50 mile plus events like the Southend 54 Mile Sportive, we would strongly recommend that you train beforehand and adopt a training plan. The type and amount of training you need to do will depend on you and your event. We have training advice guides that will help you to determine how much training you should be doing, basic stretch and exercise circuits, cycling training tips and cycling nutrition advice.

For non-cyclists with moderate fitness

People who have not ridden a bike for several years, or indeed at all, will have to start their training regime at least 4 months in advance of their trip. Mileage should be built up gradually to avoid injury and over-exercise, and to establish a good base fitness on which to build the stamina levels you will need on a cycle challenge.


A cycle ride every other day should be attempted for the first 4 to 6 weeks and the mileage should be between 5 and 10 miles. There is no need to over stretch the ride by pushing a gear that is too difficult, or riding as fast as you can. This can come later.

Focus on your cadence

From the outset you should attempt to develop your cadence, which is the speed at which your legs rotate (RPM). This will improve your aerobic capacity, meaning your heart and lungs will grow stronger and be less stressed when cycling or exercising.

To develop your cadence you should select the gear that feels most comfortable when you are cycling on whatever gradient. If you can keep a steady RPM of around 60 - 70 most of the time, this would greatly aid the speed at which you become cycling fit and will increase your strength and stamina, which you can then build on.

Before you know it you will find yourself being able to push harder gears while maintaining the same RPM.

Step up the mileage

After you have become comfortable with your cadence and riding position, it will be time to start stepping up the mileage. For the next 4 weeks you should attempt to ride 15 - 20 miles 3 times a week, with a Sunday ride every other weekend of about 25 miles.

The following 3 weeks should see the introduction of an extra dayís cycling into your training, this dayís mileage may only be around 10 - 15 miles but it will help you get a feel for cycling day after day. It would now be a good idea to step up the Sunday rides to three a month with a mileage of 40 miles.

Three weeks before your challenge

By now you should be feeling really confident and starting to enjoy the sport of cycling. In the next 3 weeks it would be worth maintaining the same schedule but now starting to ride 20 - 25 miles three times a week with an alternate Sunday ride of 30 miles. In the penultimate 3 weeks your daily mileage should be around 30 miles on each outing and any Sunday rides should break 50 miles. The last week before you leave for the trip you should wind down and perhaps attempt 3 short 10 - 15 mile rides.

For Cyclists with moderate fitness

This category might include anyone who has been cycling intermittently over the years, perhaps by cycling to work in the summer or regular Sunday rides with the family. As you will have a degree of basic fitness and confidence built up from previous cycling, 3 months or so of training should prepare you for the ride.

Improve your cadence

The first 4 weeks should be spent introducing a regular programme into your training and concentrating on your cadence (as above), which will help develop your strength for the sustained ride. A mileage of 15 miles three times a week combined with alternate Sunday rides of 30 miles should be attempted for the first month. The next 3 weeks should see you feeling stronger and confident to increase the mileage; your cadence should be fluent and comfortable, and the three rides a week should be covering about 25 miles each and the Sunday rides up to 40 miles.

Three weeks before your challenge

The penultimate 3 weeks should see the introduction of a fourth training ride every week, these four rides should be around 30 miles in length with three Sunday rides a month of 50 miles or more. You should by now be feeling comfortable with all these distances as long as you donít push yourself too hard. The final week should be spent winding down with three 10 - 15 mile rides and the confidence that you know you can complete and enjoy the 10-day ride ahead of you.

For Cyclists with good fitness

This category would include people who cycle regularly throughout the year, whether it be commuting 20 miles or more to work each day, or training seriously with weekend races and time trials. People within this category should already have a good training schedule and be amply fit to tackle a cycle challenge, though they should probably step up the training for long days riding

Increase your mileage

People included within the commuting bracket may find it a good idea to step their weekly mileage up by cycling a longer route to work, or doing a brief morning or evening ride and by also doing regular weekend rides of around 50 miles or more.

Cycling Training Tips

Warm up for at least ten minutes

Have a look at our stretch and exercise circuit

Stretch after your ride to avoid poor flexibility

The rounded shoulder position that you use on the bike can lead to overstretched upper back muscles and a tight chest, so try to spend a few minutes stretching after each ride

Reduce the low back pain by adjusting your seat

The incidence and magnitude of back pain in cyclists can be reduced by appropriate adjustment of the angle of the seat, precisely by adjusting the seat angle so that the back is higher than the front.

Use gym machines that focus on aerobic exercise

eg. rowing maching, cross-country skier, stepper/climbing machine, exercise bike

Plan recovery time into your schedule

To retain your cycle strengths, you need to cycle quite often, at least twice a week. You should always give yourself adequate recover time. Two-four outings a week is enough.

Go for long rides

The foundation of your cycle training should be weekly or fortnightly long rides. This will build your endurance. Anything upwards of one hour is recommended.

Try biking intervals

To balance out your long ride, try experimenting with some faster-paced riding. Sessions can be infinitely varied, but basically you are looking to ride faster for a short period, for example 10 minutes, followed by a recovery period and then a couple of repeats of the faster effort. Always include a good warm-up and cool-down before and after your session

Build up cycle strength

Increase your leg strength through leg press weights, lunges and bodyweight squats. Bicep curls and tricep presses will strengthen your arms and keep them balanced. Dumbbell rows and lat pull-downs will focus on upper to mid back strength, while back extensions will train the lower back.

but donít overdo it

Taking time out from cycling to do strength training will probably lead to a decline in cycling efficiency and skill level. The exceptions are abdominal and lower back exercises that can help prevent lower back pain which you must incorporate in your regular trainings.

Training indoors

Stationary bikes can give you a good workout, but arenít as good as the real thing. A better alternative is a turbo trainer, which fits to the back wheel of your own bike, enabling you to train at home. Also consider rollers and spinning classes.

Gym training doesnít prepare you for the outdoors

But that doesnít mean you should neglect the gym. Two hours of quality gym workout is worth two hours on the road

Cycling Nutrition

What to eat

Cycling burns more than 300 calories per hour, so donít be alarmed if your appetite increases as you train for your cycling challenge. To make sure youíre looking after your body, you need to be:

  • Providing fuel for your muscles
  • Repairing muscle and tissue damage
  • Replacing lost electrolytes and other nutrients


A high carbohydrate diet is recommended for anyone involved in an endurance sport such as cycling. Carbohydrates are converted by your body into glycogen Ė the main energy source for your muscles. Glycogen depletion is the main cause of tiredness. They are broken down into two categories: complex (slow) and simple (fast).

Complex carbs are high in fibre and breakdown into glycogen slowly leaving you with energy for longer periods of time. Simple carbs work in the opposite manner giving your body short but intense amounts of glycogen, therefore on longer rides they require topping up every so often

You should aim to consume 60-70% carbohydrates in your diet. A mix of both types of carbohydrates is best, however, because complex carbs stabilise blood sugar and even out the bodyís energy levels, it's advisable to have a stronger emphasis on these.

Examples of complex carbohydrates

Kidney beans

Multi-grain bread
Navy beans
Oat bran cereal
Water Cress
Whole Barley

Examples of simple carbohydrates:

Fizzy drinks
Table sugar
Fruit juice
Tinned fruit

Cycling 10 week training plan

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday/Sunday
Weeks 1-2 Rest day 5 miles Rest day 5 miles Rest day 15-20 miles
Week 3 8-10 miles Rest day 10 miles Rest day 8-10 miles 25-30 miles
Week 4

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