Whether you’re new to cycling or a seasoned racer, training properly for a 20k bike race can make it a more enjoyable experience. You could probably get to the finish line just by riding your bike consistently for a few months. However, incorporating intervals into your training, understanding your race course and keeping your bike maintained can all make you faster and more comfortable on race day.
Consult the course website or ask someone familiar with the course to describe it. Knowing the course helps you train more specifically. Ride at least twice a week on terrain similar to that of the race course.
Read the rules to find out if drafting and aerobars are allowed. Drafting is a technique where one rider pedals ahead of a second rider, which cuts wind resistance and helps the second rider conserve energy. If drafting is allowed, you might wish to train with friends to learn this skill. Aerobars attach to the bike's handlebars and allow the rider to get her body much lower by resting her elbows on special bar pads cutting wind resistance. If aerobars are allowed, practice using them regularly in training.
Start your training by doing long rides at a conversational pace. If you’re new to riding, start by riding for 30 minutes and slowly add time to your rides. If you’re a more advanced rider looking to ride the race at a fast pace, your long rides should be 20 to 30 miles.
Add strength training to your routine. A proper weightlifting routine builds strength in the muscles you'll need for cycling and can help you avoid injury. While the legs do most of the work in cycling, your upper body and core are what keep you stable on the bike. Don't neglect those muscles in the gym.
Once you’ve done three or four endurance rides a week for a month or two, add in at least one or two interval workouts a week. Interval workouts consist of alternating hard efforts with easy efforts. An example of a good interval workout for a 20k bike race would be to warm up with 20 minutes of easy riding, then alternate five minutes of hard riding with five minutes of easy riding for 30 minutes and cool down with 20 minutes of easy riding. If the race course is hilly, do hill repeats as one of your weekly interval workouts. Find a hill of similar length to those in the race. Ride up the hill for your hard intervals and use the downhill as your easy intervals.
Add some workouts specific to the race course. If you can, do these workouts on the actual course. If you can’t ride on the course before race day, practice on a similar route in the month before the race. For example, if you know the course will have sharp turns, ride a route that has some sharp turns.
Gradually decrease the number of miles you ride for the last two weeks before the race. This will leave your legs feeling fresh and fast on race day.
Tune up your bike at least a week before the race. Check your tires to ensure that they’re in good condition. Clean and lube your chain and check that your bike shifts properly.
- The Cyclist’s Training Bible; Joe Friel
- Serious Cycling; Edmund R. Burke
- Cycling Anatomy; Shannon Savndal, MD
- Aerobars.co.uk: Road Cycling, Time Trial and Triathlon Aerobars
- If you’re an advanced rider looking to improve your time in a 20k bike race, consider hiring a coach. A good coach will design a training plan based on your heart rate zones, previous times and personal goals. If you’re new to riding, check to see if your local bike shop offers group rides for beginners. Riding with others is a great way to stay motivated and learn useful riding skills.
- To get the most out of your time in the gym, ask a personal trainer to design a weight routine for you geared specifically for cycling.
Lisa Thompson has been writing since 2008, when she began writing for the Prevention website. She is a holistic health practitioner, nationally certified massage therapist and National Council on Strength and Fitness-certified personal trainer. Thompson also holds certificates in nutrition and herbology from the Natural Healing Institute, as well as a Master of Education from California State University.