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How to Train for Road Cycling: Training Techniques Guide

Written by Joaquim Anjos


Posted on February 23 2024

Progression in road cycling isn't straightforward. It requires method and consistency to achieve significant results. In this regard, it's crucial that even amateur cyclists don't go through long periods without training, in order to maintain physical fitness, adhering to a disciplined routine.

With that said, road cycling is a challenging discipline that requires not only physical endurance but also a profound understanding of training intensity and heart rate to achieve peak performance. In this technical guide, we'll explore the seven different levels of training intensity, the importance of maximum heart rate (Max HR), and how to incorporate these elements into your training plan to enhance your skills as a cyclist.

If you're still a beginner in the discipline, we advise reading our blog article on how to get into road cycling, where you'll get some advice and tips to get started in this world.


Seven Levels of Intensity

To effectively train for road cycling, it's essential to understand the different levels of intensity and how each affects the body. The seven intensity levels are:

Active Recovery (AR): This is the lowest level of intensity, used for recovery between more challenging road cycling training sessions. The effort is light, allowing the body to recover without additional fatigue.

Zone 1 - Fat Burning Zone: At this level, the effort is easy and comfortable. It's ideal for long-duration training, where the goal is to improve aerobic capacity and burn fat.

Zone 2 - Aerobic Base: Here, the effort is moderate and sustainable. This is the level where most cyclists spend the majority of their time during aerobic endurance training.

Zone 3 - Aerobic Threshold: This is the point where the body begins to accumulate lactic acid more quickly. The effort is moderately hard but sustainable for prolonged periods.

Zone 4 - Anaerobic Threshold: At this level, the effort is challenging and sustainable only for short periods. It's ideal for improving lactate tolerance.

Zone 5 - VO2 Max: This is the highest intensity level that can be sustained for a few minutes. The goal is to increase maximum aerobic capacity.

Zone 6 - Anaerobic: This is the maximum effort of road cycling that can be sustained for only a few seconds. It's used for burst and power training.


Determining Your Maximum Heart Rate (Max HR)

Maximum heart rate is a crucial component in road cycling training, as it helps determine the appropriate intensity for each session. To calculate your Max HR, you can use the generally accepted formula of 220 minus your age.

If you have a heart rate monitor, you can also choose to find a climb of about 1 or 2 km and climb it at an accelerated pace, and when you reach the final 150 meters, sprint at your maximum. At that point, your heart rate monitor will display a value close to your maximum heart rate.


Incorporating Intensity and Max HR into Your Training Plan

When creating a training plan for road cycling, it's important to incorporate a variety of intensities to develop different aspects of your physical fitness. This may include long-duration endurance training sessions in Zone 2, high-intensity intervals in Zone 5 to increase VO2 max, and anaerobic threshold training in Zone 4 to improve lactate tolerance, for example.

In this sense, we provide some examples of road cycling training that you can consider for each intensity level and goal.

Active Recovery Training (AR)

Goal: Promote active recovery between more intense training sessions.

Training Session: Take a light and relaxing ride on flat terrain for 30 to 60 minutes, keeping your heart rate below 68% of your Max HR. This type of training helps promote muscle recovery and reduce accumulated fatigue.

Zone 1 - Fat Burning Training

Goal: Improve the ability to burn fat as an energy source during exercise.

Training Session: Ride at a very light and comfortable pace, keeping your heart rate between 69% and 83% of your Max HR, for 60 to 90 minutes on flat terrain. This type of training is ideal for low-intensity, long-duration workouts, helping to improve fat metabolism efficiency and aerobic endurance.

Aerobic Endurance Development (Zone 2)

Goal: Improve aerobic capacity and increase endurance.

Training Session: Ride at a comfortable pace, keeping your heart rate between 84% and 94% of your Max HR, for 90 minutes to 2 hours on flat or slightly inclined terrain. Maintain a steady cadence and focus on sustaining effort throughout the entire session.

Aerobic Threshold Training (Zone 3)

Goal: Improve the ability to maintain a sustainable pace close to the aerobic threshold.

Training Session: Ride at a moderate to vigorous pace, keeping your heart rate between 95% and 105% of your Max HR, for 60 minutes. This type of road cycling training helps increase the anaerobic threshold and improve aerobic metabolism efficiency.

Lactate Tolerance Improvement (Zone 4)

Goal: Increase the ability to withstand intense efforts for prolonged periods.

Training Session: Perform intervals close to the anaerobic threshold, in Zone 4, keeping your heart rate above 106% of your Max HR. For example, do 3 sets of 10 minutes of cycling at a challenging pace, followed by 5 minutes of active recovery in Zone 2. This type of training helps improve the body's ability to buffer lactic acid and extend time to fatigue.

VO2 Max Increase (Zone 5)

Goal: Increase cardiovascular capacity and respiratory system efficiency.

Training Session: Perform high-intensity interval sets in Zone 5. For example, do 5 sets of 3 minutes of cycling at maximum intensity, followed by 3 minutes of active recovery in Zone 1. Repeat the cycle 4 times. This type of training helps increase maximum oxygen consumption.

Power and Burst Training (Zone 6)

Goal: Develop muscle power and burst for sprints and attacks.

Training Session: Perform short and explosive sprints on flat terrain. For example, after adequate warm-up, do 10 sprints of 15 seconds, pedaling as fast as possible, followed by 1 minute of complete recovery. This type of road cycling training helps improve quick and explosive response during competitive race situations.


Next Ride: Develop Your Training Plan

Obviously, improving performance in road cycling is a personal and unique journey, and there is no universally correct training plan. Each cyclist has their own needs, limitations, and specific goals, which means that the ideal training plan can vary significantly from person to person.

When creating a training plan for road cycling, it's essential to consider a variety of factors, including current level of physical fitness, experience in the discipline, performance goals, and availability of training time. Additionally, it's important to maintain a balance between different types of training, such as endurance, speed, strength, and technique, to ensure comprehensive and balanced development.

In addition to what has been highlighted, we also emphasize the importance of choosing the right equipment, so we recommend that you take a look at our articles to understand the importance of choosing road cycling jerseys and shorts.

It's advisable to seek professional guidance, such as that of a certified cycling coach, to help develop a personalized training plan tailored to your individual needs. A coach can provide specialized guidance, analyze progress, adjust the plan as needed, and provide the necessary support and motivation.

In addition to physical training, other aspects also play a crucial role in road cycling performance, such as proper nutrition, rest and recovery, warm-up, stress management, and mental preparation. Therefore, it's important to approach training holistically, considering all these aspects to achieve maximum potential as a cyclist.

Ultimately, the secret to improving in road cycling lies in consistency, determination, and the willingness to constantly challenge yourself. With the right commitment and a well-structured training plan, it's possible to reach new levels of performance and fully enjoy the exciting journey that this discipline offers.

Equip yourself properly for your next road cycling adventures! Experience the comfort and aerodynamics you deserve with Fyke bib shorts and jerseys.



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