Commuter to Competitor; The Basics of Cycle Training

How do you go from not being a cyclist, to spinning classes, to cycle commuting …to racing?! For the last 6 months, cycle commuting has been impossible for me due to moving house but I compensated with spinning classes. Somehow though, I don’t feel that commuting or spinning can fully get you ready for taking part in a cycling event or triathlon even. So what do I do?! I speak to the most cycle-ey person I know… meet Ellie…

Ellie is currently in the midst of a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Bath whilst also on work placement at The Altitude Centre in London. Since learning to ride a bike at the age of 4 Ellie spent the vast majority of her spare time on two wheels.

She had her first session at Calshot velodrome aged 9, where she ‘got the bug’.

Ellie continued practicing her track riding skills till she reached the age of 12 and began training more seriously, spending many hours out riding around the Dorset lanes with her Dad (A.K.A her guide, bodyguard and mechanic), and Ellie also started to compete at this time. As a youth and a junior Ellie has competed in road and track disciplines at a National Level with Primera Race Team (part of Primera Sports), often racing against some of the worlds best female cyclists such as Dame Sarah Storey, Laura Trott and Elinor Barker to name but a few.

As well as this, Ellie recently gained her Level 2 Cycling Coach qualification with the aim to complete higher levels of coaching qualification in order to help others achieve their cycling goals.

I sat down with Ellie and had a little chat to come up with some tips if you’re looking to take your riding skills from commuter to competitor.

1/ Invest In Cleats and Clip-In Pedals 

Using cleats and clip in pedals allows you to work on your pedalling efficiency; you can pull up as well as push down. Watt bikes are great for the visual representation of this so are great to use in training if you can’t get outdoors on your own bike. If you’re on your bike though, you’re looking for consistent tyre noise to identify pedal efficiency. Keep an eye on your bottom bounce; this shouldn’t happen until you’re at a really high cadence, or even not at all if your pedalling technique is really smooth. When pedalling, make sure you “pedal in circles (from the hips) rather than pedalling in squares by pushing down”. Focus on drawing a circle with your foot for each revolution.

2/ Get A Bike Fitting 

Now this one I argued due to the cost but Ellie insisted it was a must do. In any case, you should check that your saddle is not too high nor too low which can usually be spotted through hip movement. When sat on your bike with the pedal at the bottom, drop your heel and there should be a slight bend in the knee. When cycling, your hips should not be rocking; if you need to, get a friend to look at you while you cycle. Also, when in drops (on the low handlebars – I did have to ask Ellie to clarify this, lol) – when you look down your axel should be hidden behind the handlebars.

3/ Vary Your Training

I first put it to Ellie to give me an overview of what your training should look like on 3 sessions per week. She told me to get in 1 long ride (at a steady pace), 1 hard interval session (e.g 3 minute intervals, this will help with hills) and 1 “sweet spot” training session. I hear you. What is sweet spot training?!? This is a longish ride with tempo efforts. E.g 2 x 20min effort with a 5 min recovery in between. Progressing to 3 x 10m efforts at a higher tempo. Add on 10 min warm up and cool down.

Then I thought, actually, realistically, what if we could only fit in one session per week?! Which of these is the must do session?! It’s that sweet spot session of course. With some sprint work added in.

4/ How Do I Make My Bike Go Faster

…like, is that possible?! Ellie suggested checking that your brakes are not rubbing and are running smoothly. Get the best tyres you can afford and ensure you keep them pumped up. Check your tyres regularly for flints and other debris that can cause punctures.

5/ How Do I Look Extra Cool 

After attending the London Bike Show earlier this year and riding with some people who were too cool for school, I had to ask Ellie if some of the tips I picked up were considered cool. Did you know there is no need to have / keep your caps on your valves?! No, me neither. Oh and those reflectors?! I guess they’re not needed in a race (and Ellie says they’re just extra weight!!). No bell. You’re racing now, not commuting. Always carry a puncture repair kit. carbon dioxide canisters; always have rear lights and keep them on; always wear a helmet (but you don’t need the visor thing, this is more cool wisdom). Get a good saddle (some store will lend you saddles to try before you buy) and a good pair of padded shorts.

6/ Feeding Yourself While Cycling 

Ellie recommends Nutrigrain bars Nature Valley bars; have one of these every 45 minutes to keep energy levels up. You don’t need gels, she says. We don’t need gels, people. Drink 500ml per hour (of water or watered down fruit juice with a pinch of salt – to make your own electrolyte drink).

Voila people! Voila! ….Feel like a pro?! 

What training tips do you have to share for cycling?! Planning on or taken part in a cycle sportive (is that what they are called?!)??

Elle 🙂 


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