Cycling Workouts

Vanessa Buccella, RIVERSPORT Marketing Staff & Avid Cyclist

If you have to be inside on your bicycle, a structured workout makes it more productive and enjoyable than just “spinning your wheels.” Even outdoors, a structured workout can be more fun than just riding around.  Just make sure the roads and paths are empty enough that you can keep 6 feet between you and other cyclists.  

Below are two examples of bike workouts that are good for aerobic base training and beyond. You’ll notice there are references to training zones.  While the specifics of training zones can be very technical and require tools like a power meter or a heart rate monitor, for these workouts we are going to use the zones as defined by perceived exertion. I have taken these training zones from the  Cleveland Clinic  and condensed them from 10 zones to 5 for brevity. I also added the last three columns to help you identify the zones.

Zone Feeling Talk Test Time/Example Sustainable Time 
1 Easy/
Speaking Normally,
Breathing Normally
You could go like this for a long time,
A Brisk walk
8 to 10 hour effort 

2 Moderate/
Can carry on a conversation, but take noticeable breaths Hike with moderate terrain. Jaunty bike ride with friends.  

2 to 3 hour effort 

3 Hard/
Heavy Breathing-
Can speak but
 don’t really want to, often punctuated by breaths 
Very fast Run, CrossFit workout 20 min to 1 hour with great effort 


4 Strenuous Heavier Breathing
Can only speak single words
Final 3 minutes of a race 3 minutes is all you can take 


5 Maximum  Gasping for air, Can’t Talk –
maybe just a yell, like AHHHHH
All out sprint after being physically taxed for half an hour or more 

10-30 Second Effort 

quick word about cadence or revolutions per minute (RPM). Cadence is how fast you are spinning your legs, and it’s now commonly accepted that spinning your legs faster in an easier gear is better for endurance than spinning your legs slower in a hard gear. Some bike computers will tell you what your cadence (or RPMs) are. If you don’t have one, you can do a quick check by counting how many times one of your knees comes up in six seconds, then multiplying that by 10. 

FINALLY Here are the workouts! 

90 Minute Bike  Workout 1
Warm up
9 Minutes in
Zone 1

Wake Up Your Legs
1 minute
1 Minute – Zone 0 
Repeat 4 Times Total (Total Time = 8 minutes)

Tempo Work
6 minutes
 – Zone 1
4 minutes – Zone 2
Repeat 3 times (Total Time = 30 minutes)

5 Minutes – Easy Spin (No Zone)

Threshold  Work
1 minute – Zone 3
2 Minute Zone 2
Repeat 3 times  (Total Time = 9 minutes)

5 minutes
 Zone 1

Tempo Work
3 minutes Zone 2
2 min Zone 1
Repeat 3 times (Total Time = 15 minutes)

Cool Down
9 minutes Easy

90 Minute Bike  Workout 2
Warm up
6 Minutes Zone 1  

Single Leg Drills
1 minute right leg Zone 2
1 minute left leg Zone 2
1 minute both legs Zone 1
Repeat 2 times  (Total Time 6 minutes)

Tempo Work
2 minutes 
Zone 1
5 minutes zone 2
Repeat 4 Times (Total Time 28 Minutes)

Rest 3 Minutes Zone 1

Seated Sprints
:15 Seconds Seated sprint – spin legs fast as you can
1 min 45 seconds Rest 
8 Times Total (Total Time 16 Minutes)

Threshold/Tempo Work
5 Minutes Zone 3

5 minutes Zone 2
5 minutes Zone 1
5 minutes Zone 2
5 minutes Zone 3

6 minutes
 Zone 1 or 0