Ask a cycling coach: 'Is riding two times a week enough to get fit?'

If your time is limited, how much riding do you really need to do to get fit?

Male cyclist riding outside
(Image credit: Future)

The more I do, the better I’ll get. 

True - but only to a certain extent. The relationship between hours spent training and your fitness increases isn't linear. The gains you reap become ever smaller and are harder won.

So, if your time is limited - as it is for so many of us - the questions quickly form: At what point will my fitness gains go from macro to marginal? How much training is it really worth doing?

Well, as the classic coaching answer goes: ‘it depends’. But let's unpack this... cycling coach Alex Welburn explores the factors behind what might be optimal for you. 

Alex Welburn
Alex Welburn

Performance cycling coach Alex Welburn is one of the experts who will be answering your questions in Cycling Weekly's Ask a Cycling Coach series, online every Wednesday. He's currently completing a PhD on Critical power and W' at Loughborough University whilst also managing the Performance Project, in which he coaches athletes and provides consultation.

Where to start?

First, let’s go over the simple elements of training, to provide us with a framework: ‘FIT’. [F]; Frequency, [I]; Intensity, and [T]; Time. While there are other acronyms and nuances in the world of training, let's keep it simple for now.

To start, let’s consider what your aims are, and what your cycling goals are. This can be anything, it's entirely up to you, whether it is increasing your FTP/Critical Power or you want to tackle your first club 10 or conquering a sportive or perhaps participating in your very first criterium race. This will help you decide how many sessions are needed. But don't forget to balance everything else in your life as well!

How fit will doing two sessions a week make me?

Let's start with doing two session a week. This will only get you so far in increasing your fitness - if two rides are all you have, you can only really look to increase the duration of these sessions, which also may not be practical for you. 

Increasing the intensity of the session could be an option, but this will limit the duration. That being said, if the purpose is simply to enjoy it and to try and stay active, then great! This is a great place to start if you are new to the sport.

But if your ambitions are more towards increasing fitness, by developing your FTP/CP, the next best thing you can do is increase the frequency of your sessions.

If I do twice the number of sessions, I will get twice as fit?

Male cyclist ridng up a shallow climb

(Image credit: Future)

If I do twice the number of sessions, I will get twice as fit? It would be great if it worked like that, but training gains are not linear. Typically speaking, in the early stages when your fitness is low and may not have done much cycling previously, you will likely make improvements quickly, so as you add more, you will easily see the progression in fitness.

But as fitness increases, you need to do even more to progress. I would say three sessions would be the minimum if you are looking for progression in your cycling fitness. Ideally, four, as this allows for 2-3 rides during the week and 1-2 on the weekend. This structure allows for a balanced mix of rides throughout the week, enabling you to progressively increase the duration and intensity of your sessions. If you keep up the consistency of this, you will make some notable progress.

The balancing act of five

This is where it can go wrong for our fitness. We have seen a good increase from doing two rides to four, so we might think, if I add more, I’ll get even fitter. Well, this is where it starts to ‘depend’ on many factors. 

We can’t neglect recovery. Think of it like this, training creates a stimulus by stressing the body. Then, when we rest, we adapt to this stimulus so we can cope with it better.  

We can start to add too much stress and not enough recovery which is often where we see either a decline or a fitness plateau. This is where recovery weeks come in, along with progress and an overload of sessions to allow for the most amount of progression with the least amount of fatigue. 

If you are wondering what to do, consider ‘FIT’ and take a look at what you can change. Don't forget to mix things up a little, every couple of weeks, so you are not doing the same thing over and over again. Don't forget the most important factor: this is to have fun!


Don’t forget, professional cyclists have so much more time to focus on recovery as well - they prioritise it as much as they do training. They will look to optimise their time off their bike as much as possible, things like good nutrition, and regular, good quality sleep, which is so often underrated.

To summarise it all, two sessions a week is a good start, especially if you are new to the sport. But if you want to make some good progress in your cycling fitness having at least three, ideally four, rides will allow you to see some progression. Beyond that, ensure you strike a balance between training and recovery.

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Alex Welburn

Alex is a Physiologist, Performance Coach, who also lectures occasionally at Loughborough

University where he is completing his PhD in Critical power and W'.


After competing for over 10 years on the bike, where he has competed for GB in both

cyclocross and mountain bike events, he now spends his spare time in the mountains as an

aspiring guide. Alex has worked with cyclists of all levels over the last 9 years, from ultra-

endurance world champions to the Women’s TDF. Supporting his PhD he manages The

Performance Project, consulting with and coaching athletes. Finally, he is also a proud

sponsor of southern based LAKA X Pedal Mafia Race Team.