Cycling training plans: for beginners, intermediates and racers

Get into cycling, get fitter, or ride faster with our cycling training plans, in partnership with Alzheimer's Research UK

Together with professional coach Oliver Roberts, we have put together three cycling training plans: one for beginners, one for riders looking to gain fitness, and one for those looking to get fast.

Each plan is 12-weeks long, and they’re designed to gradually progress, so you could even string them together for a 36-week long journey to fitness.

The training sessions incorporate intervals based upon maximum heart rate, or functional threshold power – so you can train using a heart rate monitor or power meter.

Our 2020 training plans are brought to you in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Motivate yourself with a target event. Our sister company, UKCE, hosts sportives all over the country, with a range of distance options available. You’ll get way-marking, feed stations, mechanical support and more – see the events here. 

Cycling training plan for beginners

Cycling training plan

Do this if you’re new to cycling or returning after a break.

The plan is made up of three four week builds. The first is all about building basic volume, then we’ll add in some controlled load, followed by a slight increase in intensity.

The plans include some long rides, with a few cadence sessions to help you find that ideal pedal speed, plus ‘progressive climbing’ which will see you learn to manage effort when the road goes up.


Many beginners start cycling to lose weight. Adding new exercise to your life will certainly help with that. But weight loss really comes down to being in a calorie deficit, so it’s important to take care of your diet too. Check out our tips for losing weight via cycling here.

Start now: Cycling Training Plan for Beginners 

Cycling training plan for fitness

Cycling training plan

This one is all about boosting endurance, ideal for racers who want to build up their base fitness level.

>>> Training for 100 mile sportive: tips and tricks

Again, there’s three four week builds. The first one is all about settling into the routine of the plan. Then the volume and intensity gradually builds, with some big gear work in there to help you build strength and maintain speed over longer rides.

Start now: Cycling Training Plan for Fitness

 Cycling training plan for extra speed

cycling training plan

This plan is for riders who already have a good bank of fitness, and want to get faster.

You’ll again have three four week blocks, and the first block will be about settling into a routine. Then, the intensity will ramp up with the likes of hill sprints, progressive intervals and ‘surges’ to get you pedalling hard and fast when already at speed.

Start now: Cycling Training Plan to get Faster


How to use these cycle training plans

For our training plans, different parts of the rides are described using numbered training zones. The plan is to work at that level of effort for the time given. Making the most of your time means working at the right effort level for you. Here’s how to work out where your training zones are.

>>> Turbo training sessions: Get the most out of your indoor training 

How hard is ‘hard’?

If you’re training entirely on feel, you can follow the basic effort and feeling descriptions below, but these are a bit vague, which is why we’ve linked them to a series of percentage zones based on either maximum heart rate or functional threshold. All you do is decide which approach works best for you, work out your zones and start training.

Max Heart Rate training zones

Heart rate is a measure of the strain your body is under and how hard it is working — the higher the heart rate, the greater the strain. If you have a heart-rate monitor, you can create a set of personal training zones based on your maximum heart rate (MHR).

To establish your max heart rate, perform the following simple (but not easy!) test:

1) Ride Easy for 15-30 minutes, finishing up at the bottom of a long, steady hill.

2) Ride up the hill for five minutes at a nice, brisk pace, then coast back to the bottom.

3) Climb the hill again. Start at the same brisk pace, but this time increase your effort every 30 seconds. When you reach the point where you can push no harder, stand on the pedals and sprint until you simply have to stop.

4) Coast back to the bottom and repeat step three again before riding home.

You’ll probably hit your MHR somewhere towards the middle of the third ascent. (You will need a heart-rate monitor that records maximum heart rate to be able to perform this test properly.)

Once you have established your MHR, simply use the percentage ranges in column four of the tables to set your own heart rate zones.

Functional Threshold training zones

Your functional threshold (FT) is the best average effort you can possibly manage in one hour of non-stop riding. Thankfully, you don’t have to enter a 25-mile time trial to work out your FT. Use the following test ride (devised by Hunter Allen of Training Peaks) to calculate a ‘real-world’ FT:

1) Ride Easy for 20 minutes.

2) Do 3 x 1min at a high cadence (120rpm) in a small gear with one minute easy after each.

3) Ride Easy for a further four minutes.

4) Ride as hard as possible for a further five minutes.

5) Ride Easy for 10 minutes.

6) Ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes. Aim to finish the 20 minutes having given absolutely everything.

(You’ll need to be able to record an average power or heart rate for the 20-minute all-out effort.) Once back home, work out the average power or HR for that final 20-minute effort, and multiply that number by 0.95. This is your FT. Use it to calculate your training zones, using the percentages in columns five and six depending on whether your number is a heart rate or a power rating.

cycling training plan

MHR – maximum heart rate
FTP – functional threshold power
FTHR – functional threshold heart rate

Thanks to Oliver Roberts

Oliver Roberts is a level two coach, specialising in cycling and triathlon, who works with

Over the past 10 years, he’s created training programmes for the Race for Life 5K running series, had three training manuals published and has coached athletes of all abilities, from novices to national champions, World Championship contenders and a National Ironman record holder.

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