Cycling training plans: get fitter, ride faster and go further

Find your Functional Threshold Power, or threshold heart rate, ride faster, get fitter and go further - all with our cycling training plans

Together with professional coach Oliver Roberts, we have put together a range of cycling training plans to benefit any and all cyclists. Whether you want to get fitter, train for speed or push your mileage and go further, we have identified a cycling training plan for each of a wide range of outcomes.

The training plans…

We’ve got a number of training plans designed to suit different riders and their goals at assorted stages in their development and season.

Here are the options…

>>> Cycling training plan for beginners – do this if you’re new to cycling or returning after a break.

>>> Cycling training plan for extra speed – great for time triallists or ‘diesel engine’ riders who want to learn to change pace for town sign sprints.

>>> Cycling training plan for spring fitness  – for those who have a good base under their belt and now want to add a little pace ready for summer events.

>>> Cycling training plan for spring speed – for experienced riders who have completed 100 mile riders in the past, and are now looking to add some speed to an already good base of fitness.

>>> Cycling training plan for winter fitness – this one is all about boosting endurance, ideal for racers who want to build up their base fitness level over winter.

>>> How to write your own annual training plan – want to have a go at writing your own plan? Start here.

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.