Cycling is typically a very time consuming sport. Professional cyclists train the longest hours of any endurance athlete and in triathlon it usually takes up around 50 per cent of your time.
Such is the nature of the sport that it's almost zero impact in terms of weight-bearing stress, so the hours you can put in on a bike are limitless, as long as you have the energy to do so. If you're spending precious time out on the road cycling I do believe you might as well make the most of your time. There are many ways to do this and these methods will make you a higher performing athlete.
A plan, a training plan and an overall plan
First of all you should have a plan, a training plan and an overall plan. Work out what it is that you want to achieve from your training.
Are you just cycling for enjoyment to improve your health and fitness, or are you getting ready for an event? What kind of event? Do you just want to be as strong as you can be or are you just out to cruise around with your friends?
If it’s the latter then please ignore my performance spiel and just go and enjoy your riding, but all of the other things I have to say affect how you should approach your riding.
Vary your cycling routes
Cycling training is steeped in tradition and that tradition commonly is to go out in large groups and roll around hills using only the terrain and testosterone to determine your effort. This will get you so far but it's not time efficient and to become as good as you can be you also have to plan in the stuff that’s not so glamorous.
You have to work all levels of your profile including long slower rides, endurance repetitions, extended threshold blocks and short and intense spikes of effort that really raise your capacity to go fast.
You should always have a plan and always know what's coming up. You might have an easier spin ride one day but it's easy for a reason, usually because in the next few days you will have an intense session where you'll be digging into the reserves you saved from the easy ride. Remember that if you stick to the intensity prescribed you'll always know where your body is at.
Ride in a group
Riding in big groups has its place, indeed for easy endurance rides or recovery it's perfect. Why? Because you have great company and motivating yourself isn't going to be a problem.
The trouble is if you're not on the front, which might often be the case, then the reality is you're riding too far in your comfort zone for too long. Three hours sat spinning in a group isn't going to give you big gains in terms of your performance. So unless the guys on the front are a higher level rider than you, you're better off riding in smaller groups of two to six, keeping it specific and seeing more wind on your face.
Spend time in your race position
Depending on what you're training for, spending time in your race position is important. If you're riding a time trial bike then you should spend in the region of 50 per cent plus of your time on your bars.
If you're a road rider it also pays to get used to riding on the drops. This will help train extra mobility in your lower back, glutes and hamstrings which you will need. It's almost a different type of riding so it has to be practiced but it means that when you race, you feel at one with the bike.
Finally, a huge part of cycle training is the recovery afterwards. This is where the adaptation from your hard work on the road happens and when you come back you'll hope to be stronger than the previous session. So eat well before, during and after exercising, spend some time stretching and get enough sleep and rest.