Looking to get fitter through cycling? Whether you’re an experienced roadie or new in the saddle, the key to improving is, unsurprisingly, riding your bike.
But how often should you ride? Let’s look at the various factors to consider.
1. Your goal
Before considering how often you should ride, think about your goal. If you’re new to cycling, it might just be getting fitter or losing some weight, while more experienced cyclists may have performance-orientated goals or an event they’re aiming for. This will influence how much you ride.
So, take a step back and plan out your cycling goals. You should choose one overriding goal and a few smaller targets within it. Then consider how much riding it will take to achieve it. If it’s a major cycling event, you’ll likely need to ride more regularly and at a higher intensity – after all, your aim is to get better at cycling.
Those simply wanting to boost fitness and lose weight won’t need to ride as intensely or pack in as many hours.
2. Your motivation
Your goal will also act as motivation. That’s why it needs to be both challenging but achievable. If it’s easy or beyond your reach, you’ll quickly lose motivation and start skipping sessions.
Any goals should also be inspiring. Many riders set goals that are aligned with riding buddies; while this collaboration can be fun, these goals often don’t reflect your own aims, making them harder to stick to. Instead, take a step back and think about what inspires you or what you’d love to achieve. If it excites you when you think about it, then you know you’ve found a goal to motivate you.
And once you’re motivated, it’s much easier to plan in rides.
3. Your schedule
How much you ride can often be dictated by life. We all have work, families, and responsibilities, so fitting rides in around these commitments can often be tricky.
That’s when planning becomes important. Create a riding schedule that works within your routine and then make sure you stick to it – consistency is important!
So, how often should you ride?
To get fitter
According to the NHS, every adult aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. They also recommend splitting this exercise over four to five days a week wherever possible, to give your body a chance to rest and recuperate between sessions.
So, for those aiming to get fitter in general or lose weight, it’s best to aim for these numbers. Remember that intensity matters, and moderate riding shouldn’t be either easy or overly taxing.
Try to plan in rides for as many days as possible as it’s better to do lots of shorter rides than one long ride. Be sure to mix it up too; plan in both moderate and vigorous rides for a change of pace. Although they’re harder work, vigorous rides will lead to the biggest improvements.
And, finally, these are only guidelines – ultimately, the way you ride best will depend on what feels right for you. The more you ride, the fitter you’ll get, so you may want to increase the amount you ride and plan in more vigorous rides as you improve.
Top tip: A vigorous ride will involve riding at a high level of exertion. However, you shouldn’t ride at that level throughout the whole ride. Instead, alternate between hard riding and then easy riding, which will act as recovery time.
To become a better cyclist or prepare for an event
For more experienced cyclists, the answer is more variable.
- Minimum of 3 rides a week: To make sustained improvements, you should ride at least 3 times a week. This is only the minimum amount, and you may choose to ride more often.
- Don’t overtrain: Different riders respond differently to varying levels of training. Some can sustain 5 days a week, while others would quickly burn out. So, take time to understand your body and adjust the number of days you ride accordingly.
- Intensity: The amount you ride is less important than the quality of your training. To improve, you need high-intensity sessions which push your body otherwise it won’t adapt (remember, a couple of short high-intensity rides are more beneficial than one long, easier ride).
- Plan your rides: Trying to juggle a solid cycling routine and other life commitments can be tough, and most riders understandably struggle with this. To help, try using a cycling app. Many have dedicated training sessions, and can create full training plans based around your goals. Check out our guide to the best training apps here.
- Learn training zones: Your training zones are different levels of exertion based on your heart rate or power output. Most training rides will be centred on these and will target multiple zones. It can be confusing at first, but check out our guides to heart rate training zones and power training zones to clear things up.
- Rest weeks: It’s a common misconception that you can only improve when you’re constantly riding. When you train, you’re forcing your body to adapt. However, this puts lots of strain on your body which is why many cyclists burn out. That’s why you should plan a rest week every 4 to 6 weeks – during these weeks, try only going on easy riders or, even better, don’t ride at all.
How often you ride will depend on many factors, and the key is to understand what works for you. This may take time as you learn about your body and how to juggle riding with other responsibilities, but you’ll quickly learn what works best.
For more training advice, check out our guide to creating a cycling training plan. You can also find a range of bikes, accessories and cycling clothing over at Halfords.com.