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  Last updated: 2/24/2017


There are as many cycling training programs as there are trainers, but there are certain common "rules of thumb" that you can use as you develop your own personal program for that upcoming event.

More about long training rides.

Tracking Training - Miles versus Hours

Although the number of miles ridden (per week) is the most common approach to measuring training, there are those who believe that mileage doesn't count as much as time. For example, compare riding alone at 15 miles per hour versus in a group at 20. Were both equal workouts with an hour of saddle time? Or was the 20 miles a better workout? There is no answer to this question, so you get to pick your own preference.

Using a training log

Keeping track of your training - and using the information to improve - is an important part of any training program. How do you use the information?? I'll reprint the comments of Fred Matheny (from - an excellent on line resource). I'll emphasize what resonates with me in bold.

From RBR's 12/21/06 Newsletter: Motivation & Inspiration: Best of Coach Fred. " How Do You Analyze a Training Diary?"

Reader Questions

The following email from a reader is a nice example of how it all works together. A specific example sometimes shows you the way through the morass of "bullet points".

Q. I've gone over your web site articles for training and I have a question. From reading, Max VO2 occurs at 90% max heartrate. On intense training days, how long should you keep pedaling at MaxVO2?

This is sample intense session:

and so forth until interval is completed. Typically, I like to ride for about 60 minutes for an intense session doing 4-8 intense intervals. Recovery rides are usually 60 minutes, and my long ride (current) is 2 hours.

Any advice would be appreciated. - JR

A. You have a nice balance of long day, rest days, and intervals. You can fill in the "x" with any length interval you'd like - it really depends on the event you are training for and your personal goals. With this balance in your program, getting better will happen as you put in the time on the bike. But don't forget to take off a day or two each week - that often takes more discipline than riding every day.

Q. I am taking part in a 24 hour mountain bike event in July. There will be 5 of us in a team, so we will be taking it in turns on a course that takes approximately 40 minutes. That means we will have roughly 240 minute breaks between rides. The question is how do you train for that? - KB

A. I would plan your weekly training program as if this was to be a single 40 minute, high intensity event, with a key element (or focus) being what you need to do to maximize your recovery in the 4 hour break between the 40 minute "events".

You should estimate the total mileage you will be riding in the full 24 hours - and be sure your baseline mileage (weekly) and long ride of the week, support this distance. And train with an emphasis on intervals to improve performance for the 40 minute events.

The few days before the 24 hour event, be sure you have maximized your total body glycogen reserves - and replace your expended Calories after each event using a liquid replacement as much as possible to minimize delays in gastric emptying and absorption. Finally, be sure you replace sweat loses - dehydration over the 24 hours is probably the biggest risk to your performance. See nutrition for performance, the interval ride section.

Q. I'm still relatively new to mountain biking. I wanted to ask what you mean by "have a base of at least 500 miles"? Is that a weekly amount?

A. The rationale behind developing a mileage base at the beginning of the season is the thought (speculation really) that if you push yourself too hard before your muscles and tendons have adapted to the stress of training (for a new activity) you increase the risk of injury. Thus the idea of "going easy" in your riding (probably 200 to 500 miles) to start the adaptation process in your musculoskeletal system before you begin to increase the training stress that will lead to improvement - more intense (intervals) and longer (time/distance) rides.

How do you measure base mileage? Is it the distance ridden in a week? The base mileage period is not time based. Sort of like the "break in" period of a new car where they ask you to keep the speed (and RPMs) down for a certain number of miles. Common sense suggests this is regular riding over more than just a few weeks to allow the body time to respond to and build up the tissue being stressed. I'd think more over 4 or 5 weeks. And you can do still some stress activities (like easy intervals). Just not full bore.

Questions on content or suggestions to improve this page are appreciated.

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