So you’ve hit a plateau in your training, and you want to become stronger on the bike?
Good news: it’s entirely possible. With a few tweaks to your training, you’ll become a well-rounded cyclist. That means you will be able to:
So how do you do it? There is no one size fits all solution. But in this blog post, we highlight 15 things you can do — that you might not yet be doing — to become a better cyclist. We touch on everything from following a training plan to training with a power metre and getting a bike fit.
Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Follow a structured training plan
If you’re looking to become stronger on the bike, follow a structured training plan.
Often, many cyclists just ride their bikes. And when they want to get faster or stronger, they ride more. But this approach will only get you so far.
Follow a structured plan to get the most out of your training. You’ll do a mix of sessions such as threshold efforts, sweet spot rides, and zone 2 long rides to appropriately stress the cardiovascular and muscular systems.
This is what is needed to make you a stronger cyclist.
2. Train with a power metre
One of the best investments you can make to become a stronger cyclist is to buy a power metre.
If you’re not currently training with power, you’re limited in how you measure performance. And yes, even if you have a heart rate monitor, you’re still restricted. One of the main issues with heart rate (HR), is that when you train in the higher zones, your HR begins to lag behind. It takes a while for your HR to match your current effort, especially when you’re dipping in and out of higher zones.
Power, on the other hand, shows an instant objective measurement and does not drift. Your power data is accurate, reliable, and shows real-time effort — you can see your power on your bike computer. This is a much better way to train and is something more experienced riders do.
If you want to go a step further, you can use a heart rate monitor paired with power data. But this is not necessary.
3. Tackle more hills
If you live in a flat area, then riding more hills may prove tricky. But if you can tackle more elevation, you’ll become a stronger bike rider.
Riding at these lower cadences facilitates musculoskeletal adaptations. Similarly, you’ll improve your aerobic capacity and efficiency on the bike. The more you ride, the better you’ll get, and the more comfortable you’ll become when the road tilts upwards.
And if you’re already comfortable riding hills and don’t grimace at the thought of one, then consider hill repeats. A session of hill repeats is an excellent workout that allows you to train all the important systems. It’s a must-have in a training plan.
4. Improve your descending ability
You might be a natural climber, but a little more hesitant on the descents.
Learning to improve your descending will make riding more fun, and it means you can carry more speed and momentum into the next corner or hill. In other words, you’ll become a more well-rounded cyclist.
The best way to improve your descending ability is practice. Luckily for you, it goes hand in hand with riding more hills. You’ll get stronger on the climbs, and you’ll build confidence and bike handling skills on the descents.
You’ll also get better riding in the drop bars — another skill needed to become a stronger and faster cyclist.
5. Master your nutrition on the bike
Most cyclists get their nutrition wrong on the bike.
A common mistake is not eating (at all), or eating too late when you’re already at risk of bonking.
If you’re riding for more than 1 hour, it’s recommended to consume anywhere between 60 and 90 grams of carbohydrates to maintain your performance (and prevent the bonk).
You can start taking on food and carbs as early as 30 minutes into your ride. Don’t leave it too late!
6. Find a hydration strategy that works for you
Not only do a lot of cyclists not eat enough on the bike, but they also don’t consume enough fluids.
If you get the right volume of fluid/hour, you’ll maximise your performance and reduce your risk of dehydration. This is especially important on those long rides, and even more crucial when riding in the heat.
The topic of hydration can very quickly become confusing. So if you want to dive into the specifics, including how to calculate your sweat rate and what fluids you should be drinking, check out our blog post on the importance of sports hydration.
And if you’re not too bothered about the specifics and just want to get out and ride, aim to achieve the very basics:
- Hydrate before, during, and after cycling
- Drink at least one 500 ml bidon/per hour
- Take electrolytes (mixed into water) when going long or riding in the heat
7. Ride at a mix of cadences
To become a stronger cyclist, you should train — and become familiar — with a mix of low, medium, and high cadences. For example, in a single ride, you naturally alternate between cadences. A slightly slower RPM on the hills, and a quicker cadence when you sprint out of the saddle.
Perform cadence drills and practice at a mix of cadences so you know what it feels like when you need to make the shift. It’s also great training and stresses different systems.
8. Improve your core strength
It can be a real challenge to encourage cyclists to hit the gym — but a step further than this is core training.
According to research, core stability provides the foundation from which power is generated in cycling.
So if you’re not training your core, you’re leaving valuable watts on the table.
It’s not only about increased speed, either. Core fatigue has been shown to alter cycling mechanics that may increase your risk of injury.
Core training may provide greater alignment of the lower extremities, including better cycling posture to reduce fatigue, and your risk of injury.
Don’t forget to train your upper body, too!
How to train the core
Many cyclists do not perform strength training. And those who do, only perform 1-2 core exercises.
Instead of treating the core as more of an “afterthought,” you should treat it like any other muscle group. That means performing several exercises at a mix of sets and reps to hit the individual core muscles (e.g. the obliques, the rectus abdominis, and the muscles of the pelvic floor).
Here are a few exercises to get you started:
- Side plank
- Bird dog
- Russian twists
- Hollow holds
9. Do more of what you’re bad at
Naturally, we gravitate toward what we’re good at.
If you’re good at climbing, you prioritise finding good climbs and giving it full beams. But if you’re bad at descending or cornering, focusing on these weaker areas will make you a stronger cyclist. Sounds simple, right?! That’s because it is but all too often, we avoid these areas.
And if you don’t know what you’re bad at — think of what you avoid. Maybe you don’t like riding in a group, interval training, riding in traffic, or you’re not the biggest fan of descending.
Find whatever it is and do more of it.
10. Keep a log of your training
There’s no better way to track your progress than a training log. You can upload your rides automatically to Wahoo, Garmin, or Strava — whatever is easiest for you and will keep you accountable.
Write notes to accompany your rides, e.g. what went well, if there were any niggle or pains, or if the ride felt easier than anticipated.
These notes will serve you well in the future — they’re fantastic to look back on to show you just how far you’ve come or can allow you to adjust your training as needed to prevent injury.
11. Have a goal for every ride
Everytime you get in the saddle, you should have a goal, even if it’s something as simple as completing a few out-of-the-saddle efforts.
The best way to have a goal for each ride is to follow a training plan. This helps you avoid dipping in and out of different zones, and provides more intention to your riding. For example, on a Monday, your goal could be to complete 90 minutes in zone 2. While on Thursday, you might be doing tempo efforts.
More intentional riding helps you stress the right systems to facilitate improvements.
Structure + consistency = stronger riding.
12. Perform bike handling drills
Improve your bike handling skills, and you’ll become better on the bike. It’s that simple, and it’s super easy to do.
A good place to start is by performing basic drills on your zone 2 rides. For example, you can practise turning at slow speeds, placing one or no hands on the bars, or avoiding potholes (a big problem here in the UK).
Practising these skills at low speeds and with low stakes will make you better when it matters most.
13. Get a professional bike fit
All cyclists should get a professional bike fit, but this is especially true if you’re experiencing any pain in the saddle.
This will not only reduce your risk of injury, but a few tweaks to your setup will also improve performance.
14. Prioritise recovery
If you’re riding more and wondering why you’re not getting faster, it could be because you’re not prioritising recovery. At the very least, include one rest day/per week.
Your body needs breaks to recover properly to make the necessary adaptations to become stronger.
This is why many periodised training plans slowly build the intensity gradually, and then include a week of less intense cycling every 3-4 weeks. This is when your body recovers and adapts to your training.
15. Remain consistent with your riding
Forget the threshold efforts, tempos, sweet spots, and other sessions — get consistent first before adding in the extras. If you’re not getting out on the bike regularly, you’ll struggle to improve.
So what’s the best way to stay consistent?
Set a plan and stick to it — but be realistic. Don’t jump from 1 day of riding to 7 days. Try 3-4 rides and work with, not against your schedule for lasting results.
Consistency and regular riding are like building the foundations before putting up the walls. You need a foundation to fall back on, so get out there and build it.
Become a better cyclist: to summarise
If you want to be a stronger rider, there are always areas you can improve. Whether that’s working on your endurance, adding core exercises to your training, or dialling in your nutrition and hydration, it’s a matter of working on your weaknesses to become a more well-rounded rider.
How do I get stronger at cycling?
Follow a training plan, add strength and core training to your weekly schedule, and train using power to get stronger (these are the basics).
How do pro cyclists get so strong?
Pro cyclists get strong because they ride upwards of 20 hours a week. They also do core training and strength work to improve performance.
How to improve cycling endurance?
Start by riding more often at a low-medium intensity (zone 2). Once you’re consistent with it, begin adding in threshold efforts and other structured sessions.