How Long Does it Take to Get Fit Cycling?

  • Last Updated: October 30th, 2019
For those athletes coming to triathlon with a good level of fitness from either a swimming or a running, the unique requirements of cycling may cause you to think that you’re not fit at all!If you’re new to triathlon and are coming into the sport with no fitness background at all, you may find that the bike is the hardest discipline of them all, particularly if you live somewhere windy!

How long does it take to get bike fit?

Firstly, let’s get something straight – “fit” is an extremely vague concept that will differ from athlete to athlete. A pro looking to get fit cycling after an injury will have different expectations to those of a complete novice rider!For the purpose of keeping this guide focused, we’re aiming the content below at those athletes just coming into triathlon who are looking to be able to cover the sprint triathlon distance.

The Key To Cycling Fitness

The key to developing bike fitness is progression and consistency. Ideally, this will take the form of a training plan (such as our beginner sprint triathlon training plan) which will build up your cycling endurance over time.Even if you don’t follow a specific plan, it’s always worth writing down just what you’ve done (alternatively, use an online platform such as Strava or TrainingPeaks). When you track your training rides, you’ll be able to see what you’ve done, and assess your fitness levels.Alternatively, try a few of the tips below for fantastic results.

1. Ride With More Experienced Cyclists

Not only are group rides a fantastic way to get to know your fellow triathletes, they’re also incredible for helping you increase your cycling fitness.The most important thing to remember with group riding is that you should always try to find a group that’s around or slightly above your current ability level. After all, there’s no point in joining an elite group when you’re just getting started – all that’s going to happen there is that you’re going to get dropped or have your legs detonate!Instead, by training with a cycling group that’s at the right level for you, you benefit from cycling at the right tempo while having people around you to push you on when your fitness starts to fade.Most triathlon and cycling clubs will run group rides to cater for riders of all abilities and are always happy to see new faces out and about!One of the other major advantages of training with a group at the right level is that they’ll be able to give yo advice on how to prevent injury while cycling – a major stumbling block for newer athletes.
Why It Works:Firstly, when you ride ina group you’re going to get a mental push from those riders around you. The urge to keep up is a powerful motivator that can help you push on a little harder than you ever would training alone.When you ride in a group you have the chance to tuck in behind other riders and take a bit of a breather while still maintaining a consistent pace. The huge benefit here is that it allows you to consistently hold a higher pace during your workouts.

2. Interval Sessions

One of the ultimate fitness power-ups for your cycling fitness are bike base interval training sessions.Rather than long, steady rides, interval sessions are short, tough and completed at a high intensity!For best results, interval sessions are best completed on rollers or a turbo trainer as these allow you to go full gas without compromising your safety.
Why It Works:A study by the American Council on Exercise found that subjects who perform interval exercises can expect to see a 13% in cardiovascular fitness. To further support this, a 2005 study titled “Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans” and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that subjects that performe just two weeks of interval based cycle training saw a 100% increase in their level of exercise endurance.

3. Long Rides

While interval sessions can be completed in under 30 minutes, long rides typically take an hour or more to complete and are done at a relatively sedate pace.It’s really easy to know if you’re riding at the right pace to benefit from a long ride – you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation.Long rides help you get fit as they build that base level of endurance that all athletes need.
Why It Works:To get the most fitness benefit from your long rides takes a lot of discapline! You need to make a concious effort to take it easy, especially when it feels that you could and should go faster.When you ride slower, you can ride further as you’re not spending as much energy during your ride. As you can cycle for longer, you build a greater number of capillaries which helps deliver more oxygenated blood to your muscles – a key indicator of cycling fitness.Not only do long rides help with fitness, they also allow you to repeat the pedal motion without the stresses of high intensity training – allowing you to refine technique.


So there you have it, if you’ve been trying to find out how long does it take to get fit cycling – now you know! With the three tips above, you’ll be bike fit in no time at all!

Scott Holliday

Scott Holliday has been coaching athletes of all levels for over 10 years and is certified by the acclaimed International Triathlon Coaching Association (ITCA). He works with athletes of all abilities to help then unlock their potential.