How to Warm Up for a Bike Race

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Warming up for a bike race will vary, depending on the type of racing you'll be doing. While there will be certain similarities to pre-race warm-ups, you'll make a few changes among your routines as you prepare for different races. Keep in mind that your warm-up should include movements and intensities that will mirror your race. Get to your race early to have plenty of time to prepare your muscles and cardiovascular system for a successful bike race.

Arrive at the race early enough to take care of all of your pre-race registration and other non-warm-up needs so you'll have adequate time to warm up before the race starts. Find an area where you can lie down for stretching, set up a bike trainer or perform other movements that will be part of your warm-up.

Static stretch your muscles for several minutes, 30 minutes or more before your race. Static stretching closer to your race will decrease your power because your muscles will be trying to recover from their lengthening during the stretch. Researchers at Wichita State University found static stretching close to activity decreases muscular power and specific sport movements like vertical leap.

Stretch using dynamic stretches off your bike. Use movements like jogging in place, high-knee skips, arm swings, jumping jacks, butt kicks, light rope skipping or quick lunges. Lie on your back and perform moderately paced, pedaling movements with your legs. Perform kangaroo jumps, pulling your knees as high and as close to your chest each time, if you will be performing jumps during your race. Perform box jumps, standing behind a box or bench, then jumping straight up onto the box. Do not ballistic stretch, or stretch your muscles by bouncing as you stretch, such as toe touches that you lengthen with bounce-like movements. Perform dynamic stretches for approximately five minutes to raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to your legs.

Mount your bike and begin pedaling, if you have a trainer, or use an exercise bike if one is available. Start at a moderate pace, increasing intensity until you reach the pace at which you will be riding the race. If you are riding a criterium, do not sprint long enough to get fatigued, only to expose your muscles to the movements they'll be performing shortly. Stand on the pedals if you will be doing so during your race. Crouch and lean if you will be using those movements. Cool down by decreasing your rate of pedaling if you have used more intense movements and have raised your heart rate into an aerobic or anaerobic zone. Thomas Chapple, a licensed USA Cycling coach and triathlete, recommends pedaling near your race intensity for two minutes if you are racing in a time trial or downhill. If you don't have a trainer, find an area where you can ride your bike to perform this type of warm-up.

Dismount your bike and perform cool-down movements similar to your warm-up movements. Do not static stretch. Drink water to rehydrate.


Ride the race track if you're allowed as your warm-up. Not only will it get your muscles ready, you'll have a chance to inspect the surface. It may help you later in the race.


Stop your warm-up 15 minutes prior to the race. You want to become revved, not fatigued.