How to Increase Power & Speed During Cycling Workouts

Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

Cycling is primarily an endurance sport. However, speed and power have their uses, such as attacking a steep climb, breaking away from the pack, or committing to a final sprint at the end of a stage or race. You can train to increase your speed and power with a little planning and just a few extra pieces of equipment.

Improve Pedal-Stroke Efficiency

Set up your bike on an indoor trainer. Clip into your pedals. Warm up with about 10 minutes of cycling in a low gear.

Unclip one foot and rest it on a stool next to your bike or on the frame of the indoor trainer. Shift to a fairly high gear. Pedal with just one leg. Concentrate on moving your foot in a circular pattern. Change from driving down to pulling up as smoothly as possible. Switch legs.

Clip both feet into the pedals and shift to your lowest gear. Start pedaling and increase your cadence. Pedal as quickly as you can without bouncing in your seat or wobbling. The bouncing is caused when your pedals outrun your footspeed and you change from downstroke to upstroke more sharply to compensate. Concentrate on pedaling as quickly as you can with the smoothest transitions possible.

Combine the single-leg/high-gear and double-leg/low-gear/high-cadence workouts into an interval workout. For example, pedal for 1 minute with each leg, then pedal with both legs at a high cadence for 2 minutes. Alternating five total sets of these will give you a 20-minute workout.

Increase Cranking Power

Find a flat section roughly one block long on the road. On an indoor trainer, set up your bike as usual. In both situations warm up at 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate for 10 minutes. When you've completed your warm-up, select a very high gear.

Jump out of your saddle from a dead stop and drive each pedal down. With each pedal stroke shift your body to directly over the pedal, using your handlebars for leverage. Continue this for 10 pedal strokes, or 8 to 12 seconds.

Shift to a lower gear and pedal easily and continuously for 3 to 5 minutes. The time allotted to this rest period depends on your experience and fitness levels. It is most important to recover fully between efforts.

Come to a complete stop, and repeat the power start from Step 2. You may begin with three work/rest periods for this workout, and gradually work up to eight to 10 repetitions in a single session.

Raise Lactate Threshold

Find a level area on the road. On your indoor trainer, set up accordingly. In both situations, warm up, gradually increasing the intensity for 20 minutes. The 21st minute will be your first work set.

Ride intervals with a 1:1 work:rest ratio. For example, ride in a high gear with a cadence below 70 rotations for 3 minutes for the work set. Ride in a low gear with a cadence above 90 rpm for 3 minutes as active rest. You may use intervals of 1 to 3 minutes.

Begin with a total of 20 minutes. If your sets are 1 minute long, this will be 10 work sets and 10 rest sets. Add a pair of sets each week until you reach a total of 40 minutes. You can also increase the length of the sets as you become more comfortable with the workout.