Whether you ride a stationary cycling bike designed for classes or mount your outdoor bike on a trainer, a planned routine will help you meet your fitness goals. If you are a beginner, build an aerobic base with a steady-state pace that keeps your heart rate between 55 and 65 percent of your maximum. After several weeks, you're ready to add routines that challenge your strength and aerobic capacity.
Speed intervals help you develop power so you can motor your outdoor bike more efficiently. They also strengthen your heart to improve your overall fitness level. You may design an entire indoor cycling routine around speed intervals, or you may intersperse intervals into a workout that also includes steady-state riding and hill climbing.
Speed intervals usually involve 30 seconds to five minutes of fast-pedal intervals interspersed with recovery periods of light riding. The recovery may be longer, shorter or equal-to the interval, depending on your goal. Recovery periods that are equal to or longer than your intense work intervals enable you to give all your power to each interval while shorter recoveries build greater stamina and endurance.
An all-speed routine lasting approximately 45 minutes starts with a warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes, moves into five 1-minute speed drills at moderate intensity with 2-minute recoveries in between each, continues with 10 30-second sprints at near all-out pace with 30-second recoveries in between each and concludes with a cooldown at a moderate or easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
You can always set out to climb one long hill for the entirety of your workout, but this can be boring and overly fatiguing. Integrate longer hills lasting 10 to 15 minutes into a routine with hill bursts and rolling hills to make your ride more challenging and entertaining.
Perform the long hills at a resistance or gear that feels challenging, but still allows you to maintain it for the entire time while keeping your heart rate between 70 and 80 percent of maximum. Hill bursts hone your racing skills, making you more adept at thwarting attempted passes out on the road. When you are climbing the long hill, stand and pedal at an all-out intensity for 10 to 15 seconds every three to four minutes. For rolling hills, increase your resistance periodically to climb a series of hills that last one to three minutes. Right after each hill, bring the resistance or gear down to simulate flat or downhill riding and pedal actively -- no coasting when you are indoors.
Games can make the time go by quickly, especially if you're leading a class or riding with a group. For example, spend a portion of your routine simulating a pace line. One rider -- or a group of riders -- rides hard for 30 to 90 seconds while another rider pedals more moderately -- to simulate drafting, which is something riders do out on the open road. Two or more riders pedal in a tight line and the first rider cuts the wind resistance for the other riders. In class, wind resistance isn't an issue, but you can have your riders pretend, taking turns upping their resistance to "fight the wind." Once the first rider's time is up, he signals the next "drafter" to take over. Repeat this drill several times to make a complete workout or include it along with hills and speed play.
If you're riding by yourself, make a game using your music or the television. Speed up during the chorus of a song or ride quickly during commercials and then settle into a steady-state pace during the main programming or slower portion of a song.
Download a map of your favorite outdoor route, or find one of a famous ride such as one of the stages of the Tour de France, and simulate it on your training or indoor stationary bike. If you are leading a group on the indoor ride, use imagery to help participants visualize the landscape.