Bike Workouts

Bike Workout: 5-Minute Intervals

These short intervals switch between a baseline intensity and increasingly shorter and more intense intervals, returning to baseline intensity between hard intervals. The profile of each set should look like the following: 20140522-120132-43292611.jpg

I teach this workout using three different drills:

  • Sitting/standing at 80rpm
  • Hills with increasing resistance
  • High cadence, between 95 and 110rpm

Each set consists of 4.5 minutes of intervals and a 30 second rest before starting the next set.  Teach 3x through each set (sit/stand, hills, sprint) for a 45 minute class, or 4 times for an hour class.


Sit/Stand Set:

Moderate resistance, adding on standing intervals; maintain 80rpm throughout.

60 seconds seated, 60 seconds standing
45 seconds seated, 45 seconds standing
30 seconds seated, 30 seconds standing


Hill Set:

Moderate to high resistance on baseline intervals, adding progressively larger amounts on hard intervals; maintain 65-70rpm throughout.

60 seconds at 80%, 60 seconds at 85%
45 seconds at 80%, 45 seconds at 90%
30 seconds at 80%, 30 seconds at 95% (all out)


High Cadence Set:

Maintain enough resistance to prevent spinning out or bouncing in the saddle, try to keep the resistance up on fast intervals.

60 seconds at 95rpm, 60 seconds at 100rpm
45 seconds at 95rpm, 45 seconds at 105rpm
30 seconds at 95rpm, 30 seconds at 110rpm


Music: I’m a big fan of the Steady130 Spin/Cycle mixes for time-based workouts.

Up and Over

Climbing technique is a key skill for competitive cyclists, and lots of recreational cyclists also benefit from learning how to properly pace and crest a hill.  We all have a tendency to ease off a little as we reach the top of a hill and the grade levels off, but if you add a push at the top and over the hill you can recover at a much faster speed than if you rest as soon as you reach the top.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do that little push to recover at 35km/hr rather than dying at 6km/hr over the top of the hill.

Okay, so now that we know the best technique for cresting a hill, how do you practice it?  By doing Up and Overs of course!  You can do these outside, on a trainer or in a spin class – whatever floats your boat. The key is to keep the effort level high until you’ve moved from the hill to the sprint.  No sneaking breaks in between! (more…)

In the Zone

I use this workout to help my class figure out different intensity levels and how each feels different from the other.  It starts off relatively easy, but builds into an intense endurance interval near the end, and my class (at least those with heart rate monitors) commented that they had a higher average heart rate than usual since they didn’t have any official breaks.

I teach this class without recovery time between songs in order to add an endurance element, although I do vary the intensity somewhat throughout the interval as most people can’t maintain 90% of their max heart rate for more than a minute or two.  If you prefer to focus more on the intensity of the intervals or plan to sustain the intensity for the entire interval, spin easy for 30 seconds to a minute between zones.

Zone 1: Easy endurance, just above recovery but still working.  Heart rate should be between 70-75% of max.
Zone 2: Moderate endurance intensity, a level that could be maintained for a while with some fatigue.  Heart rate 75-80% of max.
Zone 3: Tempo/endurance intensity, breathing should be heavy and muscles should start to fatigue within the interval.  Heart rate 80-85% of max.
Zone 4: Hard tempo intensity, near the lactate threshold so perceived exertion and fatigue increases .  Heart rate 85-90% of max.
Zone 5: Maximum intensity, all out effort at around 90-95% of max heart rate.

In the Zone Spin
Total ride time: 1 hour (51 minutes intervals, 9 minute cooldown)

Zone 1: seated flat, warmup and intro 90rpm (Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5 – 3:21)
Zone 2: standing flat or light hill 70rpm (On the Floor, Jennifer Lopez – 3:39)

Zone 1: seated flat 90 rpm (Higher, Taio Cruz – 3:08)
Zone 2: jumps (Hips Don’t Lie, Shakira – 3:40)
Zone 3: standing 90rpm (No Regrets, Dappy – 3:50)

Zone 1: seated flat 90rpm (Heart Skips a Beat, Olly Murs – 3:21)
Zone 2: moderate hill, seated 65rpm (She Makes me Go, Arash – 2:58)
Zone 3: stand/hover (Feel This Moment, Pitbull – 3:50)
Zone 4: seated sprints 110-115rpm (Feel the Love, Rudimental – 3:46)

Zone 1: jumps (Kiss the Stars, Pixie Lott – 3:15)
Zone 2: moderate hill, seated/standing 65rpm (You and Me Belong, Jes – 5:06)
Zone 3: stand/hover (Let’s Go, Calvin Harris – 3:47)
Zone 4: seated sprints 110-115rpm (Fix You, Vita Chambers – 3:35)
Zone 5: standing sprints on a hill (More More, Red One Jimmy Joker Remix, Usher – 3:40)

Cooldown and stretch

Circuit Spin

The focus of any of my circuit spins are to encourage the class to establish a baseline effort, then use that to push their difficulty without overdoing it.  The repetitive structure means everyone knows what’s coming and they can fine-tune their effort based on the difficulty of the last set; by the end of the class they should have a much better idea of how much resistance they can handle for each set.

This class is designed to be about 40 minutes of effort and 5-10 minute cooldown; if you prefer an hour class, add a fourth circuit.

Circuit Spin

Total ride time: 40 minutes of intervals, 10 minute cooldown and stretch.

Circuit 1: start off easy and gradually increase intensity as muscles warm up, focus on breathing a proper form.
Flat (Brighter than the Sun, Colbie Caillat)Climb (Only Teardrops, Emmelie de Forest)
Jumps (Domino, Jessie J.)
Sprint (Let It Go, Dragonette)

Circuit 2: challenge the class to increase intensity beyond their comfort level, paying attention to how they feel
Flat (Drive By, Train)
Climb (Nobody’s Listening, LInkin Park)
Jumps (Drop it Low, Kat deLuna)
Sprint (Under the Sun, John de Sohn feat. Andreas Moe)

Circuit 3: focus on maintaining effort, adjust intensity based on how they felt finishing the last circuitFlat (Pocketful of Sunshine, Natasha Bedingfield)
Climb (We Got the Power, Loreen)
Jumps (So Yours, Darin)
Sprint (Green Light, Roll Deep)

Cooldown and stretch:
Shake it Out, Florence and the Machine
If I Lose Myself, Onerepublic vs. Alesso
The Fire, Sons of Midnight


Descending Tabata Intervals

This ride is inspired by the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) training method known as Tabata, which involves alternating 20 second intervals with 10 seconds of rest for four minutes. It doesn’t matter what exercise you do for 20 seconds, as long as it gets your heart rate up; lunges, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, sprints and squats are all great options. There are some great Tabata videos on Youtube if you’re looking for inspiration!

This class is designed to be taught continuously, with no extra breaks beyond those listed. The rest periods are half the length of the intervals, which get progressively shorter towards the end of the class and finish with a four-minute sprint Tabata. All recovery should be done seated at an easy resistance and 90rpm cadence.

Descending Tabata Intervals

Total ride time: 50 minutes of intervals, 10 minute cooldown and stretch.

3 x 2:00 standing flat, 1:00 recovery (9:00 total)
Start off with easy resistance on the standing portions and gradually add as the class gets warmed up. Standing cadence between 70 and 80rpm.

4 x 1:30 hill, 0:45 recovery (8:30 total)
Add a bit of resistance every 30s while climbing, maintaining cadence at 65rpm.

5 x 1:00 tempo, 0:30 recovery (7:30 total)
Pick up cadence above 100rpm, maintaining moderate resistance. Everyone should be breathing hard by the end of each interval!

6 x 0:50 jumps, 0:25 recovery (7:30 total)
Add some resistance and keep a steady cadence at 80rpm with four-count jumps. Easy spinning at 90rpm to recover.

7 x 0:40 standing hill, 0:20 recovery (7:00 total)
Maintain climbing cadence of 60-65rpm during interval and really make the resistance challenging!

8 x 0:30 hill/sprint, 0:15 recovery (6:00 total)
Alternate intervals between a tough climb at 70rpm and a high-resistance tempo at 100rpm (four of each). Get ready for the sprint finale!

8 x 0:20 sprint, 0:10 recovery (4:00 total)
Finish with the traditional Tabata, sprinting at 110-115rpm during intervals and spinning lightly during recovery.

10 minutes – single leg drills, cooldown and stretch.