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I wish to improve as a cyclist, I have a goal that I want to start racing by next summer.

I want to know what is the best start I can give myself in or order to prepare.

The hard part, it's coming into winter and my cycle computer broke.

What is the best training I can do to get race season?

I plan on doing an 90 min hill climb route after work twice a week.

I'm very green to all this so be gentle :)

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FYI I'm using the "Schwinn 20-Function Bike Computer" and it's great. Thin wire, has pretty much everything you need without going overboard. And I got it for less than 15 $. So a bike computer can be replaced for pretty cheap. –  Brad Oct 2 '12 at 20:44
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4 Answers

Your best bet for your first season will most likely be just TITS, Time In The Saddle. Much like running, it's the day in and day out consistency that will bring some of your best improvements.

You don't "need" a cycle computer, although they do help. Until you can get it replaced, just go by perceived effort. Go out one day and just go as hard as you can for thirty minutes. Remember how that feels, and spend a lot of your time riding at 70-80% of that level over varied terrain.

Once you get closer to race season (A couple months out), start adding in things like 2x20 minutes hard effort, with 5 mins easy spin in between, or 10 minutes of 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds spin.

I would also highly recommend finding a group ride, preferably a "no drop" type of ride. (That means that they periodically stop and regroup all the people that have dropped off the back). One it gets you out for consistent training, two you start getting used to riding in a group/pack, and the handling skills necessary. This will be critical when you get to race season.

Most of all, have fun!

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An optimal training regimen will include about three hard efforts a week, with at least one rest or recovery day in between those efforts. Trying to put in any more hard efforts than this has shown to be detrimental by most trainers.

Cyclo-computers are an important tool, but if you have your mileage mapped out ahead of time computers are not critical. The most important tool of all to help you with your training is a heart rate monitor. If you don’t’ have one. Get one. It is extremely hard to gauge your effort without one, this is especially true for training on a stationary bike or trainer. When you get another bike-computer get one with a cadence monitor. Cadence is especially important if you are training for road racing. The cadence monitor will teach you proper cadence and keep you from becoming a pedal masher.

Hill climbs are a good strategy because they force hard efforts, so are intervals especially if you are using a trainer. I define a hard effort as keeping myself above 85% of my max heart rate for most of the ride. I would sustain between 85% – 95% for a full 90 minutes and get a really good, hard work out. As a beginner this may be difficult, so see what you can do and adjust your goals accordingly. Seriously test your limits. You may be surprised how long you can go at a seemingly impossible pace.

Fueling up is important. If you don’t fuel up before putting in a hard effort your body will use up it’s energy stores in around 60 minutes. At around that time I would find myself really beginning to fade. I started fueling up with a light 200 – 300 calorie carb and sugar snack an hour before riding and I could keep going strong long after the 60 minute mark.

Recovery rides in between hard training sessions are important but the amateur does not always have the option. My schedule didn’t allow for them and as a result I would get sore muscles more prone to injury. Recovery rides are VERY light rides, that keep your heart rate below 140. A rider who is very aggressive about training is going to find it very difficult to ride at a pace this slow. Think leisure and get training out of your mind when doing these type of rides. Because the effort is minimal mountain bike trails are generally not very suitable for recovery rides.

Keep a training log. Log time, distance, Average MPH, effort, conditions and brief notes on how you felt. This will help you focus and allow you to see your progress. I had a loop I would ride every month or so that I would use to see how I had progressed physically.

Don’t let the weather inhibit your training. Learn to dress for it. Your body generates a tremendous amount of heat while cycling and this allows you to train comfortably in almost any condition. Keeping the feet warm is still a challenge so it’s worth investing in winter cycling shoes and wool socks. Here is a cold weather cycling article I wrote.

Consider spin classes. A couple of winter’s of deep snow forced me indoors. Coupled with a heart rate monitor, spin classes provided good, hard, motivating training sessions. Because the sessions were usually short, 45 minutes, I would also ride the trainer before and after the class or find back to back sessions and ride the whole way through.

This is my culmination of a lot of research, advice and practical application. I trained and raced seriously for several years and I got good results out this training regimen. I am currently ‘retired’ due to a back injury but I raced as an expert level mountain biker and was winner the Sport Vet 2009 WVMBA mountain bike series. This regimen served me well. Good luck with your training.

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going above 85% of my max heart rate? Did you mean to say going 85% of my max heart rate? The first one sounds like a heart attack. –  Brad Oct 2 '12 at 20:46
    
The first one Brad, 85% of 189bpm is about 160bpm. So keeping my heart rate above 160 or going above 85% of my max heart rate. –  David Sopko Oct 11 '12 at 19:01
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I don't know what I was thinking when I read this 2 weeks ago. It makes sense. –  Brad Oct 11 '12 at 19:17
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Of course, do your solo training of some sort, as others have suggested. You have to do that. But to really prepare for racing, you must ride with others. Racing is not simply going fast; you must have the bike handling skills and group riding skills. If you are not already doing some kind of group ride regularly, start right now. A racing skills clinic would not be a bad idea either.

The best training for racing is racing. Try to find a fast and strong group ride to do at least once a week. And, in contrast to another answer provided, it should not be a "no-drop" ride. It should also be a ride that goes off rain or shine. Don't duck out unless conditions are truly dangerous or impossible to ride in. Ideally, it will be a bit harder than your current ability level, and essentially a practice race. It should push you to do a bit more than you are currently comfortable with. Go ahead, get dropped a few times. There's nothing wrong with that. The motivation to stay attached will cause considerable improvement.

Once you're to the point of not getting dropped, start building rapport with the others in the group, as these are most likely the people you'll be racing against. Try not to make too many enemies...you never know when you're going to need a friendly wheel.

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Best resource I can provide is a blog called cycling tips (cyclingtips.com.au) They have some great articles on training and how to race in general. Geographies are very Melbourne, Australia focussed though as that is where they're based.

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