I'm a runner who has just started cycling. I did a 20 kilometre (12.5 mile) ride last weekend without much trouble, and a total of 50 kilometres (31 miles) during the week. I'd like to cycle more and I'm wondering if there's a safety limit for increasing distance.

For instance, in long distance running, there's a 10% increase rule where you increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10%.

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    That rule does get quoted in various forms for cycling as well (often assuming and ignoring some riding on off days). But for someone with a good level of fitness, who's paying attention to how they feel during and after a ride, it would seem reasonable to increase a bit faster. Don't forget running is harder on your joints, and that's a reason to limit the increase.
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2015 at 7:00
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    The ergonomics of cycling make it fairly easy to modulate the wear and tear you're inflicting on yourself as you tire towards the end of a ride. I'm not much of a runner, but my experience is that you're still beating yourself up when running tired... something to consider. Personally, I was able to increase by well over 10%/week, after 20 years of not riding at all, for whatever that's worth. Dec 21, 2015 at 7:36
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    When I go on holiday I regularly switch from 30km/day (commuting) to 80km/day the first week then 100km/day after that with no great drama (cycle touring). If I pay attention to how I feel and what I eat it's no big drama.
    – Móż
    Dec 21, 2015 at 7:48
  • But you are not even at your base yet. If you are fit you should be able to do easily 100 mile a week on a road bike on nice roads.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 21, 2015 at 9:36
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    @ChrisH Cheers. I have that sense from running. I run about 40 km/week, so my joints are probably okay. I'm not sure if my basic biking skills are quite good yet, so I'm taking it easy. I'll and increase my long rides by about 5 to 10 km/week and see how that goes :)
    – Nigel
    Dec 21, 2015 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


Is there anything specific you'd like to achieve or try while cycling? I cycle purely for fitness purposes and will cycle quite differently depending on available time as well as what I'd like to achieve in terms of strength or cardiovascular goals. As you're a runner, I'll assume you're well versed in gps devices like those by Garmin which will assist in tracking your efforts.

I was able to increase fairly quickly from regular 10Km trips to once off trips off 30Km to 50Km to 80Km to 200 Km in the space of 1 month. Since then I've focused on better return for time in the saddle as opposed just worrying about distance covered.

For my round trip commute of ~20Km, I will cycle pretty hard either on the way to work or on the way home which usually gives me a pretty good cardiovascular workout over ~20 minutes. For part of this I may go all out for 60-90 seconds.

If I've got 1-2 hours available for a cycle then I'll either go for a 25-40Km flat route at 25-30Km/hr effort for cardiovascular training or a 15Km hilly route which will provide cardiovascular and strength training.

For long spins of 3+ hours I will try to cover mostly flat terrain with a couple of hills included and will aim for about 25Km/hr depending on weather conditions.

As with any exercise, your nutrition and fluid intake before, during and after will be key in helping you maximise the return on your efforts.

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    I'm just trying to maintain cardiovascular fitness for times when I don't feel like running, basically adding more activities into the mix. Long-term, I'd like to do long rides for fun mostly.
    – Nigel
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:20
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    I'd go for the slightly longer rides of 1+ hours at a sustained effort. A heart rate monitor would definitely help keep you in touch with how your body is reacting to different terrains and environmental conditions.
    – ynnekkram
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:51
  • Another thing, your cadence will have a part to play with a faster cadence geared towards cardiovascular training and a slower one more likely to work on muscle strength.
    – ynnekkram
    Dec 21, 2015 at 8:56
  • @Nigel I did a little bit of running for similar reasons (not wanting to lose the fitness from bike-commuting) and found the running increase much harder. I was riding 30km/day and running 5km with no problem, but to go out and run 7.5km hurt my knees enough for a week off running (In the end I built up to 10km by adding 0.5km/week, then started rising again). You just don't get that kind of impact on a bike.
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2015 at 10:26
  • I have a Garmin already for running, so I measure my rides with it. Reasonably good heart rate zones (though definitely less than running). I run about 40 km/week and I'm increasing it slowly as I train for a marathon.
    – Nigel
    Dec 21, 2015 at 13:42

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