I'm a relatively fit 30 years old road cyclist and I've noticed that I need a lot of time to warm up. When I ride with some club mates, I am typically much slower than most of the other riders in the first 20 miles. However, if I start slowly after about 20-30 miles my legs feel good and I can easily keep up with the faster riders.

When I try to push hard from the start, my legs would start hurting so badly and my overall performance would drop. I should also add that I typically don't do any warm up off-the-saddle. My question is the following: is there any particular training to do to improve my performance for shorter rides, without needing 30 miles to warm up?

  • Have you ever tried rollers?
    – ebrohman
    Jul 12, 2017 at 23:05
  • I think that would be equivalent to doing extra miles, which is exactly my problem. I am fine with that, I just don't think it's normal the fact that I need so many miles to warm up. What I'm asking is whether there is any more effective way to warm up (or a different training technique) rather than just doing more miles pre-ride.
    – maupertius
    Jul 13, 2017 at 10:45
  • Have you asked your club mates how they manage to be so fast from the start? Jul 13, 2017 at 17:12
  • It usually takes me (34y/o) about half an hour on the saddle too feel warmed up and ready to push hard. Jul 23, 2017 at 10:36

4 Answers 4


Simplest solution would be to ride to the start of the ride, with a detour if you live/work too close to the start of the ride.

  • As mentioned in my comment to the post, I am looking to a different solution such that I don't have to do so many miles before a ride.
    – maupertius
    Jul 13, 2017 at 10:46

As you've noted this is a very personal variable so you'll need to experiment. When doing so, don't ignore any aches and pains, rest them or get them seen to as you see fit.

With a ride to the start that's too short to be a warmup on its own you could try adding some dynamic stretching during the hanging around stage to keep on warming up. If you can't ride to the start, a few miles and some stretching when you get there might be the solution.

Especially if it's something specific, a sports physio is well worth consulting. You may actually need to help (strengthen or warm up) your supporting muscles more than the main engines, or have an old injury troubling you. Think about whether there's a particular part that feels worse, next time you're riding like this, and seek advice if so.

30 miles seems like a lot so it's well worth looking for a solution.

  • Thanks, stretching is something I do only after a ride, so I may start with that. Also, could you please clarify what is the difference between 'supporting muscles' and 'main engines'?
    – maupertius
    Jul 13, 2017 at 10:49
  • 1
    It's a bit of a vague distinction and you should do your own reading, but some muscles do most of the work (in cycling the some parts of the quads and glutes for example, for which I used engines) while others are involved more in constraining the movement and don't work so hard but still need warming up (other parts of the quads, and many of the other muscles of the thighs).
    – Chris H
    Jul 13, 2017 at 11:54

I am a 32 year old cyclist and also find I need time to warm up to have 'more effective' legs. The best shortcut I've found is caffeine. I consume a sports gel with caffeine (~30mg) 15 or so minutes before the ride. Specifically on what type of training to do perhaps 'high cadence' training will be useful as if you are better adapted to high cadence in training then you may be able to go faster in the first 30 miles using a higher cadence and lower gear without 'hurting' the legs. I expect Chris H considers Glutes, hamstrings and calves as supporting muscles rather than main engine quadriceps.

  • Thanks, that's very helpful. I tend to start with high cadence for the first ~10 miles. Good to know about the caffeine gel, will give it a go!
    – maupertius
    Jul 13, 2017 at 12:13
  • 30 mg of caffeine is about equivalent to 1/4 cup to one whole cup of coffee depending on type, so its going to be a relatively small effect compared to the sugar in your gel. However knowing what works for you is important too.
    – Criggie
    Jul 14, 2017 at 5:28
  • 2
    Glutes have an interesting role: trackcyclingacademy.com/blog/… and should make be something to look at in this case - if you're under-using them at first then they won't warm up and you'll tire out your quads early, and they'll also take extra time to warm up.
    – Chris H
    Jul 14, 2017 at 6:45

I cheat - I warm up with a hot shower on waking, then get straight into my riding clothes (leg warmers+pants, a modern shirt and then a riding top and road shoes), and then put a warm jersey on over that. Eat a quick muesli+hot coffee breakfast and then get on bike, drop temporary warm jersey and ride, so the warmth stays in the muscles and its very much easier to get into it.

If I arrive at the meeting point too early, its all wasted cos I cool down while waiting. If its cold, I'll aim to get there bare minutes before leaving time so I don't have time to chill and freeze up.

Standing about is bad, so slowly orbit the waiting area, practice trackstands or backpedal, or even do laps of the shortest block (but let someone know so they don't forget you.)

Edit: I'm treating your question as a warmup, meaning preparing to ride fast, which means getting the muscles physically warmed up by action and by external heat. Then to keep them warm by not standing about. If your question means something else, please clarify.

  • Question is about speed not temperature
    – paparazzo
    Jul 13, 2017 at 8:37
  • @Paparazzi they're totally interrelated. Warming up for flexibility will totally help with speed and getting moving more readily.
    – Criggie
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:44
  • And if he is riding in 90 F?
    – paparazzo
    Jul 13, 2017 at 21:03
  • @Paparazzi I don't see any difference - "keep moving" as long as its not too hot to ride.
    – Criggie
    Jul 13, 2017 at 21:35
  • No difference between temperature and speed? Not going to argue with you.
    – paparazzo
    Jul 13, 2017 at 23:59

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