Most of my cycling is with my 6 year old so I get little actual exercise out of it.

I was thinking of trying something like a runner's weighted vest, but that seems like it would put a lot of weight on my lower back when in a typical road bike posture. (And it seems more expensive than just putting bricks in my saddle bag.)

I imagine the best thing for handling would be to mount as low as possible and not have too much on either side of the bike.

Anybody have any experience adding weight to an upright road bike for training reasons?

Alternatively, any easier way to increase resistance without putting undue stress on knees?

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    Simplest, if the bike is suited for it, is a conventional rack and panniers. You can load them with whatever you want -- bags of sand might be the best choice. Nov 1, 2018 at 1:54
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    Water's good ballast too - at least its more drinkable than sand. Might be sloshy though.
    – Criggie
    Nov 1, 2018 at 3:02
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    Note that additional weight is not ideal for the knees (though proper attention to saddle height is of great significance here). The knobby tires is probably a better solution. Nov 1, 2018 at 12:02
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    When I was about seven I used to do run-bike rides with my Dad, our speeds matched when he ran and I rode my bike. I think he got some exercise out of it, and I just had fun.
    – ojs
    Nov 1, 2018 at 18:37
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    @DavidRicherby - Knobby tires add the same resistance regardless of slope -- it's predictable and reasonably constant. Extra weight means you suddenly have extra resistance when you hit an upslope. Accompanying a child you're likely pedaling at low speed, and your ability to downshift is likely limited. This puts additional strain on the knees. Nov 16, 2018 at 0:59

4 Answers 4


You can get hubs that increase resistance – some pros use these, for example to simulate climbing in flatter areas. To give an idea of what these things are, the first example I found by searching was AIRhub. (I'm not affiliated with them in any way; it looks pretty expensive to me, too. But André Greipel uses them, so what's not to like?)

  • Thanks for the pointer. Since I'm not spending money on a gym membership, spending a bit on a front wheel that I can swap out sounds like a great option. Nov 2, 2018 at 16:40
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    At $2K for a hub, its a lot of gym membership....
    – mattnz
    Nov 2, 2018 at 21:31
  • @mattnz, Yeah. The AirHub Pro seems to be $1250 for a built wheel (unclear whether that's $US or $AU), but even that is pushing ~5 years of gym membership. Nov 4, 2018 at 17:08

Unless you are riding big hills, weight makes surprisingly little difference. Even on hills, you may be surprised how little effect it has.

You want to increase rolling resistance so you slow down when you stop putting in power. Fat knobbly MTB tires at low pressure slow me down more than enough on the road.... Those old school bottle dynamos work a treat. A left brain idea is some kind of parachute/sail to increase wind resistance.

One of those tow-arms that turn a kids bike into a tag along by lifting the front wheel might be an option ("Trail Gator" is one brand). Ride with your daughter till she is tired, then hook her up and tow her home.

With my kids, I found the best was to enjoy the rides with them for what they were - quality family time, then head out on my own for some quality 'dad alone' time which gave me the exercise. Even now (oldest is 14yo), I prefer to get my exercise solo at my pace.

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    Something parachute-y probably wouldn't work, as you'd have to be going quite fast for it to deploy. (Also, gonna look kinda dorky, which the kids are likely to object to.) Nov 1, 2018 at 10:51
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    A trailer adds a lot of wind resistance and weight and allows you to carry the child if it gets tired. Riding along a 6-year old will probably always be boring though.
    – Michael
    Nov 1, 2018 at 20:00
  • @matthnz, Thanks for your thoughts. Your point re quality time is well made, but unfortunately I have two even younger kids, and have yet to balance obligations well enough to get enough dad alone time to maintain a regimen. Nov 2, 2018 at 16:38
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    @Mike :) Been their - Dad to Dad - no point spending quality time with the kids if you are miserable. Steal some time for yourself and do not feel guilty about it. Negotiate with you partner how much and when (and make sure you partner gets time out as well). Find a balance that works for all in your family without being a martyr. A child's job is to rule the world, the parents job is to stop that happening.
    – mattnz
    Nov 2, 2018 at 21:26
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    @DavidRicherby Afaik, air resistance is already the main resistance once you are faster than 15 km/h. And that's without any sails of any kind. Of course, parachutes would not be controllable. But when I was young there were rain-tops that were basically formed like a cone, with holes and fastenings for the hands. Provided a very effective sail between your arms. Needless to say, I tried those about once before getting a decently tailored rain jacket. I wasn't in it for the training, I was in it for getting somewhere, after all. Such a rain-top could be perfect for the OP... Nov 3, 2018 at 16:48

The rolling resistance of your tyres is going to be the easiest and cheapest way to add significant resistance at low speed. By simply switching from 25c GP4000 tyres to 28c Schwalbe Luganos, I found that I needed to put out 30-45 watts more for the same rides (measured by power meter) and there are certainly slower tyres available. Switching to heavy-duty thornproof tubes will make a difference as well. Which tyres do you have on the bike currently?

  • Thanks, good point. I run 28's with fenders on what used to be my commute bike and 23's on my trying-to-keep-up-with-20-yos bike. I used to have puncture resistant liners in my commute bike tires but I don't think I have them in right now. Nov 13, 2018 at 15:21
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    My recommendation would be to put some Schwalbe marathon plus tyres on when you next replace your tyres. If you can fit 32s on your bike, then go with those, otherwise stick to 28s. Chuck in the tyre liners, then finish with heavy-duty thornproof tubes to make your bike feel just like you're pushing a snow plow around. Nov 14, 2018 at 9:40

Other comments are quite true about rolling resistance:

  • During winter time I put tires with studs on my bike and it takes few months to get back to somewhat normal speed on them. But when you switch back you make significant progress on faster tires.

  • To increase rolling resistance you can also consider decreasing tyre pressure to the minimal allowed (but be reasonable with the weight you carry and add to compensate for it).

But if we speak generally here there are many different techniques of training. High resistance training is effective in some extend and will compensate the rolling resistance, but also remember that to build cycling muscle power you can use techniques similar to body building - during your rides after warm-up do short sprints flat out with few minutes of rest in between. Your goal is to engage 100% of muscles involved in cycling to max out and feel that legs are giving up or burning, which would trigger hormonal growth mechanisms of your body to adapt to this load.

This has not much to do with the weight of the bike but works best on uphills giving you some great training opportunity.

UPD: In the comments I've got some questions asked about how is that possible to have sprints during the ride with a child. I've imagined two options here:

  1. Child seat or a trailer on a bike. When you go uphill push a little bit more, speed is still on the reasonable level but you're going to be packed with excercise.
  2. Riding along with the kids on their own bikes and trying to find a moment where you can either let them go forward and chase them, or go forward yourself and wait for them.

It's enough to have full power 5 second sprint to get muscle-training effect. Spinning heavy gear from stand still is similar to working out in the gym on your quads. Spinning of heavy gears slowly leads to muscle hypoxia identified by burning feeling and also leads to muscle growth. Learn some theory and you'll be impressed with amount of training you have around you. I even didn't mention yet the balance training and other crucial things for cycling which are great to train during the chill ride.

  • @DavidRicherby oh, I thought riding with a child is when you have a child seat or a trailer :) anyway, if you see a small uphill you can rush it and from that point wait for them. People can produce max power for no longer than ~5 seconds anyway, so you will be surprised to see how many places are capable for sprinting, especially if you start by standing still. Long delays between repeats would also help with recovery from anaerobic work side-effects.
    – Sapphire64
    Nov 15, 2018 at 5:58
  • Huh -- I'd not considered the child seat/trailer option at all. I'm going to make a trivial edit to your post so I can undo my downvote (you can only change your vote within a few minutes or if the post changes). Nov 15, 2018 at 9:20
  • It's unclear whether "cycling... with my 6 year old" means that the child is on their own bike or on a child seat/trailer (though a 6yo might be a bit big for anything other than their own bike). If the child is on their own bike, sprints are probably out of the question. Nov 15, 2018 at 9:23
  • @DavidRicherby I don't think they are out of the question actually, as I said it's about very short bursts, i.e. spinning up heavy gear from stand still would count as it. Give them a way to ride forward, or start yourself and wait for them in 100m for example, especially easy task for uphills. This excercise is based on theory books I read. But to be able to confidently say if that scenario is possible with the child on a separate bike I'd need to try it out myself first but I'm not there yet :)
    – Sapphire64
    Nov 15, 2018 at 20:53
  • @DavidRicherby I've updated the text. I like this reply much more now btw.
    – Sapphire64
    Nov 15, 2018 at 21:01

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