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I have decided to have a dalliance into cycling since a lot of people I know are quite into it themselves.

I have bought myself a bike (Specialised Tri Cross). Only a cheap, used one for now as I can always buy a nice, expensive and more lightweight one further down the line if I find I need it.

I chose a cross/adventure/gravel bike as I do intend to go slightly off-road, along river/canal paths on my travels, rather than being stuck to the road with a specific road bike.

I have also bought a turbo trainer (Tracx Flow smart trainer), along with training tyre so that I can get cycling no matter the weather.

My plan is to make the most of the turbo trainer whilst the weather is less than nice outside, after work so that (hopefully) I can have some sort of fitness for when the summer and the warm(ish) weather comes.

My question for the bicycle.stackexchange community is, how would I best go about doing this?

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A very broad question, but i'll do my best to answer it.

The way you approach it will very much depend on your general level of fitness (maybe crossing over from some other sport) and what your cycling goals may be. However you described yourself as a novice, so i'll recommend based on that.

As a novice cyclist, your primary training goal should be gradually increasing time on the bike and building up a large aerobic engine which will serve you well whatever you choose to do with the bike.

Despite having a smart trainer, for the first 4-6 weeks, the most important thing is establishing a pattern of getting on the bike 3-4x a week. Without this pattern (a change of behaviour if you like), its very easy to skip a session or two and then stop. During this period, I would stick to using perceived exertion to measure your efforts.

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For the first week start out with relatively easy sessions around effort level 3-5, and then gradually add in 'intervals' of higher intensities. This way you can learn to feel different effort levels and also identify and correct any problems you may have with position on the bike early. During this period TV shows, YouTube, music or any other light distraction is perfect to help the time go by.

After this initial period, you will hopefully have a regular routine established and have more ideas of how to pace yourself at different intensities.

At this point you will be ready to embark on a 'proper' training plan. There are many available either via online platforms such as Zwift or Trainneroad, or from more traditional sources such as British Cycling

Nearly all structured sessions these days should (if they don't pick another one) start out with an FTP test (a particularly unpleasant 20min all out test) to determine the power zones you will use with your smart trainer. From there, Novice/Intermediate plans will likely focus on adding increasingly long intervals between 80-100% of FTP (5-7 RPE).

  • Very thorough but easy to understand Andy, thank you. – physicsboy Jan 15 at 10:59
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A lot of cyclists find they need motivation to train on a static trainer. It can be unrelentingly tedious to sit spinning on you bike staring at the same wall when you are used to nice scenery going by. If you are used to running on a treadmill or a similar exercise this may not be such a problem for you.

As you have a smart trainer that will work with Zwift, I'd recommend getting a subscription and taking advantage of the structured workouts they offer, and the motivation of virtual cycling courses and competition. You only really need a laptop or tablet to create a workable set up.

If you are not going to do Zwift, there are structured training videos for 30-60 min workouts on you tube that you can use. The Global Cycling Network has some pretty good ones.

You'll want to figure out what your goal is for when you transition to outdoor riding and pick appropriate workouts. E.g. if you live in a hilly area you would want to train for hill climbing, or if you want to do long rides select workouts that build endurance.

  • I prefer running outside usually, but I have the plan to cycle while I'm watching TV ;-) I have seen a few variants of Zwift so far. I have a 30 day free trial to Tacx's own version, so I may try that first and then switch to Zwift to give it a go. One goal would be to get the Tron bike :-P – physicsboy Jan 14 at 18:47
  • You really want to do structured workouts to get the most out of your time. I find TV watching and paying attention to structured workouts is difficult. – Argenti Apparatus Jan 14 at 19:02
  • Pushing the pedals around while watching TV/movies/reading a book would probably be Junk miles in terms of training benefit. – Criggie Jan 14 at 22:37
  • @Criggie - Well it was Murder She Wrote last night, so I wouldn't say I was avidly watching it XD – physicsboy Jan 15 at 7:48
  • Not a massive zwift fan, but +1 for the GCN videos – Andy P Jan 15 at 8:52
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As a novice, one option would be to not overdo it. Say twice a week for 30-40 minutes (or just 20 if your butt or arms hurt too much), don't worry about structure. The main benefit will be some basic "can stay on the bike for an hour without pain" adaptation, so when warmer weather comes you can immediately start with 40+ km rides.

  • I might hold off on the 100 milers for the time being ;-) But I totally underestimated the amount of arm pain! I suppose its like an extended plank, but I'm getting there! Saddle soreness is something I'm getting used to, so that's a good sign. Might just need to knock the saddle angle up a notch. – physicsboy Jan 18 at 10:22

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