Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Cycling Fitness Q&A - Dave Smith answers your training, nutrition and fitness questions

Our health and fitness expert is back to answer your questions this week on weight training, duathlons and teenage training troubles. Take it away Dave…

Time at the weekend for some training but not sure what you should be doing? We know just the man with the answers…

If you would like to ask Dave a question about your cycling fitness, training or health you can drop him a line at fitness [at] or you can email us at info [at] putting Fitness Q&A in the subject line

Weight a minute

What are your thoughts on weight training for cycling? I hear conflicting views, that it will either make me faster, or slower?
Marc J

Dave Smith: Some of the confusion relates to the idea that weight training will make your muscles big and inflexible, or that it’s only necessary for sprinters. You can use a resistance-training plan to improve strength without adding bulk by targeting the neural impulse to the muscle rather than muscle growth. You can also aim to increase muscle size and then develop the new larger muscle fibres with on-bike sessions to work under endurance conditions.

It’s also of benefit to add strength and endurance to the muscles that give you a strong platform from which to power the bike: lower back, shoulders, arms etc. The best analogy is that you should make sure you’re not firing a cannon from a rowing boat.

Without knowing the type of riding you do and your current level of fitness it’s hard to give a specific plan, but certainly for many cyclists a well planned resistance training programme has a part to play in cycling faster.

What dua I do?

I’m planning to do some winter duathlons and while I do a couple of runs each week, I’m not used to running hard before or after a bike ride. Can you suggest some ways to train so I don’t disgrace myself? Apart from running hard before or after a bike ride!!

Dave Smith: It sounds like you already know what to do but you’re hoping I give you something less unpleasant! There is no easy route to getting better at run-bike-run.

However, I’d suggest a more focused look at what happens during an event. Too many triathletes jump off a turbo trainer and start running. But a bike-run transition isn’t like that. You get off the bike, run to your transition space, rack the bike, change your shoes, then start running.

I suggest mixing steady state and interval sessions. Do some run intervals, before a time trial effort on the bike. Do some threshold intervals on the bike before hill rep intervals on the not-bike. Do a long, steady trail run before VO2 intervals on the bike.

One element you need to address is flexibility at the calves/achilles – cyclists lose range of motion there and runners need much greater flexibility. Cyclists who start running, especially running uphill, often succumb to achilles injuries. Stretch regularly to prevent this.

Finally, bear in mind that the final run means the bike leg is rarely as hard an effort as when doing a simple bike TT.

Love Cat

I'm currently looking at racing in the junior cat next season. I really wanted to race this season but I knew I would be dropped badly. I am a fit lad to be fair. 

What sort of training would you recommend through the winter? I tend to find when training that I start off fine but I tend to get into lactic before everyone else. It probably doesn't help that I'm on a 12kg bike.

Dave Smith: Don’t ‘look’ to race next year, decide to race and prepare accordingly. You should have had a go this year, you might have surprised yourself. The ‘getting into lactic’ isn’t what you describe, and also, you don’t know what other riders are feeling. A decent warm-up can be part of that, plus some intense interval training.

The main thing I suggest is that you find a club to ride with through the winter, tap into the experience there, don’t go overboard on training volume, and get used to riding at speed in a group.

Add some interval training from Feb/March and give racing a go. Forget about the weight of your bike, some people carry extra weight; at this stage it’s about being involved in racing and learning the game. And someone in a club might even lend you a lighter bike for races.

Good luck.

Spinning a line?

I like to use gym group spin classes to squeeze high intensity training into my work week. The ethos seems to be getting the heart rate as high as possible for the duration of the workout (30 mins plus 7.5-minute warm-up and warm-down) with repeated 30-second bursts of all-out, maximal effort that have me just about falling off the bike. 

It certainly feels difficult but is this actually doing any good? Is it the most efficient use of limited training time?

Dave Smith: It’s doing some good as a cardio workout, that’s for sure. But the issue with spin bikes is the fixed gear – the momentum of a large flywheel is helping your legs round to a significant extent. It’s like road cycling, only different.

The classes/music will help to motivate you for sure, and they’re better than bed rest, but if you can drive yourself hard, an interval session on the road specific to your needs as a cyclist will be more effective.

Teenage efforts

Question: Should training efforts be focused more on developing slow-twitch muscles if that is the predominant muscle type and with season goals leaning towards road racing and some crits? What percentage of training should be focused on slow-twitch intensities (zone 1-3) vs fast-twitch intensities (zone 4-5)?

Background: My son (15) is a well-rounded cyclist. He started racing aged six on local mountain bike events, usually winning due to his commitment and our (parents) support. At nine he turned to road racing, excelling and winning national title at age 11.

Since then it’s been a different story. Junior riders from his age group grew up faster than him, beating him more often. He is a smaller, leaner type of rider than most of his competitors who seem to have reached or are close to their height potential. He is still in his physiological development stages (last few months seemed to have grown faster).

I believe his experience and continuing commitment has allowed him to keep in the top three locally (but around top 20 nationally). In the past two years I’ve noticed a decline on the ‘intense climbing’ portions of a race; he seems to hang in there with the lead pack on the flats and for the beginning of the climb (climbs of <6%) but then gets dropped at around 2-4 minutes into the fast pace climb (climbs of about 5-6 minutes long).  

He possesses good endurance, and isn’t a bad criterium rider and sprinter. Not the fastest sprinter but enough to make the local race podium. He can climb very well on longer, slower pace climbs and ride for three hours without a problem.

My fascination on training, and my son's commitment and joy for cycling, have made me read and educate myself more and more. I’ve recently tested him for muscle type and found he is slow-twitch predominant and this is where I need your advice.

I have probably made the mistake in the last couple of years of focusing training efforts more towards high intensity training instead of perhaps more zone 1-2-3 to develop his slow-twitch muscles. I am thinking that is the reason he developed good type 2 fibres but probably under-developed type 1 fibres. 

Dave Smith: I’m not sure where to start here. I’ve never heard of a 15-year-old being subjected to a muscle biopsy for the sake of ‘coaching’. I think you should step back and find an experienced coach for your son who has less emotional investment and will not analyse his training and racing to such extreme levels.

Sadly, the best riders at adolescent level rarely make it as pros, especially if they have been exposed to too much pressure and expectation. Let him grow up and develop naturally at his own pace.

Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

Once a month Dave will answer your questions on health, fitness, training and nutrition – email him at fitness [at]

Twitter: @ffflow

Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

Add new comment


andyp | 8 years ago

Jesus, that last one is scary.

sunnyguy365 | 8 years ago

My muscles twitch.... Normally in bed, but very rarely

po | 8 years ago

Surely that last question is a wind up

Kadinkski replied to po | 8 years ago
po wrote:

Surely that last question is a wind up

Yeah, I suspect they've just made it up or someone's having a laugh.

Dave Smith replied to Kadinkski | 8 years ago

Sadly the last question is 100% genuine. I included it as a warning sign to any other of the many controlling and dangerous parents out there. I know some wonderful supportive parents who do all they can to help their kids but clearly this was more creepy and dangerous. If I made one up it would be dull, about muesli, from John.

Quince | 8 years ago

Dear Dave,

I tried splicing my son's DNA with that of a velociraptor in order to encourage the development of his Type 1 and 2 muscle fibres - and also because it was the only animal I knew whose name started with 'Velo'.

Timmy just sits in the corner now, letting out the occasional bleat and slapping himself with his tail.

What should I do?

Yogic Cyclist | 8 years ago

Weight lifting can only make you fast, try a power clean with your body weight on the bar moving slowly!!

_SiD_ | 8 years ago
Colin Peyresourde replied to _SiD_ | 8 years ago
_SiD_ wrote:

Good call.

From what I know, no professional athlete has condescended to have their muscle fibres checked to see what the effect of the training has had and how you can change muscle fibre types. Give the lad a break. If he's a late developer it's probably better to let him mature and then see where he is.

Latest Comments