February training Hints


The beginning of February has marked a step change in my training. I’ve fitted a speedometer to my bike! No, not a sophisticated one – I’ve just started to include some speed training!

However, let’s start by looking at suitable distance targets for February first.



If you have followed the January training targets, you will have done 35 to 50 mile rides by now. If not, now is the time!

I know that some of you are already riding 70 miles – it is time for the rest of us to start to catch up! A good target is to do a 50 to 70 mile ride. It is good to include a suitable food stop, and to choose a scenic route – that makes it more interesting and will probably mean more hills!



It is a good time to start to bring speed into your training plan. In the Etape we will need to average around 12 mph to avoid being eliminated. However the course includes two major climbs – Tourmalet is the highest road pass in the Pyrenees!  It will therefore be necessary to average a higher speed than that on the flat!


A good training band is between 15mph and 20mph on the flat. At this stage in the year, your average speed may be near the bottom of this band, particularly if conditions are adverse. In good conditions, a steady speed of 17mph to 18mph is a good target speed on a racing bike, although at this time of year you may be slower!


Combining speed and distance is interesting! Initially, you may want to keep your faster rides quite short, starting with a 5 or 10 mile ride, then increasing your distances through February to maybe 25 of 30 mile for faster rides.



Whereas a long, slow ride is not usually desperately tiring, faster rides are more exhausting.


 Recovery from a fast ride may be considered as having three stages. Firstly, immediately after the ride, your heart rate will be higher than usual. You may be exhausted. Secondly, the next day you may feel less fit than usual, and experience various aches and pains, but thirdly, probably two days after exercising you will feel fitter than ever!


The reason is that training consists of progressively exercising at above your previous level.  The body responds by becoming stronger. It takes time to build this strength. This affects all body systems – the circulation, heart, lungs, the leg muscles as well as many metabolic processes. Immediately after a fast ride the body is first recovering, then increasing its fitness ready for the next similar challenge.


Although cycle tourists may be able to continue day after day over long distances at a moderate pace, rest days are generally needed when performing more intense training sessions.  



If training at an intense level, rest days are needed. Training on alternate days is a good plan, except that this does not fit neatly into a 7 day week! A good ride at the weekend, plus a more intense session mid week should improve your performance. Two mid week sessions plus a weekend ride should improve your performance further.


Of course training needs to be fitted in with the more important things in life!   Somehow!


Bad weather and dark evenings are a problem at this time of year. One of our Snowdonia leaders, Dave Thomas, solves this by training three times a week in the gym when the weather is wet.



The type of bike you use for training is not important. A slow bike is useful if training with more pedestrian cycling friends, as it will work you harder for a given speed, though a slow bike might disgrace you on a club ride!


The two most important aspects in riding fast are the tyre pressure, and to have a bike which is set up to fit you.


I’m still amazed at the difference that tyre pressure makes. 100 psi in a racing tyre makes you feel fit and on top of the world – 60 psi makes you wonder where your fitness has gone!



Although February is a good time to start training more intensely, it is an even better time to plan the training trips later in the year. Trips abroad will give you a chance to try out some mountains – or join our Snowdonia training trip on the early May bank holiday without leaving the UK! Contact Ron@etape.org.uk if you are interested. It is not too early to book for one of our reconnaissance trips to try the route out either – click on “Events” in the index for more details.


Enjoy your training!