Whether your goal is to win a race, beat everyone in your age group, finish a bike tour, keep up with a pack of riders on a group ride, or keep up with your kids or significant other, there are lots of ways you can get stronger at your biking. You'll also have the added benefit of getting in much better shape.
Hit the Weights
Once a week, add weight training to strengthen your quads, calves and hamstrings. Don't do weights the day after a hard biking session, however. Perform Bulgarian split squats while holding up to 30-pound dumbbells. This also helps your balance. Instead of traditional walking lunges, try lunging on the spot -- you'll work more muscles. Step one foot forward until the opposite knee touches the floor, and then step back to the start position. Toe raises strengthen your calves for hill climbing. Stand on one leg, bend the other behind you, and do 75 to 100 toe raises one foot at a time. Planks can be done anywhere and will help you stay strong in an aero position longer. Plus, planks strengthen your abs, essential for strong cycling.
Hop on a Stationary Bike
Stationary bikes are great for increasing your strength and speed quickly. You'll avoid interruptions because of traffic and weather and can control your interval training better. Once a week, hop on a stationary bike for intervals. If the bike is one that also works your arms, so much the better. Start by warming up with an easy spin for 10 minutes. Then maintain 100 to 120 rpm for one minute at level 8 on a 1 to 10 scale. Pedal freely with no tension for rest periods of about a minute and repeat 10 times. You can also do intervals of 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy 10 times, or three minutes hard, two minutes easy five times. To keep your training interesting and effective, add step intervals of 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1:30 and 2:00, then step down in reverse order. Add equal amounts of rest after each step. For example, after 2:00 hard, add 2:00 of rest.
Leader of the Pack
Biking outside in a group may cause you to draft in the middle of the pack, harming the effectiveness of your workout. Try leading more than your share if possible. On windy days, have a friend drop you off downwind and then bike home into a headwind. Or, drive to a spot at the bottom between two large hills. Do your entire workout going up one hill, then down, then up the adjacent hill. About an hour of this hill work will make you stronger.
The lighter your bike, the faster your ride and the more you'll take advantage of the strength you've built up during training. Lightweight, aerodynamic tires also help. For triathlons, properly fitted and padded aerobars provide comfort and help you maintain your aero position, thus decreasing wind resistance, which accounts for 80 percent of biking effort. Replace as many components on your bike with lighter carbon fiber versions: the frame, handlebars, aerobars, seat post, stem, wheels and fork. Disc and deep rim wheels cut wind resistance, but are dangerous to use in situations with strong cross winds. Position your spares and tire-changing tools in an aerodynamic bag behind your seat. Aero helmets, snug-fitting clothing, and water bottles that are aero accessible and have tops that don't require opening will all cut off time.
Don't Be Hot and Cold
Exercising in the cold causes your body to lose more heat than it can produce. Wear a long-sleeved jersey or arm warmers that you can take off if the day heats up. Hot and humid days raise your body's core temperature and heart rate, which leads to fatigue. In sunny conditions, wear a white bike jersey, a well-ventilated helmet and waterproof sunscreen. To hydrate properly in all weather situations, you'll need 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. For your best performance, consume 50 to 100 calories every 30 minutes. Position your water breaks on downhills or flats where you are recovering.