Training for cycle challenges

Training for your challenge

Whatever your physical condition, the key to enjoying your challenge is to build up your stamina and strength and this is best achieved by training consistently over a period of time. Don’t leave it to the last minute!

While we strongly recommend you take your training for all challenges seriously, getting into the best shape for cycling, trekking and running requires subtly different exercise regimes. Read on for some tips on how to tailor your preparations for the specific challenges you’re taking on.


Our cycle rides are designed to be challenging but achievable by anyone as long as you train before hand. Remember, you will be cycling for a number of consecutive days, sometimes in extreme temperatures and with some challenging climbs – the fitter you are, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

You need to increase the capacity and efficiency of your body’s cardiovascular system and improve the endurance of your muscles – building up their repetitive movement strength allowing you to cycle for longer. You will also need to get your body used to sitting on a saddle for 6hrs a day. And the best way to prepare for a cycling challenge…is to cycle!

How you start training for a long-distance bike ride depends largely on your present fitness level, age and the amount of cycling you have done in the past. If you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, you will really need to start training at least four months before our longer challenges.

Non-Cyclists / Low Fitness

People who have not ridden a bike for several years or indeed at all will have to start their training regime as soon as they register for the challenge. Mileage should be built up gradually to avoid injury and over-exercise, and to establish a good base fitness on which to build the stamina levels you will need on a cycle challenge. To begin with avoid overstretching yourself – don’t ride in a gear that’s too difficult or as fast as you can. Regular training sessions will allow you to develop your speed and adjust to different gears.


From the outset you should attempt to develop your cadence, which is the speed at which your legs rotate (RPM); this will improve your aerobic capacity, meaning that your heart and lungs will grow stronger and be less stressed when cycling or exercising. To develop your cadence you should select the gear that feels most comfortable when you are cycling on whatever gradient. If you can keep a steady RPM of around 60 – 70 most of the time this would greatly aid the speed at which you become cycling fit, and will increase your strength and stamina which you can then build on.

Before you know it you will find yourself being able to push harder gears while maintaining the same RPM. After you have become comfortable with your cadence and riding position, it will be time to start stepping up the mileage.

Social Cyclists / Moderately Fit

This category might include anyone who has been cycling intermittently over the years, perhaps by cycling to work in the summer or regular Sunday rides with the family. As you will have a degree of basic fitness and confidence built up from previous cycling, 3 months or so of training should prepare you for the ride.

Regular Cyclists / Fit

This category would include people who cycle regularly throughout the year, whether it be commuting 20 miles or more to work a day or training seriously with weekend races and time trials. People within this category should already have a good training schedule and be amply fit to tackle a cycle challenge, though should probably step up training for long days of riding. People included within the commuting bracket may find it a good idea to step up their weekly mileage by cycling a longer route to work, or doing a brief morning or evening ride and by also doing regular weekend rides of around 50 miles or more.

Fitting training into your busy life

This training guide is just that, a ‘guide’! With work, family and fundraising commitments you might not be able to follow it to the letter, but you can maximise your training time by making some small changes to your routine.

There are various ways to train for your challenge; below are some suggested training ideas that can be adapted to fit into your personal lifestyle.

  1. Join the Norwood Cycle Club for our regular weekly rides and monthly BIG ride from Radlett. It is open to all ages and abilities and is a great opportunity to cycle with other challengers and get some great tips from our more experienced riders.
  2. Before commencing any training it is always advisable to warm up, try jogging on the spot and circulating your arms to get the blood really pumping through your body.
  3. Try to cycle at least 2-3 times a week, building up the distance you cycle each week. If you haven’t cycled for some time, start with around a ½ hour – 1 hour. Whatever your fitness, it is better to do four separate hour-long rides than one long ride per week.
  4. Get up an hour earlier and go out for a quick cycle with some stretching in the morning before work, it will get you moving and ready for the day!
  5. If you can cycle to work, do so. If you can’t cycle the whole distance between work and home, why not cycle to a station/bus stop in between home and work and then continue your journey on public transport. You will obviously need to be happy that you are able to leave your bike in a safe and secure place!
  6. Use your lunchtimes to take regular brisk walks or cycle around where you work.
  7. Find a steep set of stairs i.e. five floors of a department store/office block and climb them five times, at least three times per week.
  8. It is always better to train outdoors, but add variety by including a gym/spin class. One hour of QUALITY workout in the gym is worth two hours out on the road. Spinning classes are excellent and leg weight-training is also recommended. We hold a free Norwood spin class every Wednesday and you can train hard with other people and an instructor.
  9. It’s a good idea to do a circuit of machines that will give you an aerobic workout – for example, rowing, cross-country skiing, stepper/climber, exercise bike – it will overall help improve your stamina and level of fitness.
  10. You still need to cycle as much as possible in ‘real’ conditions. The more you can train in similar conditions to your challenge, both in terms of terrain and weather, the better. Include some hills at the weekend and do your longer rides then. Get used to:
  • Cycling with wind resistance
  • Drinking from water bottle while riding
  • Hill climbing
  • Long periods of time in the saddle
  • Cycling off-road – on gravel, sand and rough terrain. Find some sections of bridle paths through woods, over farmland
  • Getting knees accustomed to hours of peddling
  • Learning how to use gears properly
  1. As you get into your training, you should increase weekend rides to around three hours, with one or two stops en route. Building up the hours in the saddle, so that one-month before departure you can cycle for around 6-7 hours a day over undulating terrain. We suggest you take a weekend off and cycle both days, this will get you used to non-stop biking.
  2. Train using the kit you want to use in your challenge. If you’re planning to use cleats (clipless pedals) on your challenge, get used to them well in advance. Most people fall off a few times when getting used to them. Whether you’re planning to use a small rucksack, camelback or large bum-bag to carry the things you’ll need during the day, get used to wearing it when training. Wear padded cycling shorts.
  3. Finally, ride safe. Wear a helmet, high viz and ride single file. Warm up and warm down and as you get fitter – increase the intensity and work harder. It will pay off. Plus don’t forget to plan adequate rest/recovery days as part of the training – they are just as important!

Suggested 4 month training guide for cycling beginners:

Week 1 Week 2

2 x 15 – 20mins 2x a week e.g. Tues & Thurs: 20-25mins

Sat or Sun: 1 hour Sat or Sun: 1½hrs


Week 3 Week 4, 5, 6 & 7

2 x a week: 25 – 30mins 3 x 30 – 40mins (8-10 miles)

Sat or Sun: 1½ – 2hrs Sat or Sun: 2hrs (25 – 30 miles)


Week 8 Week 9 & 10

Tues: 1hr 2x a week: 40+mins

Thurs: 1hr Sat or Sun: 1hr ¼ – 1hr ¾

Fri: 20-30mins Sat or Sun: 2 – 2½hrs


Week 11 Week 12, 13 & 14

Mon: 30 – 40mins Mon: 40mins easy cycling

Tues: 45mins- 1 hr Tues: 1hr – 1hr ¼

Thurs: 45mins – 1hr Thurs: 1hr – 1hr ¼

Sun: 3 -3½ hr approx. Sun: 3hr-3hr ¾


Week 15 Week 16 & 17

Mon: 40mins easy cycling Tues: 1hr ¼ – 1hr ¾

Weds: 40mins Thurs: 1hr ¼ – 1hr ¾

Fri: 1hr – 1hr ¼ Sun: 3hr-3hr ¾

Sun: 3hr ¼ – 4hrs


Week 18 Week 19

Mon: 40mins easy cycling Tues: 1hr

Weds: 1hr Thurs: 1hr ¾

Sat: 1hr ¼ – 1hr ¾ Sat: 1hr ¾

Sun: 3hr ¼ 4hr ¼ Sun: 4hr- 4hr ¾


Week 20 The week before departure

Tues: 1hr ¼ Mon: 40mins

Weds: 1hr Tues: 20mins

Tues: 20mins

Thurs: 1hr ¾

Cycling Tips for better riding

  1. 1Your riding position. Saddle height is very important. If it’s set too low you’ll have much less strength when pedalling and your legs will become tired. A good rule of thumb is to sit on your saddle, feet on the pedals and when you pedal is at its lowest point, and you should have a slight bend in your leg. With your feet off the pedals you should be able to touch the ground with the balls of your feet (on tip toes).
  2. Gears The gears on your bike are there to assist you. Learning how to use them properly will dramatically improve cycling ability. You should practice changing gear when cycling uphill (into a lower the gear, so the peddling becomes easier and quicker). When cycling fast on-road, you should be in as high a gear as possible (harder to peddle, but faster on flat terrain). It is important to get a good balance, so your knees aren’t strained or you become too tired.
  3. Shifting. Lower gears make it easier to pedal, and higher gears make it harder. Learn how the gear combinations between your chain ring (at the pedals), and the freewheel (at the rear wheel) make it easier or harder for you to pedal. Part of the fun of cycling is anticipating changes in terrain and shifting your gears accordingly. It’s a good trick to shift to a lower gear ratio as you end your descent downhill so that you don’t have to start the uphill in too high a gear, which can stress your knees.
  4. Rhythm. Use your gears to keep a rhythm to your pedalling. Spinning between 80 and 100 revolutions per minute (rpm) is much less stressful on your knees.
  5. Climbs. There are many hills you will need to climb on your challenge, so it is essential you get out there and start practising on as many hills as you can! Firstly, don’t be put off – you will probably find the first hills you start to tackle may beat you and you have to get off and push. Just try to get a little bit further up that hill each time you go out on a training session.
  6. Tips for climbing. Try to think quitting is not an option and that pain is good! Mentally shrink the hill down to a size that you can dominate in your own mind. (Most people quit long before they really have to.) Sing to yourself, count your breaths, look only 4 feet ahead, and say “just 4 more feet, just 4 more feet,”

Try and enjoy it! Nothing will burn you out faster than hating a hill!

Relax your shoulders, drop your elbows, relax your jaws, neck and anything else you may be unconsciously tensing up, and then sing to yourself to take your mind off the climb

It’s OK to get out of the seat and rock the bike back and forth a little as you pedal up a hill. However, too much rocking or pedalling in too high a gear wastes energy and is hard on your knees

Try and save one last gear in case you need it!

Find what works for you, use it, but always look for new tools to throw in the bag.

  • Descents. It is essential you feel confident going down-hill too! After all that slow climbing you will want to make the most of freewheeling downhill. On a steep descent, move a little backward on the seat and put your weight over the back wheel to improve your balance, try to ensure your heels are down, as if you are digging deep into the hill. Always keep a good eye on the ground so you know what is coming ahead of you. Keep your distance from your fellow cyclists.
  • Braking. The front brake usually has about twice as much stopping power as the rear brake. Applying the front brake suddenly during a steep descent or even on flat terrain can send you over the handlebars. Instead, start with the back brake and gradually bring in the front brake or use both brakes gradually and simultaneously. (A pumping action on both brakes will mean you can regulate a slower pace downhill).
  • Cornering. Don’t begin braking while turning. Brake gradually to a safe speed before you go into the corner, and then begin to accelerate as you come out of the corner.
  • Looking the part. Whilst Lycra only looks good on a few of us! Wearing the right padded shorts is crucial for comfortable riding. We can recommend Enduro, Purl Izumi or DHB.
  • Safe riding. Always wear your helmet and gloves. Always carry water, a small first aid kit and mobile phone.

Cycling Kit – Useful Tips

The kit required for each challenge may differ slightly, but there are certain items that are consistent in every challenge. Full kit lists will be provided after registration with details of any specific items that may be needed, but please find detailed below a sample of the basic kit needed:


  • your own helmet
  • cycling gloves
  • some cycling shorts
  • small rucksack or bike bag
  • casual clothes for the evening
  • something smart for end-of-ride celebratory dinner


  • You can bring your own pedals, bar ends and toe cleats and any other personal cycling equipment you see fit to modify the bike supplied, but it isn’t compulsory.
  • You may also wish to consider bringing a hydration backpack, although all bikes have one water bottle cage to ensure that you stay hydrated during the ride.


  • Helmet

It’s very simple. No helmet – no ride. Please do put your helmet in your hand luggage. It can get crushed in your case and if your case goes missing, at least you have your helmet.

  • Lycra

You will need at least 2 cycling shirts and 2 pairs of padded cycling shorts. When we arrive, you will be given a Norwood short sleeve cycling top which is to be worn only on the Friday. We will all be in the same kit for photos and it’s quite a sight to see everyone in Norwood tops all cycling together as we ride into Eilat as a group.

Obviously the less you bring, the more you’ll have to rotate your kit on a daily basis. I can’t guarantee that you will be able to wash and dry your kit overnight. Remember, we’re in the desert and it’s a little colder at night, so kit doesn’t dry so quickly.

We wear lycra because it wicks away the sweat. If you wear a cotton t-shirt, you’ll end up with heavy sweat stains that will distort the material and you will be uncomfortable wearing it – particularly when the sweat cools and you end up feeling cold. You can buy decent tops on-line and Wiggle ( is an excellent site with great discounts. Evans is fine or you can go to Shorter Rochford where they will give you a Norwood 10% discount. As for brands, Assos is the best but ridiculously expensive. Endura is very good, as is Castelli and Gore. Bib shorts have the shoulder straps that keep the pads in place where you need them.

You don’t have to wear cycling socks but they are light and comfortable rather than cotton sports socks and you can buy them in packs and they’re not expensive.

  • Gloves

Do bring some. They can get grubby but two pairs are enough. The gloves have extra padding at the palms and not only do they protect your hands if you fall, but they also help you keep the feeling in your hands and shelter them against the vibrations from the bike.

  • Cycling shoes

Cycling shoes are hard soled and comfortably wrap around your foot. Because they are hard soled, all the energy you generate will go through to the pedals. If you use training shoes, you can lose at least 20% efficiency as your foot will arch, pronate or supinate (roll inwards or outwards).

You don’t have to lock into pedals – you could use toe clips instead but cycling shoes make a big difference. If you do want to use toe clips, please buy them here and take them with you. In fact, if you use toe clips, don’t take them off the pedals. Just take the pedals off the bike and bring the whole lot with you.

Please note that there will be very little, if any, cycling equipment available for purchase or hire in Israel. So whatever you need, please take with you.

Bike Bits

You should pack your bike bits into a small bag that has your name on. On arrival, you will be asked to hand them to the mechanics and they will fit them for you onto your designated bike. You don’t have to do that – you can fit them yourselves if you wish. Put them where you can get easy access .

What are the bike bits?

  • Shoes and Pedals

If you’re locking into pedals, you need to bring the pedals with you. Obvious but easy to forget. SPD pedals recess into the sole of the cycling shoe and mean you can walk easily. There may be visits and stopovers which involve walking, so please bear this in mind and pack some handy trainers to change into to carry in your day bag.

  • Bar-ends

These are the stubby additions to both ends of the handlebars and make them look like the horns of a bull. They do make a difference in both performance and comfort. They work as an aid for climbing as you gently pull on them to get up the hill and they give you another hand position because on a flat bar mountain bike, there is only one hand-hold.

  • Saddle

You may be used to yours and so why not bring it? You only have to take the saddle off your bike, not the stem it’s attached to.

How to get your bike bits off your bike

If you have a set of Allen keys, you can take your saddle and bar-ends off your bike. It isn’t difficult. The pedals are much harder. You’ll need a size 15 spanner and even then it’s not easy because the pedals may have been on your bike for a long time and really set in. You may not have the leverage with the small spanner you have to get them off.


Saddle bag, pump, inner tubes, bottles, gels, electrolyte tablets, odometer.

The mechanics will be with us throughout the ride and if you get a puncture, they will repair it using their own inner tubes. However, you may have to wait for them to get to you which can take a while if they’re tending to someone else.

Bottles – if you use them, please take at least one because we don’t hand them out and there will be a bottle cage on the bike. If you don’t like using a bottle, please do bring your Camelbak or equivalent hydration system.

Electrolyte tabs and gels – the tabs replace the electrolytes you lose through sweat and exercise. What are Electrolytes? They are minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate that are essential for normal cell and organ function. You don’t want to wait until you’re dehydrated to start replacing them, so a tab or two in your water makes all the difference and can stop you from feeling faint. High5 Zero tabs can be bought in most sports shops or on-line.

Gels – these are very useful. For long rides, regular carbohydrate refuels are important and we will have snack stops along the way to help you maintain the fuel you need for the day. However, faced with a long climb or you’re feeling a little low on energy, gels are one way of getting energy in quickly. They’re a little faster than energy bars because the body has to digest the bars first and then get the energy to where it’s needed. Gels go straight to the muscles and you’ll feel the effect within 10 minutes or so. Check the ingredients but we believe Torq are kosher ..

What else should you take?

You don’t need much in the way of clothing. It can be chilly in the morning out in the desert, so something light to put on might be useful. Every evening is casual and you really only need something a bit smarter for the Friday and Saturday night.