How to avoid being a single-paced cyclist

This bike session will help you beat draft packs, tackle short ramps and escape the bunch by adding an extra gear to your riding says Nik Cook

How to avoid being a single-paced cyclist

Even on the flattest, straightest and wind-free bike course, you need to accept that you’ll never ride a 100%, even-paced effort. Unless you’re willing to sit in-line and ride at the pace of the racers in front of you, you’ll need to be able to accelerate, move through the rider ahead’s draft zone and settle back into your race pace. In big races, you’ll also have to pass multiple riders, which means a sustained, hard effort. Away from drag-strip courses and back to the reality of most UK triathlons, along with overtakes you’ll have  to deal with sustained climbs, short ramps and wind.


The speed solution? Well, the fastest way to pace is not to ride at an even effort. You should go harder when it’s tough and you’re going slow – on climbs or into the wind – and back off a little on descents and when the wind’s on your back.

In short, you need to develop the ability to ride at race pace, go hard, recover at race pace and repeat. Here’s how…

3 top tips for pushing the pace

Shift it up

Shifting up a gear and maintaining your cadence or slightly upping it is a great way to shift up the effort intensity.

Know when to surge

The surge should be a squeeze and a subtle lifting of your effort. It equates to about a 20% lifting of power but definitely isn’t a sprint.

Jump out of the saddle

The 10sec sprint is a maximal effort but there’s no need to shift gear, just go for a hard jump out of the saddle and shoot for max cadence.



5-10mins, building up to top end of moderate

3 x 5sec low-gear sprints, staying seated and focusing on maximal cadence

55sec easy recovery after each sprint

2-3mins easy spin

Main Set

Ride the Race Pace and Surge in race position and come out of the saddle for the Sprint

3 x 10mins as:

90secs Race Pace @90-100rpm, moderate to vigorous

20secs Surge @95-105rpm, vigorous to max effort

10secs Sprint, max effort

5mins easy spin


5-10mins easy 

Adapt for beginners

You can either cut the lengths of the effort blocks to 8 or 6mins and/or miss out the 10sec sprints.

Adapt for Ironman

Either add a fourth set or the 10min Race Pace-Surge-Sprint blocks are great to incorporate into an endurance ride.