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Home / Training / Bike / Sub-1hr bike workout: the big gear

Sub-1hr bike workout: the big gear

Build your bike strength by training with a low cadence in a big gear

Training with a low cadence in a big gear will help build the leg strength needed to nail the bike leg. Emma-Kate Lidbury brings the pain…

Equipment needed: bike, bike shoes, bike kit and clothing, water or water bottle, turbo trainer, towel, speedometer/bike computer/power meter and music or entertainment.

How to fit it in: this will likely zap your legs – particularly your quads and glutes – so be careful about what you do in the days before and after. It’s best done with relatively fresh legs, so avoid big rides or runs the day before and expect some soreness the day after. If this is the case, just swim, spin or do a recovery run.

Big-geared turbo


10mins smooth riding then 5 x 2mins as 30secs at 80rpm, 90rpm, 100rpm, 110rpm, steady effort.

Main session

Keep breathing controlled and focus on smooth, efficient pedalling throughout the pedal stroke. 5 x [2mins, 1:30mins, 1min, 30secs at race-pace effort and big gear, 50rpm]. 1min high rpm easy effort between each.


Maintain a high rpm throughout to flush your legs after the big gear work. 10mins easy spin.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

Building bike strength at this time of year is important if you want your riding to progress throughout the season. There’s no better way to become a stronger rider than by doing a highly specific strength set such as this one. You should see it translate to better, cycling-specific aerobic and muscular endurance.

Mental benefits

Big-geared cycling isn’t for the faint hearted – it’ll hurt! Stay focused on maintaining a smooth pedal stroke which means pushing at three o’clock and pulling up at eight o’clock. As you feel yourself fatiguing, concentrate on this – as well as keeping your breathing controlled – and use it as good race-day practice.

Physiological benefits

Riding overgeared is a highly effective way of building bike-specific strength. This session is designed to reap maximum strength gains while also delivering a thorough aerobic workout. The opening 5 x 2mins at varied cadence will open your legs up well ahead of the main set. Prepare for your quads to burn as you progress through these big geared intervals, but rest assured you’re establishing the foundations for some great riding. Overgeared work like this forces you to recruit and develop all of the muscles you’ll need for strong, smooth efficient cycling (quadriceps and glutes).

Adapt for Ironman

Try adding extra rounds to the main set (for example, 6-8 times through) and follow the main set with a 15min interval, which begins at race-pace effort and comes down in intensity but increases in cadence (for example, changing from 100rpm down to 60rpm).

Like this sub-1hr session? There are lots more in our Training section!

(Image: Bob Foy)

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.