Cycling Points

Muscles worked: Upper leg (quadriceps and hamstrings) lower leg (gastrocnemius and soleus)

Two different fiber types in muscle: Fast twitch and Slow twitch.

  • Fast twitch muscle fibers move quicker than the slow twitch fibers and therefore tire more easily. Fast twitch fibers kick in when you do burst training; speed up and slow down your cadence. Better for cardio and weight loss.
  • Slow twitch muscle fibers are utilized more during a long ride such as on a bike trail where you are using more of a steady non stop pace. Long slow rides are better to buildup endurance. 

Types of exercise: Aerobic and Anaerobic

  • The term Aerobic means to function in oxygen. During aerobic exercise muscles work in an oxygen rich environment where blood flow is adequate to keep up with the energy demands of the muscle fibers.
  • Anaerobic means to function in an environment of low or no oxygen. Anaerobic exercise occurs when the muscles are pushed to the point where the oxygen rich blood flow is not delivered fast enough
  • The average bike rider stays within the arena of aerobic exercise with short periods of anaerobic.
  • When we feel the burning sensation in our muscles while exercising or in this case cycling it is the muscle fibers working in an anaerobic state. When we do this the muscles build up a substance called lactic acid. It is this lactic acid that causes the burning and fatigue feeling causing the average biker to slow down their pace or stop pedaling all together.

Things to know about heart rate and cycling. The best way to achieve results is to understand three concepts, (1) maximum heart rate (2) lactate threshold and (3) cycling zones.

  • Calculating your maximum heart rate is easy, just subtract your age from 220. For example if you are 55 (220-55) your max. heart rate will be 165. This is the rate you want your heart to beat at during exercise in order to get the best effect from the exercise. 
  • Calculating your lactate threshold gives you an even better idea of the maximum benefit of exercise . To calculate your lactate threshold; calculate 80  and 90 % of your maximum heart rate. When you find these two values your lactate threshold is somewhere in between these two numbers. For example, as noted above a 55 year old persons max heart rate should be 165. The lactate threshold 80% of 165 = 132, 90% = 148, Therefore a 55 year old persons lactate threshold is at a heart rate somewhere between 132 and 148 bpm. Why is this important? Maintaining exercise at you lactate threshold allows your muscles to clear lactic acid and to utilize fuel more efficiently to increase your endurance.
  • Know your cycling heart rate zones. Zones are classified as 1-3. Zone 3 being the most intense.
      • Zone 3 is found at 75-80 % of your maximum heart rate (for a 55 year old around 123 – 132 bpm.) This zone is where you burn calories and increase endurance the best. This is where fast twitch muscles are best utilized during fast high intensity and burst training rides.  Zone 1 and 2 are more geared to slow twitch muscles and involve longer and slower rides. 
      • Zone 2 is found between 65 and 75 % of your maximum heart rate.
      • Zone 1 is found between 60 and 65 % of your max heart rate.

Heart rate monitoring is vital to understand where you fall in the above categories to help you meet your fitness goals.

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