Base Training with a purpose for a New Cyclist?


New Member
Sep 20, 2010
Good Morning,

I am trying to determine a good program that will help develop my base as a cyclist. I realize that training programs are individual and not one program for "all".

What perplexes me is reading some of these books...

Joel Friel The Cyclists Training Bible
Thomas Chapple Base Building for Cyclists
Chris Carmichael The Time Crunched Cyclist

I could go on but I have been reading many books to get well versed into training. A little education can help. Most of my riding is done on the Trainer or in the Gym. I work many 11 hour days, but I can always take 1 1/2 hours off around 2:30PM for a workout at Gold's Gym. At the gym I can use several types of bikes, cross-trainer and some weights.

I am new to cycling and so far I have been using Spinerval videos. Here is my question, can these be bad for me? Should I avoid any interval training? I have been doing the beginner, intermediate, and advanced with no problems. And been doing at least a video everyday. I watch them on my iTouch at the gym or home.

Should I focus on just ride DVD's either Spinervals or Epic Ride?

Here is what I am using....

Kurt Kinetic Fluid Trainer
Garmin 705 Computer
Trek 7.9 FX
Many books and DVD's
I don't have a Power Meter.......

Please feel free to recommend some books or DVD's.

My goals are pretty simple. I am 48 years old and I would love to start riding group rides but feel like I need to train for major competition before I want to attempt a group ride. We will see were this goes after that attempt. I can't expect too much at my age. I would also like to plan on picking up a road bike either a Madone or something possible made by Trek. I have good LBS here for Trek. I can get outside to cycle mostly on weekends as it still gets dark early in the evening. I love to workout but it is a dead end in itself. I love cycling and need the fitness and stress reduction from work. So, the answer is get in shape with the goal to be a better rider.

This is so addicting! First you ride, then you get a few books, next start the cycling magazines, next you can't get cycling out of your mind. Maybe I am just mad?
So, if you are new to cycling what would you recommend? Find another hobby? Can I use my time at the gym to help build my base for cycling?

Many Thanks


Well-Known Member
Oct 3, 2006

A few thoughts:

- You're not too old to start and even to be quite successful as a rider or even racer. When I first started collegiate racing there was a guy in town that was in his mid '40s none to slim who bought a bike and just started riding it a lot. He lost a lot of weight and turned out to have a talent for cycling. He won a lot of races over the next twenty or so years including a handful of national championship titles. He was and still is one of my role models for simply getting out and doing what you love and seeing how far you can take it regardless of when you start. Personally I raced for a long time but hit my limit at mid category racing and eventually moved on to other things. I got back on the bike in a serious way five seasons ago when I turned 45 and have progressed further in these past five years than I ever managed to back in the day. I'm faster and more competitive across the board than I ever was when I was younger. Sure I finally learned to train worth a damn and approach things differently now but in comparable events including hill climbs and long time trials I just go a lot faster at 50 than I did at 25 or 30. Don't let age discourage you.

- There's a lot of ways to think about 'base building' but regardless of the approach the main goals are to develop sustainable metabolic (aerobic) fitness as well as fatigue resistance (endurance). IOW, the base you're building is the ability to ride for reasonably long periods at a reasonably high sustained power. There are a lot of changes that take place in the body to make that happen including increased heart stroke volume, increased mitochondrial density in the working muscles and increased capillary density in and around those working muscles as well as a host of hormonal, blood work changes, etc. What 'base building' isn't is putting the finishing touches on high end speed and associated power for short durations like charging up a short hill, winning a sprint, chasing down a faster rider for a couple of minutes, dealing with hard surges and attacks in group rides or races, etc. That's the kind of work that builds on top of your base but the more highly you develop the base (which depends on genetics, how well you train and how long you train your base in terms of years not months or weeks) the less you have to rely on those high end systems to manage even relatively competitive riding. IOW, get your base fitness high enough and a lot of efforts that would have seemed like killer short intervals become pretty tame as they don't push you too far beyond your sustainable metabolic power capabilities.

- So from that standpoint base can be developed in a lot of ways. The most traditional way is to simply ride a lot at low to moderate intensities. IOW, just ride your bike as much as you can for as long as you can manage and keep the pace manageable so you can do a lot of this kind of riding and bounce back to do it on subsequent days. Works great if you don't already have a full time job, family and other real world obligations of most masters riders. Not so great for folks with a lot of time constraints.

- The other end of the spectrum in HIIT training based on short very high intensity intervals. Some coaches really push this and no doubt some athletes have had great success with these methods. Personally I think it's mentally daunting to have to work so hard each time you ride and it lacks in certain aspects like developing fatigue resistance and endurance for longer rides not to mention less bike time for developing handling and road skills and to toughen up your nether regions for longer days in the saddle. I sure won't say it can't or doesn't work but I don't think HIIT training is ideal for most folks and definitely not for most beginners.

- Somewhere in between is SST/L4 style training which builds philosophically on the work of the late running coach Arthur Lydiard and has been advocated more recently by folks like Andy Coggan and Charles Howe and many others. The idea is to accumulate a moderate amount of weekly training time (say 6 to 12 or so hours per week) at a moderately high but still sustainable intensity. So it's not killer one or five minute intervals but more like sustainable (but still focused and relatively intense) pace for up to 90 or even 120 minutes on some days or shorter and even more intense days with things like a pair of 20 minute intervals. These longer intervals are ridden hard enough to get you breathing deeply and steadily and require a lot of focus to keep from slowing down to easier less intense work but they're easy enough that you can actually complete them and they don't trash you such that you have to recover for several days before doing some more training. These are the methods that changed my riding so dramatically and I wish I'd picked up these approaches all those years ago. Basically you ride a fair amount but not the 20-30 hour weeks of full time riders more like 6 to 12 hours a week or so but the rides are focused and high quality but definitely aerobic as it's simply not possible to sustain a primarily anaerobic effort for ten much less twenty minutes.

You can do any of these on a gym trainer but again the SST/L4 style approach is really well suited to indoor work since the efforts are focused and don't require you to sit on the indoor trainer for hours on end. If you want to lift weights for general health reasons then great but weight lifting will not directly improve your cycling or help you build your base. Cycling is not limited by peak leg strength, yeah it feels that way when you blow up on a steep hill or trying to chase a faster rider but the actual pedaling forces are only a fraction of your body weight which you carry around all day and carry up and down stairs just fine. The issue isn't strength, it's sustainable power or the ability to turn stored fuels into work at the muscles at a high rate, the key there is cycling time using one of the methods described above.

Good on ya for taking an interest and setting some very achievable goals. Definitely make use of the gym bikes at Golds until you get your road bike. I use the Gold's gym bikes in a lot of cities for training when I'm out of town on business travel and just dial them up for whatever kind of workouts including the SST/L4 stuff I described above. They're not great fun and I sweat buckets on those gym bikes during those 20 to 90 minute efforts but the payoff is worth it when I get back on my road bike.

Search these forums for information on SST (Sweet Spot Training) 2x20s, FTP, L3, Tempo and other keywords. Search the web for a copy of Charles Howe's Power Training Guide which lays out a very good description of base building with an SST/L4 approach. The CTS book you have builds on similar ideas but IMO transitions quickly to the higher end work that gets people ready to do a few races each season and I think you'd do better as a beginner with more SST base building as it's really the best bang for your buck to build the kind of fitness that counts.

Good luck,


New Member
Sep 20, 2010

Thanks for the well thought out reply. I will also Google Charles Howe and look at his book. I also see that the Spinervals offer a Base Building program but I am unable to comment if it is relevant. I realize that watching videos on basically an iPhone is not idea but it helps when riding a bike at the gym.

From what I have read Base Building is nothing quick, maybe at least 24 weeks and even longer if you work a full time job.

I'll keep searching the forum and reading and spending time in the saddle. I lift a few weights for arms and upper body, with mainly the focus on few. Most of my training is either on the bike or cross trainer or what some would call the elliptical. I have to have a purpose for my exercise, and focusing on cycling with one or two year goals is tremendous. Yes, 48 years old but I guess I have plenty of time. Getting in shape is wonderful but as an end in itself lacks motivation. But join that with cycling and seeing improvement during group rides would be awesome. Maybe even competition someday.