How To Warm Up Properly For A Bike Race

A proper warm-up is critical in biking, but too many people think that stretching is all they need to get their muscles loose.

Biking is not running or basketball or football. But all too often you see bikers doing their stretches, whether it's leg hurdles or touching their toes.

Even if they choose to ignore the fact that static stretches do not actually do much compared to dynamic stretching, bikers should warm up for biking, not some other sport. Warming up for a bike race requires stretches and exercises specific for biking.

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Here are some of the exercises you can do to make sure you are ready for a bike race.

Warm up on your bike

Bicycle Race

Certain stretches might be of value before you get on the bike. Bike Radar recommends the Quad Stretch, the Calf Stretch and the Camel Pose among other stretches to prevent injuries and loosen up your muscles.

However, a bike warm-up should involve a short bike ride before the race. This has several advantages. First, you can ensure that your bike is working  properly and that no mechanical failures will suddenly pop up during the race. This assumes that you take the time to check your bike's parts and ensure you have the proper supplies to last over the entire race.

But the key advantage is to get your heart rate up. If you just do static stretches before racing, your heart will not be ready to supply your muscles with all the blood they need when you shoot out at the start. It will take time for your heart to start beating at the needed rate, which will slow you down and keep you behind your competitors.

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If you warm up with a bike routine beforehand, it will reduce the amount of time your heart needs to reach its optimal beating rate.

The best pre-biking routines

Bicycle Wheels

So what sort of warm-up should you do before a bike race? It depends on the race. A long-distance race does not require as long a warm-up as one where you need to sprint. Getting your heart rate up quickly is not as important as pacing yourself over the long course.

But as a basic rule, every pre-race routine should look something like this:

  • First, slowly ramp up over a period of about 10-20 minutes. The goal is to get your heart beating.
  • Over a series of intervals, push hard, attempting to reach tempo, or about 85 percent of your threshold average heartbeat. (This can be a steady push up to tempo over five minutes, or a cycle of a push up to tempo before resting and then pushing up to tempo again.)
  • Go all-out and sprint for about 30 seconds.
  • Gradually wind down and get ready for the race. Ideally, you should be finished with your warm-up five to 15 minutes before the race begins.

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An sample warm-up from Bicycling suggests:

  • 15–20 minutes at a cruising pace
  • 3 x 3 minutes tempo with 2 minutes RBI (rest between intervals)
  • 3 x 2 minutes brisk with 2 minutes RBI
  • 3 x 1 minute power with 4 minutes RBI

Alternatives

Biking on a Trail

It must be noted that a warm-up like this before a race is not always possible. You might have to finish it early to get to your assigned starting spot and then wait for awhile until the gun goes off, preventing you from getting the benefits of a proper warm-up.

Under those circumstances, the best thing to do is to warm up at the start of the race. Following a routine like the one above is ill-advised, but your goal should be to pace yourself and get your heart rate up over time. Once you are ready, you can begin racing in earnest.

A proper warm-up is critical in biking, but too many people think that doing a few stretches is all they need to get their muscles loose. But when you bike, the most important muscle is your heart. Any warm-up should be focused on getting your heart ready first, and a solid pre-race biking routine is the best thing you can do to get your heart and body ready.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: WARM-UP | STRETCHING | CYCLING | HEART | HEART RATE | RACING