By Joel Zanatta

I love to ride, but I am not a naturally gifted athlete. Nonetheless, I finished the Whistler Gran Fondo in under 4 hours without doing any formal training. How you ask? Gaming the bicycle commute to work is the answer.

I have been a bicycle commuter for some years now. My commute is about 1 hour in duration. Commuting builds me a nice baseline, but it certainly does not meet the training needs of someone looking to ride to Whistler in under four hours. Fortunately, by applying a couple of little tricks to “game” my ride I was able to use the commute as the perfect springboard for a much longer bike race.

The following are some tips that you can use to convert your commute into an effective training regime for bicycle racing.

  1. Time your rides. Once you know how quickly you can ride your usual route you will almost automatically start riding more quickly in order to improve upon your time. It is the simplest and most enjoyable way to start your training.
  2. Add to your commute by throwing in a weekly “long ride” so that your body is gets used to more time in the saddle. Make the addition to your commute fun and enjoyable and remember to add in some hill climbs.
  3. Commute with 35mm or greater tires and paniers but have a separate bike with 28mm tires (or less) for race day. By training with more resistance in the months leading up to the race you will feel like a thoroughbred when you drop all that extra weight and resistance.
  4. Stay in the saddle and spin all of the hills at a high cadence. This will help you build your functional threshold for the big day.
  5. Find a group that does morning rides and join them on your way to work. In my case I had a couple of friends riding three mornings a week. Whenever possible I would join them even though I had my paniers and backpack. I did not look cool, but it was effective.

All in all, bike commuting can be a great way to get into shape. If you take a flexible approach and “game” the commute it can be a super effective training tool allowing you to avoid hours of training yet ride at a good and respectable pace on the big day.

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