Top 6 Bike Workouts for Runners – The Runners Guide to Cycling

runner doing cycling workout

Looking for the best bike workouts for runners? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Just because you proudly call yourself a runner doesn’t mean you should scoff at other forms of training, especially when it’s a cycling workout.

In fact, cycling, the right way, can actually make you a faster and less injury-prone runner.

That’s why it’s one of the best cross-training options for runners.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with the beginner’s runner guide to cycling for cross-training.

By the end of this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The Benefits of Cycling for Runners
  • Cycling Vs. Running Muscles
  • Beginners Gear Guide To Cycling
  • How to Cycle the safe way?
  • Should you try a spinning class?
  • How to Improve your Cycling form
  • Running and cycling training plan
  • The Best Cycling Workouts for Runners

Feel excited?

Let’s spin.

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I’d use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. 

The Benefits of Cycling for Runners

Cycling is, hands down, one of the best cross-training exercises that complement running, whether you want to go all serious about it (I’m not), or just do it every now and then (which is my thing).

Here are some of the main reasons:

Targets all major running muscles. Cycling builds strength and power in major leg muscles, such as the glutes, calves, and quads—key running muscles.

Low impact. Cycling targets these muscles in a non-load-bearing manner. Basically, the pedal helps you to continue the movement impact, so your joints bear little weight.

Improves leg turnover. A high cycling cadence—of roughly 90 revolutions per minute or more—improves leg turnover that translates very well to running.

Many workouts. Just like running, you can do all sorts of workouts on your bike, including interval sessions, tempo rides, hill rides, and long steady ride workouts to build endurance. The best cycling workouts for runners are those routines that mimic standard and classic run workouts, just like the ones I’m sharing with you below.

Great for recovery. Or should I say, active recovery, which is any sort of low-intensity low-impact exercise after a hard workout.

Active recovery can increase blood flow, soothe muscle soreness, reduce joint stiffness, flush out toxins—all which can help improve recovery rate.

Cycling Workouts for runners

Cycling For Runners – The Muscles Used

If you’re a serious runner who cross-trains regularly, understanding the role of each muscle group in both running and cycling may help you cut the risk of injury while improving performance.

The primary muscles at work when cycling are the hamstrings and quadriceps in the upper legs and the soleus and gastrocnemius in the calf.

These muscles contract in a continuous sequence to help generate the pedaling power.

But it’s a bit of a different story when it comes to running.

The main running muscles are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and iliopsoas.

These help with hip extension, knee flexion, and pelvis stabilization.

Neither biking nor running tends to develop overall muscle mass.

In fact, these exercises can actually cause the muscle fibers to break down and shrink as the body tries to make muscle fibers more metabolically efficient.

Beginner Biking Gear

Although biking requires more gear than running, all you need to get started is an entry-level bike. This can cost you around $1,000. You can also get a better deal online or get a second-hand bike.

Just like your running shoes, the bike must fit, or it’s a no-deal. If you don’t have a bike yet, check the following top picks on Amazon.Com:

More Gear

Some of the essential items you’ll need to include a bike, helmet, glasses,  bike shorts, cycling shoes, cycling gloves, multi-tool, spare tube,  an inflation device, and working brakes.

Biking Shoes

Most runners will start cycling in running shoes (duh), which should pose no problem for short rides—as long as you got flat pedals but the moment you start going the distance, you might find yourself suffering from foot cramps or pain due the repetitive foot flexing.

Go for cycling trainers that have rigid soles to keep your feet from flexing too much. This helps reduce the risk of pain and cramping. It also optimizes energy transfer to the pedals.

Cycling Clothing

You’ll need a pair of padded cycling shorts to prevent your backside form hurting so much. Choose the wrong pair of shorts and you’ll force yourself off the bike due to saddle sores.

What’s more?

Make sure your cycling shorts are made of fast-drying  and wicking material to help keep your body dry and comfortable.

A jersey is also important. Choose bright-colored jerseys to help make you more visits to oncoming traffic. You should also get a top made of high performance materials that don’t get squelchy if you sweat too much or get caught in the rain.

You should also consider getting jersey with zipper to help allow to easily put on and remove tight jerseys and to unzip to improve air flow in the summer day.


Protect your head—I cannot emphasize this enough.

Research says that using a a helmet while riding reduces the risk of head injury by 50 percent and the risk of face and neck injury by 33 percent.

In a perfect world, no one should fall of their bikes, but sometimes shit happens and things can get out of control on the road.

Since the cycling helmet is getting bigger, brands are continually competing with each other to design the best bike helmets, focusing on factors such aerodynamics, comfort and breathability.

Additional resource  – Trx exercises for runners

A Water Bottle

Just like running, cycling is hard work, and it’ll make you sweat like a lot, especially if you’re riding long in the summer heat.

Cycling is hard word so drinking enough water before, during and after your rides is key for getting the most out of your cycling experience. I can’t emphasize this enough.

For this reason, staying well hydrated  is essential if you’re serious about making the most out of your rides.

Take a filled water bottle with you. The easiest way to that is to use a frame-mounted cage designed for such bottles.

Floor Pumps

To make the most out of your cycling experience, you’ll also need to adjust your tire pressure to the conditions: in the hot season, you should increase pressures to avoid rolling resistance and help cover more distances, while in winter a slightly lower pressures means improved grip on slippery roads.

Cycling For Runners The Safe Way

By now, you should have gathered all the gear you need and are prepared to hit the road.

Are you ready to go?

Don’t rush out of the door yet.

When doing outdoor sports, whether it’s running, biking, you name it, you should always put safety first.

Here’s what to pay attention to for staying safe while cycling.

  • Know the laws. Look up your state laws regarding bikes and get to know common safety principles that can help keep you out of harm’s way.
  • Keep it on the road. Sidewalks are the reserves of pedestrians and only pedestrians. Even when biking at a slow pace, you can be going as fast as 15 to 20 miles per hour. This is too fast to be coming down the sidewalk next to walkers and runners.
  • Look for bike lanes. These provide more than three feet of space for you so you can comfortably ride your bike at any pace. Just keep an eye for parked cars.
  • Use body language. Communication is key for staying safe on the road. Use common hand signals to tell other drivers when you’re slowing down or turning. Signal when turning or changing lanes, as well as when stopping for traffic signals.
  • Be loud. Call out to other riders, runners, or walkers when you’re approaching or about to pass them.

Too much to digest?

Try riding with a cycling group or buddy until you get comfortable with the rules of the road.

Riding in groups is a great way to stay safe on the road while having fun riding the miles.

The Spinning Option

If you decide to hop on a spin bike at your gym, then the only expense you have to worry about is your membership.

Gyms have them, and they are not that expensive.

Not only that, but some spin bikes also come with their own pre-programmed workout routines.

All you need for an awesome spinning session is an iPod with a good playlist and (maybe) a training buddy to help you ward off the boredom of spinning in place.  Find out this detailed guide from TheDrive to compare the most popular spin bikes in case you would want to get one.

Cycling For Runners – Improve your Technique

Biking can be quite scary for beginners as there’s a lot to learn. Electric bikes could be a good option to start with. Take a look at this massive list of e-bike brands you can choose from.

But, don’t feel like you got to learn everything overnight.

Just like any other sport, it’s a learning process that requires time and practice.

As you get your head around the bike, you’ll be able to improve your pedaling form and position on the bike for more speed and endurance.

Want to know where to start?

Here are a few basic tips to help you improve your cycling technique.

  • Improve cadence. Just like in running, cadence refers to the number of revolutions that pedals make per minute. Shoot for 90 rpm regardless of the terrain.
  • Stay relaxed. Avoid holding your handlebars in a death grip unless you’re in a dead sprint. Just like when running, staying relaxed can help you save energy and keep you from feeling too stressed out and tight while biking.
  • Shift right. Make it a rule to practice shifting to an easier gear before you need it. This includes when approaching hills and stoplights. Waiting for too long may force the chain to slip.
  • When tackling a climb, opt for a more upright position while keeping your hands on the bar tops. Aim for circular pedaling motion instead of pushing down.
  • To ensure a smooth and safe stop, lightly use both the front and rear brakes when you need to stop. Avoid pulling only the rear or front brake lever as well as sudden stops. That’s how accidents happen.
  • Pay attention. By far this is the most crucial part of proper cycling technique. Just as you wouldn’t simply get lost in your head when logging the miles, you shouldn’t lose focus on the bike either. Sure, have fun, enjoy the scenery but don’t bike yourself into oblivion.

Running and cycling training plan

When it comes to scheduling your running and biking workouts, avoid performing double sessions of the same type on the same day—the additional damage from the second workout will likely hinder your recovery and cause more harm than good.

For example, a good workout pairing would be an interval run in the morning then an easy bike ride in the evening.

This means starting the day with the high-intensity session, then do the easy ride that can serve as active recovery.

Conversely, a bad example would be performing intervals on the bike in the morning then tackling hills in the evening.

The morning cycling workout may undermine the gains of the hill session as you won’t be able to sprint up the hills at your best.

runner cycling

The Best Bike Workouts for Runners

Here is a list of biking workouts you might consider adding into your training program.

I suggest that you do at least one of the sessions below twice a week, choose another for a third hard day.

  1. The Road Bike Cycling Workout

Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “speed play.” First used by runners way back in the 30’s, fartlek training has over the last few decades spread to other sports—including cycling.

You can perform this workout on flat sections or hills, just make sure you are biking on feel and picking up the pace every now and then.

The Workout

10 minutes easy biking to warm up and get ready, then do the following:

  • 5 minutes of moderate biking
  • 2 minutes sprint
  • 4 minutes moderate
  • 1-minute sprint
  • 5 minutes moderate
  • 3 minutes sprint
  • 10 minutes easy cooldown.

There is no magic formula for the perfect fartlek biking workout.

Feel free to let your creativity carry you forward, and remember to have fun.

It’s called “speed play” for a reason.

  1. Endurance Ride Cycling Workout

The endurance workout is one of my favorite biking workouts—especially on days when I don’t feel like doing something intense but still get a sweat going.

The main goal of this session is to build endurance without causing too much fatigue.

You should feel the tension building in your muscles, but keep the speed at a conversational pace—meaning you can still talk without huffing and puffing.

The Workout

Start, like usual, with a 10-minute easy-paced pedaling to get you warmed and ready.

Next, aim to keep up a steady cadence for the upcoming 45 to 60 minutes, shooting for an effort level of 6 to 7 on an effort scale of 1 to 10, and exercising at 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

As a beginner, go for a low cadence—roughly 60 to 70 rpm for your first few endurance sessions. As you get fitter, work it up gradually up to more than an hour.

Last up, finish the ride with a 5-minute slow-spinning cool down at an easy pace.

  1. Speed Intervals Cycling Workout

Intervals are a crucial part of any cycling training program.

These powerful sessions can help you increase aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and power, burn mad calories, and they are perfect for the time-crunched runner.

You can perform this workout indoor, or outdoor.—although I prefer doing it indoor because that way I can have more control over pace and intervals length and duration.

The Workout

Start with a 10-minute easy-paced pedaling to get you warmed and set.

Next, perform at least six to eight one-minute fast-pedal intervals near top speed—nothing less than 90 percent of your max.

Slow down and recover with a one-minute easy pace spin with minimal resistance.

After the last interval,  slow down and ride at a neutral pace for 5 minutes to cool down.

  1. Tabata Intervals Cycling Workout

Tabata intervals are the brainchild of the Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata and consists of alternating between 20-second of a high-intensity interval with 10-second of recovery.

Tabata protocol workouts are perfect if you’re short on time and looking to get the most out of every minute you spend on a bike.

These also increase cardiovascular fitness and shed crazy amounts of calories like nothing else.

For a timer to keep track of your sprint and rest periods, feel free to down this Tabata-timer app.

The Workout

Begin the workout with a 10-minute easy ride as a warm-up of easy spinning.

Next, up the intensity by either boosting gear ratio or tension, then sprint for 20 seconds as fast as possible.

Then, slow down and recover with a 10-second of easy spinning.

Repeat the on and off pattern for eight times to complete one round.

Pedal easy for one to two minutes, then aim to do at least two to three more rounds.

  1. Climbing Intervals Cycling Workout

The cycling climbing session helps build strength and power needed to tackles the hills with ease, and will also totally challenge your muscular strength and endurance and power on the bike.

You have two options here:

(1) Tackle a moderate-to-steep hill.

The ideal hill should take you at least two to five minutes to climb, has a steady grade of 7 to 10 percent with no stop signs or traffic lights.

(2) Or hop on a stationary bike with a riser block under the front wheel to simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel.

The Workout

Start with a 10-minute warm-up of easy pedaling.

Begin the uphill, aiming for an effort of 7 to 8 for at least 5 minutes, and aiming for 70 to 80 RPM.

Then, coast or recover downhill, and repeat for 25 to 30 minutes.

Repeat the cycle for the duration of your session, then end the workout with a 5-minute easy pedaling cool-down.

feel free to stand and attack for 15 to 20 pedal strokes a time at the fastest pace possible.

  1. The Recovery Cycling Workout

A recovery ride serves the same purpose as a recovery run As a result, you shouldn’t be skipping them.

The recovery is going to help you to increase your biking mileage while also allowing your body to recover by spending some time at a lower-intensity training zone.

The Workout

This is easy and straightforward: Ride as easy as you can possibly ride for 30 to 45 minutes.

In fact, go as embarrassingly slow as possible, and do it deliberately.

Keep spinning easy, and don’t let your training buddy ruin this for you—regardless of how much they pressure you into speeding things up.

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Top 6 Bike Workouts for Runners – The Conclusion

There you have it.  If you’re looking for some of the best bike workouts for runners then today’s article has you covered.

I’ve also shared plenty of tips on how to make the most out of cycling, including a running and cycling plan for runners.

The rest is details.

Please feel free to leave your questions and comments in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.



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