If you're just getting started in cycling, we want to be one of the first to welcome you! Regardless of whether you're headed into recreation or competition, our sport is one of the most fun and effective ways to stay fit.
In any new endeavor, it's helpful to have a checklist of the basic necessities. So here's our list of what you need to get started in cycling.
1. Get a TrainingPeaks account
Collecting data right from the start is important, no matter what type of data you have or how little, and the easiest way to collect and compile your data is to set up a free TrainingPeaks basic account. This will also give you access to thousands of cycling training plans for all levels of experience, including our own cycling training plans written by Tim Cusick. The free basic account is enough for many athletes, and if you want more data analysis you can upgrade to a premium account.
Once you set up your TrainingPeaks account and get your first training plan, follow these instructions to load the training plan to your calendar in TrainingPeaks. You'll receive daily emails with your workouts for the day, and you can also view your calendar online or in the TrainingPeaks mobile app for Android or Apple devices.
2. Decide what data to collect
How will you train? Do you want to track your training with power data, heart rate data, or perceived exertion?
Best choice: Power
Training with power is the best method of training success. It produces the most accurate data, which then enables you to target the most improvement, and we think it's also the most fun way to train. Power meters are expensive, but if you're serious about training and can afford it, it's worth the cost. Why? Here's Tim Cusick's answer.
Second best choice: Heart rate
Athletes have been training with heart rate data for decades. If power is too expensive, a heart rate monitor is the next best thing and very affordable. However, since many things increase our heart rate (caffeine, stress, fear, nerves, etc.), heart rate training can be incorrect. For example, if you drink five cups of coffee and then do a workout with heart rate data, you probably won't train hard enough, because your elevated heart rate is at least partially induced by the caffeine and not your workout.
Last resort: Perceived exertion
Many athletes start training by perceived exertion (PE for short). It's arguably the least expensive training option, but unfortunately it isn't reliable; our feelings are often incorrect and influenced by so many different factors, so basing training decisions on a feeling can limit your improvements and success.
3. Decide how you'll track your data
There are many tools out there that will help you track and analyze the data you collect from your training. Here are a few we recommend.
Free Basic TrainingPeaks Account
A free TrainingPeaks account is a great place to start. The free account gives you simple charts and graphs and will allow you to see your calendar with the training plan information and workouts.
Bonus: If you train indoors, with electronic devices (such as Garmin head units or heart rate monitors), or with virtual training platforms like Zwift and RGT, your workouts can automatically sync between these applications and your TrainingPeaks account. Click here for instructions on how to connect your accounts.
Premium Training Peaks Account
For even more training analytic tools, upgrade to a premium TrainingPeaks account for $19.95 per month or $119 per year. A premium account allows you to adjust your training plan and move your workouts around to suit your needs. Click here to compare free and premium TrainingPeaks accounts.
If you'd like to go even deeper into training analytics and get personalized training zones unique to you, we recommend TrainingPeaks' WKO5 software. There is a one-time purchase fee of $169, no subscription required, and it syncs seamlessly with your TrainingPeaks account. Try it free for 14 days before you buy!
Training is for all ages and all types of people. Everyone who trains and follows a professional training plan like ours will get faster and stronger. How a person responds to training will vary based on age, physiology, training maturity, and other factors, but everyone can get better. Of course if you have health issues, you should talk with your doctor and get medical approval before you start training.
Training plans can be altered to fit you and your lifestyle. Check out our training plan user guide for tips on changing your plan, swapping group rides for workouts, etc.