Speed, Strength and Endurance

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Have you ever gone for a ride with a pure track rider and noticed how much he suffers in the hills or in the wind?  Have you ever noticed how a guy who is generally considered very “strong” can stink up the velodrome?  Obviously both riders possess very different abilities that have been specifically trained. But what exactly are these abilities?

The three basic ingredients that are required to be a successful cyclist are speed, strength and endurance.  Many people don’t realize that these abilities are very separate and need to be trained separately in order to improve.  Different types of events require different mixes of these ingredients.

When broken down, the basic components of cycling fitness are defined as the following:


Endurance is the ability to push-on even when fatigued.   It is considered to be an aerobic activity.  This is the first component that should be worked on before the other abilities are developed and trained.

Strength is all about being able to push the pedals against high resistance.   Hills, headwinds and crosswinds are situations where strength is important.

Speed is the ability to turn over the pedals quickly.  Track riders have highly developed speed. They can rotate those pedals around at over 150rpm with great efficiency.    Athletes with a large percentage of fast twitch muscles possess great speed.

Now, the basics of speed, strength and endurance can be further refined to start combining these abilities.


Strength Endurance is the ability for the muscles to sustain a high load for a long time.  For roadies, strength endurance is critical.  Climbing long gradual hills is a great way to get good strength endurance.

Power is the when the gap is bridged between strength and speed.  Maximum force for a relatively short amount of time.  When strength and speed are combined at a high lever, power is produced.  Short steep climbs are a good example of when power required.

Speed Endurance is the ability to sustain speed for an extended amount of time.  We’re talking about sprinting here.  This is one of the single most important abilities to have in your quiver when trying to win races that end in long sprint finishes.  Cavendish has fantastic speed endurance.

This scratches the surface of some very fundamental training theory for cycling.  If I were to give one Cycling Tip for cycle training it would be to read Joe Friel’s “The Cyclist’s Training Bible”.  The information above comes almost directly from this groundbreaking book.  It motivates me every time I read through it!

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