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Cycling Basics: Warm Up Exercises You Need to Do Before Every Ride

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As in any other form of exercise or work-out, cycling also requires a warm-up session before you hit the pedal. It has been scientifically proven that a few minutes of mild exercise before your bicycle are extremely beneficial for your body and for your cycling experience. In the simplest terms, a cycling warm up session will enhance your experience and make sure that your body isn’t worn out or exhausted after cycling.

Let us understand why a warm up exercise before cycling is so important.

How Does the Body React to Cycling Warm Ups

When you indulge in a session of warming up before cycling, you give your body a signal about the upcoming physical activity and make it well-prepared. In response to a warm up session, the body activates its metabolic activities. This, in turn, allows for an efficient removal of lactic acid from the body, thereby keeping the muscles more flexible. Consequently, you will be able to push the pedals faster and for longer without feeling tired.

The activity of most metabolic enzymes is maximal at a temperature that is slightly above the resting body temperature (37 degrees Celsius or 98.4 Fahrenheit).

Your biking warm up session will serve to increase the core temperature of your body and activate these enzymes. The most immediate outcome of this process is energy generation.

Your warm up for cycling session initiates the process of glycolysis that breaks down stored fuels in the body. This is accompanied by an increase of heart rate and breathing rate, that ensures enough supply of oxygen to the body.

In total, a cycling warm up session energises your body, makes the muscles and joints ready for the upcoming work-out and primes neuromuscular coordination. All these effects are necessary to improve your performance and minimize the impact of the work-out on your body.

Learn these warm up
Learn to warm up for cycling

Therefore, it is a good idea to include a session of cycling warm-up before hitting the race track. Let us now look at a few simple pointers that will help you make your warm up sessions more effective and interesting for you.

Tips to Follow For Warm Up Routine Before Cycling Session

These tips work great if you are taking the cycle out for your warm up. Warming up on your stationary bike also works just fine, except that you don’t get the beautiful views that you witness while riding out in the open.

Tip #1. Don’t Rush into the Cycling Warm Up

Although you might be very tempted to start off with a mega-push and begin your warm-up with a high-intensity exercise, experts and professional cyclists advise against it.

One very good way to make the most of your warming up session is to take the initial minutes easy and enjoy smooth pedalling for 10 minutes or so. This way, you let your body warm-up naturally and is never put in a state of pressure. Listening to your favourite warm-up songs for cycling is also a great way to enjoy the session.

Tip #2. Use Your Warm Up Session for Mental and Physical Introspection

In your fast-paced life, you probably don’t get enough time to think about your mental frame.

Use the time you spend in your cycling warm up session to look beyond your cycling muscles, your cycling speed and your cycling goals.

As you push the pedals while warming up, evaluate and analyze your mental and physical state. Find out if you have any problem areas that make cycling difficult for you. Identify sore spots, tense muscles and heaviness in any part of your body as you cycle.

Tip #3. Use Electronic Gadgets to Track your Warm Up

It is always a great feeling to see a numerical value for the efforts that you put in. Use any of the trackers available in the market and monitor your heart rate and cadence during your cycling warm up.

Compare these values with your average values. This is a great way to plan your ride.

Tip #4. Alternate Slow Paced Warm Up Sessions With Medium Paced Warm Up Sessions

Once you start getting a hang of your warm up sessions, you will understand how your body reacts to it. After establishing a routine with your warm up session, you should try to increase the intensity of your cycling warm up if you have an upcoming intense cycling race.

For most races, a combination of slow-paced and medium-paced warm up sessions are ideal. An example of this combination is mixing 12 minutes of slow-paced warm up with 8 minutes of intense warm up.

The only point to remember is that your cycling warm up should be done about 5 to 15 minutes prior to your cycling race. You may choose the duration and intensity of your cycling warm up session, but it has to be remembered that if you are going for a short but intense event, your warm up needs to be longer. On the other hand, if you are going to take part in a long sportive event, you don’t have to spend too much time on warming up before the race.

Top Stretching Exercises for Cycling Warm Up

Stretches before cycling can be of tremendous help for you. Now we shall see some of the essential exercises for your cycling warm up.

Leg Swinging Exercises

The mobility of your legs and associated muscles is the prime determinant of your cycling performance.

Therefore, it is only natural that you include leg swings in your cycling warm up.

  1. Stand aside your bike and hold the seat with one hand, for stability.
  2. Now start swinging your outside leg back and forth without bending the knee.
  3. Repeat at least ten times before turning sides.
  4. You may also face towards the bike and swing the leg from side to side ten times before switching to the other leg.
  5. A combination of these movements is great for your hip and thigh muscles.
Leg swinging exercises
Leg Swinging Exercises

Chest Stretching Exercise

The pectoral muscles of a cyclist are also exerted after continuous hunching. This exercise is a great way to condition these muscles before a race.

  1. Stand with your face towards your bike and separate your feet about 2 feet away.
  2. Hold the seat with one hand and the handlebar with another and bend your waist so that you lean forward.
  3. You will feel a slight pressure on your elbows as you push your chest towards the ground.
  4. Hold this position for about 5 seconds before standing up normally.
  5. Repeat for a total of ten times.
Chest stretching exercise
Chest Stretching Exercise

Cat-Cow Stretching Exercise

The glutes are one of the most important muscles for a cyclist. Therefore, your cycling warm up session should definitely include exercises that target these muscles. Also, the posture that you assume while riding your bicycle may make your spine stiff. This exercise takes care of both these issues.

  1. Get on to all four limbs and make sure that your wrists are in line with your shoulders, and knees in line with the hips.
  2. Arch your back and let the abdomen drop towards the ground as you inhale.
  3. Maintain this position for 30 seconds before exhaling and rounding your spine.
  4. Maintain for 30 seconds and make ten repetitions of each.
Cat-Cow Stretching Exercise
Cat-Cow Stretching Exercise

Butt-Kicking Exercise

This simple exercise is great for your hip flexors and quads.

  1. You should stand straight and keep your feet slightly apart.
  2. Start jumping up on alternate feet, and bend one knee at each jump.
  3. Try to kick the glute of the same leg.
  4. Make sure that your spine is straight.
  5. Do this exercise for about 1 minutes at a stretch.
Butt Kicking Exercise
Butt-Kicking Exercise

Heel-Toe Walking Posture

Talking of the calves and ankles now, yet another region that is crucial for cycling. This exercise will prime the zones that will be extensively used for pedaling.

  1. Stand straight and put one foot forward, while landing on the heel.
  2. Maintain your balance on the heel and gradually bend the abdomen forward.
  3. While raising the abdomen back, shift your weight from the heel to the toes and rise up as much as you can.
  4. Maintain this position for about 20 seconds before lowering down the body.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.
Heel- Toe Walking Posture
Heel-Toe Walking Posture

In addition to the exercises mentioned above, it is also worthwhile to include general stretching exercises like shoulder reach exercise, lunges etc. to your cycling warm up.

Five Minutes Cycling Warm Up

For those of you who are always short on time and are looking for quick warm up exercises, here are some really fast exercises to start your pre-cycling routine.

  • Stretching: Standing and stretching your body plays a big role in loosening your muscles and relaxes your spine. In addition, it also helps in priming the leg muscles.

  • Planks: Quick planks are a great way to activate muscles in the deep core and prepare them for the intense cycling workout ahead.

  • Squatting: Squats are perfect for priming the muscles in your lower limbs that are used a lot in pushing the pedals.

  • Leg Bridges: Bridge exercises are immensely useful for activating and conditioning hamstrings and other muscles that a cyclist uses.

Twenty Minutes Cycling Warm Up on Static Trainer

This warm up pattern is for those cyclists who can devote at least 20 minutes to cycling warm ups before their race or workout.

Cycling warm ups
Cycling warm-up is essential even on static

You have to start with a medium gear and your goal should be to start sweating lightly after about 10 minutes of warming up.

  • The first 7 minutes of pedaling should be done to maintain a uniform cadence of about 90 with smooth pedaling.

  • The next 4 minutes should aim at a cadence of about 100-10 with smooth pedaling.

  • The next one minute should be spent maintaining the achieved cadence.

  • Take a quick recovery round over the next 30 seconds and bring down the cadence to about 90 again.

  • Pump up the next 6 seconds with a cadence of over 150 and the following 1 minute with a cadence of about 90. Repeat these altering workouts thrice, before finishing the cycling warm up at a smooth pedaling with a cadence of about 90.

  • This stationary bike warm-up session is sufficient to get your body up and ready for intense cycling.

Read more about cycling exercises here: Post Cycling Practices: The Best Recovery Rituals for Optimal Cycling.

The efficiency of your cycling warm-up has a direct role to play in your cycling performance. Therefore, the warm-up session should never be taken lightly. Is there any other exercise or routine that you follow before your cycling race or practice? Let us know.

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