Do you need a cycling coach and what to look for

Richard Lang
10 mins

Going down the route of cycling coaching online can be a little daunting. With a simple Google search, there are pages of cycling coaches and training plans all selling their services.  That will help you achieve more confidence on the bike, build your knowledge around training and ultimately lead you to performing to the best of your ability on the bike.

The thing is, you don't need training towards the Olympics or racing the Tour de France to benefit from having a coach. Plus, you don't need to be training 15 hours a week to achieve your best shape possible. Having a coach support your cycling performance is like instantly adding 50 watts to your riding without having to turn a pedal in anger.

When to have a cycling coach

You may think when you only have an event in the diary, that is the time to invest in a coach to help you achieve more power on the bike and track your progress. However, this is quite a narrow view.

Think of a cycling coach as a shortcut to helping you achieve more on the bike. With this small change in mindset, you can benefit from a coach:

1. When you're just starting out,

2. Life is throwing a few curve balls and you don't want to think about what you need to ride today

3. You want to improve your race position on Zwift races

4. You want weekly training balance within your cycling

5. You're curious about how you make further improvements to your cycling ability

Spoked is for anyone that is looking to improve their cycling. Our goal is to make it simple to train smarter

When you shouldn't have a cycling coach

Working with a qualified cycling coach online does require both financial and time commitments from yourself. Cycling is already quite an expensive sport and cycle coaching does add another expense to the long list. Therefore, it may be one of the first things to go when finances become tighter or you're looking to cut down on your expenses overall.

Also, to make the relationship work with a coach there is a level of time commitment. No matter how little it is, you'll need to carve out some time. When personal life becomes too crazy and it's just not possible to follow any type of plan, it's perhaps not the right time to have a coach. Plus, cycling itself may not be a top priority in your life.

But not having any goals shouldn't be a reason not to have a coach, as together you can create smaller goals to help you stay consistent and motivated within your training plan.

Can’t follow a plan? No worries, in Spoked you have the ability to add in free rides, which will ensure  you’re riding a balanced training plan.

Spoked tip - Don’t want to follow any structure, just check your time in zones

Within your weekly report found in progress, you can easily see how intense your week should be against the training volume you’ve set. The time you spend in zones is contributed from your planned and free rides data. Therefore, you have ultimate control and flexibility over your cycling, but with a science backed foundation to ensure you maximize your fitness.

A high level view of where you’re spending your time in zones.

How do you find a cycling coach?

It can be quite an overwhelming process to find a coach. However, the most common ways cyclists engage with cycling coaching services are:

1. Through a personal recommendation. Generally through a teammate and friend that has used their coaching services before

2. Searching through Google, it generated 47,000,000. So safe to say, there quite a few cycling coaching options that you can select from your local areas to coaches on the other side of the world

There are pages and pages of cycle coaching options to pick from

3. Winning a coaching package. This is usually a trial period of a month or so. Sometimes it’s just a training plan download but it depends on the coach/company.

4. The coach is part of the event you're training for. For example, if you're riding the Ride London sportive, there might be an ‘official’ coach that sells training plans to get you fit enough to ride the event.

This is not an extensive list of how you can find cycling coaching services. What can make it trickier is how you know if they're the right fit for you? When looking for a coach, you want to explore if they have a trial period or even an intro call. This will help you understand whether it would be the right fit for you. When you train with Spoked, to download and use the app is free, with the option of trialling our top tier Pro plan for 30-days, but no card details are asked upfront - so it’s completely risk free.

What cycle coaching service should you pick?

This is going to vary greatly depending on the level of financial commitment you want to make. Generally a coach will offer a range of 2 to 6 training packages.

The main variables on how each package will vary by is:

Contact time

The level of communication can be daily to monthly, to none at all where you can seek advice. The communication will vary from a phone call, messages and emails. Generally if you want to go for a ride with the coach, this will cost more.

Training plan adjustments

Something has popped up and you need to change your training plan. If you need it done that day, you'll need to buy the coaches top tier package. With Spoked, all you need to do is click 'edit' and select the time you want. All done in 5 seconds.

Training platform

The most common training platforms a coach will use are Training Peaks, TodaysPlan or FinalSurge. Depending on your package, you could be using a premium or free version.  Generally, what differs between the tiers is the level of access you have to your ride data.

Nutrition guidance

This might include tips on pre-ride nutrition and post-ride recovery foods or shakes. Or, perhaps implementing a fuelling strategy for your long rides or races.  You may find over time you’re comfortable with your nutrition and you may drop down a tier.

Part of a coaching rider community

They might have a Discord server, or a Facebook group for you to access with other riders that are being coached. Here their coaching team should explain certain coaching methodologies, provide advice and guidance on the structured training they put together for you and share training news that the coaches are reading.

Bare minimum requirements

To help provide extra context inside the packages the coach may include; zone assessment, highlighting all sessions are tailored to you, daily email with training required (always puzzled me this one, as it's sent via the training platform you're using) and establishment of goals.

Overall, the financial commitment to really receive a personalised training program is in the realm of  £100 per month at minimum. Of course this can skyrocket to £599 p/m from Trainsharp or $2900 p/m  from Team EF Coaching 🤯

Spoked has three tier options. Starter, which is free, Base, which is £3.99/month, or Pro, which is £9.99/month.

What makes a good cycle coach?

A good cycling coach will be able to build a successful relationship with their athletes. They do this not just by prescribing  the right sort of training to see improvements, but by understanding what makes their riders tick. You may prefer to see more data or you need further explanation on the session to really understand what is the purpose behind it. In Spoked, within every planned session you have a what and why. This explains what you'll be working on today and why you're riding this session.

A coach needs to be reliable, whether that’s through replying to questions or by sending and explaining your prescribed/personalised training on time. Plus, a coach needs to make you feel valued. It's perhaps one of the most important coaching skills.

A coach should make you feel like you’re their only focus, never mind if they have other athletes, you’re their number one priority. This is achieved by carving out time to listen to you properly, understand what motivates you and building you a flexible training plan around your lifestyle.

Every session is personalised to you through Spoked’s 5 point algorithms

How to identify if your coach is doing a copy and paste job

Do you notice that you’re receiving workouts on days you can’t ride, even though you fed back to the coach that something has come up on that day?

Have you noticed that the efforts aren’t adjusted when you couldn’t complete a session, or you’re feeling more fatigued than planned?

Or have you noticed that your training is not adjusted when you’ve had a hectic week at work?

All these are  signs that your training plan is not personalised to you, which is ok if that's what you've paid for. There are some static training templates found on British Cycling and TrainingPeaks, that you can download and purchase. But if you're willing to purchase a static training plan perhaps you should give Spoked a whirl?

Source: British Cycling

When to move on from your coach

Unfortunately, not all coach-athlete relationships work out long term. If your growth is starting to stagnate or you’re no longer confident in the training being prescribed, it’s time to move on.

It might just be a bad patch in the relationship so communication is key with your coach. If you question your training and your coach gets defensive, it’s a sign to look elsewhere.

Also, it’s tempting to soften the blow by lying and saying your motivation to train has gone rather than give honest and constructive feedback. But they won’t recognise there’s an issue unless you tell them, so if you can, say something - besides, if you try and raise the issue early, you might get to avoid the awkwardness of severing the relationship. There is a saying that is quite relevant to this situation:

"Easy conversations, hard life. Hard conversations, easy life"

So don’t be afraid to raise an issue if it’s impacting your training. Plus other early warning signs you need to look for when it's time to move on from your coach are:

Sessions are becoming too repetitive

Yes, you don't need every session to be different. But if you feel there is very little variety and you've expressed you want something different to spice it up, and your coach doesn't listen or can't explain the rationale. Leave.

Comments seem too generic

Your feedback and support you receive needs to be personal to you. It should build on from your last training sessions and identify areas of weakness and strengths that you can focus on for next time you're on the bike.

Lack of communication - takes 2-3 days to get back to you

This will of course vary depending on the type of package you're on. If you're on a coaching package that details regular feedback and you're not receiving it. Flag it and if it keeps happening. It's a sign to leave.

Also, it's not 100% on your cycling coach. If you’re not motivated or you’re missing a lot of sessions, it may be in your coach’s best interests to pull the plug. Which is ok, as when motivation does pop back up again you'll respect them for it.  Overall, the coach needs to create and maintain a healthy and supportive environment to enable you to achieve more on the bike.

Final thoughts

Overall a coach is a 100% worthwhile investment for any rider, professional cyclist or not. Having a coach to provide you science backed training that's based on your fitness level and goals only creates peace of mind that you're doing the right type of training. Plus your time on the bike is precious, so you want to maximise it.

However, there is a caveat. If you're going to engage with qualified professional coaching services, you need to invest at least £100 p/m to receive the personalised support and training guidance. If not, you're wasting your time and money, and might as well follow a free training template. Though, you can have the best intentions that you're going to follow it to a tee, but life gets in the way and your plan needs adjustment.

It's this pain point, why we've created Spoked. Spoked is like having a coach but at a fraction of the cost. Check out Spoked features compared to an online coach and if you're curious, you can download the Spoked app on the App Store or Google Play today for free.