The problem with British Cycling training plans

Rebecca Bland
6 min

Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned athlete, it’s common knowledge that the fastest way to improve your cycling fitness is by following some sort of structured training plan. Particularly if you’ve never ridden to a cycling training plan before, you’re likely to see improvements quite quickly after following some structure.

Getting hold of a structured cycling training plan is easy - you simply have to google it to see there are plenty of offerings. However, while these static training plans are easy to access and usually quite cheap, in this article, we’re going to look into why they aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and what you should invest in instead.

A little of 7,300,000 results for a structured cycling plan search term. Where should you start?

What are static training plans?

Static training plans, or ‘off-the-shelf’ training plans are plans that don’t flex or adjust to your life or needs. Essentially, they are written for a mass audience and thus are not tailored to individual needs, particularly for advanced and intermediate riders. They’re often an okay starting point for those who want to see quick improvements, but as they’re pre-written they’re inflexible.

You can often find these static plans on places like Coach v. athlete management platforms for a single fee, or British Cycling, for example. You simply pay the one time fee and download the plan - either into your training programme like TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan etc or as a PDF, for example.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these cycling training plans found on British Cycling (as an example) if you have a goal in mind and find one that claims to help you reach it, for example, if your goal is to ride 100 miles in under six hours. Particularly if you’re riding an organised sportive, the organisers often partner with plan providers to make sure people have some guidance so they have a successful ride.

Cycling trainina plans like these are often grouped into things like experience levels like beginner, intermediate and advanced, or are aimed towards certain time limits or hours of training per week.

An example of a workout you can ride within the British Cycling 12 week cycling training sportive plan. Source.

Benefits of static training plans

While they may be inflexible, static training plans can offer a good starting point for riders who are unfamiliar with structured training or know what kind of sessions they should be including in their training. Perhaps you're training for your first event, a charity ride or targeting time trials for the first tim, or looking for some ideas for midweek sessions to ride on smart trainers, or increase your functional threshold power. For basic knowledge and an introduction to cycling training plans, these static plans are probably suitable.

These types of plans are often cheap, or even free in some cases. Additionally, they require no communication with a coach or an app, with no personal data or history required in order to follow the plan.

If you’re reasonably well versed in the art of cycling training, however, these static plans can often be a good way of checking what type of sessions you should be incorporating into your training, even if you don’t follow the plan to a tee.

Weaknesses of static training plans

However great they may be, static training plans also have weaknesses. For instance, the prescribed sessions can not be moved or changed, unless you physically change them yourself - whether that be pen to paper or online on your training app.

Why is this an issue? If you’re like most of us amateur cyclists, your life does not revolve around your time on the bike. Therefore, with other work and life commitments, sometimes things get in the way of your training, potentially sacrificing the intervals you need to do or the long rides in training zones 1 or 2. If you can’t adjust your sessions to your actual lifestyle, then you’ll very quickly find that you’re either frustrated with the lack of progress or ability to stick to a most likely quite demanding plan.

Did you know in Spoked, you can edit the duration, change the ride type or move it to another day within a couple taps.

Furthermore, you might find that you don’t see the same results as a more dynamic training plan, unless you stick exactly to the prescribed sessions and durations. They’re also not designed with you in mind. Sure, there are British Cycling plans available for intermediate riders or advanced riders, but in general, these mass made plans are designed for, quite literally, the masses, so they don’t take into account your riding history, your current fitness levels or your lifestyle. For more advanced riders or those want a plan that does all this, then a static one isn’t ideal.

A British Cycling plan that is built for a particular weekly volume you can follow

Additionally, unlike a dynamic cycling training plan like those written by coaches (or Spoked), there is no feedback given to you after a session or on your progress as you go throughout the plan. If you’re someone who thrives on numbers and data and can easily interpret such things after a tough session with threshold efforts, for example, or a race then it might not be as big an issue as someone who relies on the experts to break down what happened and where you can improve. This sort of thing is also important if you start to feel ill or you couldn’t finish a session, for example. Understanding what’s happening or why you struggled with something is important for improving your fitness as well as your awareness of your body’s capabilities.

Digging into your post ride analysis can be overwhelming as you need to know how to interpret the data. Source.

Finally, unless it’s an online interactive training plan, you can’t directly link your sessions to your cycling computer or cycling apps like Zwift. If you’re someone who prefers to write down the session and stick that to your stem then it’s not an issue, but if you prefer to use cycling computers and follow along sessions that way, then having to manually create the sessions is time consuming and may not always work.

The old school way of writing the efforts on your top tube

How does something like Spoked overcome these issues?

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you already have an idea of what Spoked is and how it can improve your cycling, but, for the sake of being thorough, let’s go through how Spoked can offer a different experience to a static, generalised training plan.

Spoked is designed for riders who want to be able to confidently answer three questions about their cycling performance; where have they been? How are they doing? And, where are they going?

The goal with Spoked was to create something that makes it simple to train smarter. Training smarter means being more time conscious, cutting out junk miles and getting the most out of your limited riding time. For riders who are serious but also for those who want to relax and enjoy a slice of cake on their rides. It is inherently flexible, and provides as much or as little insight as each rider desires.

The app is a dynamic, artificial intelligence based platform that is designed to respond to your input. Flexible training and personalisation is the name of the game with the Spoked app and it allows you to really tailor your training to your individual needs and situation. Read about how Spoked is structured here.

Whether you’re a cross-country mountain biker looking for a training plan for the national series, or you’re a time trialist looking to dip under 20 minutes for 10 miles, by choosing a broader goal like these, Spoked can help to tailor your training specifically to your goal.

There are two types of goals within Spoked. Pick between an event or improve a performance element of your cycling

Simply, select your goal (as above), set the time you have to train on each day, establish how you want your training to be delivered - i.e. through heart rate, power, or rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and tell the app how you’re feeling at the moment with your current fitness levels and mental/physical state. Using these key areas the app creates a tailored plan, but it doesn’t stop there.

Much like a coach creates their athlete’s plans a week or two in advance depending on how their athlete has responded to training and their schedule, Spoked has the ability to alter your training on a weekly basis (and soon to be daily basis). If you overcook a couple of days, it takes this into account and automatically adjusts the load for the next week to make sure you stay on track to reach your goals without burning out, or, conversely, not doing enough.

The ultimate goal of Spoked is to help you to achieve a balance of intensity, medium level intensity and easy/rest, depending on the phase you’re at in your training in relation to the time away from your goal. This experience is similar to that of a coach but at a much lower price - and instead of a weekly call, you have 24/7 access to the app as well as a Discord community with coaches and other athletes where you can delve even deeper into your training. Join here.

The Spoked community is a bunch of like minded people who back each other.

There’s plenty more that Spoked offers, and we could literally write a standalone article on the benefits for cycling enthusiasts and professionals alike over a static plan, but for the purpose of being relatively succinct, Spoked provides dynamism where static plans do not. Editing your week is easy, and the app automatically adjusts your workouts to match your level of time available. Knowing how closely you’re following the plan is also easy as feedback is given after every session. Essentially, Spoked is the ultimate in cycling training plans.

When you edit your week and tap recalculate week the remaining sessions will be updated based on how you’ve ridden this week

Final thoughts

No matter what you’re training for, the main goal with any cycling training is to improve on the bike, and to make the time you have available work for you. We now know that you don’t necessarily need to spend 20 hours a week on the bike doing Z2 rides when you can get fitter in half the time by applying the right amount of intensity to your training.

Following any sort of training plan will usually lead to quick improvements at the beginning of your cycling journey, but the real progress comes from consistency and hard work, even if your plans change or life events get in the way. Having a training plan that adapts to these changes is key to reaching your goals.

Those like the British cycling training plans are less suited for intermediate and advanced riders, instead they're better for those looking for a bit of structure but without the accountability that comes with a coach. If you are racing, whether it be time trials or road, for example, you want something more tailored so you can really see the most progre

Training plans like those Spoked offer are dynamic and are far more beneficial to the average cyclist as it adjusts to your performances throughout the plan. If you want to try Spoked for free for 14 days, download the app on either the App Store or Google Play and discover how much it can benefit your structured cycle training. Or if you want to partner with us, please reach out to hello@spoked.ai