Why most PRO racers cycle for fitness – And why you may not want to.

15 Mar

When we think of fitness for motorcycle road riding, we often look to what the pros are doing. And most of them cycle – at least a little bit. But why? What exactly is the purpose of cycling for fitness?

Their are a few reasons why road racers cycle. First off, is the stress it puts on your legs. The requirements placed on the legs during a 45-minute motorcycle race are surprisingly high! Think of how often the riders have to remain still…not too long considering the tracks they race at.

They are usually moving on the pegs from side to side constantly during the race. The demand is muscular endurance, which cycling trains quite well.

In addition, the average heart rate (HR) of a professional road racer is upwards of 85-90% of their maxHR. Studies show that the energy demand of throwing a motorcycle around for 45-minutes requires the muscles of the legs to act over and over, contracting, relaxing and holding isometric contractions to maintain position on the bike. Cycling covers this quite well.

Also, the postures are the same in road racing and cycling. I think cycling may be a bit more extreme of a posture, but not by much. Although, it seems that cyclists don’t have the postural changes that racers do when braking and cornering. But the specificity of the posture transfers between the two sports as well.

So with all this being said, cycling appears to be a good training tool to improve our riding ability.

However, there’s one thing to remember: most of us are NOT pro racers. We may pretend to be, but most of us go back to our J-O-B on Monday’s after we’ve lit up our favorite curvy road.

Which means that we don’t have hours on end to spend in a bicycle saddle. We don’t have hours on end during the week to address the other training and fitness needs of our body.

So why might cycling be BAD for the average moto rider?

First off, most of the time cycling takes at least an hour, and the people I know who ride are usually out for a minimum of 3 hours at a clip.

Also, cycling puts you in a posture that is actually worse for your body than a racers posture. Cyclists are the worst when it comes to joint tightness, poor posture, weak core muscles and overall mobility. But in motorcycle racing, mobility is EXACTLY what you need!

Have you ever watched Rossi “pray” to his foot peg? Have you ever tried to squat that low and get into that “fetal” position? If you have, you know it’s not that easy. This is one reason why these professional riders are so skinny: too much muscle can get in the way of the body being able to fold up and be aerodynamic.

Now imagine being on a bicycle and being in that folded, rounded spine posture for hours on end. This would bring a lot of trauma to the lower back. Remaining in the tucked position can be detrimental to mobility. Why? The body will begin to adapt to a static, or constantly held, posture. Now if we go back to our main occupation, and we sit at a desk for hours on end, or drive in a car, we are taking on this posture that makes it difficult to move around on the bike. In other words, in makes us immobile.

So if cycling alone is bad for posture, muscles and joint mobility, then what can we do to improve our riding ability without investing hours on end getting abused by a bicycle saddle??

First off start with mobility. If you’re mobile and your joints don’t hurt, you’re already one up on the rest of them. But many riders aren’t mobile and as a result, after a spirited ride through the hillside, they are wiped out and their back hurts.

Don’t be that guy.

Instead, work on your mobility. And start with the hips. Shakira was right when she said, “the hips don’t lie.” If your hips are tight, I can guarantee that back pain and knee pain are only a 20-minute ride away.

Begin with a Figure 4 stretch. Sit in a kitchen or desk chair and move toward the front half of the seat. With one knee bent at 90-degrees, place the opposite ankle up on that knee. Know place your hands on the knee and ankle of the leg that is up. Keeping your chest up tall and back flat, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hip of the leg that is up and crossed. Breathe slowly and put a mild stretch into the hip. Hold it for 20-seconds and repeat on the other side. Do 3 on each side.

This is a great stretch to do while sitting down for a meal during lunch on your ride with buddies! It will keep your hips loose and in turn take some tension from your back!

One way to keep your back flat during the Figure 4 stretch.

One way to keep your back flat during the Figure 4 stretch.

So remember, cycling is good for developing endurance. But sometimes the benefits do not outweigh the costs. In which case, you need a better option!

Keep an eye out for “TrackDay Fitness” in the coming months. It’s a training program designed to increase your riding endurance, reduce your riding pain and improve your riding ability.


3 Responses to “Why most PRO racers cycle for fitness – And why you may not want to.”

  1. pastframe March 15, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks for the tip. I’m doing that stretch right now.


  2. Jesse January 11, 2016 at 3:33 am #

    Awesome write up indeed. I’m 38 now, getting old, right! I just started sport bike riding here in Thailand, but raced cross country mountain bikes at pro level. It’s always been my core and stomach where i get lazy to work on. I did my first track day this last weekend and feel like I have a pinched nerve in my lower thoracic region, but now I can tell it’s not; it’s the damn muscles overcompensating. I’m going to get in on some of your stretches and exercises.


    • grandprixfitness January 11, 2016 at 3:08 pm #


      I’m 34. We can’t be old yet! Thoracic mobility stretches will help loosen that region. I hope these stretches help!


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