Question: I’m returning to cycling after a 20-year layoff. I weigh 195 pounds and quit smoking two months ago. On the flats, I can ride for hours, but in the hills my endurance stinks. I don’t have an indoor trainer but I have access to an elliptical trainer. Will workouts on it improve my riding? — Joe B.
RBR Replies: Welcome back to cycling, Joe!
If you just resumed riding and only recently quit smoking, they’re the reasons you’re having problems on hills.
It takes a year or so of consistent training to make up for 20 years of not riding. And it’ll probably take about that long to reverse the effects of smoking. A year may seem like a long time, but you can have plenty of fun on your bike in the process.
A steady cycling program will bring steady improvement. I bet by next season that your weight will be down, your endurance will be even better and you’ll be climbing with noticeably more speed and power.
Elliptical trainers can be effective for general aerobic conditioning. So I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from using one as you rebuild your fitness.
But (big but) if you want to improve your cycling ability — not just your aerobic ability — you need to ride your bike. The best exercise is that which is specific to the sport.
If money and space aren’t issues, I recommend buying an indoor trainer and pedaling your bike on it when you can’t get on the road. Consider one of the newer smart trainers, which allow you to use lots of different apps like Zwift or Sufferfest to help make trainer riding more effective (and a lot more fun). If you still want to work out on the elliptical trainer, use it for an occasional change of pace or cross-training.