Key Bike Sessions on the MAF Method

With cycling being the largest part of the triathlon, any performance gains you can find are going to have the biggest difference to your overall race time. Finding a 5% performance increase on your bike is going to improve your overall racing by much more than it will than a 5% increase in your running ability, simply due to the length of the bike section. Therefore it is key to maximise your bike training, and make each training session as efficient as possible. Over the past couple of seasons I’ve found the sessions, below, are the keys to developing on the bike, and have helped me go from a 19.7mph average for 40k, to 22.3mph, in just over a year – this worked out at an almost 8 minute improvement in my race time. Think of all the people you could have beaten had you not lost 8 minutes in your last race! In fact, in my last two sprint triathlon races I’ve managed to average 23.6mph,  20% faster than I cycled before I started on the MAF Method.


One of the major concerns that people new to the MAF method, myself included, is that it appears too easy with such a restriction on your heart rate. However, despite my initial scepticism, I found that riding at my MAF heart-rate of 155bpm for much longer than an hour was quite a struggle.  Compared to running, I felt as though I did have to work quite hard to hold an effort between 150-155bpm for an hour or so.

But I did feel that only doing rides at 145-155bpm for an hour or two would mean that I would lose all strength and power in my legs, even if I gained endurance. To remedy this concern, I researched the top pro athletes, cyclists and triathletes, to find out what sessions they did. After my research, I collated a list of all the key training bike sessions I should be doing, from both the pro-peloton and Maffetone’s guidelines, to make sure I set a PB in my next race.

Session Name Goal Description
Endurance ride Build endurance and fat-burning Fairly comfortable ride of 90mins+ at MAF heart-rate. If I’m tired, or struggling to hold that heart-rate I do aerobic intervals – e.g. 5mins at 145-155bpm, with a few minutes recovery, then repeat
Over-gear work Build strength Dropping my cadence to 50-60rpm, and putting the bike into its highest gear to build functional strength

e.g. 6 x 5mins at MAF, with a few minutes recovery

Single-leg drills Technique/strength Unclipping one foot from the pedals and using the other leg to do all the work. This helps improve strength-endurance as the working leg gets no rest during the pedal stroke. This also highlights any dead-spots in your pedal stroke, helping to improve efficiency. I struggle to get up to my MAF during this session.

e.g. 5x1minute on each leg, with 30secs easy pedalling with both feet between sets.

Neuromuscular efforts Strength Helps recruit more of the muscle fibres you have, rather than build new fibres. I try and do this every few weeks to make sure I’ve using all my leg muscles efficiently.

e.g. From a standing start in your highest gear to a full sprint (10-30secs), plenty of recovery, then repeat x10.

Anaerobic session Strength / speed-endurance After adequate base training, I will try and involve one anaerobic session per week into bike training (>155bpm). This can be for strength, doing short efforts with lots of recovery
e.g. 10x2mins, with 2mins recovery
Or, for my non-drafting races this involves extended efforts at a high-intensity, with less recovery to simulate race conditions

e.g. 3 x 20mins @160-165bpm, with 5 mins recovery.


An encouraging side note:

  • I found in my research that there was a growing practice in pro-cycling in which teams had their riders heading out on long, easy endurance rides at a controlled heart-rate, without breakfast to stimulate fat-burning ability.
  • Additionally I found that many cyclists were adopting ‘sweet-spot’ training and reporting great performance benefits. This involves cycling at a consistent effort for about an hour at 80% of your maximum heart-rate. For me this worked out to be exactly what my MAF heart-rate was. Maybe this MAF stuff isn’t crazy after all…


If you think there are other sessions that work for you that I’ve missed,  comment below!

Until next week, continue to #trainsmart people!

Follow me on Strava:

My Training Week

Monday: Swim: Endurance set – 4x750m off 14mins Run: 6×800 hard, 1min walk. recovery
Tuesday: Bike: Commute to work Weights: Pull ups & core
Wednesday: Bike: Commute to work Weights: Pull ups & core
Thursday: Swim: Kick & breathing drills Bike: 5x2min hill reps
Run: 10mins @175bpm
Friday: Swim: 6×150 efforts
Saturday: Aborted long run due to glute pain Swim: Open water 1000yds
Sunday: Bike: 1hr50 @145-155bpm Run: 30mins at 145bpm


Weekly Totals: Run: 16.2miles Cycle: 86.1 Swim: 9,259yds

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