cycling camp

How A Cycling Camp Makes You a Better Cyclist


By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach, co-author of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”, “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning”, and “Ride Inside

When we’re in the thick of season planning with cyclists preparing for personal goals, cycling training camps are an important part of the conversation. Whether your goals are focused on enjoyment and longevity, completing personal challenges, or winning races, here’s how a cycling training camp can make you a better cyclist.


There’s a reason I put camaraderie at the top of this list. Fun with old and new friends is top benefit of going to a cycling camp. How does that make you a better cyclist? As a coach I can tell you unequivocally that happy athletes are faster athletes. Training camps give you something to look forward to during weeks and months of solo training. Riding with friends make the hours and miles click by while you’re at camp. And, invariably, you’re going to leave camp inspired to keep training (after you take a little time to recover).

cycling camp camaraderie

More Volume

On average, cyclists at CTS Cycling Camps increase their weekly hours by 1.5x – 3x their typical training volume. Most of that time is in the aerobic endurance building Zone 2, with some planned efforts at and above Functional Threshold Power. This is a massive training stimulus that establishes a new and higher bar for subsequent months of your training. With appropriate recovery and training in the weeks following a cycling camp, about 3-4 weeks later athletes typically see measurable increases in FTP, time to exhaustion (TTE), and Efficiency Factor (EF). In other words, your buddies at home are going to wonder why you’re going so fast and can a fast pace for so long!

More Recovery, Less Stress

Getting away from or lessening everyday stressors is a big part of how cyclists can handle the increased hours on the bike during a camp. Whether you have a career or are retired, have children at home or are an empty nester, are single or have a partner, a cycling camp is an opportunity for quiet time away from everyday tasks and responsibilities. All stress is training stress, so reducing lifestyle stressors creates space for increased training volume.

Sometimes, cycling camps also offer opportunities for proactive recovery activities. We encourage athletes to refuel by having post-ride recovery drinks and meals prepared for them. Because we know food and sleep are the most important recovery tools, we also give athletes time for afternoon naps. And athletes should also consider post-ride massage therapy, pneumatic compression boots, and other recovery tools.

Focused Nutrition and Hydration

Cycling camps are a great time to dial in nutrition strategies on and off the bike. Many athletes are aware of the amounts of food and fluid they should consume hourly on the bike, but few actually achieve those levels. When you must stop at convenience stores or coffee shops to refill water bottles, cyclists tend to ration fluids and stop less frequently. When the bottles are coming from a support vehicle, people drink more, feel better, and enjoy big rides.

cycling camp hydration

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If you are curious about how to increase carbohydrate intake during rides, from say 40 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour or to higher amounts like 75 or 90 grams/hour, a cycling camp is a good place to experiment. For one thing, food is more available (see above). More important, you’re doing bigger back-to-back training days, so you have realistic opportunities to see tangible results from eating more on the bike. Seeing is believing, and if a shift in your nutrition strategy works at a cycling camp you’re more likely to continue it at home.

Lastly, cycling camps are a good place to focus on eating well for fueling and recovery. You’re not getting home from a long ride to scavenge through your cupboards and refrigerator. There’s a recovery meal – rich in carbohydrate, protein, and fat and with fresh, whole food ingredients – waiting for you. And because you are away from your normal everyday work and household responsibilities, you also have more time for substantial and thought-out meals.

Professional Instruction

The difference between a “cycling training camp” and a “bike trip” is that cycling training camps are designed and led by professional coaches. The rides are certainly scenic and the camps are in great destinations, but the duration and terrain and pace are planned so athletes are challenged appropriately for their current fitness levels. Coaches also look after individual athletes during the rides, so we can make sure you have the food and fluids you need when you need them, that you’re sitting in the draft when the pace is high, and so we can change the day’s plan for you on the fly if necessary. Some camps also incorporate field testing, specific interval workouts, individual and group riding skills sessions, personalized data recall, and educational seminars.

Training Camp FAQ

Having talked to athletes about cycling training camps many times over many years, here are answers to some common questions. You can also get answers on more logistical FAQs about CTS Camps.

  • When should I schedule a cycling camp?

    Many cycling training camps are scheduled during a base-building phase of training (winter and spring) to complete big blocks of aerobic endurance miles (Zone 2). Some event-specific training camps include course reconnaissance (like our SBT GRVL Camp) and they tend to be held closer to the event dates.

  • Do I already need to be fit or fast before a camp?

    Come as you are. First of all, you should choose a camp that’s appropriate for your goals and fitness level. Considerations for that include the duration of the camp, average ride length, and terrain. But you don’t need to specifically train to be fit before you go to a training camp. If anything, you want to make sure you’re rested and fresh when you arrive so you can benefit from the increased volume during camp.

  • Do I need to be training for an event or race?

    Not at all. Fitness makes everything more fun, whether you’re riding on your own, joining your local group rides, or preparing for a race or event. Training camps are often the most efficient method for cyclists to immerse themselves in cycling training long enough to achieve a meaningful bump in fitness.

  • Do I need a power meter to benefit from a camp?

    The only thing you absolutely need for cycling camp is a bicycle. If you have additional training tools like a heart rate monitor, power meter, and GPS computer, that’s great. We can help you understand and use the data more effectively. But you can reap huge benefits from a training camp just by showing up and participating!


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