I bike every now and then, but used to ride bike quite often before. One thing that never has changed is how I get dead tired instantly. The tiredness is muscular and it's all in the legs, like a muscular ache.

Someone told me you have to fight through the tiredness to gain endurance, but I would bike nearly every single day for 3-10 miles and the result would be worn-out legs that would continue to get tired on the next biking activity in the same amount of time I would get tired in the last one. Basically, no change.

I am resting and stretching, eating well, and doing everything I should be, just to note. I've always hated how I would bike with friends and they would keep going and going and I would need to take breaks.

I can't fathom what the issue could be. Why would I never get adapted to biking? Why are my leg muscles just dying out in a mere matter of seconds of pedaling? I do other leg exercises, but spread them all out so I don't overwork, like squats sometimes and lunges, deadlifts, etc., etc., etc.

I have noticed that my legs never build endurance to last without pain. Basically, I can push myself, but I'll just have excessive pain. If I ride comfortably to avoid the pain, I'd have to pedal extremely slow and wouldn't be much faster than walking. I have tried some of the best bikes there are with full air in the tires, correct seating position from pedals for my height, etc. No matter what, my legs drain out fast.

I have tried low speed-settings and tried to work my way up, but after the same speed is reached, I end up having to use too much force to keep up the speed, and it becomes the repeated problem again.

I hate this because I see people riding bike all day and never saying a word about leg tiredness. My legs are not weak and I can squat almost 260 lbs. all the way down and all the way up raw.

What are some ways I can train my legs to not get tired from this? I've tried biking less often than once a day, but no avail. I tried stretching before and after, but nothing; still dead tired if I pedal too much.

I'm not trying to go too fast nor too slow; this issue is just with going anything faster than snail speed (anything consistently over 5 MPH). It starts off like a very minuscule amount of muscle aching, but turns to pain if I keep it up, especially the next few days when it's that light but miserable muscle aching.

Basically, I am feeling beyond the pain, but not seeing the gain. I've done this steadily for 2-4 months.

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    There is either something wrong with your body (Which we can't tell/diagnose), or there is something that you aren't telling us. A 5 year old on a BMX can do 5 mph. Your question doesn't add up.
    – JohnP
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:56
  • I stay slow to avoid pain. Dec 19, 2014 at 0:49
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    Then I reiterate - If you get pain pedaling over 5 mph, then either your position is atrocious, or you have something physically wrong that we can't diagnose.
    – JohnP
    Dec 19, 2014 at 1:34
  • Define "eating well". And are you sure you're using the right gears? Jan 15, 2015 at 21:07

3 Answers 3


If you're squatting full depth 260lbs, I doubt it's a strength issue. I used to race competitively (road and mountain), and I can offer up a few places to get started.

  • 5MPH is extremely slow. Like so slow that you can almost tip over because you're not carrying enough velocity to track in a straight line. At a good clip a hiker with a full pack can move at 4MPH, so you're talking about a speed that is slower than a jog.

  • What kind of bicycle setup are you using, and have you been fit by someone who knows what they're doing? Take a look at some of the online fit calculators and make sure you're set up properly. Perhaps your seat post is incredibly low, and you are in an extremely high gear.

  • What kind of gearing do you have? I can't imagine it's your case, but some gearings like the 58T are suitable only for incredibly powerful athletes who are smashing their pedals with fury:

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  • What's your cadence? This is tied to your gearing, and a good rule of thumb is 100 pedal revolutions per minute. "Grinding it out" in the lower RPM range is good for out of the saddle sprinting or otherwise when you want to push a lot of power, but it's garbage for efficiency. Getting to a higher cadence is tough for a lot of people, but it's very efficient. Good cyclists have still upper bodies and you can almost set a wine glass on the small of their back as they hold very high cadences: their legs move like pistons, and their backs stay flat. You pedal smoothly in circles, not "in squares".

  • What's your diet? 3-10 miles on a bike isn't that much of an aerobic effort, but if you toss in some hills and some speed it isn't trivial.

In short, get your fit dialed in, your form checked, and your cadence correct. With the weight you're squatting this has to be something related to cycling technique.

Call ahead and stop in to a local independent bike shop (that handles racers and high end bikes) and ask if you can get fitted. Go on a weekday, mid day: it will be pretty empty.

  • I'll try and answer everything: 5 MPH is fast enough for me to "roll about in comfort" because a pace much higher causes the issues above. My set-up is nothing professional; a typical mountain bike with six speeds. The gearing is one of those three-geared rigs, or any "normal" mountain bike you'll see at Kmart/Walmart or such. My cadence is insane and I either ride shortly with low pedal revolutions or put a speed on the lowest setting and sort of just "roll around" with lots of revolutions and low speed. I also don't do this for aerobic reasons but just a desire to improve without pain. Dec 18, 2014 at 5:46
  • My diet could be better, but, for the most part, I don't think a slight diet change will promise magical pain-free riding. It must be something with both lactic acid build-up (as the poster above you said) or a combination of that and poor slow-twitch fiber efficiency and other reasons pertaining to this. Thanks for the awesome answer, but I'm going to have to just give in and forget about endurance since it involves much more pain than gain. I'll stick to explosive strength training and low reps for power/strength (and walking instead). Dec 18, 2014 at 5:48
  • It sounds as if something may be wrong with your bike. I'd suggest taking it to a shop for a tune up and while you're there talk to them about proper fitment. Something just doesnt add up and I suspect its the bike.
    – BZink
    Dec 22, 2014 at 19:07

It sounds like your legs have a hard time buffering the lactic acid build up you get from cycling. You might have a lower percentage of slow twitch muscle fibres in your legs than the average person, which could effect your endurance. What about carbohydrate intake ? If you are lacking sufficient glycogen content in your muscles it will definitely have an effect on your performance in any activity.

  • Diet's okay. Also, could it be that I only train fast-twitch fibers (e.g. explosive, massive weight lifting, or strength/neuro training with low reps)? Maybe I am over-efficient at fast-twitch and that's degrading slow-twitch? I don't get sore lifting a 60 lb. dumbbell for one rep, but my legs feel like "achy" (like you say, "lactic acid" built feeling) from any minimal-to-moderate load put on them that requires endurance. Dec 18, 2014 at 5:32
  • For this reason, believe it or not, I take up walking bike-long distances instead of cycling because it actually causes less leg discomfort to walk 6+ miles than to ride bike. Dec 18, 2014 at 5:36
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    Lactic acid, or to give it the proper name, lactate, doesn't really get produced at submaximal levels. It's a bridge between the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. IF he is truly doing 5 mph and still producing lactate, then there is something physically or genetically askew.
    – JohnP
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:59

I'm a long-distance cyclist and I lift now and then. I have a few thoughts...

First, I suspect your cadence is far too low. If you are used to squatting you are used to pushing a ton of force into your legs. If you push a big (ie "high") gear, you are going to wear your legs out really quickly. You can get a cheap computer for your bike or you can just count revolutions of your legs, but a decent spot to aim is 80-90 RPM.

Second, I think you are cycling too much. If you are pushing hard almost every day, you aren't giving your body any time to recover and improve. If you are also lifting, I wouldn't be surprised if your legs are rebelling.

Finally, there are cycling muscles and there are weightlifting muscles. Lifting is training your legs to do a small number of reps at a very high force, while if a cyclist does a 5-hour ride, it's doing (5 * 60 * 90 = ) 27,000 reps at much lower forces. If I've been working hard on squats or deadlift, I find that it really makes my legs feel dead on the bike.

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