Propel Bike Coaching Workouts

Slow Frequency Repetitions (SFR)


The purpose of SFR’s is to strengthen the muscles used specifically for cycling. This is a great preliminary exercise prior to doing harder hill repeats, or to just get yourself used to doing more hill climbing. It’s similar to “base building” training used to prepare for longer endurance rides. The SFR is a high torque, low cadence hill repeat on a shallow graded hill done in your big chainring. It does not emphasize high heart rates, instead you are pushing a “big gear” which taxes the muscles rather than the aerobic system. SFR’s are like “weight lifting” on the bike.



You will need a steady 0.75-1.0 mile hill at about 3-6% grade. No major dips, just very smooth, steady grade where you can focus on pedaling technique. Around Orinda, San Pablo Dam Rd from El Sobrante heading back towards Orinda is optimal. On Diablo SG, the best is the section immediately after the 1000 foot sign.



Get a good warm up of 20-30 minutes (emphasizing higher cadence) with one or two Medium Endurance efforts of about 5-10 minutes each following the warm up period. Then do 4-6 repetitions of the SFR’s at 4-6 minutes each rep with 3-5 minutes of rest (defined as easy spinning and soft-pedaling back down the hill) between each rep. Spin easy at a moderately high cadence for up to 30 minutes after completion of the SFR reps.

Start with fewer and shorter reps, with more rest between reps (e.g., 3 reps of 4 min each with 4 min recovery between) and build up to more and longer reps, with less recovery between (e.g., 6 reps of 6 mins each with 3 mins recovery between reps).


Gearing is your large front chainring, with whatever gear in the back allows you to have a cadence between 35-50 rpm, and a HR (or wattage) in the middle of your effort range.


35-50 rpm, very slow, speed is not an issue. The low cadence is unique to the SFR workout. 

Heart Rate and Power Zone

The SFR workout zone is slightly below, and moving into, the low end of the Medium Endurance (i.e., steady state) workout zone. On a perceived exertion scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being super hard, and 1 super easy, the SFR’s should straddle the range between 3 & 5. If using a heart rate monitor or power meter, the SFR's are done between 80 & 90% of your Lactate Threshold HR or Wattage. (If you do not know your Lactate Threshold HR and wattage numbers, please come see me for a Lactate Threshold test). 

Workout Notes

Concentrate on smooth pedal strokes; relax the upper body, keeping it “quiet”. Relax the hands and neck. Really focus on the lower body.

Focus on the working muscles: Quads, hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings. Your pedal stroke should be defined. Your heel usually drops down when doing them properly.

Speed is not an issue, only HR/power and cadence.

Alternate seated and standing reps (do one whole rep seated, then the next whole rep standing, so on). When standing you will probably be able to use a slightly harder gear, as you are recruiting your weight to get more power out of the legs. When standing, be slightly further back towards your saddle, and a bit lower, than "normal" climbing posture.

You must be fresh for these, so most of the time; they are best done after a rest or super easy day.