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Ask Levi: Should I Wear a Weight Vest to Make Bike Riding Workouts Harder?

Weight vests are a common sight at many gyms, especially Crossfit gyms, and even on the track, stairs, and grassy hills. The idea to wear a weight vest while cycling, though, has not crossed my mind until now…

So Coach, my usual routine during the week is to come home from work, grab a few handfuls of trail mix and ride my hybrid about 12-15 miles. I just started this a few weeks ago and really enjoy it but I have been building up my endurance and would like to go further, but I’m running out of daylight.

I have a weight vest that can go from 5-40 lbs and I was thinking of wearing it to maximize my workout instead of riding longer. What do you think? Kinda worried that I might screw up my back or something.

Thanks,
Vested Vladimir

Hi Vlady,

First of all, good job getting into a daily riding routine and dedicating your available daylight to it!

Now, let’s get into this doozy of a question.

It makes me think back to the days of adding cement-filled water bottles onto my bike for training rides. (Yes, I did that, and I’m not ashamed of it!)

It also reminds me of the numerous debates I’ve had on this topic before, which led me to explain that training on a heavy bike will provide no physiological advantage compared to training on your lighter race bike. It’s a common practice, yes, but it has nothing to do with the workout.

The fact is, training on a heavy bike doesn’t make your workout any better. It will make your workout different, and even more physically demanding, but it will slow you down, and it won’t lead to any improvements in cycling performance.

On the bright side, at least it’s not dangerous to train on a heavy bike. If you want to ride a heavy bike, stick a couple cement-filled water bottles on there, or load it down with panniers, fine by me. Go ahead and make your legs drag the weight around.

The situation you propose is totally different. When I think of someone riding a bike wearing a weight vest, I cringe.

Having extra weight on your body is never a good plan. I often suggest choosing water bottles over a hydration pack, and if you have a beer belly, I’d recommend fixing that through a better diet. So, adding needless weight is definitely not going to get my recommendation!

Adding weight in such a way that it’s going to be supported only by your core, and exerting force against your back the whole time, just trying to pull your spine out of alignment?

I don’t think so!!

What’s the point of making your workout harder?

I’m not saying that riding a bike around with a 40lb weighted vest isn’t going to be hard. Because it will be harder, and tougher, and more difficult. No denying that.

But why are you making your workout harder? Just to burn more calories? Or is it to improve your cycling performance so you can ride harder, faster, and longer in the future?

Because if your goal is to improve cycling performance, not only is the weight vest dangerous, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for.

While you’re out there burning more calories, you’re also riding in a compromised position, likely with poor form (even if you don’t realize it,) and setting yourself up for a back injury (and perhaps sore hands and butt.)

Let’s reassess this situation.

So, you want to wear a weighted vest during riding, because you need a better workout in limited daylight hours.

What other possible solutions are there?

You could pedal faster.

Upping your cadence is going to make your workout harder. You’ll be sweating, and your heart and lungs will be feeling it! As an added bonus, improving your leg speed and ability to ride at a high cadence is a useful cycling skill that will pay off in the long run.

You could pedal harder.

Maintaining a high cadence might not be your thing. Instead, you could shift to a harder gear, and work your leg muscles much harder. That’s the type of resistance training you need to get better at cycling.

There’s also a little thing called interval training that’s ideal when you’re short on time.

You could ride up hills.

Don’t want to concern yourself with your pedaling speed or gear choice? Then find some hills to ride! Riding uphill will instantly make your workout harder! Heck, ride enough hills and you might go home tired before the sun sets!

You could use lights.

If you have a safe route nearby, you could get lights and continue to ride in the dark.

You could ride inside.

Though boring, you could ride to your heart’s content on a stationary trainer or rollers.

Whatever option you choose, it’s better than wearing a weighted vest!

To recap the weighted vest idea:

  • It will not add to your enjoyment.
  • It won’t improve your cycling fitness.
  • It could lead to a back injury.
  • It’s dumb.

Don’t do it.

However, since you have the vest, you might as well use it for something.

valeo weight vest

There are lots of good times to wear one. It’s just that cycling is not one of them.

I love to do pull ups with a dipping belt that lets me hang 40lb or more from my waist. The vest is a little more convenient.

Running some hill sprints or stairs? Sure, wear the vest.

Basically, if your back is upright, and you’re fighting against gravity, the weight vest can enhance your workout.

For those of you who don’t have a weight vest, expect to pay about $90 for a 40lb vest.

There is a Valeo 40lb weighted vest available at Amazon.com, and I generally like Valeo’s equipment.

Another popular one is the ZFOsports 40lb weighted vest, and though I’m not familiar with the brand, it’s highly rated on Amazon.com.


Few endurance athletes actually need a weight vest, though. You’re almost always better off riding harder, riding faster, or working through some bodyweight exercises.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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Hometown, PA