Bike training zones

Your cycling zones will differ compared to run training zones, mainly due to with running there is more stress through impact and overall work so your HR will often work at a higher rate to compensate this. Often people get confused with how to pace the effort on the bike. Heres a few things that will hopefully help you understand. The first thing to point out is we want to train all zones, yes all of them, weather your a sprinter or a long distance athlete!


How to work out your zones

There are a few ways to do this. You want to be pretty fresh, Lactate acid plays an important part in fuelling your sessions, however when it reaches a certain point you may find its detrimental to your training. Performing these tests below we need lower levels in your system for you to be able to hit the session right. Ideally you would be looking at 24 hours of rest pre, and a very light session of up to an hour 24-48 hours pre starting the test. Fuel it like you were going into a race day.

  • FTP test (functional threshold power) – You can do this in or out. In general it last around 20 mins and has you at your best effort for this time
  • 60 mins test. this is an old fashioned way to test nowadays as its very hard to pace and get right
  • A Ramp test, starting easy and building your effort until you just cant go any more!!

Ill go into these test more over different blogs


From these tests you will get your threshold  or max Heart Rate and if you use a power meter your FTP


From the image at the start of this blog you will see the different % of these figures to work out your zones


Zone 1

Easy effort, it doesn’t really challenge you but does have a good reason to be in your training. Its good to start off as a warm up to gentle get you ready. It aids recovery in between harder efforts or acting as a recovery session as it actually helps ease muscles and more importantly help rids and flush the build up of lactate acid from them. Generally this arent used enough and are hard for many athletes to adhear to due to it be an easy effort. You could probably hold this effort for serval hours easily if not days!


Zone 2

The aerobic sweet spot zone. This again is an effort that you could hold for hours. It allows the body to take in good oxygen and is low in energy demand. When using a plan most coaches will have quite a bit of your training in this zone. It helps your overall endurance fitness and the body can recover from it quickly


Zone 3

This is often thought to be a grey zone. Most athletes who don’t monitor there effort will work in this most of the time without realising leading to a lot of fatigue build up. In their training they will often leave out easy and because of the demand it will stop them training their hard zone/effort as the demand of this zone used all the time is on the higher end and the energy for the hard effort is lower . In terms of effort when used in intervals they can last for a good amount of time before returning to Z1-2 for recovery. It still plays a bit part to be used in training and used correctly it will enhance your fitness. It can generally be held for a few hours, some athletes will used this for IM or IM 70.3 depending on the length of the time they are taking for the event.


Zone 4

Threshold zone. This is a demanding effort but not maximal. In general its thought that an athlete can hold this effort for around an hour. It takes longer than aerobic zones to recover from and in general the effort length will be shorter eg between 3-20 mins in length. Usually backed up with the same duration in recovery time before going again due to the demand of the effort.


Zone 5 

Going on for anaerobic now. this is a physically demanding zone. in general you would see anything up to 3 mins of effort with a longer rest period, eg 90 secs Z5 into 3 mins Z1 recovery. these sessions need planning so that you recovery properly and benefit from. Too much training in this zone can leave you feeling tired, heavy legged or just lower in motivation. Its a key zone to work but at the right time in the plan


Zone 5+

Depedning on the coach or system your working from you may find the zones go higher than zone 5. The coach or info you get it from will have you working at these levels for very short periods of time and have in general at least double the amount of recovery time if not complete rest in between the intervals, Its the sprint zones and the human body will find it very tough to go much higher than 30 secs at this level


A brief summary and I hope it helps. Ill write up more on the different tests so you can pick the right one for you. Check out the picture of the zones as the header of this blog to help you work yours out



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