Training: Reflections from Zone Two


For the first time in my riding, I’m following a plan rather than just going out riding. Without giving too much away (as it wouldn’t be right or fair to my coach*) I’ll just say that I’ve been instructed to ride in Zone 2 for a while amongst other things. If you don’t know what zone two is, then roughly speaking it’s 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate and as I believe it, it helps build aerobic endurance and is often used for base training. So you need a heart rate monitor to ride monitoring it. Fortunately my Garmin is perfect for this.

This kind of structured riding has been an interesting experience for a number of reasons, especially given that the terrain I live in has plenty of short sharp climbs and rolling countryside.

So far I’ve learned:

          It’s a real discipline to keep your heart rate between a range and takes a few weeks of intense frustration to get the hang of if you’ve not ridden this way

          It’s impossible (for me) to ride up a steep climb and stay in Zone 2 unless I’m on a compact crankset no matter how slowly I turn the pedals

          You can ride surprisingly quickly on the flat in zone 2. I’ve hit 40kmh at times, which is a nice surprise and I can easily ride at 30-35kmh on the flat comfortably in the right heart rate range.

          You need to stay in the saddle on climbs to keep your heart rate lower – jumping on the pedals can add 10-15 beats very quickly

          Descending can also push your heart rate really high if you’re really pushing on – it’s not just climbing

          If you ride tired you’re performance drops a surprisingly large amount and it’s even harder to stay in the zone on anything but the flat

          Once you go over your maximum heart rate there is nothing else to do but back off and generally quite a bit. If you just back off a bit it takes much longer to bring the heart rate down

          You’re either in the right zone or not – one extra beat is all it takes and it’s harder to stay on that knife edge than you might think

          If you ride hills you’ll be riding at a much lower tempo than you’re probably used to and it still hurts

          Within a relatively short space of time you start to ride faster but with a lower heart rate than you’d have done so before

          You start to feel like you could hold this intensity for a long time (although I’ve yet to prove that)

          You do feel like you’re sacrificing speed and strength for endurance

          Riding in zone 2 is a great thing for a social ride and to enjoy the views (something I try to make a point of)

          However if you do ride with friends you’ll be going so slowly on the climbs that they can ride off in front of you and stop to take photos as you catch up (note the photos on this post for proof – Thanks Damien)


I’m now getting the hang of it much more. It’s been a fascinating experience so far and it’s nice to be learning new things.

*By the way, if you’re interested. The coach I’m using is Colin from http://www.totalcyclecoach.co.uk/ you can also find him on Twitter as @onthebanking – he’s a great guy so don’t hesitate to get in touch if this is something you might be interested in doing. Please do mention girodilento if you do

Thanks for reading