Am I riding too "hard"?

I got into cycling in July 2020.

Coming from bodybuilding, I decided to focus on building my endurance with longish (for me) outdoor rides. I currently commit to two rides per week, 3 when I have the time off from work.

When looking at my heart rate analysis, I spend about 50% of my rides in Z3 (tempo) and 50% of my rides in Z2. My goal is to get fitter and better at the sport of cycling. Should I be slowing things down and aiming for longer slow rides? Or should I keep doing my 2 to 3 hour rides at this intensity?

Thank you for the input!

Following a plan is the quickest way to get faster, but general riding also has it’s benefits if that’s what you enjoy doing.
First things first, are you HR zones set correctly, e.g you have a good idea of your max HR?

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I’m such a beginner and crossing over from such a different sport, I think I can do literally anything and I will get better. I was told to focus on long slow rides to build my base.

No they’re not, they’re based on the arbitrary calculation 220 - age

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I would do a true all out effort before trusting those HR zones. Based on that rule my max should be 195, while I have a 208 max :man_shrugging: My girlfriend at my same age has never been above 173 HR. An approximation is better than nothing, but I wouldn’t use that to set my efforts.

If you are not following a plan, I’d suggest not to stress about intensity and do whatever you enjoy until you are ready to follow a structured plan. Just being on a bike carries adaptation one way or another. If you want to maximize that, the best way is to follow professional advise, be it Trainerroad or a coach


Yep, you’re right in what you’ve said, a complete beginner will see loads of gains from just riding your bike and building the base is a key fundamental to improving fitness.

If you’re focused on riding in a particular zone, then it pays to establish your max HR as the age calculation only applies to a very small percentage of people.
Go for a ride and get a decent warm up in.
See if you can find a hill, anything under 5 minutes will do and race to the top. Build the effort as you go, so don’t start with a sprint but go hard and then lift it little by little and when you think you’re about to pop, SPRINT and go as hard as possible until you stop.
Chances are, that will give you your max HR. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but close enough is good enough, so even if you’re a few beats under or you don’t pace it correctly it doesn’t really matter, so long as you have a number to work on.
Now you have this number, you can enter it into Strava which will give you your zones and something to work on and some more reliable data.


There are certainly adaptations to be had from doing longer rides in Z1/Z2 and then getting your high intensity work in the higher zones at and above threshold. The thing is, you can’t even start without knowing basic metrics like HRmax and FTP.

On 2-3 rides per week with no goals I’d just do whatever is fun. If you want to do events and have goals, then get a power meter, start doing a TR plan, and start learning about endurance training.