Confusion about 'intensity estimate' of planned outdoor rides

I’m new to TrainerRoad and fairly new to cycling (< 1 year serious training), still trying to figure things out, so please forgive any stupid questions below…

Recently I’ve been doing a few ‘endurance’ rides outside each week, usually 3-4 hours at the lowest intensity that feels like I’m doing exercise, but with a slight variation in effort based on terrain. This turns out to be 0.75-0.8IF and around 170W average and 200W NP.

At 75% FTP, this is what I understand to be a Zone 2/endurance ride, however, if I use the calendar to plan one of these workouts ahead of time, intuitively I would select either (3 Smooth) or (4 Moderate) as the intensity estimate, but this was giving TSS values that are way off. After some playing around,
I found I needed to select 6 (Uncomfortable) to get the correct TSS.

This doesn’t feel right, is it that I’m doing these rides at a way too high intensity level, or is it just the wording doesn’t match my personal experience? Or is it something else like the intensity estimate is relative to the duration? So a 6 (Uncomfortable) on a 3 hour ride would be a lower power than 6 on a 1 hour ride?

I know this sounds like a trivial issue with wording, but now I’m worried that I’m doing too much and adding in junk miles that are going to negatively impact my progress.

For reference, I’m not following a TrainerRoad plan but usually do 2x high intensity ~1 hour workouts and then 1 or 2 of these longer rides each week. Any other rides I do are all super easy 50% FTP of less.



Two questions:

  1. My long rides are 3-5 hours at 0.75-0.8 IF, I’m doing 1-2 a week alongside 2x HIT workouts. Does the intensity factor look about right, or am I risking limiting my recovery?

  2. Why is the ‘intensity estimate’ for planned rides not relative to IF? e.g. ‘tempo’ doesn’t give zone 3 IF

If you are also doing HIIT workouts. I’d suggest dropping the IF to the 0.6-0.7 range for your endurance work.

Personal example: I just did a 5 1/2 hr ride Sunday and my IF was 0.63. Perfect for that time at this point in the year. (My timing comment is adjusted due to COVID moving all the racing to the fall. So I’m not worried about breaking myself in half yet.)

I like to also consider HR when doing long endurance efforts. Sure power is most relevant. But, we shouldn’t neglect the value of our HR. I have heard from various coaches out there in podcast land that you want to target about 75% of your max HR for these longer efforts. It seems reasonable to me.

To comment on the ‘junk miles’ comment. If you are doing 2x HIIT a week. And some good volume, you’re doing a polarised plan. As long as you’re in zone 2 (endurance) or 3(tempo) I’m not sure that you are wasting time riding junk miles. The issue with zone 3 is that you are going to mount a lot of fatigue when you are doing zone 5 or 6 work with a bunch of zone 2.

Do you feel any kind of muscle soreness in the last 30min ish of the long rides?

Thanks for the response. So I didn’t initially mention HR, but that adds to my confusion…I was initially pacing by trying not to exceed 160bpm (about 75% max) and completely ignoring power, which ended up with about 140bpm average (65% max) and 0.8IF, which doesn’t really match up - so which should I rely on more?

Another point is that my actual average power is about 65-70% FTP, it’s the normalised that gets it to 0.7-0.8 IF.

Note max HR is from an actual max I’ve reached several times, not from any age-based estimation.

I did 5hrs recently and the last 1hr was a bit of a struggle, but I think that was because I messed up nutrition. It was the feeling where you can cruise along as Z2 no problem, but as soon as you creep into Z3+ the legs start to really burn and you have to ease off.

On the 3-4 hour rides I’m pretty comfortable the whole time, no significant soreness, I feel like I’m working but could definitely keep going.

I think every outside ride is always a harder IF or NP for me due to living in a hilly location. Even my easy monday ride outside had a .74 IF
Dont know if that helps you.

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I see. I’m no expert, but you could try doing some sweet spot work at the start of your endurance ride, or try to make them longer. I guess if you have a really good aerobic base z2 rides might never really feel “uncomfortable” but i can tell from my own excperience that i feel at least a little muscle soreness for like the last 10-15k.

However, unless impossible, you should really try to close the gap between your average and normalized power. I know that is a little off topic, but if you use the normalized IF as a pointer to intensity estimate, but your average is way lower, it is not weird that the difference in estimate and how you feel is quite big (i would say 170w vs 200w is quite a lot for how you’d feel after 4-5hrs)

Something seems off here. If I do a 4hr outside ride at 0.8 IF NP, that’s a lot of work. That means I’m spending a lot of the climbing near threshold, soft pedaling the descents and actively working just slightly below ‘uncomfortable’ on the flats. There’s very little “feels like I’m barely doing exercise” going on. The last 10-20 miles generally have a fair amount of focus because the fatigue is building and the legs don’t feel like holding power anymore, and those rides are absolutely fatiguing for trying to do structured intervals the next day.

0.6 feels more like it’s cruising endurance mode and purposefully not working too hard…particularly on the climbs. 0.5’s like…“yea, I’d call this exercise, but it’s pretty darn easy”

When was your last (outside) FTP test?

because a long zone 2 ride can be tough. when you ride to your limit, it will be hard. Even though power is not high, there is a point of exhaustion/fatigue that will be hit.

is your FTP accurate? How do outdoor FTP intervals feel? I suspect that the FTP value you are using is a little low so that your 0.75-0.8 rides are actually closer to 0.7-0.75 because, as someone else said, 0.8 for 4 hours is a killer ride. Like you should be pretty fried at the end and not just thinking “yeah that was a difficult endurance ride”.

Thanks for all the replies, will try answer the questions here together:

I’ve only once done an outdoor FTP test a while ago but I have done a TT that was just over an hour, so that’s my only useful point of comparison.

I typically perform poorly outdoor compared to indoor, for example close to when I did the TT I tested at 285 FTP indoor, but I struggled to hold 255 for the hour in the TT. Almost all of my PBs below 40 minutes have been indoor. (FTP is now 265 due to some illness and injury this year).

I did wonder if I somehow have a high aerobic base, but that would really surprise me as I really haven’t done much volume or long rides at all until the last few weeks.

I think the NP vs average power is probably the most likely culprit here, as I really don’t think I could hold 200W for 5 hours. Perhaps it could be that I’m quite good at recovering from hard efforts followed by rest? While I know it would be good to get NP and average close, it would kind of take the fun out of this type of ride for me.

Maybe I’ll try take them a little easier and see how it feels, I guess there’s no risk in doing so as I’m still getting the volume in. My priority is the intensity sessions anyway so hopefully they will benefit.

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Ok so I tried a 2.5 hour ride at 0.6IF and it was a real mental struggle to keep the intensity that low - felt like I was turning the pedals but not pushing down on them. The entire ride I was questioning whether I want to even continue cycling as a sport if this is what I have to do.

After some further reflection I decided that I’m overthinking this (seems to be a common conclusion to most questions I ask) and I’m a long way off needing to optimise my training in this way. Gained +10W on a ramp test this weekend so it looks like this kind of training isn’t holding me back.

Will ignore IF/NP from now on because I just don’t believe it reflects what is actually happening.

Thanks again for all the responses.

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2.5 hrs on 0.6 is really low though. Try 4 hrs on 0.7. Of course if you think its that boring, then you shouldn’t do it like that, but i really enjoy just exploring new roads and taking in the scenery while keeping a pretty low but steady effort. Almost always feel it in the thighs when im getting close to home.

i really enjoy just exploring new roads and taking in the scenery while keeping a pretty low but steady effort

That’s what I’ve been doing on these longer rides, but I found at 0.6 I had to focus really hard on keeping the effort low so I couldn’t enjoy anything. My legs actually felt worse on the 0.6 ride than any of the 0.7-0.8 rides I’ve done so maybe I just had a bad day - but then again I have had a similar experience at this intensity indoors.

This is obviously all mental, maybe over time it will become easier? To be honest this ‘easy training’ is very new to me, previously anything I’ve done has always been max effort every session (background in weightlifting/crossfit etc…) but unsurprisingly I’ve ended up with lots of injuries.

Also I’m thinking if I want to start commuting by bike I’m going to have to get used to it, as it’s a 100km round trip. Maybe I’ll give it another shot this week.

you could always try to mix in some sweet spot in those workouts. The other day i wanted to do a longer ride, but i also wanted to get some workout at a higher intensity so i started off with 2x25 mins of high sweet spot, then did the rest of the ride (about 1,5 hrs) at z2.

I don’t know how much you have been following the podcast and stuff like that, but the reason for doing long rides is to make your body good at riding for a long time and use fuel effectively during long efforts, especially fat. If you are never gonna race or ride long rides, i guess there is no reason for doing it though.

Totally anectodically (idk if im using the word right, not native), what i can really tell a difference from riding both long and doing interval training is that my body/heart is much more effective while doing the same type of effort, even if my ftp was not that much higher.

:face_vomiting: sounds hideous, I might actually enjoy low zone 2 after that! Wouldn’t this make the ride too stressful if I want to continue doing 2x HIT/SIT workouts a week alongside it though?

Long rides/races aren’t a primary goal, I’m only really doing the long rides at the moment because I have lots of spare time and wanted to make the most of it.

Anecdotally was the right word, just a small spelling mistake. Would have never known you weren’t a native speaker if you didn’t say.


Well, i am not following any plan right now, because my schedule allows me to ride fewer times per week (twice) but i have like three-four hours to spend each time, so i’m trying to use what i learned when i did follow a plan and apply that to what i’m doing now, hence fusing a traditional hour long sweet spot workout with “the sunday z2 ride”.

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Yeah I would think that trying to mix in 2x25 at high sweet spot would be a little too stressful to add to a long ride if you are also doing a bunch of intensity throughout the week.

Also, I agree with those above that 0.6 is a probably a bit low of a target for rides under 5-7 hours. For 2.5 hours I would probably target closer to 0.75 and for 3+ hours around 0.7. I find that I am only having to lower my power for about the first hour, then the middle two hours it’s just a constant pressure on the pedals, then the final hour I’m starting to hurt and having to focus on keeping my power up without coasting.

Though you could do a mix of what @vetleg is suggesting and constant power. But instead of SS intervals I have added 3-4x20 min intervals of tempo. That way you get a bit more intensity where you get to push the pedals for extended stretches but don’t cook yourself for those longer duration rides.

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Here’s a summary of IF and TSS for the different durations vs RPE that I worked out a while back: