Determining outside rides pace

Hi all - I am struggeling a bit with the pace of my outside rides and hope you can help me out. I read a lot of articles already but got lost on all the theoretical stuff - aerobic threshold / benefits of hr zones etc.

Iam following mv ss base now with the goal of doing a 175km gran fondo (incl 5k climbing) in September (which I also did in July 19). Overall goal is to be faster on flat roads (50 -150 km).

Once a week I replace a tr indoor ride with an outdoor ride (do not have a power meter). Outside I am more or less pushing as hard as I can (flat rides) but Iam wondering whether I should pace differently taken into account my goals? How are you determining pace without powermeter?

Many thanks!

If you have a heart rate monitor, you can use that. While a HR monitor is not the greatest training tool for higher intensity efforts due to lag, for strady pacing it is a decent substitute for a PM.

Look back at your training files and see what your HR is for lower intensity and tempo rides and then use those values as your pacing target.

If you have done a ride of 3 hours or longer… that’s pretty much the same pace you are gonna be able to sustain for 175 km. (Provided you eat and drink enough)


Thanks - this makes sense. It feels a little bit odd as the heart rate should then be at max 84% (and likely lower) while it feels better to push to 88-92% (as we would be as fast as possible).

Obviously this kind of changes depending on the terrain but, in general, the steady pace for a ride like this will be super easy at the beginning (RPE 3-4), then steady pressure on the pedals in the middle (RPE 4-5), and then pushing through the muscle ache to maintain the pace at the end (RPE 6-7).

In terms of HR there will be some drift upward if you intend to keep a steady power. The ride file below is from my ride the other day. 90 miles, 3.8k feet of climbing. Tried to keep steady power for the whole ride at around 65-70%. My HR went up about 7-8 BPM (comparing the first half to the second half) but my avg power was the same.

However, this was in a pretty flat/rolling area where I was never forced to pedal too hard due to a high grade or to coast because of a fast descent. If your ride is more mountainous then you can push maybe 10% higher on the climbs because you will have the descents to rest. But the goal should still be to be even the entire time without going out super hard or surging too high on climbs.

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Thanks, @mwglow15 ! The ride file and your comments are very instructive. Thinking about the OP’s question about pacing without a power meter, I think the takeaway is that even if the power output is remarkably even over 4-5 hours, the feel (RPE) is most certainly not. For almost anybody it feels way too easy at the beginning and way too hard at the end, even though your body is not objectively putting out any more work. Hence the usefulness of some objective metric – power meter or at least heart rate monitor – to rein in the natural tendency to go out at a pace that certainly feels sustainable but turns out not to be, and can even turn the end of a long ride into miserable disappointment.

Depends on the course but hr works but before I had a PM I used avg speed. For example I knew on my kickr snap X watts was X speed with a speed sensor and then outside on the flats (hills are tricker) I know how fast I would need to go. Not scientific at all but worked for me.

Also riding the same loop helps. I just ordered a new pm for a new bike as it has different size cranks (love my 4iii’s) and been using avg speed for them in the short term again.

If you get a PM using Best bike split is freaky close in my experience for events I have done

If you want to pace a long ride, but not using power, just input your best average 60min speed into this calculator (FFT Bonking Risk Calculator [link:] - Google Sheets) and enter your race duration/distance and it will tell you your optimal pace in cell F46. It will also tell you your nutritional requirements. For example if your seasons best 60min ave speed is 30kph then your 175km would be around 25kph assuming similar terrain

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Following this topic. I am new to training with power and consistently training with structured plans. I’ve been following TR since the beginning of January. I am hoping to ride some 40-60 mile gravel courses in about a month. None of it is racing, just a friend and I headed out to tour some areas near my home in NH. My last “long” ride was in 2017 (45 miles) and I cramped near the end. Since then I’ve upgraded both my hips (last year May and Nov). Fingers crossed for a successful season this year just getting back outside and enjoying some distance.

The key to getting rid of cramping for me has been fueling and hydration.

Better to consume too much than too little for your next ride. Then start dialing it back in future efforts as your body gets used to it.

I was undertrained for it too. I know my hydration was good (as in lots of water) if not too much. I found out last year I run on the low side of sodium levels. I’m sure in hindsight that played into it too. I am now ensuring I add electrolytes to include sodium to my water when I ride.