Doing Z2 rides in hilly regions?

Hello people,

I’ve got a question related to outdoor Z2 rides.

  1. Conditions
  1. Question

Should I consider outdoor rides as extra rides between workout? If so, how should I use them?

Potential way to manage them:

  • Keeping the current pace (overall my avg power is around 70% FTP and most of the ride is in z2 zone… but spiking with climbing).
  • Forcing myself to keep the power down while climbing (reducing my cadence and checking the power so it stays under 75% FTP if possible).
  • Replace outdoor activities with indoor z2 sessions.
  • …?

My outdoor z2 sessions should be around 120-150 minutes max. I tried some endurance indoor workout with a duration of 120-150 minutes, but it’s mentally painful for me. So unless other possibilities are significantly suboptimal, I’d like to avoid them.

Thanks for your help!

You answered it yourself here :slight_smile:

It’s really not more complicated than actually just taking it easy when the road tilts upwards. If your cadence gets too low, change gearing on the bike.

With all due respect, why are you going so hard on every little hill? You’re saying you’re aiming for Z2, but you’re going 30s at 500w, 1min at 340w, over and over again?

I mean, 99% of Z2 riding, regardless of elevation, long/short hills is to just take it easy and focus on pressure on the pedals at all times, especially downhill as well.

Just go out and enjoy, ride easy! :smiley: Don’t focus so much on the watts, because most of the time that will have you ride harder to “hit” certain numbers.

Make it easy for yourself and try to not go over 200w at any time.

This is a part of a 5h ride with lots of elevation, just ride easy :slight_smile: You don’t have to go hard because the road tilts upwards, just ride slower.

Screenshot 2023-05-18 at 20.06.15


To be fair, I’m not trying to go hard on the hills. Spending months on the smart trainer, my legs are used to 85-95 rpm. So even with climbing parts, I tend to stay in this range unintentionally.

Going at 80- or 100+ rpm isn’t natural for me currently unless I focus on the cadence. I guess it’s the bad side of ERG mode. But that’s a part of my question: should I just ignore it or should I train myself to keep the power steadier. I guess a steady power range is better, but I’m not sure if it’s THAT important for these rides.

1 Like

Yeah I would definitely just shift down and keep the power lower. That’s quite a lot of time at or above Z4. Then also stay on the power on the descents so you have less coasting.
Here’s an example of a long ride that has similar stats and hilliness to yours:

I don’t think I would describe the ride you posted as a ‘Z2 ride’. It looks to me more like a fartlek tempo ride.


I have the same hill issue. If my long rides average Z2 I call it Z2. Not the proper way to do Z2 but it works for me. You’re trying to build base miles and if you ride in hill country, slow miles are base even if you go over your zone sometimes.



Remember when riding bikes were fun? I am sure there are some out there who enjoy nailing the numbers perfectly….but for me, unless you are pro, worrying about going out of Z2 now and then because you live in a hilly area sucks all the joy out of riding. Yeah we want to be better, but for most adhering to the spirit of the workout is good enough.


Probably the worst way of looking at it, if you actually want to train Z2 and get faster.

Yes, of course you sometimes go above into tempo maybe when standing up to rest the bum or whatnot, but looking at your average power and gauging if that is Z2 or not is an easy way constantly ride too hard.

I averaged Z2 watts during my last race, was it a Z2 session? No…


FIne, but you must be able to feel the difference between 200w and 500w… independent of cadence.

It is if you actually want to train you Z2, otherwise you start recruiting other muscle groups, and shift focus of the session.

Just like a threshold session requires you to ride threshold, an endurance session needs you to stay in your endurance zone.

Its of course not an issue to ride a bit in tempo for a few seconds here and there, but Z2 riding is meant to be easy, keep it that way :slight_smile:


I have the same problem: Many hills with 8-15% for some kilometers. They take forever in Z2 and the cadence is low (<60rpm).
Sometimes I fall into low tempo zone. Also some hills are so steep you need to weight down the front of the bike, which adds additional stress. Depending on the street/path it may be possible to ride in a serpentine line, which makes the route flatter.

It works okeyish most of the time, but it‘s not optimal. I am also not sure if those low cadence hills stress my muscles a bit more.

Change gearing, compact up front (50/34) and 11-34 on the back is your friend :slight_smile:

They do, more torque is required since cadence is lower (watts = cadence * torque). Hence why it’s generally better to have high cadence since you put less stress on the muscles.

1 Like

I think I already maxed out: Sram Rival cassette with 10-36 and in the front 48/35. I think there is a smaller crankset, but that’s a bit too much to change at the moment. My FTP is not so high that’s what makes it a bit more difficult too. :slight_smile:

Ok, thanks!

1 Like

Just ride your bike. This obsession with always staying within “zone 2” is not only foolish, but counterproductive. That’s not how cycling works, and it’s most definitely not how physiology works.

PPP: The training levels are descriptive, not prescriptive.

PPP: They’re called levels and not zones for a reason.


Finally some common sense in all this! Workouts in z2 outside are better done by HR, or even by RPE, if it feels easy then it’s easy…

There’s already a great thread which hits on some of the questions you pose along with examples of other members’ Z2 rides. You may find that thread helpful too?

Show me your outdoor Z2 attempts - Training - TrainerRoad


What sort of race ?
My last event avg watts was sweet spot, 100 miles/6000ft climbing.
It felt hard.

1 Like

Was a shorter 2h race, averaged 41km/h, pretty flat with some shorter hills!

Since we don’t have proper climbs here in Sweden it’s hard to get the average up since it’s either pretty easy or really hard!

1 Like

It’s also as much about endurance adaptations as it is about limiting fatigue. You are likely doing these long endurance rides around other higher intensity training that you want to be fresh for. So by doing these 30-60s threshold+ intervals you aren’t going hard enough for those adaptations but you’re just adding additional fatigue. So you’re probably getting similar endurance results but you’re more tired than you need to be.

1 Like

Lol, riding bikes is always fun. And it’s one thing to “worry about going out of Z2 now and then” and another to spend ~1hr40m over your intended zone and 1hr45m soft pedaling. If you were doing a 20m threshold interval and 6m was VO2+ and 6m was Z2 then you’d say that you didn’t do that interval right.

You can still go on free bike rides like OPs, but you just can’t really call it a Z2 ride.


@Dubadai and @mwglow15 nailed it here!

It is SO KEY to keep your power in Z2 on these endurance rides.

And I mean second-to-second power. NOT average power or normalized power.

When you find yourself going up a steep hill, resist the urge to smash it. Just keep things chill and ride at a lower cadence.

Pushing over Z2 on these rides will increase training stress and will very likely have a negative impact on your recovery and your ability to complete the structured interval sessions in your plan.



Thanks to all for your comments. I tried to limit my power and staying in zone despite hills. I know it’s probably still not perfect, but would you consider it as a correct z2 ride now? It was mentally difficult but I guess I can improve it with training.

If you simply check the power distribution, please notice most of z1 is in high-z1 and most of z3 is in low-z3.

I’ve also tried to reduce coasting to the minimum.

1 Like