Heart rate and power zones are much different

Hi all,

I recently took a FTP test (206) but my heart rate zones don’t seem remotely aligned. Here’s a 90 minute ride I did today:

As you can see, I was barely able to get my heart rate out of Z1 and that took riding at 200 watts for the last 10 minutes (I was not very tired). For Z2 training should I be using heart rate zones or power zones? Or perhaps RPE?

Overall, this seems like it might be a good problem to have. My cardiovascular system is well trained (I used to run a lot) and is likely in better shape than my legs. Is that good guess?

How did you set your FTP? And how were the HR zones determined?

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I set my FTP using a TrainerRoad ramp test (206 FTP) and my HR zones are from my Garmin watch:

The watch can be an issue. I have heard that the way it reads HR could cause an issue during cycling or, as you said, being new to cycling your legs haven’t found you yet. As HR can be impacted by so many other variables I would suggest you stay with what’s constant. And that is power.

Also, if this was the first time you did a ramp your FTP may be incorrect due to inexperience with doing the test. It may to just ride along and maybe bump your FTP up by 2-5w at a time until you find what you think feels right [i remember in a pod the team suggested something similar].

I would suggest doing a 20 minute FTP test and see what you get. Either the ramp test is way off, your HR measurement coming from your watch is off or you muscular endurance is very low compared to your aerobic system.

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First, confirm your watch HR manually.

Second, HR zones are very 1990s and don’t mean that much.

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Could be, could not, it could be a sigh you are getting fitter but is could also be a sign that your doing too much and your HR is suppressed and unable to perform to its optimum. :neutral_face:


Thats likely to be your answer my Garmin watch recorded a max of 164bpm, yet I cycled to work (circa 30 miles ) and did a Threshold session my Cchest strap HRM recorded a max HR of 171 on the commute and 186 (94% max) during the threshold session and for more than 64% of it I was above 164bpm. Its been the same for me every time I look. I believe you can get the watch to be more accurate by actually recording and activity on it (but that eats your batteries) and other models / brands are slightly better.

HR means less than power, but this discrepancy is probably meaningful. How did this ride feel? Was it super easy? Are you new to doing Ramp Tests? One potential factor is the Ramp Test learning curve. It takes a lot of practice to even know how to do an all-out effort. It sounds ridiculous, but ask any coach or high-level athlete (weight lifting comes to mind as does running or any other endurance event). You have to learn how to get the maximum out of your test.


Have you actually hit a max HR of 185 cycling? If you’re riding near FTP and it doesn’t feel very hard and your HR is relatively low, then I’m guessing your FTP is set too low.


For cycling, HR has limited usefulness. Training by power is far superior.

Also, your running vs cycling vs swimming vs (sport X) will have different max heart rates and different thresholds. This is because different muscles are recruited and the body is in different positions. Just like running trains different muscles than cycling and being fit at one doesn’t translate 1:1 to the other.

What Alpha said. As a nice side benefit you should see your hr rise during your ftp test and can make a better mapping between cycling and HR. Running max HRs are different than cycling max HRs. (in my experience). Science!

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I must be an outlier. My max hr is max, no matter what. I can reach it running, cycling, shoveling dirt, moving furniture, most any activity (with some caveats). Same with VO2max.

Like the Highlander, there can be only 1 max hr and vo2max value for an organism. How much (or to what percentage) you mobilize, or illicit, those maxes is what the sport dependency shows.

My hr during running and cycling 3 and 10 minute time trials are virtually identical. Thresholds are the same range across sports and activities.

I personally don’t think most people actually know what their max HR actually is. I tested my my HR twice, and will never do it again. Both times I started to black out. Both times while running.

My “max HR” today is just what the max I have seen while racing or training, but it certainly isn’t my max.


First off, thanks to everyone for the feedback. I appreciate it.

Below is my FTP ramp test results, and my HR hit 178.

I recently did some intervals and my HR maxed out at 182:

Per AlphaDogCycling I think I’ll try the 20 minute ramp test in the next few weeks and see what I get it. The high end of zone 2 (~150 watts) feels quite easy.

For clarity, the 20 minute test isn’t a ramp test. Or if you have a Zwift subscription, you could do the Zwift FTP Test (the one that is 73 minutes long)

Yeah, sorry. I just meant the 20 minute FTP test.

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Totally disagree with this. I agree with the rest of the post though.

It seems there are multiple layers to the problem. So I would suggest you need to unwrap them.

Ftp almost certainly incorrect. Do a proper test.

HR… how is it measured how have you set your zones, get that dialed/ sorted.

HR and power zones don’t align… depending on fitness… however they are never as far out as you have posted.

One or both measurements are off.

I’ve had questions about this because I only see my true max HR very very rarely. The last time was on a super humid day and during a race simulation group ride. So, it was basically and hour of threshold followed by a large effort at the end plus a final sprint. I don’t think I could reproduce this max HR under normal circumstances.

When I look at studies that talk about minutes of work over 90% of HRmax, I know that that is basically impossible for me if I use the maximums I’ve actually seen. Or, maybe “max” is some kind of lab reproducible maximum.

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I agree. I’ve only tried to truly find out my max heart rate once on the bike and it wasn’t safe to be honest. I got super dizzy and had to pull back. My teeth felt like they were going to fall out of my mouth…and I’m sure it could have gone higher. I hit 198bpm at 37 years old.


When you hit the 200w step in your ramp test, it looks like your HR was around 150. It was only 128 in the workout you posted in the OP though. Something is not adding up. Same equipment, same conditions, etc?

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