How consistent do Z2 rides have to be?

Hello everyone. I’m looking to add more Z2 rides to my LV plan in the future.
Doing more than 2 hours in the trainer is hell for me, but I live in a hilly area so long outside rides are hard to pace and it’s difficult to keep a constant Z2 pace with the hills and downhills all over the place. At most, I can get a full hour of steady pace before the hills start again.

My first idea is to add a fourth workout to the week and make it a long Z2 ride, 3+ hrs for sure, but there’s the hill problem. So I though, can I do 1.5 hrs on the trainer, hop off, switch wheels, put on a jersey and a helmet, and do the remainder outside? Does that have the same effect? I still need to ride 10-15 minutes through traffic to get to the nice roads so it’s around 30 minutes of delay until I can get back to the Z2 steady pace. Does that kill the benefits of Z2?
The other option is just live with the full outside ride,accept that it won’t be that steady and just get used to riding long miles like that, with occasional threshold surges and coasting every now and then.

Thanks in advance

Great that you want to add an extra ride to your LV plan.

The hills shouldn’t be too much of a problem, just try to go up easy. You don’t have to stay perfectly in Z2 to make the extra ride count. After all, you’re doing something extra and that’s a bonus. Just make sure you’re not too tired for your next planned workout.


The long Z2 rides can be really beneficial, especially when you do them regularly over time. I personally would find it pretty awkward to start inside and then shift the workout outside. The ride doesn’t have to be “perfect”. Like @schmidt says, just go easy on the climb. If the downhill isn’t that steep, sometimes you can pedal that too. Along with power, keep an eye on your heart rate. If its spiking up a bunch you are probably pushing too hard.

Here is a good video with Pogacar coach talking about some of the benefits of Z2.

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Thank you!

Yeah, that’s precisely the video that got me thinking haha, I ended up reading a few pages of the thread but in the end I decided to just give longer rides a go and have my own conclusions to compare.
Thank you!

I wouldn’t overthink it. Just try and keep constant pressure on the pedals when you can (specifically on the descents). When you’re climbing get in your easiest gear and try to keep the watts down. My MO is keep the watts in Z2. When you can’t keep them in Z2 keep the HR in Z2. If you want max efficiency and it’s under 90 min stay on the trainer. If you want to do 2-5 hours hit the road, smell the roses and unwind. :slight_smile:

NB: I’ve been riding for 18 months so take everything I say with a healthy grain of skepticism. It works for me though.


You can learn to ride steady in Z2 outside, it means adjusting your speed all the time to the conditions as your power remains fairly flat.
The only time that is not possible is if it is a steep hill and you don’t have the gears to reduce the speed enough.

Regarding the benefits of Z2 riding to build up your base, my understanding is that you want to be training your body to keep using fat for fuel up to higher intensities where it would otherwise switch over to glycogen. However, if you keep doing short bursts of efforts at threshold or above, this will elevate the blood lactate levels and then when you go at lower intensities your body is burning that lactate for fuel first rather than fat. This is also a good exercise, comparable to over/unders, but it does not produce all of the adaptations associated with long Z2 rides.

Also, I think the way you should see it is that your Z2 endurance ride is not suddenly worthless by a few harder efforts and then returning to Z2. It just becomes less effective and might take longer to reach the same adaptations.

Why not ride two (or a few) times this 1.5hrs route?


I’ve been on the polarised plan for the last couple of months and all the z2 workouts I’ve been doing outside.

My method since I live in a hilly area is to monitor my power and try to stay in zone and check my normalised power to confirm I’m in the range specified.

I know at times I’ll be well into z6/z7 but I can’t do long turbo sessions, so I work on the theory that 2 or 3 hours not perfect z2 is better than a perfect 60 minutes z2 on the turbo.


Wow that’s not just slightly into Z3 up a hill that’s well above. You must have really high gearing.

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40 * 44 and a low FTP of 200w combined with short steep hills means it’s easy to hit 350w for a few seconds.


I’ve done hybrid sessions where I’ll ride indoors for an hour then take it outside, just have to be mindful about changing into something dry if required. Not convenient and I’ll only do it when I really can’t ride inside any longer

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I can’t mentally do some of the ride indoors and the rest outdoors. I’m also in the same boat where getting a mile from my house in either direction is about a 400ft climb. Even taking it easy, I’m well into z3 hr. If you want to train pure z2, the trainer is the easiest. The nice thing is you’re not losing really anything on a 2 hour ride if 15-20 mins of that goes z3. As long as you don’t leave with the intention of z2 and look back and see you’re doing 700w pulls up climbs, you’re gonna be fine. Much easier to look at time in zone over a weeks avg rather than each ride


If you’re unable to complete fairly controlled Z2 riding due to steep hills, it can be llimiting for your long term development.

The single most important technical aspect is having adequate gearing to handle the terrain you ride on.

If that means running a MTB cassette, so be it.

Repeated spikes into Z4/Z5/Z6 accumulate unwanted physiological responses.

Aim at perfection.


I guess that makes sense when you look at it that way. As long as I get a decent amount of time in the correct zone I should get the benefits right?
Is there a rule of thumb for that?
My main challenge is going up a hill in the correct zone, keep the power on on the way down and resisting the URGE to try and keep the momentum a little longer for the next climb. There are a few routes that are all climbing but perhaps could be easier to avoid the lack of self discipline

I guess I’ll give it a fair try first before changing parts. I have a compact (I think that’s how it’s called? I’m fairly new to road biking, mainly a mtber) and I rarely find myself on the easiest gear but again, I have not been riding Z2 truly making an effort to keep it steady. I’ll give it a try this week and see how it goes.

I think this depends on how much you are riding. If it is 6 times a week and high volume, maybe. If you’re riding 3 times a week, with rest days in between, probably not.

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Keep a large majority of the ride in z2 and youre not losing anything major. Touching z3, not a big deal. Staying z3/4/5…big deal. Unless youve tested this in a lab, you dont really know your HR zones. Same goes for lactate threshold. Its all estimates to guide your training. Theres people that will swear by going purely off RPE and the ability to hold a conversation, theres people that get a full lab workup to get their ranges within miniscule percentages. Theres data to back up both!

A dumb thing thats been helpful for me is for strict z1 or 2 rides is sometimes ill wear bibs and a t-shirt. If I know im pulling a parachute around with me, it keeps me from trying to attack a hill. I can leave the house with the mentality of “todays z2” and then I see someone 100 yards ahead going up a climb and I turn into a total meat head and have to pass them.

I think swapping to a mtb cassette is a little extreme. At best, that means fiddling with your B-screw every time you swap, at worst its a new derailleur. For me, if I have to do much more than air up my tires before I ride, Im gonna find a million excuses to do something else.


The benefits of Z2 training come from time in zone while keeping lactate levels low. That means for example if you need to put some large efforts at the end of the ride, that will not interfere with the Z2 training adaptations. If you have them at the start, you should keep the effort as low and short as possible. Because if you are tapping into the higher zones periodically during the ride, this will elevate lactate levels and prevent fat burning during Z2, which is what you want to train.

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How steep are we talking I’ve tackled 33% on 30/28 and never had to hit 350 watts?