How do I figure out RPE?

I know this might sound a little stupid, but I struggle with the tss estimator for my outdoor rides.

I feel I have three levels of effort, this is fine; okay, working now; omg I’m going to die. most rides have at least a little of each.

On the trainer my heart rate average tends to be significantly lower than my outdoor rides (around 20 bpm). 30 minute under overs today a 134 average, 30 minutes MTB outdoors (20 minute climb, 5 minute descent) the other day 151. My breathing is heavier outdoors but indoors definitely feels harder on the legs.

With daylight saving starting and summer coming I want to give the outdoor training plan variants a go but I don’t have a power meter on the mountain bike. I don’t feel I have a sensitive enough grasp for the to be effective.

Any thoughts how I can increase my RPE sensitivity? Can I use heart rate as a rough indicator?


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Have you read this?

It comes down to experience. The more you ride, the easier it is to gauge how long you can keep that effort level. As mentioned in the article, the lower ends sort of blur. I think of them as ‘2- easy spin’, ‘5- stead slow cruise’, '6- working, ‘7- spirited’, ‘8- hammering’, ‘10- all out’.

Around here MTB is not great for a structured workout because a lot is either max effort up the hill or coast on the descent.

The differences you describe indoor vs outdoor sound like cadence difference. Higher cadence gets the heart rate up; lower cadence burns the legs faster.

I’ve always used by breathing/talking. By the end of the interval it should match:

Zone 1 (Recovery): Like a walk, but on the bike, full conversation possible
Zone 2 (Endurance): Full sentences possible, but deep breath needed every now and then
Zone 3 (Tempo): Speaking possible, full sentences challenging. Deep breaths needed
Zone 4 (Threshold): Deep Rhythmic breathing. Speaking possible, short words only.
Zone 5 (Vo2): Speaking not possible, struggling for enough air.


All of the above are good for tss outside. I use my garmin 530 and have it on a data field while riding.

With running I don’t worry too much about it and always get my tss from my trainingpeaks free account after the fact. I do run a lot of the same routes or same distance on treadmill so after a few I know what to expect for the most part.

On the cadence side of things that would have been my instinct as well, but my cadence is lower outdoors when climbing than on the trainer which is confusing me as it’s the opposite of what I would expect.

I have a 530 as well. What data fields do you display for the workouts?

I typically do this on a data screen. image