How do you categorize unstructured outdoor riding in terms of training type / power zone?

E.g., you spend much of a several-hour ride in Z3/Z4, but due to the shear amount of time coasting and soft pedaling, the average power is basically high Z1 / low zone Z2.

Is this a tempo/threshold ride, or an endurance ride?

I classify it on how I attacked the climbs. Did I soft peddle, sit at tempo/sweetspot and spin up them or did I smash them hard.
This puts the ride nicely in one of three zones which I colour code green, yellow or red so I can see at a glance what I’ve been doing when I look at my calendar.

So to answer your question I’d put your ride down as tempo/threshold.

I strongly disagree. It’s just everyone’s been indoctrinated to think this.
I’ve trained and raced for over 10 years. I’ve followed strict high intensity programs, unstructured high intensity riding, mixed riding and completely low intensity riding.
Always perform roughly the same and get similar positions in races.
Do what you enjoy is my advice.


This question is what highlights a big opportunity for training systems to address. Those “unstructured” rides clearly have a training effect, just like any other ride, the problem is, most of these systems can’t quantify that effect, so people ended up calling them junk miles. If TR can do what Xert has done, and classify the training effect of every ride, you’d be able to “bucket” this unstructured ride the same way you would any structured training. Using AP or even NP for that classification is just way too broad.

Sorry Mike but I do. Including national top twenties in cx and xc.

If most of your riding is 60 to 90 minute trainer sessions and sub two hour outdoor rides, I wouldn’t describe a hardish four-plus hour ride as junk miles. Just volume.

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@BT-7274 The main thing I would do is account for the coasting and near coasting by adding up the time in Active Recovery zone and subtract from total ride time.

These unstructured rides are by no means wasteful because we have power meters now and can quantify and categorize them (with a bit of work). So called junk miles are just a mismatch between intensity and duration. It very possible to do a ride where you’re not targeting the adaptation you think, and that’s not good. But hard group rides are not by any means that way (coffee rides, although fun, are a different story). I do them and mark it as a hard day.

Also, for the benefit of all the “train the systems” folks, we only have two (out of three total) energy systems we can possibly train. Make sure you’re not getting “energy systems” mixed up with “zones”. Not the same thing. There is no such thing as a threshold system or a tempo system.

And to the OP, don’t get too hung up on the classification. Your body doesn’t know what’s written in your training diary.
The ride you described was a nice hard, long ride. Excellent training in my opinion. Make your focus on recovering the best you can then do more of the same or something different. Just do something.
Chatting with my training mates who were experienced racers, we all agreed that as long as you were doing enough riding to tire you out then you were basically good. We’d tried everything and each had there pros and cons. We always finished in the same order.
(Except when I’d beat my mate Rob.:grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:. And each time it was because he’d overdone the intensity and had ‘wooden legs’)

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This is an interesting question on two counts.

  1. What is the purpose of identifying a ride. Are you trying to fit in to a polarised or pyrmadial or other type of training scheme. if so shouldn’t you know that before you set off rather than deciding afterwards. Sorry, not trying to be challenging - just wondering.

  2. (other software is available) can give a good breakdown of TiZ.
    Looking at a ride I did last night (Holme Moss (UK) on Fulgaz). I attacked the hill segment and was steady on the rest. How does that ride breakdown in your view.
    If categorizing I would suggest threshold but I can see other options as well.


I used to have a colour code system that I used for categorising workouts, so taking a helicopter view of my calendar could be of use. I had a category of ‘kitchen sink’ ride - just as useful to categorise them as this as anything else. It’s as valid as trying to call it anything else IMHO.


@grawp Agree at high level. I would say overdoing it and just making yourself tired (exceeding minimum dose) qualifies as junk miles to me. So I think everything you said with the caveat of knowing when enough is enough.


For those who are more data driven, I have started to use WKO Training Impact Score to retrospectively look at impact from various types of rides, especially group riding. Very insightful.

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To me it sounds like a bike ride, nothing more, nothing less.

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I always say the bike ride you do do, always trumps the perfect session you don’t do.
Whatever it takes to get you out the door.


Usually if I aim for a certain power range on a longish ride, the 25 watt distribution will have a pyramidal shape centering on that power range but with a huge tower of Z1 to the left.

But I wonder whether rides should be categorized by the avg power/NP or the median “on” power.

That’s what I mean by accounting for coasting and near coasting. That power distribution that you are seeing is very normal for a group ride. I’ve never not had one that didn’t look like that.

Terms like “pyramidal”, “polarized”, and “threshold” are not intended for a single ride (this is where, which I love, really has it wrong). They should just take that label off for the individual ride. It’s misleading and not useful.

Similar question to yours here:

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I would say the “on power”. It’s the time spent “on” that is going to induce the greatest fatigue, that you may want to account for in your next ride.

If you take your example to the extreme: First do 4x8 minutes VO2 Max intervals, then follow with 4 hours in zone 1. I think most people would agree that it would be classified as a VO2 max workout?

It’s a long ride with some stuff in :wink:

As posted above, beyond that it kind of depends what you’re going to do with the info. If you’re using it for analysis then personally I think looking at total time in zone is more useful than trying to put each ride in a box, for the simple reason that a lot of outdoor rides don’t fit neatly into a box. does a really nice job of showing TiZ analysis.

If you’re using it for planning the rest of your week, then again I wouldn’t necessarily try and categorise the whole ride as one thing, but instead get more specific and look at:

  1. What impact it has on your fatigue/freshness and therefore your ability to train in following days; and
  2. What kind of training stimuli were provided in that ride and how they match up to the kind of work you should be doing in whatever phase of training you’re currently in.

E.g. if during a 4 hour ride you amassed a good amount of Z4 time in sustained chunks such as 10+ minute climbs or long pulls on the front of a group, I’d count that as being decent quality SS work as well as being a long endurance ride. I’d therefore adjust the rest of my plan accordingly e.g. dropping a SS session for an easy/Z2 day (which you probably need after doing 4 hours with big chunks of SS).

On the other hand if that Z3-4 time was all accumulated in short doses of no more than a few minutes at a time, I personally wouldn’t count it towards any SS work you need to be doing that week. So if SS was important to your plan e.g. you were training for TT or triathlon where you needed to spend a long time working at a high % of FTP (as opposed to doing SS work for general aerobic base building/maintenance) then I think you would still need to incorporate that SS work elsewhere in your week.


Great advice.

I don’t think does assign labels like this to individual rides. The lowest level they assign those terms to are for the week. I think he just assigned that term to his power distribution chart because it looks like a pyramid, not because intervals called it that.

@mwglow15 So that’s for the week? (right above RPE). That’s what I’m talking about. That’s either wrong, confusing, or both.