Ideal outdoor zone distribution for 2h endurance ride

When I do my outdoor endurance rides to improve my aerobic capacity, these are my power percentages for a 2-hour ride. Is my power too high? The problem is that I tend to ride at or above threshold when I encounter hills, although I try to go easy on the flats and downhill. What is the ideal zone distribution for a perfect endurance ride?"

I’ve started using RPE for my long endurance rides outside. e.g peg effort at the prescribed value based on the outdoor workout description RPE.

Then post ride look to see that my IF is within the ballpark of the prescribed ride if it were indoor.

Since doing that I’ve been able to get pretty close to the prescribed IF and time in zones is close to prescribed.

I have a pretty hilly profile were I live so I just use RPE up the climbs and glimpse my power every 10-15 secs to make sure I’m riding around that level needed.

I also noted that I have about 30 mins coasting each ride so I’ve added an extra 30 mins to the ride to account for that.

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Endurance riding is RPE only for me. Only thing I do by power is threshold.


I try stick to zone 2 and 3, IF of 0.65 to 0.75. You’ve done 45 mins above that so more a smashy ride by the looks.

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Ideally, you ride in zone 2 for the whole 2 hours. Almost all of my endurance rides are in the hills and the only way I can do it with my FTP is to bike incredibly slow up hills. It’s easier on my gravel bike given the gearing.


As @ddetch said, you should aim to keep your Zone 2 rides in Zone 2. If you start to hit higher power zones frequently during your ride, it’s no longer an Endurance ride and becomes harder than intended. This affects your recovery and subsequent training days.

In the example ride you posted above, you spent a significant amount of time in Zones 3, 4, and even 5, with only 42 minutes of the full 120 minutes (35%) spent in Zone 2. Ideally, it’d be better to see a larger percentage of your time spent right in Zone 2 (with some time in Zone 1 for your warmup/cooldown).

Here’s an example of what a steadier Zone 2 ride looks like:

This ride was also about 2 hours long, with 1h38m (82%) of the ride spent in Zone 2. The terrain wasn’t very hilly, but with some practice, you should be able to adjust your cadence when going uphill/downhill to keep your power in check.

Try to drop your cadence lower when climbing if you have to to ensure that your power doesn’t creep up, and shift into a harder gear and/or spin a bit faster when going downhill to keep your power in Zone 2 (as long as it is safe to do so – don’t try to pedal too aggressively through sharp corners and keep your speed in control to stay safe!).

Hope this info helps – feel free to let me know if you have any other questions!


Doing 35% in zone 2 during a zone 2 ride is not doing what you intended with that workout. So yes, this is not what you want to be doing.


Why do you ride at or above threshold when you encounter hills?

Your power is too uneven, you are spending too much time in Tempo and above.

  • You only spent 35.5 % in Z2 for the ride.
  • You spent 18.2 % at sweet spot and 21.4 % at Z4 and above.
  • Since sweet spot covers upper Z3 and lower Z4, I cannot simply add those two percentages, but I reckon you spent roughly 30 % at sweet spot power and above. That’s no longer an endurance ride.

When you ride outdoors and you want to hit upper Z2, it is unavoidable to spend time in Z3 (tempo) as well (e. g. because of changing wind conditions power output is more uneven if you try to maintain momentum). But you want to put a lid on things.

  • If you aim for low- to mid-Z2, you should stay entirely in Z1 and Z2. Of course, there will be short bursts e. g. to accelerate at a traffic light, but those should be short and measured. Avoid power spikes.
  • If you aim for upper Z3, i. e. IF = 0.70–0.75, you practically will have to dip into Z3 to keep your average power in the right range. Hence, you will really have to pay more attention to keep a lid on things.
  • Route choice is key for endurance rides. Pick a route that is flat. Hilly routes are poison for endurance rides, you are constantly tempted to hit it. And you might have to grind up some hills to stay within your power target.

Personally, I prefer to ride in mid-Z2 outdoors. I can simply pace by heart rate (which changes more slowly than power) and relax better.


That was outside??


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yes, Zackery and I compete on these :rofl: Here is what I consider my all-time best for nearly 4 hours total:

427m / 1400 feet climbing.

In the middle are all-time power curve PRs from 14-16 seconds.

Tossed in about 30 minutes bonus time at the end.

Going to be honest, that much steady endurance power work makes me slower.

I’ve got even smoother power for 90-100 minutes - looks like inside in erg mode.

But again, its just a dumb forum party trick and net-net I discovered that much steady power - I’m talking 4=5 rides of 2+ hour rides/week and majority steady power (some rides are intervals) - is negative to my training.


Like most have said here, you’re going above Z2 way too much, need to try to keep it more steady :slight_smile:

Here is a high Z2 ride for me recently. Steady steady. Riding as close to LT1 as possible for the whole ride. I do these rides not too often, as they give quite much fatigue. But they’re fun rides, and good to train the mind and body to keep steady and work on aero. Also fun to average over 21mph alone on such a long ride.

Total of 53 seconds of coasting in total of 5 hours. Of course thats not possible for everyone, but its worth aiming for :slight_smile:

LT1 is around 255w, so naturally I dip into Z3 a bit sometimes.


It is challenging to stay in zone 2 but really important on the longer endurance rides. Some items I do to make sure that I stay in zone 2 are as follows.

  1. Never coast and always be pedaling on downhills and corners. I will use my brakes as resistance to keep the power up so I stay in (or close) to zone 2 and will not stop pedaling.
  2. Uphills cadence will get really slow at times if a steep hill but it is good practice riding at a really low cadence to stay in Zone 2.
  3. I add a timer on my Garmin head unit to track time in zone 2 and have that next to the normal timer
  4. I will check my Normalized Power to Average Power during the ride as these should be very close. My coach said within 10 watts but I typically try to be within 5 watts. Most times when I do a good job it is less than 3 watt difference.
  5. Where I live my rides will either start with a 2 mile downhill or 2 mile uphill. I always start with the uphill since it is easier to stay in zone 2 and will set me up for a much more successful outcome.
  6. Pick routes that are relatively flat if possible and with few stops or interruptions. I live in Colorado and will not do any long climbs when I do zone 2 rides. However, it is relatively hilly where I live with short climbs so I have to use my brakes on downhills as explained above to stay in zone 2.

Following these items I will typically be 75-85% in zone 2 with my NP to Avg Power within a 1-3 watts. It is a little mentally challenging as you have to stay focused the entire ride to have a successful zone 2 ride but it does pay dividends in the long run. Good Luck!


You win!:1st_place_medal:

Haha, I have very very good roads just outside of our cabin. Literally never have to stop during my whole ride, probably have one or two traffic stops for a 4-6 hour ride. Makes life very easy for steady rides and intervals. Also pancake flat, which unfortunately also means a lot of wind!

Roads look like this pretty much everywhere :smiley:


In contrast to people posting practically perfect erg mode outside, here’s mine. The spikes are when I stand for 20-30 seconds to rest my butt or when I don’t feel like shifting into my front ring on a short steep pitch. Sometimes I’ll do 260-280 for a minute on other climbs, I’ll let up and only do 150 or so going downhill, etc.

I couldn’t care less that it’s not perfect and don’t think it matters one bit. I can ride like this day after day and recover from it no problem. Also from world tour pros that share power data, domestic pros and semi-pros, to local fast guys, very few seem to care about staying perfectly in Z2; with Dylan Johnson being the notable exception of course.



On the flip side of the folks who live in very flat areas, I’d be curious to hear how other people who live in hilly areas do for their endurance/Zone 2 rides. For reference, my rides almost invariably end up with about 1000 feet of climbing for every 10 miles. There are frequent kickers that are 10-20% grades so it’s necessary to push the power up a bit sometimes.

Here’s yesterday’s ride:

I ride endurance mostly by feel but keep an eye on HR just for reference. Here’s my HR for that ride:

And power:

I used to stress a lot about power on these rides, but now it basically comes down to asking myself the question “Do my legs feel good after this ride?” If yes, great. If not, I’ll take the next day easy, or take an extra rest day if necessary.

Edit: For a better reference point, here’s the RWGPS elevation profile.


Not flat, but not sure if this is hilly enough. Short answer is I use all my gears and a wide range of cadence as appropriate:


And look at the last custom zone:

CTS Go Ride Your Bike zone 63-87% ftp.

Here’s another one for easy group ride:

Target of 50-88% on my bike computer. I also use that to just go ride easy solo without worrying about cadence or negative splits.

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I am really impressed by some of these charts……I never thought that was possible outside. I have rides like that inside but it’s (can be anyway) an incredibly controlled environment. Thanks for showing them!