'Maximum' effective dose (diminishing returns) - Long Rides

Going a bit off topic here, but I thought those shoes also had a short lifespan as well as being extremely expensive? Had read something like 150-200 miles before the plate starts to lose it’s spring and/or the lightweight foam starts to break down. In which case I’d assumed even the pro runners were mainly using them for racing and key sessions and not for 100% of their training as they’d be burning through a pair every week or 2. I guess the very top runners can have as many pairs as they want but there can’t be all that many on that kind of deal.

Or maybe there’s a sweetspot shoe for training which has enough of the new technology to allow increased volume without sacrificing as much durability?

Speedwork appears to be the most taxing from a biomechanical viewpoint. This is where many runners use these carbon sole shoes now. It does not necessarily mean that the wear the shoes all the time. And I guess the more elite the more they can wear these shoes as they get sponsored.

And I assume there are plenty of ambitious AGs with enough money in the pockets who can afford this as well.

Yeah. Crazy rides.

In my experience, yes, but it’s roughly double the duration of what it would be for running. Maybe slightly more than double. I have no scientific literature backing up this claim.

1 Like

I think a lot also depends on the athlete…I know from my years of training that I am a “volume-based” athlete. I am fastest when I am putting in a lot of miles. For an example, my highest AP / NP for an OLY triathlon came in my peak for my first IM. I wasn’t doing a lot of intervals (but definitely some fast group rides), etc. but I was packing in the miles.

Some athletes respond better to intensity, in which case maybe Nate’s claim of nothing more than 2-3 works…but for me, that would be a disaster in terms of my fitness.

But, in general, I think @Dr_Alex_Harrison point above is roughly correct…if you double the duration vs. running, that would roughly get you to where you reach a point of diminishing returns (unless you are training for a very long event such as Unbound, etc)


I have no literature to back this up, but the guy who now does my coaching (and I’m following a loosely polarized plan) suggested there was only a very slight physiological benefit in going to 5 rather than 4 hours, and no point going longer than 5.

BUT if training for an event over 6 hours, he suggested it WAS worth going over
5, for the purposes of a) accustoming your body to very long periods in the saddle (and identifying any bike fit issues that become a problem) and b) nailing down fuelling strategies for that length of time.

His view is that 4 hours at the desired wattage, really minimizing freewheeling time (that’s key in his view), is ‘ideal’ from an adaptation perspective. If 4-5 hours at X watts becomes ‘easy’, that’s the time to up the watts rather than go longer.



Everybody responds to volume, some more some less.
I think the comments from Nate was rather in the context that you do not have to do 5h rides to do 5h ride. But so not have to is not equal not beneficial. It is my only second season of riding a bike and when I include longer rides (max 4h) or 3h with efforts on top I see a lot of benefits on many levels. I think that 4h-5h is long enough for many amateur athletes when it comes to time and fitness (I am talking about regular ride not one-off).


A couple of other things that might be worth considering with regard to the running comparison;

  • With the exception of a pretty small percentage, event distance is also a lot shorter compared to cycling. 3 hours at an easy pace is for many elite runners close to marathon distance, and at this point I’d say you’re better served by adding a fast finish type runs or some race pace intervals versus a bit of extra time.
  • Less time spent coasting/stopping- you’re pretty much right on the desired intensity the whole time.
  • Greater freedom of motion means that fatigue has a greater impact on form as the run progresses.
  • Runners aren’t just running- generally speaking they do way more cross-training than most endurance athletes.
  • You’re physically/logistically more limited in terms of fueling/hydration, which is important when you’re considering the recovery tradeoff of a high-impact activity.

Like many others on here, around 3-4 hours on a regular basis tends to be my happy place. I go longer occasionally, but that’s more in the interest of social rides or practicing race logistics than fitness. I would prioritize cumulative volume and session quality over duration of individual rides.


Sure…and my point was that I respond better to volume. Doing nothing more than 2-3 hours would not reap the same training effect that doing more volume would.

Agreed…which is right in that 2x the running number range.


From my short 6 years of training I also appear to benefit most from volume. In the past simply doing one hard 5+ hour ride a month has provided me with a nice fitness bump while doing ~6-8 hours/week. Saw those fitness bumps in 2016, 2017, and again in 2020. Buying into the ‘train smarter, indoors’ approach only saw my fitness drop, for various reasons. So I’m with you, as much volume as possible, which in my life that is targeting 8-10 hours/week, and an occasional overload week at 12 hours.

@MrHammonds like others I haven’t seen any science on it. So here is my anecdotal data… in 2017 I trained for a double century, and the last 4 weeks before the event I did two 100 mile centuries (April 30, May 12) before the 200 mile double on May 20:

most of my all-time power PRs in the 1-5 minute range are from the week of the double (May 17th afternoon) or the 4 weeks leading up to it. Still have a Strava KOM around 1 minute from the week AFTER the double. The two centuries were sub 6 hours and solid tempo at 0.80 IF (with an accurate ftp). My fitness was rising from January thru the end of May. Started January with a century the first week, and the last week, then my third century of the year in February.

So I’m in agreement with everyone saying that 5-6 hour rides have a good return on investment, once you’ve worked up to a level of fitness capable of supporting recovery from those rides. I did that in my mid fifties, so depending on your age and ability to recover you might be able to do more. There are a lot of young twenty something guys around here putting down ~20 hour weeks and a lot of 3-5 hour days.


My understanding is that the trade off risk of injury vs physical adaptations gained is around the 2hr mark, 1h45 for heavier runners over 80kg iirc. Runs longer than that would be as specific prep for longer races such as a marathon.

I had a similar question a year or two back on this, the first problem in direct comparison with cycling is that there is essentially zero injury risk compared to running :slight_smile: Secondly, again iirc, there are few studies on injury risk in cycling to cycling volume.

On the point of physical adaptations alone, not vs risk, rationally there must be some point at which your body has heard the message that you need to adapt and it doesn’t need another hour on the bike to start signalling, but I don’t think there are studies that have identified it.

Personally, as an Ironman triathlete I just listen to my legs as I feel I know when I’ve hit that point on endurance rides that it’s going to affect the quality of my next workout or my next day of training.

However Adaptive Training is having a fair stab at determining it, I had Hoffman last Friday. 4.5h at 0.65 followed by a 1h run which I was a bit apprehensive about but AT called achievable and sure enough I was fine for both.

Because long riding is not like running, I think that point of diminishing returns extends with your aerobic endurance. If you do 2h rides in winter, 3h in spring, you’ll need 4hrs to push the envelop in summer, for example.


See, this is an interesting issue I’ve not really considered properly until today (injury risk/ impact of cycling physically).

I come from a trail/ fell running background and felt like it was always a balancing act of not doing too much, too hard… And staying injury free.

Whereas, with cycling, I honestly think I could go out every day and ride Z1/2 for a significant amount of time and not increase risk of injury substantially (apart from maybe issues from poor mechanics/ bike fit issues.

I’d love to see a study in to a large number of people, riding set hours at Z1/2…, Several (set) times per week, increasing until some metric indicated the average maximum effective dose… I know it’s going to differ between trained, untrained, professional… Genetics etc etc, still would be interesting though.

There’s two separate issues potentially being conflated here.

The value of longer and longer endurance rides (when time is unlimited/available), and whether you need to ride long to participate in long races/the most effective use of training time when it’s limited.

I asked the question in weekly questions to empiricalcycling, his stance was one 4h will be more beneficial than 2x2h rides. As this was instagram there was no place to more scientific explanation. My personal experience when it comes to how I feel on the bike was similar.


Back to your maximum effective dose question… This podcast:

has an interesting discussion on ‘optimum’ training stress/load in terms of kJ burned based on your VO2max. Some of that discussion starts around 16 minutes into the podcast. Here are my (incomplete) notes from the podcast:

the model is based on some assumptions, but there are people trying to answer questions like this.


For kcal expenditure it is ~2.5. (of course that number is laden with MANY assumptions). Or maybe as much as 3 or 3.5 for competent/aero cyclists who are poor runners. 2.5 is probably a good starting estimate in most people’s cases.

For orthopedic risk / injury tradeoffs weighed with benefit of training stimulus, I don’t think the numbers get quite that large. I’d currently hazard a guess it’s more like 2-2.5x the duration, roughly.


Can I ask a question on this as currently mid-fifties.

How did you feel after the one hard 5+ hour ride per month?

I’m going to re-start my LV plan as soon as the kids are back at school which is in just over a weeks time. In the past doing the LV plan and smashing out a long ride from time to time used to make me hurt for the rest of the day and well into the next. Did you swap out a workout for the longer ride?

Did you feel smashed too or is my recovery perhaps sub-par (which i think it may well be). Sorry to derail thread too but I’m looking at a 100plus mile ride later in October so will need to get some longer rides in to support that…

Interesting. I have heard from my different coaches for the all years that the threshold for productive workout is ~4hrs. Even when I was preparing for 100-150 miles gravel races have done only a few longer (5-6hrs) rides and not every week. 1-2 rides per block (4-5weeks). I have never ridden anything about that from reliable sources I just trusted my trainers. Last year I have done a lot of longer rides (pandemic==remote work==more time) and I know that this approach is not for me. I felt pretty tired, I wasn’t able to do the proper intensity sessions during the week. But it could be only my body or not optimal plan as all. But about pros from strava. I think they don’t reveal all training schedule on strava. I’m following, for example, Michał Kwiatkowski. There is a lot of 3-4hrs training rides but 6hrs not so often. So I would like to see, read sth reliable about the point.

Personally, it has almost zero effect on me….and I do at least a 4+ Hour hard group ride every Saturday, occasionally stretching that out to a century. Then do a 2-3 hour ride on Sunday.

But as noted, I am a volume-responder and I have built my way up to that much volume. If you are not currently doing rides that long, I would definitely recommend starting at one / month and then slowly adding time to the same ride on that day of the week. So if you do a 5+ hour ride on the first Sat of the month, then maybe do 3 hours for the next 3 weeks but over time work those rides up to 3.5, 4 and eventually matching the first Sat ride of the month ( if you want to do that kind of volume, that is).

Nothing wrong with just doing it once a month, either!!