New rider and what I need to know about max heart rate

Forgive me if I am treading over paths that have been well trod. I’ve only been cycling a year, and this has been my biggest question since I started. I’ve tried to go back and listen to a lot of the podcasts that covered heart rate, and still really haven’t heard the answers I’m lookin for. In particular, I’m trying to find info for the beginner or low fitness folks.

So, my question is about max heart rate. That number based on what the CDC put forth of 220 - age = Max BPM. I’m 47. So based on this formula mine is 172.

When I ride outdoors for an hour or two (15-17 mph) I find that my heart rate stays in Anaerobic for upwards of 70% - 80% of the ride. My riding partner looks at this with a mixture of concern and awe that I stay that high that long. I’m tired when I finish these rides, but I’m not like dying tired. I don’t feel completely gassed. When I ride I’ve noticed my max hr where I bail or hit the wall is closer to 185-190 bpm. I’ve hit this on a big climb or a dead sprint, and been completely gassed.

I guess my question is; is this a problem? Is that number (172) a hardline set in stone? Am I pushing to hard? Is this normal? Is this dangerous? Is there a method of training I need to look at to start riding in Threshold or Tempo longer? Is this just a product of not being in great aerobic shape, and how do I improve that?

Some basic info to help with this.
I started cycling last spring to lose weight and get into shape. I’ve quickly become obsessed. I weighed 295lbs April 1, 2022. Today I weigh 224lbs. I operate on about 1400 calories a day. I’ve had blood work and dye tests and ekgs and Docs all agree that my heart and lungs are all in remarkably good shape. I rode 1300 miles last year. So far this year I’ve rode about 600 miles (zwift trainer). My FTP on swift is 179.

Like I said. I feel fine after these rides, but I’m also 47-years-old and I am not trying to go out like Mr. Big. I want to keep losing weight. I want to get fast and beat pr’s. Ride with some of the more advanced riders in my club. But If this is an issue where I need to pump the breaks, I’m all ears.

Any thoughts or info is greatly appreciated.


Forget that formula (220-age), whilst we are all different, I’m 47 too and use 197bpm; my mate the same age is over 200bpm regularly. Whilst I saw 205bpm last year, I’m putting it down as interreference as 95-98% of 197bpm seems far more regular and sustainable and I’ve held 93%MHR (183bpm) for an hour. From the numbers you are putting out, it sounds like the formula is no good for you too and you should reset thing to a more accurate MHR, to guide you to your correct sustainable zones. Congrats on the weight loss btw :clap:

Edit: you’ll see its a common question Search results for ‘220-age’ - TrainerRoad


What you need to know is that max heart rate is individual and a formula involving your age won’t tell you what it is. It’s also sport dependant for instance you may be able to achieve a higher max heart rate running or rowing than cycling.

There are field tests or tests you can do on a turbo to determine your max heart rate on the bike. Only to be undertaken if you’re in good health with no heart issues.

What you could use for now is your observed max heart rate. Set that on your GPS or Garmin Connect , Wahoo whatever you are using. Then your zones will be based on that till a higher figure is observed or you do a max HR test.


Well…it is 100% correct but it’s a linear regression of a very diffuse data set. So at a given age, let’s say 47, the sample includes people with a max HR of 140 and people with a max HR of 200…but the best fit linear regression of the entire population works out to about that 220 - age number.

Sounds pretty normal. Nothing to be concerned about. Not dangerous.

Great job! That’s awesome.

You could enjoy rides a lot more and still lose weight if you consumed >2000 cals/day. But I’ll leave it up to you.


I just wanted to make a stand alone post to explicitly congratulate you on this accomplishment. Fantastic.


Using that formula to determine max hr is only a way to have your zones all screwed up. You could ride “above anaerobic” for so long because you weren’t anaerobic.

Do a lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) test to determine that point where you go from z4 to z5. The LTHR is roughly the HR equivalent of what the FTP is to power. To me, the LTHR is the key data point if you’re not using power. Max hr might help you gauge where you want to be doing VO2 max work, but that’s about the only use I have for it.

1 Like

As a first approximation, I’d use 190bpm as HRmax on the bike.

HR zones are individual, and different HR systems will give different results.

Saying “heart rate stays in Anaerobic” is ambiguous and hard to comment on without more specifics.

Good job on the weight loss! Someone mentioned above on the food intake, I’ll add my feedback that 1400 calories a day seems overly aggressive and you are not setting yourself up for overall success.

1 Like

Thanks everyone for the responses and the links to more information. This has been very useful, and now I am really looking forward to getting my zones corrected and logging more miles.


Holy!. I need 2700 calories + eating the calories in the bike/ski, to not go below my self imposed limit of 147sh

Most days I eat between 3000-4000 cals.

I’m 58, 5’8. Lean, somewhat muscular. I don’t want to fully optimize for cycling. Been a long line weight lifter. Muscle as as much value to me as threshold watts.


I was pretty significantly overweight, so I have been limiting my calorie intake to help the process of cutting fat/weight. I’m still pretty rotund at 5’7 224lbs. But I do not want to live like this the rest of my life. When people ask me my goals, I tell them I want to get to a weight that I’m comfortable with, where I HAVE to eat 2500 + calories a day to support my cycling addiction. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Go for it man!. Seems like you have room to be agressive. :muscle:t3::muscle:t3::muscle:t3:

1 Like

Thank you guys so much. I took the the advice and information you gave me and put it to work. Just did the TT test to get an accurate read on my zones and my FTP jumped 20 points from 179 to 198. I now feel like I have a better understanding of where I am on the bike. What my real limits are, and how I need to proceed with my training. Thank you so much for your time and information.