Non-Time Crunched Base Training

Realize we have a bunch of “endurance” and “Zone 2” type threads, but can’t recall if this particular question has come up, or if there is even a good answer for it.

Much of what we discuss on the TR Forum, and many of the plans, are geared toward riders with time restrictions, and who need to be on a 7 day schedule to fit with a work week and family responsibilities. While that is important, not all of us have those restrictions.

I’ve been focused on building “base”, or aerobic fitness, for the last few months and heading into winter. Basically, I have been riding 1-3 hours a day, throwing in some hard days averaging about once or twice a week. I’m happy riding, but thinking of taking it up a notch next year and adding some structure and seeing what best practices might suggest.

I’m particularly curious if there is any decent research, or experiments, exploring how one might best use say 14-20 hours a week of riding time? Specifically, is there a benefit to fewer longer rides with less recovery vs longer rides with more recovery in between? I’ll use a 7 day week because we are used to discussing that type of programming. But am interested in data supporting other patterns.

For example what would be better:

7 rides at 2 hours per ride (very doable at endurance pacing and no need for a recovery day). 14 hours saddle time.

5 rides at 3 hours a day with 2 recovery days. 15 hours saddle time.

4 rides of 4 hours with a recovery day between each ride. 16 hours saddle time.

e.g. is there some “magic” that happens after a certain amount of time in saddle per ride that makes it worth riding longer and less frequently? And is there actual data to support that vs handwaving and people saying “mitochondria” :slight_smile:

Other patterns like 3-3-3-recovery, 4-4-recovery, etc are doable as well. I’d also think to throw in an intensity day every 7-10 rides for good measure.

Am guessing there is no strong data sets for this but what the heck, typing is free.

Might make a good deep dive for @chad

@mcneese.chad - Since you have the whole forum memorized, feel free to merge this somewhere if appropriate.


Friels suggested formats are a good starting point :+1:t2:


currently I am doing the following pattern on weekdays
2hr sweet spot, 2.5hrs endurance, 2hr sweet spot, 1.5hrs endurance, weekend z2

And on weekends, ramping up each week, last week 2x3hr, this week 2x3.5, next 2x4hrs so it’ll be 14-16hrs. Whether I’d be better served just doing a 4hr ride each weekend and distributing time differently is up in the air, but I like my approach for myself

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This is the least served part of the market. You are split between the high octane, time is no object group and the high budget, time is no group. Knowledge and wisdom trickle down from pros and most services and free talk geared for paying no-timer customers.
People with 15+ hours and no firepower to go pro are broke and/or weird.
Any advise you will find will be half-assed. Like Friels useless chart above. Even he gave up on this lot.

No he didn’t. It’s in his latest book. And a TSS version.


Questions like these I believe are best answered by experienced coaches, some of them have some good longitudinal data.

Ride your bike a lot? One of many that starts with that position:

FWIW lately I’ve been reading Skiba’s latest book, and I like the high-level periodization rules he spelled out on this podcast’s show notes:

  • general to specific
  • go short and fast, before going long and fast

Probably because I like epic long rides and events. He also shares some thoughts on polarized training.

Buy Skiba’s latest book. Great book.

Somewhere on a recent FasCat podcast my coach talks about doing some specialized/event-specific training year round. Or something like that. Consistency is huge for him, I’m still capable of doing off-3days-off-2days and consistency has produced far better results than cranking up hours/strain on fewer days a week. My recovery at my age/vo2max is maxed out on targeting 8-12 hours/week.

Without pulling it off the shelf, I believe the CTS Time Crunched Cyclist book draws the line around 12 hours/week. Something like if you can do 12-20 hours/week, then you can go with a more traditional training model - profile strengths/weakenesses, lots of volume, focus on weaknesses during off-season, and sprinkle in some intensity. :man_shrugging:

Random thoughts, FWIW.


Traditional Base High Volume plan in TR doesn’t go that high, but maybe you could follow that plan and then add time on to the end of each ride to get to your desired time in the saddle per week? At least then, you’d have structure plus volume…? :man_shrugging:

Thanks for the suggestion. But for clarification, that isn’t the question I’m asking. No offense and I’ll try to clarify.

Anyone can program X,Y,Z number of hours and fill up time. But most things physiological follow a curve. We’d like to know the apex of that curve where we maximize adaptations. Not the minimal effective dose, but the best dose. If we know that, then we can start programming around maximal results, best programming, and not other variables like minimal dose and time available.

What I’m asking is if there is any data (actual science or experiments, not anecdote or bro-science) looking at the effects of longer rides.

For example: does a 5 hour ride create adaptations that a 2 hour ride does not. Physiologically. If yes, then it might be worth programming longer rides with higher frequency at certain times during a training program.

TR, and many others in this space, make claims of “brining science to training”. I’m simply asking if there is science around the particular question of longer bouts of endurance exercise. I am not aware of any studies of this type, but am not expert in all arenas so may have missed something and am polling the crowd.

Am expecting the answer to be: We really have no idea what happens after 1-2 hours physiologically, and don’t really know if its good or bad in terms of becoming a faster bike rider. It is a hard question to answer for a number of reasons. But this is the kind of thing the Podcast Deep Dives used to discuss.

Put another way, often the first question is not: “what is the best way to get from point A to B”, but rather: “How much time do you have”? Time Restricted training has had tons of thought and attention. Which makes sense as TIME is the number of limiter for most people. But not everyone who wants to be as fast as they can be has time limits.

@WindWarrior Thanks for typing. I’m specifically not asking for coach input here, but rather if there is any actual science on the topic. Again, I suspect the answer is no and that in practice, the coaches will have anecdotal experience and probably are light years ahead of “the science”. But asking anyway.

My real goal is to get @chad and @Jonathan to do a deep dive on this for the podcast. It’s time, pun intended, to give the non-time crunched people some love that is more specific than: “if you have time, just do more zone 2”. That might actually be the answer, but why and what happens?


Your Non-Time restricted friend,



+1 for a deep dive on the benefits of going long.

Pretty sure @brendanhousler has done a video or two on the benefits of The Long Ride. Not sure if he’s aware of any actual studies to show, for instance, that riders who went long were able to recruit, say, 50% more of their fast twitch fibres than the control group.


+1 for Skiba’s book. It’s geared more toward tri and to an extent running than cycling alone, but the principles are broadly applicable, well backed, and delivered so accessibly. It’s both a great read and a great reference I return to. Probably my single favorite training resource.



What really got me thinking about this was the Ronnestadt paper we were discussing in a couple other threads. It is an N=1 study, probably flawed. But, what they were doing was periodizing over a long period. Not rocket science but interesting and not what we’d see for typical programming. One of the blocks was two weeks of very long low intensity. 20+ hours in two week micro-blocks. Those blocks were typically followed by 4 higher intensity weeks and less total time.

If we take “Time Available” away as a limiting variable, do we see better results? Probably and the programming is approachable. But wondering if anyone knows what actually happens during those long rides, or heavy time weeks, which is driving adaptation, physiologic change, and ultimately performance.

Also - I think I will indeed get Skiba’s new book. It comes up semi-frequently and likely worth having on the coffee table.

The thing I need to know is … if I’m going to do 4 hour indoor rides … it had better ****** work! :grin:


Great topic. It sometimes feels like if you’re not time crunched or not in need to lose fat 90% of the training talk is irrelevant to you.

Last base season I did 16-21 hours per week. This base season I’ve been thinking of increasing my long rides.

What I’ve understood one of the benefits is tiring out your slow twitch fibers and making the fast twitch ones do endurance work or maybe even convert them to slow twitch.


I would LOVE for them to do a deep dive on how they might program a plan for someone that isn’t time restricted as well! Starting in January I’ll have a wide open schedule and would love to hear what would be best going forward.


Gotcha. Yes, I’ve heard it said many times that those longer rides beget deeper adaptations. There must be studies out there that show this and if it’s NOT the best way, I think we’d see pro cyclists training differently.

But I agree… I think a deep dive on this would be super helpful to actually bring the science into it.

I don’t recall the source but I’m pretty sure I’ve watched a doc or short video with a WT pro coach saying, “at an elite level 4 hours aerobic is necessary to improve the cardio” and that they tend not to go over 4 too much because of the cost to benefit not being there. So if you had 15 hours it might make sense to do two 4hour sessions, a 3 hours, then fill out the week with recovery.

The key here tho is that’s when you’re “at an elite level”. That’s why the trickle down stuff from the pros just doesn’t make much sense. If you can get large gains from 8-10hpw, it doesn’t make much sense to do 15-20hpw just because you can. The benefit likely won’t equal the cost. Also, pros who train 20hpw also are preparing for 5 hour races or week long stage races. So they literally are training to race (specificity), not just trying to boost ftp or whatever.

Seems WAY over complicated to me.

If you want to fit higher hours in, some of your rides are going to have to be long. Beyond 5h there’s going to be a greater recovery cost. (Lots of pros never or rarely go over 5h)
So it’s kind of self limiting. Go 6+ today and you may only manage 2 tomorrow.

In the text that accompanies Friel’s table, he talks about how you are almost certainly going to need to be flexible anyway.
Until you get into it- you won’t know how your body responds and if you can absorb back to back to back long days or not.

That was the reason Nils Van Der Pol chose 5 on/ 2 off in his ‘manifesto’ as the promise of two days off the bike helped him cope mentally with the massive workload when it was starting to bite. And he said he occasionally took Monday as extra recovery too.

I don’t think science can provide anything specific enough to answer such an individualised equation.

I believe what you’re looking for can be found in Kollie Moore’s podcasts, one example being given above. He speaks quite a bit to the details (maybe too much?) of what happens physiologically with longer rides and increased volume. I like the TR podcast but this really just isn’t the lane they operate in. The podcast is a marketing tool and this type of training is not in the bell curve of what they offer.

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Which of Joe’s books is that in?


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I get that, but if I were them I’d not want to be known as The Sweetspot Guys. Fashions come and go.