Trouble judging RPE on outside ride

I am only a week into my first training plan on TR so very new to following a training plan. Today I changed my scheduled ride to an outside ride and since I don’t have a power meter on my bike I switched to RPE.

I am not exactly how to word this so it makes sense. I completely understand RPE is personal to how you feel but is there a general rule to follow. For example can you use heat rate zones to help figure out RPE? I am a former runner so I understand HRZ better than power zones.

My ride today was 4x15 at a RPE of 7 with rests at 4 RPE. To my very untrained mind I would think 1-5 RPE feels like HR Zone 1, easy conversational pace. 6-7 RPE borderline HR zone 2. 8 RPE equal to HRZ 3, 9 RPE would be Zone 4, and 10 full gas at max HR.

How do you judge RPE?

I base mine off Coggan’s table of zones/RPE/descriptions here:

Thank you, that is a great read. It still leaves me confused. In the workout today my 15 minute blocks were supposed around 90% of my FTP or a 7 RPE when set to RPE. On that scale you shared a 7 should be very strong effort. That was what was confusing me on my ride. I guess a good way of putting it, at your FTP what should your RPE be?

1 Like

On that scale 90% FTP is usually a 5 for me.

FWIW it has taken me a long time to calibrate RPE to the 1 to 10 scale.

Was the 4x15 intended to be ridden at as high an average level of exertion as possible? If so, ride it to that prescription. After a while, you’ll know how hard you can ride for various interval durations.

Last week, I rode a section of trail for a vo2 max workout. Rode it twice, based on feel. My time for both reps was 8:22. I wasn’t trying hard to match my time, or looking at anything, I was just riding at a pace I felt I could just about sustain. Trust your own intuition. Even if you’re off by a bit, it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of training zones.

I simply use my personal HR zones if I don’t have power.

Your post implies that you do have a smart bike or some form of power on your indoor rides? In which case the simple answer is to use your indoor rides to calibrate your RPE. I.e. Once you’ve done a few Sweetspot sessions indoors you’ll have a pretty good handle on what RPE is like for that intensity and can apply it outdoors. If you have heart rate as well then even better as you’ll get an idea of what your HR range typically is for those efforts.

Will take time to dial it in but if you’re just starting out on structured training then you don’t need to overthink it - you’re likely to make decent gains just from doing any kind of structured riding, so don’t worry too much about whether your 7 is actually a 6 or an 8!

1 Like

Determine your cycling HR zones and use those outside for threshold and below.

Great words of advice. Thank you

Here is an example of a 90% indoor TrainerRoad workout, its the first 10 minutes of a 12 min interval. This was in my garage during the summer, and showing heart rate only. This is the 3rd interval which starts 44 minutes into the workout:

HR average = 151bpm
HR after 1 minute = about 145bpm
HR max = 155bpm

And here is an outside workout from last week, at same 91% FTP as the inside workout and around the same temperature (mid 80s). It starts about the same time into the workout, about 44 minutes:

HR average = 150bpm
HR after 1 minute = about 145bpm
HR max = 155bpm

This is pretty consistent behavior, and why I confidently use both Power and HR for outside workouts. My RPE is all over the place, its hard for me to use RPE so I do the beginning of the interval off how my legs feel and then refer to my HR after a minute. I can pull up outdoor sweet spot workouts from my first season that were done without power, and the HR looks similar except when I clearly started out too hot and HR shot up immediately.

Now if your HR is truly inconsistent from workout to workout, that sounds like an issue with weak aerobic base and I can understand not trying to use HR.

Hope that helps, and I wanted to provide some examples where I’ve had a good warmup and some prior intervals, then show that within 1 minute my HR is around 145bpm and end up around 155bpm for an average HR of about 150bpm. That’s pretty consistent behavior both on the trainer and outside for me, over the last 5 years of having a power meter.