When is a high max heart rate bad?

I am a 38 year old male. I’ve been cycling semi-seriously for just over 3 years. Not racing, just doing longer rides and enjoying myself.

Over the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot more climbing. Today I was on a ride why l with a hill that ends with 500m at 14%, after about 1.2km at 8.5%. I’m not the best climber, but get stuck in and rarely have to stop these days.

Today I stopped. Legs were hurting but was going okay. I stopped before I noticed my heart rate was 208bpm and I thought it sensible to stop, rather than push to the top.

Before today I’ve had a max HR but 206bpm, but usually the max I hit on a ride is around 195. So I know it’s high for my age. I felt find today, no pain, dizziness or anything like that - just tired by the time I reached the top.

I know everyone is different but just wondering when such a high heart rate is something to be concerned about? I’m currently undergoing investigation with cardiology for a potential genetic condition. When I’ve spoken to consultants and mentioned a high max HR, they haven’t been very concerned. The last guy I spoke to was interested, because over 200 is pretty high - but he didn’t seem worried or tell me to avoid those kinds of moments.

These are rare and I find I hit over 200 on very steep climbs where I’m fighting hard. Only natural I guess.

Anyway. Just thought I’d see what people thought on here because the internet tells me that going over 185bpm is bad for me - and that feels like bs as a generic comment.

As you mentioned in your post, talking with a doctor is best, and sounds like you’re doing that. I’m same age and similar max HR and never had any issues show up because of it. Highest I’ve seen (running) was 206 a year or two ago, and recently ran a ~90min half marathon with an average HR of 183. It might not be normal for everyone, but isn’t that crazy and might be normal for you. I will say it takes a lot of effort to hit my max and isn’t something that happens often, I have to commit to pushing very very very hard for it to happen.

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I could hit 190 in my early 40’s
Now in my 70’s it’s 170 max
I will trade you hearts :wink:


Thanks. This is really helpful to know that there are other people with a similar experience.

But you thought the random online folk would know better?


Channel your username and step back for a moment to reread your post: multiple doctors v. “The Internet.”

… feel better?

Fwiw, I have a competitor (ok, no… she’s totally out of my league, but we did get into a break together once!) whose HR goes above 210. Some people are hummingbirds.


My max isn’t as high as yours, but it’s my max, so I try not to spend very long at that 174 bpm, but I don’t worry about hitting it. I’d feel the same if my max was over 200.

I will also say that I’d ease up on the pedal pressure or change to easier gear, rather than get off and walk, but that’s because experience tells me that my HR tends to jump up when I get off the bike on a hill or to get over a log or water or whatever.

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I think my HR is finally slowing down at 48 years I’m maxing out on rides at 194bpm, the year previous it was 197bpm (ignoring the one off 205bpm which was likely some sort of interference). As you say we are all different @Back2Basics but I’ve known tons of folk, including me, who had a max HR in the region of 200bpm in their late 30s, I wouldn’t really worry myself but if you are concerned go and see your doc.


It’s a good idea to consider what is usual for you and then calibrate against this situation, which seems unusual. Hitting a new max with a very hard effort isn’t necessarily surprising, but it’s worth considering how it looks against your usual setup.

As I started training harder over the past few years I’ve “found” a few extra beats in my max HR, while also generally seeing lower averages on my rides.

As always, talk to a doctor!

I had a single day episode a few years ago where out on a ride my heart rate was spiking up way higher than usual, it was still correlated with effort but just much higher peaks for similar efforts, what might regularly be 150-160bpm was going into 180s, which is getting around my max ranges.

I went home, rested, then organised a cardiac screening with my doctor to make sure there was nothing bad going on. The cardiac doctor said this can be a sign of an underlying infection, virus, illness, significant electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, all sorts

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As other athletes have mentioned, talk to a doctor if you’re concerned!

Otherwise, heart rate is often quite personal and can vary a lot from person to person. Some people have high max HRs, others have low max HRs.

Since you mentioned you felt fine and didn’t experience any pain/dizziness/etc., it sounds “normal” to me. I’ve met plenty of riders who can hit >200 bpm max HR when riding hard, so it might be more common than you think!


Obvious caveat: I’m not a medical doctor, this is not medical advice.

There is a lot of variability amongst people, all you want is sufficient blood flow, some people do that with a lower heart rate at higher stroke volume while people like you do that with a lower stroke volume and higher heart rate. A max heart rate of 200+ bpm is unusual, but by no means alarming in and of itself.

If you believe you have an underlying medical condition, talk to specialists, though (which you are already doing). If they say that this isn’t something to be worried about and you feel fine, I would take that as a data point that there is nothing to worry about.

If you feel fine at that heart rate, you can just continue, you don’t need to stop until your heart rate decreases. Also, unless you have been pushing yourself to the max, your max heart rate might be higher than 206 bpm.

Personally, I have only hit my max heart rate (about 185–186 bpm) in races when I pushed myself really, really hard. I never get close to that in training or even ramp tests.


It probably wasn’t. Anomalous high values are de jure for heart rate monitors.

If you feel like you are dying AND your watch has a big value on it, then you have something to think about.

People seem to think a high heart rate is dangerous in itself, it isn’t. Your heart won’t beat any faster than it can and you will choose to stop working so hard.


The higher your maximum heart rate the better (provided your heart has enough time to fill)