Why does tempo feel easier then Z2 ride

The past week I’ve been trying tempo rides of about 2 hours each and I could feel my self get better.
The Saturday before I did a 4 hour Z2 ride and the wheels came of at about hour three. That feeling of empty legs and a sore ass. The average was about 190 watts. Today one week later I just rode low to mid tempo for my long ride and did 234 watts for 3 hours easy with a nice little PR hunt at the end.

Why does tempo hurt less then Z2?

I thought that maybe my muscles didn’t get up to the right temp or something.

Doing about 8 hours of tempo and some long group ride is making me fast real quick so I’m gonna keep doing them until base fase is over for me.

Mental - Z2 can be pretty boring.

Fueling - even at Z2, fueling will benefit unless you’re well fat adapted

Pain in the ass - increases with lower power, decreases with higher power

Misc - if this is an isolated incident, could just be random factors like sleep, work stress, general nutrition


I don’t think its a isolated case. Two weeks ago I also did a 4 hours Z2 ride and that hurt like a bitch. Off season hit me like a brick :sob:

There is a reason lots of people end up riding at tempo pace. It’s easy enough to be fun. Where the difference between z2 long rides and z3 rides is when you’re doing them in addition to intervals during a week. You can get away with it for a few weeks maybe even a full block but eventually it catches up to you

I’m not doing intervals plus tempo plus zone two. I’m doing tempo and zone two to build my aerobic base. Resting HR is up a bit after 4 of the 5 week training block and I will take a rest week after. HRV is still good and if that gets to low I do low tempo to high Z2 that day and the next day its back to normal if not a rest day or a recovery ride.

I find on some z2 rides that the power’s low enough that I don’t engage a lot of my leg muscles and that tends to have 2 effects, 1 more pressure on my sitbones because there isn’t as much ‘back pressure’ from the lack of downforce required to turn the pedals, and 2, I rely on just my quads to turn the pedals rather than engaging my glutes and the whole posterior chain.

Focus is really big for these rides, don’t treat them like ‘just a recovery ride’, and try and hit them like any other ride and I think you’ll see benefits.


Agree with @pcort — z2 workouts require focus. It is a time to work on position, technique and pacing while you aren’t hammering.

When the watts are low, it is easy to change position on the bike and not pedal smoothly. This, combined with not fueling sufficiently can make an endurance ride draining.

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I have trouble at low tempo power with aching legs. But when I bring the power up a little bit that goes away. I think it has to do with HR. Once HR actually gets up to a tempo HR I feel fine, but when it stays below LT1, legs feel like ass.

I experience something similar. My take on it is that true Z2 only utilises your slow twitch muscle fibres (Type 1) whereas Tempo utilises both Type 1 and your Type 2a (fast twitch) fibres. so using more muscles equals less fatigue. Disclaimer: I have no actual knowledge of this it’s just a theory.


In any case these tempo rides got my endurance up real quick. 5-6 hour Z2 rides with 200 watt plus average are no problem anymore. Doing 260-280 watts for 3 hours feels rather easy. Got people in the drops crying in the wheel while I’m riding the tops into a headwind.

Tempo rides are supposed to be the “secret weapon” of pro’s and I get why that is now. I’ll keep using them once or twice a week to keep building that endurance. Maybe even get to that dreamy 400 watt ftp peaking this year :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’m doing a ~1 month block of mostly tempo w/ occasional SS…very noticable fitness/power increase vs when I did a block of XHV Z2. As the consensus goes, use the right tool at the right time.

Depends how long the Z2 efforts are. If you do long, steady Z2 rides you will eventually fatigue the slow twitch muscles fibers and begin to recruit the fast twitch ones.

True. When I do a low Z2 ride at between 2.25 hrs and 2.5 it’s as if a switch is thrown and my HR goes up a notch for the same power.

What %of FTP are you guys personally using for z2 vs z3? 65% for z2 and 70%+ for z3 ?

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(55% - 75% FTP)

(76% - 87% FTP)

In short: moderate intensity (tempo) increases catecholamines (adrenaline), which causes a number of physiological changes that promote blood flow to the muscles, contractility of muscles, and promoting metabolic changes.

Additionally, at moderate intensity (tempo) makes muscular recruitment patterns easier. Z2 (low intensity) is not enough to properly activate all of the motor units in your muscle, so you never fully feel like you warm up. Think of it like trying to do squats right now… probably wouldn’t feel comfortable. After a warmup and lifting heavier weights, you usually feel pretty good.

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Very interesting. Where did you hear this? I was under the impression they avoided this grey area. At least the few pro’s I follow in Strava don’t seem to spend much time riding tempo. It’s mainly zone 1/2 with a smattering of threshold and VO2.

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Please check out all the time in tempo presented within the following thread:

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Thanks! Only skimmed through it, but my takeaway is that pro’s aren’t doing tempo rides, but are incorporating some high end tempo, low threshold, aka sweet spot intervals into their endurance rides. Is tgat a fair assessment, or did I miss something by skimming?

Using a 3-zone model, pros definitely include Tempo in their rides; they do not do 100% Tempo workouts.