Z2 rides, how much intensity and for how long, is too much?

Ok folks, something I’ve been thinking a lot about as it warms up and I can take to the road again a lot more frequently hopefully beginning over the next two weeks.

When I go for a z2 ride outside at one point does the ride cease to be a productive z2 ride and it becomes one of those junk mile rides?

Here’s some data from my most recent outdoor ride. This ride was just to get outside since it was actually warm enough to enjoy it. I figured I’d just basically do a Z2 ride for about 50 miles.

Here’s the data from Strava:
50.15 miles
2hr 43min
Z1 23 min
Z2 1hr 35min
Z3 32 min
Z4 6min
Z5,6,7 total 9min

My area has a lot of small hills that take anywhere from 10 seconds to get up to approx 1 minute and they’re relatively steep so go up them at a true Z1 or Z2 power level could add to those times pretty significantly.

As I increase my distance outside I want to try and be productive unlike last year. So is there anything a I can or should be doing on these rides? My FTP is 320ish watts so perhaps trying to cap hill climbs at about FTP or maybe high end tempo is ok? I don’t really know, I also know that if I go out and ride 80 miles just by default I’ll probably spend 50-60min in Z3+ even on a Z2 ride by virtue of the hills.

I’m considering registration for the Tulsa Tough ACE peloton which is 105 - 110 miles at approx 21.5 to 22mph so it’s important that I get training right in the coming months if I’m going to have any shot at doing that. I need to start increasing distance and getting the base down solid.

To a certain extent, the longer the ride, the less it matters as there’s plenty of time to settle back in zone again.

For me though, there’s a certain pleasure in being super disciplined with my intensity. Backing off and off and off until you eventually find the gear that enables you to climb in Z2 still.

The flip side is getting to ride super fast down the hills as you keep the power going. That can sometimes be more of a limiter than the climbs!
I’ll even sometimes tailor the bike (XC, gravel or road) depending on what gearing I think will be the limiter to my steady Z2.

If you try using bestbikesplit, you might be surprised at how low the optimum power up the climbs is anyhow.

Whoa, that’s just a ride, not a Z2 ride. Try and cap it in Z2 or low Z3 tops.


Of the many useful things I learned doing structured group rides last year, the most impactful was this: “easy up, hard down”. That approach to climbs and descents is essential for a tight paceline which depends on steady effort from the group to hang together, but the idea has stuck with me in solo efforts too.

I get the inclination to attack the hills – I have it myself. But if you’re going for Z2, stick with Z2! If going slow up hills takes too much time, then change up your route so you hit the overall time you’re shooting for. If going slow up hills offends your ego, learn to bury it.


To be sure this is a challenge and if the descent isn’t suitable you have to accept you’re going to drop in Z1. The discipline is not to try and ramp up the effort once it flattens or heads up again to hit a Z2 average. Don’t go above Z2, leave the ego at home.


It’s not so much about ego, I’m happy to trundle along at z2. Problem is the flat routes are all in town which involve stop lights and lots of traffic. The hilly routes have wayyyyyy less cars. But as mentioned some of those hills are quite steep. I’ll hit the route early next week and see if it’s possible to do z2 up some of those hills. I know I can do small ring and do them at 300 watts but I’m not sure how many gears if any I had left on a few of the steep hills.

Fair enough. Yeah I’d try for “spin to win” style and see what that gets you. If you still run out of gears… it may be that you have to make some compromises, either finding a route more suitable to Z2 or live with the extra fatigue occasional pushes into Z3 brings.

On my long endurance rides, I’m usually targeting upper z2, so a bunch of overlap into lower z3 happens. Even on hilly sections, I do everything I can to stay out of z4. One of my favorite endurance routes is about 100 miles and 6k of climbing. As others have mentioned, I basically make it a game staying under z4 (maybe a couple minutes on a 5 hour ride).

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Undulating, it is neither hilly nor flat. But whether you can stay in zone is more about how steep stuff is and for how long.

Going to depend on the person. If it’s a “Z2” Ride, you should do your best to keep the entire thing steady pedaling in Z2. If it impacts your ability to do your intensity workouts it was too much.

I haven’t been doing a lot of long rides, and just did 4 hours at 65% FTP on the trainer. Heart rate stayed fine and below target, but in retrospect it was too much for me and did an intensity workout after a rest day and wasn’t recovered 100% - still felt it and did ok, but wasn’t able to crush it. Next time for me I’ll dial it back to 60%, maybe 55% for that duration until I build up more endurance. (I’m 295W FTP, so a little less than you)

Outdoor rides with hills and adding zones above Z2 will just make it harder, but overall that depends on what other workouts you’re doing during the week and how much volume/intensity you can handle.


Agreed that there are some places where you just can’t get up a hill without exceeding Z3, but gearing and discipline go a long way. My gravel bike (my primary training bike) often has a 10/50 on the back and I can climb some steep stuff without sniffing Z4. I also do a good bit of road training on my XC MTB, so again plenty of gearing to keep the power in check. I live west of Austin (in the “hill country” as they call it) so lots of steep punchy climbing and it’s always a challenge to keep zone discipline (harder going down than up).