Z2 riding outside with steeper but short hills

Alright guys now that it’s warmer and I can be outside riding I’m trying to get a lot more real riding done vs the hot/stuffy/boring indoor riding.
Riding Z2 outside isn’t the easiest around here because we have hills. None of the hills are big, none of them will be 5 or 10 or 20 minutes of climbing but a whole bunch of them require…yes I mean require tipping into tempo, sweet spot or threshold to get up them with anything resembling traditional road bike gearing.
I’m 83kg and my FTP is around 310w right now, I’ll probably be back to the mid 300s in a couple months, but it doesn’t matter much as some of these hills are pretty steep and require 300ish watts to get up. Good news is that’s a fairly short period of time, 20, 30, 45 seconds for example.
My question is at what point does it defeat the purpose of Z2 riding? I’m doing 50 miles tomorrow and 80 Saturday, goal is to stay as close to Z2 as possible for the entire ride.
I’ve included a picture of elevation changes over a 65 mile ride. This particular ride had about 3800 feet of climb. Not a ton of climb but again it’s the nature of the climbing that makes it tough to stay Z2.

At some point I will pickup a gravel bike and will use that for Z2 training but for budgeting reasons thats a season away I’d guess.

Riding in Z2 is mostly about route choice and gearing: even at higher wattages, you will either need very easy gearing (perhaps even mountain bike gearing) to stay in Z2. Or you avoid such temptations altogether.

Short, steep hills are the opposite of what you should aim for. You are permanently tempted to go above threshold. Because it’d feel better. And you can. And it’d feel nicer.

So I would avoid such routes if you can. 1,000+ m of climbing on a 100 km loop is just too much to stay in Z2.


Or just get add an e-bike to one’s collection. :grinning:

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Who am I to disagree with someone getting another bike! :wink:

Unfortunately I have no other options that are reasonable. I either ride areas with some hills or I ride in the middle town which is traffic and stoplights or I drive 30-45 mins one way to flat area.

I don’t know where you live, but if you cannot adjust your route in any way, you must adjust your gearing — or ride indoors.

However, typically, you should be able to piece together some flat bits into a loop and then repeat that. Are you sure you have zero options available?

Gearing and discipline are your friends. I live in a pretty hilly area and there are some steep pitches that can’t be avoided when I’m riding from the house regardless of route. For Z2 ride, I’ll train on my my MTB or my Gravel bike, which both have low gearing that get me up most pitches while staying in Z2. In my experience, a lot of this is zone discipline. Set a power alarm. Keep “time in zone” fields up on your Garmin display. It’s not going to ruin your entire training ride if you jump out of Z2 for a moment, but I still make it a game to keep as much time in zone as possible.

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Yea I’m sure. We love living here because of the hills it’s not just flat like the other side of the metro. But like I said that’s 40 mins.

I could pop in a new cassette when this one is worn out though. That’s an easy swap.
I’m doing a flatter route tomorrow or at least less steep hills. I’ll report back here how that goes tomorrow.

I wouldn’t worry to much about dipping into Tempo from time to time that really shouldn’t hurt you to much, but prolonged efforts in that range and above may just add to much fatigue and make recovery hard, Also if you have to coast on all the Downhills that is something I would be more worried about, since that can add up to a significant amount of time.


Ha! I would love an e-bike to make for some easier rides. But I’ve gotten my bike count down from 5 to 2 and my wife is pleased with that.

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Some z2 rides in the TR database have short sprints at say 180% (eg Bays which has 4x20s sprints) so I dont think straying to threshold a couple times will do too much harm if its not long or frequent. If it is your gearing might need looked at to minimise it.


Get compact chainrings and 11-34 in the back :slight_smile: Similar weight and FTP and I can keep Z2 on Gran Canaria, Mallorca etc.

It’s just a matter of being strict about lowering speed, cadence etc to keep within power.

Its doable.

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This is a helpful tip. My gravel bike doesn’t quite have the gearing for me to not push above Z2 for some hills. But MTB does and it’s comfier.

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We tend to WAY overthink the Z2 thing. You don’t lose Z2 adaptations if you have to get over a few hills on your ride.

But it does sound like you need to investigate ways to get easier gearing for your area.

ETA - you may have a larger issue on the descents. Keeping decent power on descents usually ends up with way more speed than most of us are used to. Z2 rides usually mean climbing really slow but descending pretty damn fast.


This is very good advice. I’ve been doing that quite a bit in the last few months. Especially when it is cold out, going slower (at the same effort) is actually an advantage.

Yes, that helps. Wahoo does have a feature like that, too. I prefer to have the visual graph on my Wahoo (not sure if Garmin has something similar, but probably).

What’s your gearing, and how steep are the hills?

Your threshold is at 3.7 w/kg. Mine is 3.0. I have a 34/28 lowest gear, and I can get up 8-9% hills without going above threshold. I just stand in my lowest gear when it gets that steep. I wouldn’t worry about short amounts of time in tempo or threshold. I don’t think it defeats the purpose of Z2 riding.

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I live in Wimberley, hill country. The hills are usually short and steep. No way I can do a proper Z2 ride without driving 30 min or going back and forth a million times on 1 flat spot. I just go as easy as I can on the uphills. If I average Z2 for 3 to 4 hours I call it good enough. I know it’s not what they say is proper but it is what it is.
If I need more steady base I will do more stuff inside.

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Ok so this morning is about the flatest route I have. 50 miles and 2100 ft of climb. It did go better than expected, yes some of the hills require threshold work or sweet spot work but very short periods of time. Looked like 10-15 seconds so not enough to really bump HR much. The worst hills resulted in about 45 consecutive seconds above tempo and probably a minute or so above Z2.


Don’t even worry about this. There is no such thing as a “proper” Z2 ride. You can’t “ruin” a ride. The point of a Z2 ride is aerobic conditioning. Tempo, SS, and threshold are also aerobic. Just take it easy on the hills and you’ll be 100% fine.


I live in a similar type region with short steep climbs and will get well out of z2 but keep my overall np in z2.

I just work on the basis that perfect is the enemy of good so as long as it’s pretty much z2 it’s better than sitting on the pc playing War Thunder.