Zone 2 higher RPE than zone 3/4

Is there any reason why i might find riding at zone 2 power / HR much harder in terms of RPE than above? So people i’ve talked to suggest that im quite good at high intensity riding so am essentially running of lactate rather than fat and hence why at high zones more lactate is produced and i feel better and lower RPE.

If so if there a fix? Zone 2 should be the bread and butter but it doesn’t feel the case for me,


I don’t know why, but also often find the sensations at tempo to be more favorable than lower zone 2. Have assumed it’s some sort of neuronal feedback at the different force production levels which affects RPE. Eg it’s probably in my head not my legs.

Perhaps one of the TR or exercise physiology types will have a proper explanation.


How about psychology? Fast is fun.


Fatigue. Or you are riding at too high a power in zone 2. Lots of people ride at the top of the zone and that’s probably a mistake (sometimes good, all the time? Probably not.)


Agreed – It is more fun, and neuronal chemistry rewarding, to do an interval workout or a happy-hard. As opposed to the (arguably) better for you zone 2 ride. Particularly indoors where it’s quite boring to putter along, and outside where you want that tactile response of feeling fast, zipping along, wind in your hair type thing. Heck, that feeling and neuronal positive response is probably why most of us love bikes so much. Take away the fast and I’m annoyed not enthused - LOL

The mental aspects of sport performance is obviously critical. When I say “don’t know why”, was thinking about the specifics of signaling molecules. That’s probably too specific on my part. But might make a good podcast deep dive!


Could be, these rides are outside.

Should get the supersapiens on again as it almost feels like the sensation of lower blood sugar, then when trying harder it goes up. Most likely as higher zones produce an increase in blood sugar.

My power increases when I’m doing intervals downhill, I have to consciously pay attention to not go too far over. My brain is fooled into thinking I’m putting out less power. One reason I say fast if fun.

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Id agree with the above posters, but its also hard to mqke a comparison without knowing what kind of sessions you’re doing. Perceived exertion/difficulty in any zone is going to be dependent on both the intersity and duration, as well as the structure of the entire session with respect to things like rest intervals. In my case, I’d say some short z3/z4 intervals with easy recoveries in between are mentally and physically easier than a steady 4-5 hours at 70% with no break, but extend that out to a longer FTP effort and it quickly becomes a very different story. :joy:

Also curious to know if youre doing all your rides indoors? I know a lot of people struggle with z2 on the trainer in particular, myself included- combination of boredom, discomfort, and less variation in power output. In general I’d say RPE is significantly higher indoors for me, but terrain/weather, riding with friends, and what you’re used to all make a huge difference.

Zone 2 is wiiide. 55-75%. Which part feels bad and at what durations?

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Rides at the moment are all outside. So boredom isn’t a factor. Duration wise it doesn’t seem to matter to much 1h zone 2 feels as hard as 3 hours zone 2 (this is whats in the plan). As soon as i bring the avg, watts up to zone 3 / 4, above 75%, my legs and energy systems seem to wake up and things feel easier.

Give me 4 x 2min at 90-95% over 3-4 hours a zone 2 any day, hahaha

Time? You probably ride much longer in z2 than in z4.

This is probably it.

If you have tested your “FTP” with TrainerRoad, then the zones are just estimates.

If I were to ride outside to my Z2 estimated by TR, I would be riding at the very limit of my Z2 (LT1), which would not only be quite challenging, but also bring in a lot of fatigue compared to riding at a lower level of Z2.

Also, not everyones Z2 is the same, even with the same FTP between two riders. Two riders with 300w FTP, one can have a Z2 limit of 190w, whereas the other one can have 230w as their Z2 “limit”.

Has to be tested to find that :slight_smile:

Either way, if you think threshold intervals are “easier” and you find Z2 that hard, then you are (probably) not riding in Z2, you’re probably overestimating your real Z2, and therefore riding a lot in Z3.

Also, don’t look at average power on your z2 rides, its gonna be low, better to look at NP :slight_smile:

How did you arrive at the power prescription for z2?

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Here is the breakdown from yesterday’s 3hours. So no not more in z2.

You are aware right that this is not an endurance ride?

If I rode similarly, I would agree that intervals are easier, because that’s a pretty tough ride!

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If this is the type of ride you’re talking about, this isn’t an endurance ride in the way everyone thinks you’re talking about.

If this IS what you’re talking about for endurance riding, you need to ride a LOT easier. If this is your normal longer ride, then I go back to my first suggestion: fatigue.

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Here is an example of a proper Z2 ride that I did on Mallorca not too long ago:

HR is a bit on the low side due to fatigue since this was end of week 2, doing around 26hrs per week. Also quite a bit of coasting doing downhill :slight_smile:

After doing these types of rides for a few months, you’ll eventually build a good base and become quite fast when doing these rides!

I totally know what you mean OP!!
Even going out on a recovery ride, I feel awful- “capped” if you like. Z2 also feels ‘tough’ for me and always has. I can do it and have grown to get used to it but it’s just like a background level of discomfort. Like labouring a car in too high a gear.
Yet up things to Tempo and over around 160bpm and I suddenly feel much better.
I’ve noticed that for the past ten years, even before I had a power meter and used to train on HR.
It’s not a fueling thing- it happens whether fasted, starting fasted and then eating or just plain old fully fuelled with max carbs before during and after.

Likewise- I never, ever experience ‘pain’ during high intensity efforts. And I really cannot comprehend that word being used in that fashion in relation to training.
When an effort is tough and I reach exhaustion- I just stop. There’s no pain, no hurt, no sensation that makes me say ouch- I just can’t ‘go’ any longer.

I’ve always assumed the two are related and perhaps a muscle fibre thing? :man_shrugging:t2:
But I’d be out of my depth to explain it further.

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That is not a 3 hour Z2 ride. At most you’d expect to maybe see a few minutes in low Z3 from some hills. But nothing higher intensity. You are looking for 80-90% Z2 plus a smattering of Z1 and Z3 making up the rest.

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Yes i am more than aware this is not an endurance ride. Which goes back to my point of why i find them so hard and staying zone 2 as it feels tough. Compared to this which feels easy.