Cycling Tempo rides | Uphill Athlete

Cycling Tempo rides

  • Creator
  • #53229

    Hi Guys,

    Due to Covid I, like a lot of others, have been unable to get to the mountains for many months now, plus the gyms have been closed, so I dusted off the road bike at start of year and been using that for most of my exercise/training. It’s gone well and in fact feel my AeT is as high as it’s ever been – will be interesting to do a treadmill HR drift test when gyms finally reopen. I started adding some intensity six weeks ago starting with a weekly tempo ride, and have now added a session of intervals around Lactate Threshold, and these are now definitely helping with power on hills and speed.

    Now to question. Almost irrespective of what training protocol is followed, one of the few constants of endurance training is the 80:20 rule – 80% of volume at low intensity, 20% at high intensity. I’ve pretty much stuck to that since I started with UA, but with my current focus having moved from mountaineering to road cycling I’m not sure where to classify the classic cycling “tempo” sessions which for me sit between AeT and LT. All cycling training plans advocate tempo rides but I can’t find where to log them in the 80:20 split. If I include as low intensity then I’m outlooking around 90:10 for the year, if I include in high intensity then I’m around 70:30. It’s all working well in both endurance and speed so maybe I’m worrying about nothing, but would appreciate a more knowledgeable opinion.

    FYI, my AeT I estimate to now be about 125, LT around 152. Gap is big, but as Scott said some time ago I may need to accept the low AeT is part of being 65 years young 🙂


  • Participant
    AshRick on #53238

    Longtime cyclist here…

    Cyclists can handle tempo rides better than runners. For a runner, the pounding and fatigue you endure has a high cost versus running easier, and saving hard days for going properly hard.

    Cyclists call these “sweet spot” rides. Don’t do them all the time, but they can be valuable, particularly for a time-constrained athlete. If you have 90 minutes once or twice a week — a Z3/sweet spot ride can be great.

    derekosborne22 on #53268

    Thanks AshRick ….. agree re their usefulness and already being done once a week, and quiet often drifting into tempo during Sunday rides with the boys. Doesn’t really answer my question however …. is a tempo/Z3 ride classified as “low” or “high” intensity when it comes to the sacred annual 80:20 rule.


    AshRick on #53279

    My view…Z3 rides are not “endurance/EZ” rides. They fall into the “harder” category. (This is particularly true when translating to running.)

    Yes, the outcome is that the 80/20 mix gets skewed toward 50/50. But…that is again the reinforcement of the idea that there is no shortcut. While the time-constrained athlete might need to do 50/50 to at least get some weekly stimulus, there is no substitute for volume, and volume at easier paces/efforts.

    Someone with only 3 hours a week to train should go out on tempo rides, yes. Plenty of people are limited to their Saturday group rides, which are almost always a tempo average. But they will hit a ceiling that can only be overcome with volume and shift toward 80/20.

    Anonymous on #55251

    Also, with respect to:

    Almost irrespective of what training protocol is followed, one of the few constants of endurance training is the 80:20 rule – 80% of volume at low intensity, 20% at high intensity.

    …those numbers are based on a “session goal” approach to quantifying training volume. So the goal of the training session determines how the entire workout gets classified regardless of the minute-to-minute content.

    In contrast, when you include the minute-to-minute intensity of high-level endurance programs, the actual time spent above AeT is below 10% of total training time. When the event is ~2h, it falls to ~5%. Prior to Moses Mosop’s 2h03m marathon in 2003, he only spent 3% of total training time above AeT.

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