Cycling: Is basic endurance better controlled by performance?

For some years, more and more mobile power meters have been in use in recreational sports. Trainers and experts assume that training can be more effectively controlled by the measured power than by a heart rate monitor because the pulse is subject to different factors.

Triathletes and cyclists train most of their training in the basic endurance area. In this low-intensity training area, ambitious athletes are trained for 3 to 6 hours in an area known as Basic Endurance Area 1. For years training on the bike was controlled by heart rate monitors. For some years, more and more mobile power meters have been in use in recreational sports. Trainers and experts assume that the training can be more effectively controlled by the measured performance, since the pulse is subject to different factors.

Great article on the topic: Effective cycling training - what you can learn from the professionals

What is the basic endurance area

Basic endurance training is low in intensity. If the training areas are determined by performance diagnostics, there are various ways to define this zone. In spiroergometry, the first fan threshold is the upper limit for the basic endurance range. From this point on, more air is ventilated to make one liter of oxygen available in the body. The result is a pulse range and a power zone, within which the energy is provided in the center of gravity aerobic. In particular, long-term adjustments, such as optimizing the aerobic energy supply, and physiological changes, such as increased capilarisation, are the result of training sessions on the wheel.

Measure power?

Currently, several vendors offer systems that can measure performance. In principle, torques are determined via strain gauges and electrical signals. As a result, cycle computers on the handlebars indicate the performance with which the bicycle is accelerated. Since the training areas are recorded both through the performance that has occurred in the laboratory and via an assigned heart rate, a training zone can be determined on the basis of the current performance.

The heart rate is drifting

If you make a longer bike ride, the heart rate changes due to fatigue. This means that at the end of an exit, you may be driving at the same heart rate at a lower speed. Some training experts argue that, for this reason, endurance training should be better controlled by a power meter. The argument is that 100 watts at the end of a training session are 100 watts. However, this assumption is subject to a serious error of reasoning, because the "pulse drift" is a sign of fatigue. That you drive at the end of a long bike ride so slower than at the beginning, may well wanted out.

Read also our article: Is there an optimal cadence for cycling?

Performance and heart rate are not identical!

One experiment showed the problems between heart rate and performance-based exercise control. In a cyclist, the anaerobic threshold was determined based on a performance diagnosis. In two subsequent series of experiments, the heart rate was once used as a control instrument and once the performance. The goal was to ride on a train as long as possible at the threshold. As a result, heart rate-based travel was twice as long as the performance-based journey. The measured lactate values ​​were also significantly higher following the power control.


The statement that power control during cycling is superior to heart rate control is wrong! It is true that in cycling training no "either - or" exists. Anyone who can afford a power meter should pay attention to both parameters.

Dennis Sandig

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