I often see riders peek at their wrists to check on their heart rate.  It’s important to realize heart rate is a reaction to the work being done, not necessarily a reflection of how much work you are doing.  The more fit you are, the lower your heart rate. Too many people associate breathing hard with working hard . . . NOT SO!

[Check out the prior post on Functional Threshold Power (FTP) . . . the 20-minute test to calculate power zones . . . heart rate tracking is considered the second best way to monitor effort . . . Watts or power tell a truer story than HR]

In order for heart rate data to be meaningful, you first need to know your maximum heart rate, MAX HR, the highest number of times your heart can safely beat in one minute helps calculate your heart rate zones.  

Heart rate zones help you approximate effort.  Cuz when the instructor says: “This should feel like a 7 out of 10” is really vague.  Spinning.com provides a chart based on heart rate and age.

Calculating  Max Heart Rate

I kinda skipped the part about needing a heart rate monitor . . . Wahoo has a fantastic device (check out the Tickr X -- it even tracks cadence!) and many fitness trackers monitor heart rate.  Some models even connect to mobile apps (iOS, Android).  If you aren’t training with heart rate, it’s mostly a guessing game.

To find your max heart rate [DO NOT USE 220 - AGE . . . it’s severely outdated] , jump on the bike and start with a ten-minute warm-up. Next, every 30 seconds, increase your output by 15 watts (or 1 mph of speed).  Your max heart rate is the last 30 seconds of work before your watts (or speed) decrease. Take note of this number, and use it to create your heart rate training zones


Googling “heart rate zone calculator” and you’ll find a bunch of options.  Choose one and be consistent. I favor sites which use MAX HR and age to determine ones.  The below info is from My Approach.net

SO STEP UP YOUR GAME IN 2019, use heart rate to determine effort  The instructor kudos will always be there … I PROMISE!