Zone 2 – What is it all about?

Zone 2 – What is it all about?

So, we all hear about Zone 2 riding, sweet spot riding, Threshold, Vo2 Max etc. Today we will explore what a Zone 2 ride looks and to touch upon why we do them. For this blog, it is assumed we all know what Zone 2 is. If you are unsure, please read my blog Training Basics Basics (

Let us start with the why?

Zone 2 riding is basically riding at a natural endurance pace, a very easy pace that you can sustain for extended periods of time when you are correctly fueled on the bike, a conversational ride. The target for Zone 2 riding is 55-70% of FTP or 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. It should feel relatively low in intensity, with little fatigue, it is often called a long/slow ride.

The Pros are;

  • Increase or build your aerobic fitness – the building blocks of your training
  • Increases the ability to use fat as a fuel source
  • Increase the volume of training with relatively low fatigue
  • Reinforce good pedal techniques and provide an opportunity to work on technique
  • Adaption to increased saddle time
  • Sociable as the efforts should be ridden with purpose but at a conversational pace.

The Cons are;

  • Time can be an issue, however there are options such as sweet spot training which can stimulate similar adaptions in less time.
  • If not careful can be unproductive – Riding at a relatively easy intensity can be difficult and can often result in creep, meaning you intend to ride in Z2 however your pace and intensity creeps up during the ride resulting in a Z3 ride losing the benefits of the intended session.

So that is the Why now here is the how.

How are you going to monitor your effort/intensity, the key here is to be consistent. Whether you are monitoring it with power, heart rate or perceived effort it does not matter just be consistent.

The ride should be ridden at a conversational pace but where you limit your responses between your breaths, I call this riding with purpose, it should be easily maintainable but not a recovery ride where you can talk indefinitely.

My go to on the bike is power however on my Wahoo display I always have my heart rate information so that I can always check my effort. Whilst heart rate and power generally track each other in the zones there can be exceptions. For example, I was riding in Spain, and it was extremely hot (approximately 32-34 degree heat), I was undertaking a Z2 ride with the aim to hit 70% of my FTP for most of the ride which in cooler weather is a very comfortable Z2 ride. The heat resulted in my heart rate rising outside of my Z2 range, therefore I had to reduce my power to bring it back into my Z2 range. Whilst this is an extreme case, I use it to reiterate to avoid riding to one metric such as power or heart rate having a combination almost provides checks and balances during the session to ensure you keep on track.

In summary, on longer rides keep check of your intensity by using all the data you have at your disposal such as power, heart rate and perceived effort to gauge the ride. This is probable the most import piece of advice I can give, the data is there to be used to guide you but is most certainly not absolute.

Secondly, drop the ego, and accept this may feel slow, easy and you may question what this is doing for me… Trust the process of a structured training program of which building a large endurance base is the backbone from which to build upon.

Whilst the effort and intensity level may be low it does take discipline to execute a Zone 2 ride, of course this can prove difficult in hilly terrain where it may creep up into Z3 which is fine if after the climb you get back down to your targeted effort.

Lastly, always head out with a goal or aim of what you want to achieve from the ride, for example “I want to ride 80% of this ride in Z2” and pick a route that is conducive with doing.

There is also an added opportunity to use part of the ride to focus on form, pedal efficiency, staying relaxed and enjoy a smooth spin. It also allows you to lift your head and enjoy the ride.

Hope these little tips assist you in nailing your next Z2 ride, it can take some discipline and practice but when executed correctly and consistently as part of a structured program it can make a significant difference to your training.