Intervals on the trainer are now easy thanks to smart trainers and training software such as Zwift. However, there can be a real benefit from completing intervals in the “real world”. Unless you are only ever racing on Zwift then being able to ride outside at intensity is going to be of benefit. You may also be able to put out some more power. This is mainly due to the cooling and being able to move on the bike.
I used to shy away from intervals on the road thinking they were not possible to execute. However, with a little bit of planning, they are possible to execute pretty close to the target. This also makes those longer sessions manageable rather than having to complete them indoors.
My top tips to completing intervals outside on the bike
I will split these up into 2 sections for you. The first is the planning phase before you go out. The second is what to do when you are out on the road.
- Plan a route – You want to plan your route well. It should consist of more main roads with few interruptions such as traffic lights, towns and junctions. It is good to have a couple of options at a variety of durations to use for all your training sessions.
- Ride Anti Clockwise – This may seem silly but it really helps if riding in the UK. You only have left terms so you don’t get held up with oncoming traffic.
- Download the session – Most head units allow you to download the session and follow along in real time. This can be great in a perfect world but sometimes you will want to start the interval slightly earlier or later depending on obstacles on route. I would get used to how to pause or skip using your specific device. If you want to go old school then you can just write it on a post it note and tape it to your bars!
- Make sure it is a simple session – You want to make sure that the session is not too complicated. Make sure it does not have loads of short intervals and/or very slight changes in power. It will be really hard to execute on the road.
- Set up a lap page on your device – This is great to show key metrics of the interval. Make sure lap power is included.
- Set power to 3s average – Add this to the lap page which will smooth out the power figure slightly making it easier to stick to the target.
On the road
- Don’t start too hard – With any interval build up to it rather than going over and settling back down. You will always go harder than you think at the start as you are fresh.
- Keep it smooth – As with any power target on the road don’t make any sudden changes to power. There is always a lag with the data which can result in yo-yoing by going over and under! Make slight changes to intensity and and allow the power figure to reflect this.
- Use the recover intervals – If you are doing hard intervals then the recovery interval will need to be super easy. This can be hard on the road. Put it in the small cog and just spin which will mean you are going super slow! DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR SPEED!
- Forget average speed – Never look at the average speed of the ride as this will not reflect the effort. With the recover intervals being in zone 1 this will drag the average down.
- Feel the intensity – It is a useful skill to know how each zone feels when on the road. Use your Power Meter or Heart Rate Monitor to get into the correct zone but make a mental note of how that feels for future reference.
One last note of caution with completing intervals outside on the bike
Never risk intervals if there is a chance that the road surface could be slippery with ice, leaves or snow!