Training your aerobic endurance on the bike will make you faster. Cycle endurance training should form the backbone of any good training plan and at the high end around 80% of time at this intensity. If you are a time crunched athlete then you may do less however don’t underestimate its importance. It is still important to train at all intensity levels so don’t neglect the higher zones however cycle endurance training forms the foundation to build from.
What is aerobic endurance?
Basically this is the ability to keep going at moderate intensity for a very long time. This is the most important ability for you as a cyclist to be aerobically fit as an endurance athlete.
Why cycle endurance training is so important?
Cycling is an aerobic sport no matter what the distance and this is most peoples limiter. I see far too many riders just try and go harder and harder each session without building a good base first which just leads to frustration and underperforming.
Physiologically there are a few things happening while riding at this intensity. Some of your fast-twitch muscles begin to take on endurance characteristics of slow-twitch muscles. The blood within your muscles becomes more efficient at carrying oxygen to your working muscles.
This is also a great zone to burn fat. When you train at high intensity your body has to utilise glycogen to provide energy quickly which needs to be replaced. However at low intensity it is able to use your fat as a fuel source.
How do I measure it?
For me when I am riding on the road I generally use heart rate rather than power as that jumps about somewhat. It is a good idea to know your zone2 limit and memorise this figure so you don’t go over it. Remember that this is an upper limit and NOT a target average so will seem slow at times especially on the hills.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a power meter or heart rate monitor as you can still train it. As a guide it should feel easy where you can breath easily through your mouth. You should also be able to have a conversation while riding.
How can I improve mine?
Quite simply riding slower! During the base phase at the start of any structured training plan then the longer the better! This will seem very slow at times but stick with it. Monitor your progression over time, you will find that you will be faster for the same heart rate and become a more efficient cyclist.
Want to know more?
Check out this more detailed article from Training peaks here