Doing cycling intervals and workouts outdoors

I have talked to some of you about doing intervals outside. It does not have to be perfect, and if you need to slow down for an intersection or something similar in the middle of an interval, that is fine. Some advantages of doing a workout outside are (1) being outside!, (2) learning how your bike behaves and your handling of it during different efforts, cadences, and body positions (steated standing, etc); (3) become familiar with how different efforts help you build and maintain speed; (4) training the body to deal with the elements while riding hard (wind, heat, etc.)

Of course doing workouts outside is not mandatory, and some prefer the model workouts = indoors and everything else = outdoors. There is no right or wrong. But if you chose to do workouts outside, don’t be too concerned with them not being “perfect” like they would indoors.

Here are a few screen shots of some of my workouts outdoors. I live in a busy suburb outside of Chicago, and depending on the time of the day, I can’t get more than 5 min uninterrupted. But that’s fine and I still do all of my workouts outside during the warmer months.

(Blue line is cadence)

The one below was in Zwift outside of the “workout” module (I selected a free ride on a course and did the intervals just like I would outside):


When I know I’m planning to do intervals, particularly if I’m by myself, I go to the “savanna.” I also live in a Chicago suburb, where we’re lucky enough to have forest preserves. One of them is basically a big prairie, and a great place to get a workout. I use the savanna mostly when I’m solo, as I prefer to not ride the roads solo.

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The Savanna is awesome! I forgot about it! Must go back there and it’s probably not as prone to flooding as the DPR, right?

This is really interesting. How would you do a free ride on zwift and still have a guide for your training targets?

Ps. Guess who is getting a power meter??? :wink:

A power meter!!! :fist_right::fist_left:

In Zwift, I have the workout (intervals) written in front of me (I have an extra computer screen, but you could write them on paper), then I use my wahoo to time the intervals.

Oooh! Let’s talk power meters. I think that’s my next upgrade :smile:. Suggestions on something good for a seriously casual rider?

Let’s!! Here are two useful guides. As a general rule, crank power meters are more accurate than pedals and others.

I have a Quarq, which is one of the most accurate out there, but also expensive. In fact, @dfriestedt and I have Quarqs on all of our bikes, and have had them for many years.We had Stages before and had some issues.

Curious as to what power meters others here use?

I know I have read that whole article before. My husband did too - I think he was planning to get me a power meter for my birthday in May, but he ended up throwing up his hands and saying I would have to figure out what I need. He suggested that I just go to the bike store, as they would have to install it anyway. I’ll keep researching!

Sorry if that wasn’t helpful. Stages is a good option and widely used. Chances are your bike store sells many of those. Quarq would be my preference if you have the budget and are willing to invest. You can also buy used or refurbished PMs.

I have the Power Tap chainrings. I’m pretty sure they aren’t available anymore since Power Tap was bought out. I have a really unusual setup (Cobb short cranks, Speedplay pedals, Trek bottom bracket) that meant there were very few power meter options for me, especially since I wanted an actual rather than estimated full measurement and I wanted at least an estimate for each side.
My husband has Pioneer cranks and likes them except that he has the older model that aren’t Bluetooth.

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Hi @Coach_Theia

I am super excited to do some interval training outdoors! If weather permits, i plan to do a workout at centennial park (aka some CP Laps) tomorrow.

Few questions:

  • The park is approx 5km away and takes about 15mins to get to. Would those 15mins count as the warmup for the training, or would it be better to start the training which includes the warmup once i get into the park?

  • Any advise on how i should set up my garmins pages? I have no idea what i should and shouldnt be looking at on the screen.

  • Given i am left handed, i am also left leg dominant. Does it matter that the meter is only on the left or does it all average out? We purchased the Stages cycling Shimano Ultegra R8000 Left power meter.

Look forward to your response.

Hi @puggles I am super pumped for your first outdoor workout with a PM! Here are the answers:

  • Ride to the park can count as a warm-up
  • Set an interval page on your Garmin showing: power, cadence, and a lap timer
  • Left is fine, but the difference should not be significant unless you have significant imbalances. Interesting that I am the opposite- right-handed but left leg dominant!

Let us know how it goes! And remember, it does not need to be perfect. Don’t worry about seeing the power jump when trying to keep steady, it’s a learning curve! It will get better with time. But really even more important… have fun!!

Thanks. I have saved the workouts into garmin which has it already set up. How far in would you recommend i skip for the warmup part? If its the first 15mins, it would mean i only spend 40 mins in the park (if i do B1.3)

For general riding with the power meter outdoors (not training), what would you suggest should be set up on the first page?

@puggles, if you want to ride to the park, then do a warm-up there, you can. Also, if you want to spend more time riding at the park after the intervals, you can as well, just make sure you keep it easy after the efforts.

Here is my main screen. Note that I have two timers: one is “Ride” (moving time, with auto-pause) and the “Clock” (time of the day, which is what I use to time my fluid and food intake).

Thank you. The rain kept us indoors this morning, but i will use your recommendation for future outdoor training.

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Bringing this topic back to life, as some of you might have missed it. Please refer to the above about doing workouts either outdoors or on a “free ride” in Zwift (outside of workout mode).

Also relevant here is cadence, and how it can be used to control your speed and power, along with the gears. In the example below, I was able to maintain my power very close to the target by varying cadence (blue line) up and down by 5 rpms or so. While the power is very close to the target (dotted line), it is not a straight line (green), and it was definitely moving a lot on my Wahoo screen.

It takes practice, and I have been practicing this for years. The result is that I am able to go fast, build and maintain speed using less power. I have seen this result in my group rides and races. So the main message is practicing cadence, shifting, and controlling your efforts with your own legs is more important than a “pretty” straight power graph.

The below workout was done outdoors.

Intervals (power only):

Zoomed in interval with cadence:

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