"Endurance" Long Rides - How to make them effective


For those of you who do steady “endurance” rides on Sunday… consider a change. In years past I would do long endurance rides on Sunday at a constant power. This sort of constant pressure on the muscles and tendons is terrible. And, no one rides steady like this in real life.

Check out my sunday “endurance” ride. I was told to ride a certain power and duration in various zones. For example, 50’ at 280, 25’ at 320… And I created that time in zones by inventing my own intervals based on the terrain, wind direction, and situation around me. The overall average power is an endurance pace made up of lots of variation. This type of training yields far more benefit than just riding 243 watts steady for 3 hours.

Try is sometime!


It’s sort of funny looking at this. I was getting worn down at the end and my “structured” intervals started to fall apart a little. In my defense, I did 100 miles on Saturday so my legs were sore to start with. But when you do a Sunday ride like this, don’t kill yourself on Saturday. You cannot go into this Sunday ride dead!


One of the interesting aspects of an endurance ride like the one Drew describes (aside from the training/adaptation benefits of varying power) is that it puts more “pressure” on your fueling than just a steady endurance ride, so it’s a good way to dial-in nutrition that can be then used for longer events.


Good point! And I did focus on fueling for this ride because I knew I had to hit high numbers. It’s easy to get lazy when you are going steady. You can fake your way through the ride and either barely eat or not eat at all.


So I love going on long rides of 5-6 hours in summer. I have some favorite roads and there are some strava segments I like to see if I can beat my time on. There is also a hill I like that is remarkably similar to the Zwift hilly KOM and I am currently somewhere around 5th overall women and try to see now and then if I can move up a place. Overall though, these rides are just to be outdoors and enjoy the day. I wear a heart rate monitor and have a cadence sensor but no power meter. Sometimes I feel like going fast, sometimes I just want to amble along and enjoy the scenery, sometimes I want to try a new road. Unless I am consciously putting in an effort I pay zero attention to anything else and just surf the terrain. I guess my question is, should I pay more attention to make sure I mix things up?


Your 5-6 hs solo rides definitely allow for some good variation, Stefanie. Plus, going for those segments are fun! I think Drew’s point was more on the targeting a steady power (or single power zone) and holding close to it for the duration of a long ride… he used to do that.

If you had a power meter, I could give you ranges of power to use depending on the terrain (flats, hills, etc.) to practice execution while still allowing for a free format. You could also use your cadence sensor and target the cadences I list in the Sunday endurance ride (in your training plan) according to the terrain. So either using power or cadence ranges allow you to apply what you have been working on indoors on the trainer to the terrain outside to prepare you for outdoor fondos, events, etc.

Having said all that, we can’t lose sight of the fun in cycling, and it’s good to have completely unstructured days when you just go out and ride! Of course that would not be every ride of the week during the Summer, otherwise you would start to lose a lot of what you have been working hard to achieve in training :slight_smile: .


I think the other thing to consider is long rides are therapeutic. And so long as you are not doing a long steady ride thinking you are going to get a large benefit from it, and it’s mostly therapeutic, then go for it.

I use to do long steady rides thinking I was getting stronger. Well, I was only getting tired, not stronger.

But in all honesty, if I was not try to get a lot stronger, I would do more 5 hours steady rides. I LOVE them! I love the feeling. I love the individual thinking time. I love just riding a long time. But the result is you will get tired, making it more difficult to do real intervals that make you stronger.

Another thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the amount of self inflicted pain these intervals cause. They really hurt. And the stronger you get the more they hurt. I wonder how long I can keep increasing the amount of pain… It makes me want to ride long and steady!!! HA.


The long rides only happen once a week @Coach_Theia though if I had the means I would ride all day every day all summer long (I’d love to do the the Trans-America route. One day :crossed_fingers:). Once I get outside for long rides I will review the target cadences in the training plan and try to find sections in my ride to work on those. I know even without a power meter I don’t ride in a single power zone, though it is stacked mostly in the middle. I think I can be more aware of that without “ruining” the fun.

Oh yes @dfriestedt! They are so therapeutic and that is one reason I love them so much. I come back tired but feeling so centered and refreshed and free of stress. I don’t think of them as being training rides but think of my training as a means to allow me to do these long rides, the fitter I am the more distance I can do in 5-6 hours. I think you are right about the self-inflicted pain of intervals. When I started training two years ago I thought it would eventually get easier and less painful but the stronger I get the harder and more painful it gets! It doesn’t seem fair :laughing: