You need to ride easy to get faster - and that might be easier than 'Zone 2', here's why

It's ell known that easy riding is the bedrock of endurance, but what exactly do we mean by ‘easy’? Charlie Allenby seeks clarification

Rider at an easy pace in beautiful countryside
(Image credit: Future)

Most cyclists are time-poor. After taking care of the full-time job, the family, the household chores, as well as keeping alive some semblance of a social life, the hours remaining to us to spend in the saddle are few. Each minute on the bike feels precious and not to be wasted. This lack of time can lead us to feel we need to push hard on every ride – the relaxed cafe spin seems far too inefficient compared to the fast and furious intensity session. We assume that more intensity means greater gains, but the truth is more complicated. 

For long-term improvements in cycling endurance, high-intensity sessions should form only a small proportion of your training time. The rest of your riding should be easy – but what exactly do we mean by ‘easy’? Many riders equate ‘easy’ with the fabled Zone 2 (55%-75% of FTP), but at its higher end – and depending on your state of fitness – it’s easy to stray above genuinely easy effort level. So it’s time to redefine easy. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Easy defined: the metrics
Row 0 - Cell 0 % of FTP% of Max Heart RateREP
Active recoveryLess than 60%50-60%Less than 3/10
Easy endurance 55-70%60-70%3-4/10

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Charlie Allenby
Freelance journalist

Charlie Allenby is a freelance journalist specialising in cycling, running and fitness. He has written for publications including the Guardian, the Independent, T3, Bike Radar, Runner’s World, Time Out London and Conde Nast Traveller, and cut his teeth as staff writer for Road Cycling UK (RIP). He is also the author of Bike London: A Guide to Cycling in the City. When not chained to his desk, Charlie can be found exploring the lanes and bridlepaths of Hertfordshire and Essex aboard his pink and purple Genesis Fugio.