Guest Article – Recovery Rides

This ain't no recovery ride
This ain’t no recovery ride.

I would have to start training to even do a recovery ride. And I would have to own a cyclometer, HRM, and the unavoidable watt meter. And all that would tell me what I already don’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss until some teenager on a mountain bike gets by you and at that point you better not have a watt meter on your bike. Still, we have to train and we should do it scientifically, like @Teocalli here. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

I have a problem with Recovery Rides. I understand them but I still have a problem with them. Let me try to explain.

First (and to all experts here – forgive me for a simplistic view of this) let me level the ground by clarifying the concept by using the 5 Training Zones model. In this model the Maximum Heart Rate Reserve (MHRR) is based on the value derived from the difference between your Maximum Heart Rate and your relaxed Resting Heart Rate. So for a subject of say 50 (not me) we have:

Age = 50

Resting HR = 48

Max HR = 174 (note there may be different opinions on this depending on where you look it up and whether you have actually had it measured scientifically)

Which gives:

  • 50% Zone 0.5 x 126 + 48 = 111
  • 60% Zone 0.6 x 126 + 48 = 124
  • 70% Zone 0.7 x 126 + 48 = 136
  • 80% Zone 0.8 x 126 + 48 = 148
  • 90% Zone 0.9 x 126 + 48 = 161
  • 100% Zone @ max HR = 174

The 5 Zone model then becomes defined by:

  • Zone 1: Warm-Up Zone based on 50-60% of MHRR typically related to warm-up or cool-down.
  • Zone 2: Recovery Zone based on 60-70% of MHRR used for long slow rides and recovery rides.
  • Zone 3: Aerobic Zone based on 70-80% of MHRR used for overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Zone 4: Anaerobic Zone based on 80-90% of MHRR used for training to increase lactate threshold.
  • Zone 5: Redline Zone at 90-100% of MHRR used by the very fit for short periods for example in interval training.

A buddy once equated these to the following for those who do not use a Heart Rate Monitor.

  • Zone 1: Barely awake
  • Zone 2: Can hold a normal conversation while riding
  • Zone 3: Conversation becomes restricted to single sentences
  • Zone 4: Gasps single phrases
  • Zone 5: Conversation?  Are you serious?!

The basic concept behind a Recovery Ride being that when training or post a significant event (cycling-wise that is) you should plan in complete rides in Zone 2 within your training diary.

Simple enough? So what’s my problem? Well, if you ask anyone who knows me well whether or not I am a competitive soul they would probably fall over laughing. If I go out on a solo ride and see another rider up ahead I have to try to catch them. If I get caught then, after giving the rider due kudos, I have to try to hold position on them. Not wheelsucking but give them a respectful space and try to hold their pace. If I’m out on my vintage steed it’s a target to pass riders on modern rigs – almost like adding a badge on the top tube for each carbon rig notched off.

carbon rigs

As I think someone else noted elsewhere, if I simply get blown away I just assume they have not gone, or are not going, as far as I am. Somehow it never seems to cross my mind that they may be 30-40 years (or more) younger than me and darned well should be going faster.

So you may now be getting the drift of why I have a problem with Recovery Rides. How can one simply cruise along and let people breeze past without feeling that they have notched you up as a slower rider – particularly if I am out on my carbon fantastic?  However hard I try it simply does not seem to happen. I set out with the intention of a nice quiet ride and somehow still end up trying to attain warp speed and/or hammer up the steepest climbs on the route at max bore. A Recovery Ride just does not seem to fit in my psyche.

However, finally I think I may have come up with a solution. I’m going to have a jersey made with the following on the back:

RECOVERY RIDE

PLEASE PASS

Then again my condition may be so bad that my psyche may latch onto this in the wrong way. What would be the effect of someone breezing past you with the above on their back? Hmmm…

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75 Replies to “Guest Article – Recovery Rides”

  1. Rule #38 surely?

    If I’m recovering from an interval, taking it easy or just lazy and think I might get passed I tend to sit up, take the hands off the bars, play with a phone or something…

  2. Fuckin HARDCORE Photo!!! 

    Was there any accompanying text with this article b/c I missed it if there was.

  3. Ah Teocalli, my friend.  I can only suggest reflecting on Rule #71.  If that doesn’t work, stick to what you do best and keep smashing it up on all your rides.

  4. @teocalli awesome logic. Pure genius. I’m similarly afflicted but being a simpler soul I manage to rationalise it by telling myself that as a time constricted cyclist I simply cannot waste my time riding at anything less than full gas.

  5. My similar issue is that I have a hard time limiting the distance of my rides. Last week, after a few hard rides, I thought I would go for a relatively easy 40kms or so. Everytime I do that, I think “Fuck, that’s just not enough.” and end up doing 1.5 or 2 times the distance I had planned.

  6. You sound just like those riders who only put in 12 hours a week on the bike. Start doing 6 hour hilly rides a couple time a week and you will soon find out why cyclists need really easy days.

  7. @Buck Rogers

    Fuckin HARDCORE Photo!!!

    Was there any accompanying text with this article b/c I missed it if there was.

    Credits to Gianni for finding the photo.

  8. Teocalli, nice piece. Wholely agree, not going hard is sometimes the most difficult of them all. I too have vasilated on the entire measured data thingy. Having had my VO2 max measured just last weekend and being told I’m better than 95% of walking around humans was little comfort knowing I slot in the lower half of those who choose to race a bike. I think I’ll just stick with the V meter. It tells me the most anyway.

    Oh and the whole max HR being 220 minus age is pure horseshit for the athlete. However my method to determine it: go hard as fuck until you think you’ll die then look at HR, has it’s flaws.

  9. He who rides off the front must by everyone else beer after the ride.” is the ride calling card for our recovery rides.  This way, if you cannot contain yourself, you’re permitted a “Ricky Bobby” attack, provided you have purchased everyone their choice of cold recovery beverages, and have them ready upon our return.

    The ultimate goal is to be so badass that your recovery effort keeps those Ricky Bobby types in the hurt locker for the duration of the ride, otherwise verbal abuse within the constraints of Rule #47 will commence….

  10. @Teocalli

    @Buck Rogers

    Fuckin HARDCORE Photo!!!

    Was there any accompanying text with this article b/c I missed it if there was.

    Credits to Gianni for finding the photo.

    Just giving you shit, man!  I find my lack of emoticons disturbing as I cannot convey inflection and hand waving whilst speaking, two of my finer points of ability in life, through the internet!

  11. @Buck Rogers

    @Teocalli

    @Buck Rogers

    Fuckin HARDCORE Photo!!!

    Was there any accompanying text with this article b/c I missed it if there was.

    Credits to Gianni for finding the photo.

    Just giving you shit, man! I find my lack of emoticons disturbing as I cannot convey inflection and hand waving whilst speaking, two of my finer points of ability in life, through the internet!

    Yup I realised that which is why I only mentioned the credits to Gianni!

  12. Whenever you get passed by anyone, just use the refrain,

    “they don’t know how to train”

  13. How can one simply cruise along and let people breeze past without feeling that they have notched you up as a slower rider – particularly if I am out on my carbon fantastic?

    The eternal question.  I think most people who know just know, ya dig?   The guys in the full pro tour replica kits and a giant EPMS are always going to suck my wheel before getting dropped at the first hint of a rise.  The quiet guy in a nice fitting understated kit and a smooth pedal stroke?  I know better than to mess with him unless I’m willing to go deep into the hurt locker.  I’ve learned that lesson a few times during while I was a pedalwan.

  14. Love this article. I’m newer to cycling – just started last July and have basically been riding every day since August with few exceptions cause I can’t stay off the bike, and when I’m on it, I get completely antsy if I’m riding slowly and want to hammer. My Pavlovian response used to be triggered if I saw anyone in front of me on a Cervelo (the only “nice” brand I knew in the first few months!) or wearing a team kit and I’d hammer away. Started racing for a team this year, however, and am even more inclined to hammer just about every ride. I hear rest is good…and I rest sometimes for parts of a ride, but there’s just nothing as satisfying as throwing down the hammer and hauling @%$.

  15. If I do a recovery ride, I cover up the computer screen. Those wee numbers, being hard to ignore, just scream further! faster! and encourage just that, thus negating the object of the exercise. A recovery ride is not, in fact, easy as it requires a certain mindset that goes against the grain of maximum speed, distance and tough terrain. A recovery ride is like tying an imaginary anchor to the bike.

  16. Just stumbled onto this timely piece on Velonews.  Matt Beaudin is a beautiful writer.  My favorite quote:

    “We are going faster now, faster than I’ve ever gone before on this road, racing. He is better. He is up the road three seconds but I try because one day I might have it. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened. Hasn’t happened yet. Maybe today it happens.”

    Worth a read: Notes from the Scrum: Fast and Slow: http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/05/mtb/notes-scrum-fast-slow_325764#3CqdBEY83Hv1sytv.99

  17. Training Properly is all about discipline. Its not a race unless you have a number on your back so who gives a flying fucklette if you get passed or pass someone?

    Once you get the hang of it, you can get all stoked about yourself for resisting the urge to kill it or go after someone. Its the same buzz you get when you learn how to save money.

  18. @frank

    Training Properly is all about discipline. Its not a race unless you have a number on your back so who gives a flying fucklette if you get passed or pass someone?

    Once you get the hang of it, you can get all stoked about yourself for resisting the urge to kill it or go after someone. Its the same buzz you get when you learn how to save money.

    Word up!

  19. @Teocalli

    That day still brings so many memories back, love it. If you crane your head around the edge of the pic you can see me at the bootom of the hill, bit like light from a star arriving centuries later…

  20. @frank

    Training Properly is all about discipline. Its not a race unless you have a number on your back so who gives a flying fucklette if you get passed or pass someone?

    Once you get the hang of it, you can get all stoked about yourself for resisting the urge to kill it or go after someone. Its the same buzz you get when you learn how to save money.

    I’ve “got it” over the past winter.  If I’m passed I now simply smile, quietly say “tranquilo” to myself, take a deep breath and think of the seasons goals. I know full well that as I always try to look fantastic, people find this nonchalance intimidating.

  21. @frank

    Training Properly is all about discipline. Its not a race unless you have a number on your back so who gives a flying fucklette if you get passed or pass someone?

    Once you get the hang of it, you can get all stoked about yourself for resisting the urge to kill it or go after someone. Its the same buzz you get when you learn how to save money.

    I’m Scottish therefore genetically programmed to save money.

    Alas I’m also genetically programmed to eat deep fried food rather than Train Properly.

  22. @meursault

    @Teocalli

    That day still brings so many memories back, love it. If you crane your head around the edge of the pic you can see me at the bootom of the hill, bit like light from a star arriving centuries later…

    Indeed, it also shows how hard it was raining that it immediately filled in the dry patch burned by @ChrisO as he flew up the hill.

  23. To go fast, you must know how to go slow.  As Krabbe said:

    Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast.

  24. 2 things I purposely do when doing recovery rides: 1: leave the Garmin at home. 2: leave the Garmin at home.

    People (my Strava buddies) usually will ask something like “you haven’t been logging many miles (Km’s) lately. Are you hurt or are you injured? If I don’t have that thing staring me in the face, it’s way easier to have recovery days.

    On the other hand, if it is there, I have standards to uphold, so it’s mostly full gas. *and I don’t do watts. Could(n’t?)give a fuck about them, and certainly am not going to drop serious coin on that when I could spend it on something else.

  25. Surely one of the great things about riding a bike is finding some nice scenery, chilling out and absorbing the ambience. For recovery rides I head to the coast, soft pedal and enjoy the air and the view. I couldn’t care less about what other cyclists are doing and I’m pretty sure they don’t give a rat’s arse about me. Why would you care? Do what you set out to do.

  26. I do recovery rides as well.

    Sometimes I ride with my VMH and let her set the pace, sometimes I spin on the 4.5″ Kreitlers for active recovery.

    Every now and then, I set off with hard work on my mind, then once out on the road I find that I just don’t have any firepower in the guns (My body’s way of saying “Welcome to your fifth decade.”), so it becomes a recovery ride.

  27. @frank

    @meursault

    @frank

    What is this saving money you speak of, does it help buy more bike stuff?

    It is a technique used to help you buy more awesomer bikes and related stuff.

    Related to this is a German phrase for it which I have no hope of recalling but the jist of which is: less but better. Its my view that this can be applied to many areas of life – although not all.

  28. @geoffrey

    Surely one of the great things about riding a bike is finding some nice scenery, chilling out and absorbing the ambience. For recovery rides I head to the coast, soft pedal and enjoy the air and the view. I couldn’t care less about what other cyclists are doing and I’m pretty sure they don’t give a rat’s arse about me. Why would you care? Do what you set out to do.

    I agree.  Fiends who speed past in the drops are welcome to pass, regardless of the state of their or my kit or machine. On another day the roles may be reversed.

    As the Japanese say: ten people are ten different colours.

  29. I think it’s vitally important to train “intuitively.” The more refined your intuition, the clearer are the messages from your body and brain. The messages, of course, range from “Crush it now!” to “Sit up and flush the lactic acid, you fool.”

    Being old and therefore enlightened, I can hear and respond to these messages no matter how frequently they follow one upon another. Ten seconds between crush and flush? Five? It’s no problem if one can train intuitively.

  30. Great post. Glad to see I’m not the only one with these thoughts. Ill buy that jersey

  31. Holy crap on toast.  Now, I’m a “rule re-maker”, I’ll admit it, but a whole guest article on how to ignore Rule #71 ?

    I wonder if Fronk will give me the same space to refine a few others ?

  32. Not to mention that you would look like a total pretentious wanker with that sign on your back.  Not pro, just slow.  Graciously condescening to let you pass me today, old cock !!

    Never mind Rules #78 and #34 too.  All that math made my brain hurt.

  33. @teocalli great article.  I too have a problem with recovery rides.  Its that my heart rate never stays in Zone 2.  My resting heart rate is 55 (which I’m pretty chuffed with – in 2007 BC (before cycling), when I weighed 107kg, my resting heart rate was 93).  My maximum heart rate is 191 (easily found, it is where my heart rate ends up on any gradient >10% longer than 1km).  Problem is, when I start riding – no matter how easily I’m turning the cranks – the old ticker shoots straight to 150.  It’s not a fitness thing, as I’m pretty fit (broken collarbone aside, at the moment) and have put in lots of miles.  It’s another weird thing about my physiology.  So I don’t do recovery rides.  Its a bit like stretching before/after rides… people who stretch get good… at stretching.  To me its just wasted riding time.

  34. Mild dyslexia  #38 and #74

    If a rider passes you on the day, don’t take it personally.

    Ditch the computer, especially the HRM, so add #72.

    Rule #18 says “don’t suffer kit confusion”, or, “don’t dress like a cunt”.   That sign is something a COTHO would wear.

  35. @Teocalli

    @meursault

    @Teocalli

    That day still brings so many memories back, love it. If you crane your head around the edge of the pic you can see me at the bootom of the hill, bit like light from a star arriving centuries later…

    Indeed, it also shows how hard it was raining that it immediately filled in the dry patch burned by @ChrisO as he flew up the hill.

    I think that was a training ride for @ChrisO. Love that photo even though that jacket puffs up and makes me look even fatter than I am.

  36. Here’s one for all of you who actually know how to train: I’ve put my name down to ride for the club in a two day race (a TT and two road stages) on 7 June. The calibre is going to be fairly high. As of  Wednesday though I’ll be on Gardening Leave until 2 June. How would you set about training?

  37. @roadslave I don’t use a HRM as it will probably just tell me “you should not be doing that at your age”.  Blissful ignorance.

    @Chris if no one else comes back I have a book somewhere that I think has some training schedules.  I’ll dig it out.

  38. @frank

    Training Properly is all about discipline. Its not a race unless you have a number on your back so who gives a flying fucklette if you get passed or pass someone?

    Once you get the hang of it, you can get all stoked about yourself for resisting the urge to kill it or go after someone. Its the same buzz you get when you learn how to save money.

    This is how I wanted to say it…..

  39. @geoffrey

    Surely one of the great things about riding a bike is finding some nice scenery, chilling out and absorbing the ambience. For recovery rides I head to the coast, soft pedal and enjoy the air and the view. I couldn’t care less about what other cyclists are doing and I’m pretty sure they don’t give a rat’s arse about me. Why would you care? Do what you set out to do.

    Word, I sometimes go out just for the fun of it, plod along to a coffee shop along the lanes, admiring the scenery and wildlife. Makes me feel like I am on permanent school summer holiday, ah the nostalgia!

  40. Excellent article and subject.

    @Yee Sorry to say this but that’s the wrongest post I’ve seen since the last time someone included Lampre Man. At some point, depending on your original state of fitness, you will plateau and wonder why your riding is not improving you any more. As for the idea that Cervelos are some benchmark of nice bikes, well…

    Frank put it beautifully that training is about discipline, but he didn’t say why.

    When you train your body and muscles are learning to do things, whether that’s endurance, climbing, sprinting or whatever. Recovery rides – and rest days – are revision for your body. Physiologically it is when your muscles adapt to the training – they simply don’t do it as effectively in training periods.

    I found it incredibly hard to do real recovery rides when I started training “properly”. I complained to my coach he wasn’t working me hard enough but eventually I realised I rode harder and felt better at the times I needed to if I did them as they were supposed to be done. Which is also why I always do them with my power meter – they are so light I can accidentally exceed the threshold. As was said above, they may be easy rides but they aren’t easy to do.

  41. @Chris

    Here’s one for all of you who actually know how to train: I’ve put my name down to ride for the club in a two day race (a TT and two road stages) on 7 June. The calibre is going to be fairly high. As of Wednesday though I’ll be on Gardening Leave until 2 June. How would you set about training?

    Well done – sounds tough. What category?

    Your timing is perfect – basically you have four weeks, as you need to leave the fifth and final week to ease back and taper so you need to start building up from now.

    I’d say forget the TT as a training objective – unless you are aiming for an overall GC place. You’re in control there so you can set your own pace and do it the way a climber or sprinter would in the Tours.

    What you need to do is focus on the up and down of bunch riding. some exercises my coach has given me  were:

    Under/Overs: Under means 90% of threshold, Over means 110%. 1 min Over, 4 min Under, 1 min Over, 2 min Under, 2 min Over. Have 10 mins easy riding in between. Do two sets Week 1, then three sets Weeks 2 and 3.

    40-20s: 40 seconds at very hard pace – 125% of threshold – then 20 seconds easy. For ten minutes. Two blocks. Rest for 10 mins in between. If you can, increase to 12 mins in weeks two and or three.

    Catch Ups: go out with a group. Every 10 mins freewheel for 30 seconds, then catch them. In week two and three increase to 40 and 50 seconds, but at 15 minute intervals. Ride easy in the group in between.

    Each session should have a gradual 20 min warmup and 10-15 min warm down.

    The other session to do is just a steady endurance ride @ 75-80%. 70 mins Week 1 then 80 and 90.

    Start the week, say Sunday with Catch Ups then light recovery ride for 60 mins Monday. Rest day Tuesday. Weds do the Endurance. Thurs Under/Overs. Friday Recovery. Rest day Saturday.

    Week Two swap the 40-20s for the Under/Overs.

    Week Three do Under/Overs instead of Endurance. That should be your hardest week. If you can, make the Friday Recovery an Endurance ride.

    Week Four do Catch ups on Sunday then go back to Endurance riding on Weds and Thursday. Keep therecovery  and rest days.

    In the final week on Sunday do a 50 min ride at 80% and every 10 mins do 30 secs at 120%. Rest Monday. Tuesday same but for 40 mins. rest Weds. Thursday easy Recovery ride. Friday 50 mins including warmup and  do two 5 min blocks at 90% with 10 mins rest in between. Start carb loading from Thursday and eat as much as you can after the first two stages – you need carbs and protein with 20-30mins of getting off the bike so a drink like CNP Recover is ideal.

    you’ve got my email haven’t you – feel free to ping me any questions.

  42. @ChrisO Wot he said ! @Chris, I assume , dangerous I know , that you already ride a bit , so what you need most is to do high intensity intervals , the hardest part of racing is the attacks and climbs that must be countered when already on the rivet , try and simulate what will happen in the parcours you will face , when climbing go hard and then attack the top , your competitors will do this to you on race day , finish your ride with an all out race to the ‘line’ , absolutely smash it for the last five minutes when  you are most tired , this is how the road race will end.

    As for the TT , do whatever you can to your bike and kit to look as Pro as you can , so you can go as fast as possible , good luck.

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