In order to use heart-rate monitoring effectively in your cycling training, it is important to understand how to figure out your average heart rate and how cycling differs from other athletic endeavors. For example, in a review of scientific studies published on October 29, 2009, in the journal "Sports Medicine," cycling and running heart rates were found to differ for many reasons, including the level of impact and the amount of oxygen used.
Measuring your heart rate while cycling will ensure that you are working out at an appropriate level for your goals. In the past, athletes used a scale of perceived exertion to determine how hard they were exercising. With the availability of heart-rate monitors, you can now use a much more precise and scientific approach with your training.
Your cycling heart-rate averages will probably be about 10 beats lower on a bike than they are running, according to the website Training Peaks, but some people see a difference of up to 25 beats. Simple calculators are available that will give you training zones based on your maximum heart rate. You can use these as a starting point and adjust your heart-rate numbers down by 10 beats per minute for cycling, according to the "Sports Medicine" article.
No matter what sport you participate in, your heart-rate zone will have the same percentages, but you will find that the numbers within those percentages vary. This can be measured or simply observed over time as you train.
You can make the most of your training time by knowing what your average heart rate is during your workout, because exercising at different intensities can help you target your fitness goals more effectively. For example, if you want to build endurance on the bike, you would stay in your zone 2 heart rate for most of your training, according to triathlon coach Andrew Dollar. If you ride harder than that, you may find that you can't recover properly and feel too tired to train. For cyclists who have tested themselves and have a maximum heart rate of 190, for example, a zone 2 effort would average between 151 and 164 beats per minute.
Many people use the traditional "220 minus your age" (220-age) formula to determine their maximum heart rate and build their training zones from that. However, that formula is only a guideline and may not be accurate enough for some people. In fact, the 220-age formula may be 10 to 20 beats off for some, leading them to work either too easy or too hard. If you want to have a more accurate number, it is best to do a field test and set up your zones yourself, according to coach Dollar.
Doing a field test is not difficult, says coach Dollar, and will improve the quality of your training. Once you have your zones, you can use a heart-rate monitor while cycling to monitor your workout and target your training goals. Heart-rate monitors range in price and features and are widely available online and in sporting-goods stores (see Consumer Search link in Resources).