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  1. #1
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    HR: road vs trail

    So I'm a little new to the HRM, still exploring and examining the data, sorry if this is a newb question.

    While road riding and while in a spin class, getting the HR up to Zone5 of max is very hard! It takes a big prolonged effort, the legs burn a lot, and the breathing is very heavy and hurts as well.
    However, while trail riding, its pretty easy to get to Z5. Several times I've given a little kick to top a short roller climb, I look down and am surprised to see I'm hitting Z5, but the legs aren't burning and my breathing is controllable. In fact, the HR data from my spin class and mtb ride are very similar (slightly higher and more Z5 for mtb though), but the spin class is complete pain and suffering while I feel like I could go harder on the mtb.

    I guess one reason its not so painful is that I'm enjoying going fast on the mtb ride, but not so for the other efforts. But that doesnt really explain the easier breathing.

    Another thought is that on road and spin bike, only a few major leg muscles are doing all the work to get the heart pumping so heavily, so they should be burning a lot. On the mtb I'm also using arms, back, core, support muscles, and maybe even more leg muscles due to different positions. So more muscles working and requiring oxygen would get the HR higher, but again, no explanation for easier breathing.

    So I have to ask, what gives? Is this normal for everyone?

    Furthermore, what does this mean for road training vs mtb training? What is more important to do on the mtb- base training or threshold?

    any opinions appreciated

  2. #2
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    Reputation: nomit's Avatar
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    i'm no expert. but i'll throw a couple things out there...

    I guess one reason its not so painful is that I'm enjoying going fast on the mtb ride, but not so for the other efforts. But that doesnt really explain the easier breathing.

    Another thought is that on road and spin bike, only a few major leg muscles are doing all the work to get the heart pumping so heavily, so they should be burning a lot. On the mtb I'm also using arms, back, core, support muscles, and maybe even more leg muscles due to different positions. So more muscles working and requiring oxygen would get the HR higher, but again, no explanation for easier breathing.

    So I have to ask, what gives?
    one more added difference is that you're probably gonna stay cooler riding outside (be it mtn or road) and you'll generally be able to control your body temperature easier, because of the wind. i find on a trainer even with a fan i'll overheat in no time and be creating a pool of sweat around the bike when in zone 4...whereas on the road i don't notice my body heat ever getting that high. the higher your body temp is, the more your body has to work to get rid of it....which means more labored breathing. and i'm sure a spin class room will heat up in a hurry as well with 20 people working up a storm.

    What is more important to do on the mtb- base training or threshold?
    unless you have a really long sustained climb near your house...i'd say base. on the road its way easier to control your pace to sustain a certain heart rate zone. on a mountain bike, you don't have that option so much because the trail will dictate how fast you can go a lot of the time (ie. it's tough to pedal 30mph downhill on singletrack in order to maintain 160. but its more or less easy to do on the road)

  3. #3
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    I dont think it can be temp related because of the road bike. I dont get a lot of chances to ride the mtb, so when I do, I figure its best to do race pace, never thought about the advantages of slowing it down and doing 3 hours. Then again, slowing it down and staying in Z2 for such a long time isnt easy for me to do either, I just feel more comfortable going a faster pace.


    The most plausible reason I've come up with, is that during both road and spin the pedaling is nonstop. But on the mtb its like short intervals of pedaling because I'm always setting up for corners or roots or something, but other muscles are still working so the HR doesnt drop much. The legs are getting a rest and some fresh oxygen, then they are able to put in a short hard effort without getting anaerobic. I dont understand the correlation between HR and breathing, but this certainly seems to explain things better.

    I was about to question whether its logical to be doing those hard efforts on road and spin (why no rest a couple secs every 10 pedal strokes), but I guess its because of doing them that I am able to do what I can on the mtb.

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