QUESTION: I’m 45 and have been riding for 12 years. I recently did a 25-mile time trial and improved last year’s time by 2 minutes. My average heart rate was 184 compared to my maximum of 205. Did I do my best? Should I use my heart monitor during competition? — Steve J.
RBR REPLIES: Fit riders can time trial at about 90% of their max heart rates. So the numbers say you were working at near-optimal intensity.
But forget the heart rate monitor as a governor. A far better gauge of intensity is your perceived exertion. Talented time trialists with years of experience can sense exactly how hard they can go at any point in the race and still achieve their maximum speed for the whole distance. (In fact, I always time trial by feel alone; I don’t use an HRM or power meter.)
Use your heart rate monitor as a tool to hone this sense of effort. It takes time. But once you have it down, you can very closely gauge your perceived effort (you’ll be amazed at how closely it tracks what your HRM is telling you).
Power meters are another good tool, of course, because they tell you objectively how much power you’re producing. You can then match watts to the exertion you’re perceiving.