Determining Max heart Rate on the road

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Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 am

I've started to monitor my heart rate to covert my saddle time from riding to "training". I have used the 220-age method to come up with a Max value to enter into my HRM. My Avg heart rate is consitently 80-81% of max for a 30km ride, and I normally peak (AT) 94% when really giving it all. What I'm wondering though is how accurate is the max value I entered.

Is there a reasonably reliable way to figure out your max heart rate on the road? In reality, does max heart rate vary much from the old 220-age formula?

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by BNA » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:52 am

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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Strawburger » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:52 am

ve safari wrote: In reality, does max heart rate vary much from the old 220-age formula?


Yes! mine differs by +10, a guy i ride with differs by +20.

Your max heart rate means exactly that. Push yourself to the limit to find your max. Everyone's heart is different so there is no formula for calculating it.

There is plenty of info on this forum about this subject so browse around - i recall one discussed mid last year.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:22 pm

Strawburger wrote:
ve safari wrote: In reality, does max heart rate vary much from the old 220-age formula?


Yes! mine differs by +10, a guy i ride with differs by +20.

Your max heart rate means exactly that. Push yourself to the limit to find your max. Everyone's heart is different so there is no formula for calculating it.

There is plenty of info on this forum about this subject so browse around - i recall one discussed mid last year.


Ok, dumb question. I thought max aerobic threshold was 95% of HRMax, which seems to be close to what I achieve on the road. Is it possible to actually reach your max heart rate, safely? I'm 42, HRMax = 220-42=178bpm. Is it reasonable to expect to reach 178bpm on the bike? I have once seen 173bpm, but to be honest I think that was a glitch spike because I didn't think I was pushing that hard.

Fair comment re searching, will do so tonight when I have some more time available.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Strawburger » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:49 pm

ve safari wrote:Is it possible to actually reach your max heart rate, safely? I'm 42, HRMax = 220-42=178bpm. Is it reasonable to expect to reach 178bpm on the bike?


Not sure what you mean about safely, would it be without keeling over and approaching the light? I've never really thought about it safely, i generally get very close to my max heart rate (if not set a new one) when racing. It gets up around the 190+ range at least once a race (but doesn't stay there for too long). I would think it is reasonable to reach your max HR if you are really pushing your body to the limits. A bit like redlining the safari, if you put the foot down and leave it down then expect it to go past 5000 RPM...

I guess it may be unsafe if it's up at your max HR for an extended period but others can shed some light on that one.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby JV911 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:42 pm

ve safari wrote:I have once seen 173bpm


that's about my average for a 45 min cirt and it will hit the max (cant remember exactly but in the high 180s atm) in the sprint to the line

220 minus age isnt accurate as there are too many other factors to consider. fitness for example i.e. usually the fitter you are the higher your max will be. my max has increased by about 10 in the last 18 months (and min lowered by a similar number)

after a really good warm-up do some sprints or find a big hill and attack it. this should see you hitting your max.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:58 pm

JV911 wrote:
ve safari wrote:I have once seen 173bpm


that's about my average for a 45 min cirt and it will hit the max (cant remember exactly but in the high 180s atm) in the sprint to the line

220 minus age isnt accurate as there are too many other factors to consider. fitness for example i.e. usually the fitter you are the higher your max will be. my max has increased by about 10 in the last 18 months (and min lowered by a similar number)

after a really good warm-up do some sprints or find a big hill and attack it. this should see you hitting your max.


JV - may I ask how old you are? I can't imagine averaging 173! Attacking the biggest climb I know, hard, I consistently and repeatedly see 164-166bpm. I feel like my legs are about to burst and my chest is burning afterwards, but recover quickly. Another cup of HTFU required?

I'm still overweight though, and have only reallly been serious re my cycling for a few months now. JRA before then.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby twizzle » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:15 pm

I'm 41, my 'real' max is 183, but recently I've only been hitting the high 170's.

You really have to give it 110% and then some extra to drive the HR all the way to the limit. Last time I did it, I ended up with exercised induced asthma.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ni78ck » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:22 pm

my experiance is similar to jv911, last year my max was at 184, this year it has reached 193!
i tried a flat out ride for 20 minutes a few weeks ago and average heart rate was 180!
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby JV911 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:42 pm

i'm 31 mate

if you recover quickly i believe it means you're getting fitter. i'd guess that you are recovering quicker than you used to

ve safari wrote:I feel like my legs are about to burst and my chest is burning afterwards


sounds like you are hitting your current max. castle hill is within riding distance to galstone gorge, bobbin head and possibly akuna bay...give them a crack! and better still ride them with someone better than you and try to keep up.

(if you experience chest pains or have a history of heart conditions in your family you probably want to get checked out before doing so)
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Grant W » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:15 pm

220-35 = 185
Thats what my Max should be, 185 is my threshold I can ride this for long durations such as TT's
My realistic max is 203 which I don't like hitting but it happens during hill intervals
I suppose the 220-age is a good guidline for riders that are just starting out and are starting to build their fitness levels.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:39 pm

All very interesting - this forum is a bloody good sounding board, the amount of experience accessible and available really is helpful. Much appreciated.

Chest kind of burns a bit, more lungs than chest, and pretty much gone once the effort drops down a fraction. I put it down to smkoing too much for too long. Have given up now, so I'm not too fussed about it. Much more discomfort in the thigh department!

I'm actually planning on hitting Bobbin Head in a couple of weeknds time...wish me luck!
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby snark » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:23 pm

Ah, riding heart rates. More interesting than that other resting heart rate thread :)

ve safari wrote:Ok, dumb question. I thought max aerobic threshold was 95% of HRMax, which seems to be close to what I achieve on the road. Is it possible to actually reach your max heart rate, safely? I'm 42, HRMax = 220-42=178bpm. Is it reasonable to expect to reach 178bpm on the bike? I have once seen 173bpm, but to be honest I think that was a glitch spike because I didn't think I was pushing that hard.


I'm 41, so by that formula my max is 179. I regularly reach low 180's on any half-decent hill, and the max I've seen is 187.

The last ride I did was 2h05m, and average for that ride was 168 with max of 182. It pretty much didn't dip under 160 except when stopped at a set of traffic lights.

I've never been quite sure if I should be concerned about such a high average heart rate or not...

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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:03 pm

Well, at least I've got a baseline to gauge my training and fitness progress. I;ll be curious to see how my avg HR trends as the months go by. By the sound of it I should see the avg climb as I get fitter, which is logical. Stay tuned for updates.

Let's say my avergae heart rate as of the end of Jan is 144bpm. Hopefully I will notice an improvement in 3 months time. Hopefully when I can average 164bpm (my current HRMax) I'm ready to start racing.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby snark » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:09 am

ve safari wrote:By the sound of it I should see the avg climb as I get fitter, which is logical.


I'm not so sure that's true. Another train of thought is you should be more efficient when you're fitter, therefore you'd have a lower average heart rate for the same amount of work.

A couple of TdF riders had live HRM readings on the teevee, and although I can't remember the exact numbers (maybe in the 120s?), I do clearly remember things "damn, that heart rate looks low". Mind you they could have just been cruising in the peloton too.

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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:22 am

Maybe I can expect to see avg heart rate for the same perceived effort drop, but the Avg speed increase? It will be interesting to map my avg speed to avg heart rate as time progresses. I'm definitely faster and stronger than even 3 months ago, and feel I am working harder - just didn't use a HRM until recently. :oops:
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby DanielS » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:22 am

I wouldn't get too caught up trying to use your HR to measure improvement in any way, there are too many variables. I think that the easiest way to measure improvement, short of using a power meter, is to find a longish climb or uninterrupted section of road and go as hard as you can and time yourself. Do it again in a couple of weeks or a month and see how much you've improved!

I think that HR is mostly useful for riding long intervals, and getting a somewhat objective measure of intensity to calibrate your own percieved exertion. Remember that HR always lags actual effort - it takes 30 seconds or so to catch up to what you are doing.

As others have said, 220-Age is pretty much useless for estimating Max HR for an individual. Its a line of best fit through the population, but the potential deviation is massive (as is obvious from the responses to this thread, and many others!)

For testing your Max HR, in my limited experience, you need to build up to it. If you just go into a short, hard effort from cold, you won't get to your Max HR. Either use a trainer, or find somewhere you can ride without any traffic or stops - start out riding easily and gradually increase your speed/effort over a period of about 5-10 mins. This will mean starting out quite easy. It will get harder and harder as you go along, and when you are going as hard as you think you can go... then put one last maximal effort in. That should do it. (usual disclaimer - don't do this test if you have heart problems etc etc!!)
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ft_critical » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:52 am

ve safari wrote:Ok, dumb question. I thought max aerobic threshold was 95% of HRMax, which seems to be close to what I achieve on the road. Is it possible to actually reach your max heart rate, safely? I'm 42, HRMax = 220-42=178bpm. Is it reasonable to expect to reach 178bpm on the bike?


Same age. Max HR 188. I have seen 195 when I was racing sick with a virus.

Today's Group ride, MWCC Max 184, avg 167 (45min)
Tue ESCC Heffron Crit Max 188, avg 179 (55min)

In spite of what Jens Voight says about "mind saying shut up body," for most people you will blow up if you spend too long in the red zone. For me the red zone is 5bps below max. Too long, more than 3min (but that could be false bravado, but it is close to that.)
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Parrott » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:01 pm

The max I have seen on my HR monitor is 203. I'm 41 my theoretical max by that formula is 179. During time trials if I see my HR drop below 180 I know I'm bludging so push a bit harder.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby twizzle » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:05 pm

Guy at work is 48, gave up racing crits because his HR hit 198.

Anyway... except for steady-state efforts, HR is useless as a measurement of effort. A.S. told me I was wasting my time on HR, he was right - I don't even bother to look at HR anymore.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ft_critical » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:29 pm

twizzle wrote:A.S. told me I was wasting my time on HR, he was right - I don't even bother to look at HR anymore.


Yes and no. I look at it on the last lap of a race as a bit of an assessment of how much I have in the tank.
Secondly, it does rank intensity in my opinion for races. I looked back over and collated my HR times from races and group rides of different sorts and it provides and interesting look at what is required. But I confess, it doesn't give me anything that I can use to measure my fitness. It does measure the intensity for me of individual performances though and I can rank them.
I don't want to do a power meter discussion, but for me if I can get my HR down for a greater speed on a paticular regular ride I know that I am increasing my power - 'cause I don't have powermeter. So I do think it is useful but confess that I would prefer to have a power meter.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Parrott » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:42 pm

Yeah for us poor plebs who only have HRM's it's pretty hard to reject it totally. It's pretty useful for me on longer tt's when the focus can wander a bit, to tell me to speed up ( as you say steadish-state efforts, Twizzle) It's still handy in concert with PE in training and road races, it can confirm that yes you are nearing your limit if it feels like you are. Wouldn't slow down my pace purely off HR though.

I'm sure power meters are better but my wheels mean it is an expense I'm not about to meet anytime soon.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:19 am

So I decided to go as hard as I could on the 30km commute home last night, and smashed my PB by over 4 1/2 minutes. Yay me.

Interestingly, I saw 100% MHR (178bpm) a couple of times, and the max value recorded was 115% (203bpm)... :shock: That can't be right, surely... My average HR was 150bpm.

Legs are sore this morning! I think I'll have a more gentle ride into the office :lol:
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby wombatK » Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:04 am

ve safari wrote:So I decided to go as hard as I could on the 30km commute home last night, and smashed my PB by over 4 1/2 minutes. Yay me.

Interestingly, I saw 100% MHR (178bpm) a couple of times, and the max value recorded was 115% (203bpm)... :shock: That can't be right, surely... My average HR was 150bpm.

Legs are sore this morning! I think I'll have a more gentle ride into the office :lol:

At 56, my max should be 164, but I can get to 170 to 175 on a hard hill.

Your max could easily be higher than the age formula tells you, so don't worry too much about that. Just watch out that your not experiencing any warning symptoms when pushing really hard - like light headedness or dizziness, chest or upper arm pains or numbness/tingling in hands. If you find any of the latter, get your GP to refer you for a stress test. You might want the latter anyway for peace of mind, but your ride home is a pretty good stress test.

The age formula works pretty well for me, but there's plenty of people who it doesn't. My wife and 1 of 4 kids have really low heart rates and max heart rates. Lucky buggers.

What is more significant with HR is how quickly it recovers to your resting level when you finish your ride. That's the best indicator of fitness - and if you monitor it over weeks or months you should see an improvement in it.

Congrats on doing something about the weight before it has more serious consequences.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby Sweeper59 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:38 am

There's plenty of info on the net about maximum heart rates for exercising. The main point is that there is no formula that fits everyone.
Using 220 - your age is only an approximation. I have also seen 200 - (50% of age) as well.
The value will vary depending on level of fitness, health etc. (Lance Armstrong claims he can work at 192 bpm for 'hours'.)
I'm 50, and using either of the above formulas, my max heart rate should be 170 - 175bpm.
There's a very steep hill near my home (up to Tacking Point lighthouse) and my HR gets to 190bpm when we push hard up the hill. I've also been well over my 'max' regularly doing 'spin' classes at the gym.
I now use 190 bpm as my maximum, rather than apply any formulas.
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Re: Determining Max heart Rate on the road

Postby ve safari » Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:50 am

Smashed myself on the 28km ride into work today, beat PB by 3.5 minutes :) - max HR 173.

I hear everyone's message - don't pay too much attention to the numbers, listen to your body. I don't need a HRM to tell me whether I'm making an effort.

cheers all
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