You can do training without heart rate monitors. We used to do training back in the 80’s without them. In the 1980’s there were heart rate monitors but you certainly couldn’t have them on your bike, they were big units.

But heart rate monitors are a good guide to help you gauge your level of exercise intensity. So they’re really good for people that are new to the sport that need a bit of an understanding around how intense they need to ride in the various sessions.

So when you are doing base building you want to keep your intensity low when you are doing high intensity you want to look at the E3 and VO2 max zones.

So the heart rate monitors give you an indication of how hard you are riding.

There are other ways of doing this, such as using power. Power is a little bit more definitive than heart rate.

You can also use the scale of breathing, and what I like to tell people is if you’re breathing… Say if you can hold a conversation, and you’re not breathing hard, and then that’s a recovery zone.

If you’re breathing hard, but able to hold short sentences in your conversation with the person next to you, then that’s E3, which is a powerful zone to training in.

And then VO2 max, that is the high-intensity one usually where we do over threshold efforts. You’re not able to hold a conversation, you’re not able to talk, and you’re breathing hard and breathless.

So even though you can use a heart rate monitor, you can also use how you’re feeling to give you an indication of how hard you are riding.

And that’s how I like to scale up for people: They’re either not breathing hard at all, easy. Breathing hard but not breathless, feeling hard but able to maintain it, they’re on top of things [E3]. And then over threshold, VO2 max, breathing hard and breathless.

Check this article on How To Work Out Your Cycling Heart Rate Zones.