The Ride Intensity Guides

If you have ridden with us at The Ride, you may have noticed that our instructors tend to steer away from asking riders to choose a ‘specific’ gear to pedal at. Instead, the focus has been on the importance of individual effort.

Gearing can vary hugely- one gear can feel light for one rider, or it may feel closer to a hill climb for another. It’s for this reason that Keiser coach with intensity rather than gear, and to ensure that each individual rider can get the most out of each class.

Ride intensity can be determined using three main indicators: Power, RPE and Heart Rate.


Power (displayed in watts on your M3i bike) is a measure of work output over time. It is calculated by the following formula: P = F x V, or specifically, Force (your gears) x Velocity (your rpm). Power is produced when a rider is pushing both gear and speed, and it is an effective and accurate method of monitoring effort levels during classes. If watts are displayed on your bike, you will be able to check in and monitor how much power you are producing during your rides. Using the Keiser M series app (download for free: search “Keiser M Series”) is a great way of recording your average watts over time and keeping track of your progress!

To maximize power output, riders must regulate gear and RPM. While pedaling fast may appear challenging, without any resistance the power output is low. In contrast, pedaling very slowly with heavy gears may also provide a less than desirable power output. Therefore, to maximize watts, and in principle a riders effort, manipulation of gear and RPM must always be considered.

In order to estimate your Power Intensity Zones, you will need first to find your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is defined as the highest power a rider can sustain for one-hour at steady state (i.e. lactate threshold). The results of knowing your FTP allow riders to calculate and then train in various individualized power zones. .We created for you an article on how to find your FTP using the free Keiser Mseries App. Please click here

The power zones are as follows:

Zone 1, Active recovery. <55% FTP

Zone 2, Endurance. 56 to 75% FTP

Zone 3, Tempo. 76% to 90% FTP

Zone 4, Anaerobic threshold (FTP zone). 91 to 105% FTP

Zone 5, VO2 max+. Above 105% FTP and below 150% FTP


RPE is short for Rate of Perceived Exertion and is the basis of Keiser’s 5 intensity levels and how the overall intensity should feel:

Zone 1 very easy (grey zone) Very light feeling in the legs, and an intensity you could hold all day. Zone 1 is mostly used for recovery and cool down.

Zone 2 easy (blue zone) Still a light feeling in the legs, and you can hold a conversation. Zone 2 is mostly used for warm up and more active recovery periods.

Zone 3 moderate (green zone) In Zone 3 you could only hold a limited conversation and will have to focus to meet the required RPM. Heart rate will be beginning to rise- you will no longer be in a recovery zone!

Zone 4 hard (orange zone) In Zone 4 you could only give short Yes/No’s only. The heart rate will be high and legs heavy. Meeting the required RPM will be a real effort!

Zone 5 very hard (red zone) In Zone 5 you will likely to be unable to talk as total focus will be needed. The heart rate will be high, legs will feel very heavy and will tire quickly.

Using RPE to determine intensity ensures that all riders can chose the right resistance level for them and that they can have an effective workout- rather than being too easy or too hard if the gears suggested are not suitable. We want to empower all our riders to listen to their body to provide honest feedback about the correct resistance level needed and to push beyond that comfort zone!

Heart Rate

Heart rate zone training is designed to help you train efficiently and also inspire you to challenge and improve your cardiovascular fitness. Heart rate training zones are a highly accurate indicator of effort and can be monitored most effectively using a chest strap or a watch (polar heart rate straps link via Bluetooth to the Keiser M3i and Keiser M3i lite).

Estimating Maximum Heart Rate (maxHR)

Whatever a rider’s fitness goals, it is important to establish predicted maximum heart rate (maxHR) first. With predicted max heart rate, various training zones are determined from that base number. Very often, smart watches and other heart rate measurement tools are used to quickly and easily display heart rate. However, non-tech-based formulas have been experimented with for decades. For example, riders may have used the number 220 minus age to establish estimated maximum heart rate. However, this particular formula may not be the most applicable for all riders, for different reasons. With that in mind, there are other formulas to try.

Finding one’s predicted heart rate max is not a one-method-fits-all approach and may require a bit of personal experimentation. However, getting started with a base number is important. One of the formulas riders may wish to try to establish their predicted maximum heart rate is the following:

Women: 210 – half of your age – 5% of body weight = beats per minute (bpm)

Men: 210 – half of your age–5% of body weight + 4 = beats per minute (bpm)

Once you have determined your estimated maximum heart rate, percentages are used to establish various training zones at different intensity goals. Current fitness level is one of the indicators of heart-rate response during a workout. For example, if riders want to work at an endurance or aerobic training level (steady-state exercise), they would use 60–70% of their maximum heart rate as a guideline. The percentage of heart rate determines their level of intensity, which becomes an excellent fitness guide. How exercise feels and a rider’s actual heart rate correlate very closely.

Listed below are the 5 heart rate training zones used in The Ride.

Zone 1. Recovery level at 50 to 60% of heart rate max (HRM)

Zone 2. Endurance level at 60 to 70% HRM

Zone 3. Aerobic level at 70 to 80% HRM

Zone 4. Anaerobic threshold at 80 to 90% HRM

Zone 5. VO2 max+ level at above 90% HRM