Heart Rate & training

How many of you use a heart rate monitor (HRM) when training for uni events?

I’m starting to do interval type training (stationary trainer) and hill repeats (on my Muni) and am thinking of getting a HRM to make sure I am in the right training zone. However a lot of articles I’ve read say the heart rate is very ‘subjective’ and can change easily depending on how much sleep/caffeine/salt and whot nots you’ve had - that it is better to use a RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion.) Other articles say you can’t train right without one.
It seems you need to be in the right intensity zone to guarantee fitness gain, if you are not, you can potentially loose fitness. I am trying to work on my fitness level, so that I can improve my technical muni skills. Some days I get to the stage when I’m so tired I loose form and have to stop even though I would like to continue practicing some of my local MTB loops.I want to be able to practice technical stuff for longer.

Well back to the topic: Is it worth buying a HRM? If so can anyone recommend a brand or model?

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. How do you plan to stay in your intensity zone on a unicycle?

When riding a bicycle, one can simply shift gears to raise or lower the intensity of his ride. How does one do this on a unicycle? You can’t exactly raise or lower the pitch of the hill on which you ride.

I bought a cheap Reebok HRM and used it but briefly while riding. It did well to measure my HR but I found I could do little to control it. So the HRM was relegated to use at the gym, on a treadmill or stairmaster… where it was much more useful.

My opinion is thus: if you want use HR metrics to get fit, buy a HRM and hit the gym. If you want to get in shape for unicycling, just ride, ride, ride.

I have been using a HRM tied to a Garmin Forerunner 305 since the first of the year. It is neat because you get a log of heartrate in addition to speed and altitude over your entire workout. I have used it for 3 runs and 5 unicycle rides and can share the following observations:

  1. When running, my HR stays within the range of 130 to 160 bpm.
  2. When unicycling on the down hills and flats, my HR drops to around 100 to 105 - this is to spite holding as high a speed as I think I can.
  3. On the unicycle up hills, I have seen HR of 155, not quite as high as running.

From my limited experience, I conclude that running is better training from the standpoint of maintaining my Heart Rate within a more narrow zone. Even though unicycling does not give as high a HR or maintain my HR in a narrow zone, unicycling is WAY more fun than running.

I look forward to using the HRM on my recumbent bike when the weather warms up.

I use an HRM for my other sports, but only occasionally use it while muniing. Since I’ve only been riding a uni since late last spring, I still use too much energy on balancing through some sections, so it is hard to go for a specific heart rate. I use my HRM mostly o be able to compare between sports, but train based on the feel of the exercise. Yes, HR for a perceived exercise level can easily change by 15%. If I drink a can of Coke, my HR jumps 5%. If I’m running in the woods on a hot day, then cross a field, my HR can jump over 5% while I’m in the sun. The amount of water I’ve been drinking can change my HR by 10% over the course of a long ride. So for an HRM to be any good, you have to use it for quite a while to learn to match the readings with feeling. These days I mostly just use it as a stopwatch.

I discovered how tough muni really is when I started using my Garmin Forerunner. HRs comparable to those I experienced running marathons. I also discovered that you can achieve a high HR riding a 36 with 110 cranks if you try to maintain a fast pace (13-15 mph), especially if you are on hilly terrain. I did a 40 mile event and averaged 174 bpm. I have hit mid 180s doing tech uphill on the muni.

I dont see any advantage in using a HRM on a Muni. My hart rate is mid to top range 99% of the time, the only time it drops is when i stop pedalling.

That seems really high for an average! That would set off a red flag for me! Even when I did that super intense 33% grade Fargo hill climb, I don’t think my HR maxed out higher than maybe 150 bpm. But then again, I am 9 years older than you, so my max is going to be a little less than yours, but 174 for an average–for 40 miles–seems scary fast for someone 46 years old! What is your resting HR? Mine’s about 53.

Heart Rate and Unicycle

First off let me say that I am 59 Years old and I just started on the unicycle about 3 months ago. I have been a bike rider for many years and I have been doing spin training at the local gym three times a week for over a year. What I noticed when I started the Unicycle is that my heart rate began to decrease as I was at the gym in my spinning classes and I also noticed that my recovery was much quicker. I do not use a Heart Rate Monitor when I ride the Unicycle but I dod use it while I am in my spin classes. I have been using the unicycle for the past 3 months and I find that occasionally I do need to stop and rest because my legs are worn out and I am breathing very heavily. The greatest difference though it with my heart rate while I am at my spinning classes. It has dropped dramatically and the recovery has improved greatly.

I find it useful.
It helps monitor my exertion, particularly on longer rides (ie 3 - 4 hours).
It also help identify what works me harder, For example technical downhill can have my heart rate in the 180’s but on hard climbs it can hit the 190’s.
And in answer to the statement about not being able to change the gradient, you’re right, but you can change yor effort level which helps control you heart rate.
Once you know your maximum heart rate and your distance zone (what you can sustain for long periods of time) you can manage your exertion to ensure you run out of energy at the end of the ride no matter how far you go which allows you to maximize yor training time.
Just my opinion though. Please feel free to disagree.

For endurance sports a HRM might make sense, but for muni where intensity varies greatly and “stops” to rest are common and often obligatory, an HRM is liksly wasted. If you want to build endurance for muni, your best bet is to do road work on a 36er uni, long hill climbs (for power) and sustained high speed spinning (for speed) where you can adjust your exertion level to maintain your HR in the “zone”.

Ok so i’ve never used a heart rate monitor but I have gone through the process of training for big endurance events a lot of times. If we assume that your goal is to perform well at a specific event, you can start your preparation by informing yourself about the nature of the race: distance, elevation gain/fall, trail conditions, and predicted weather conditions.

That can help with your training regime. If its going to be hilly, smash those hill repeats. If its going to require you being in the saddle for 4hrs or so- get out and put the hours in. In my opinion, the best training for muni riding, is exactly that- muni riding. Cross training is good if you want a mental break- I like to do some trail running for a bit of a change every now and then. But in terms of upping the skills- don’t ride road unis if you want to improve your technique and proficiency at technical off road climbs.

That being said- i find it hard to spend the 8 consecutive hours in the saddle in a training ride that i will need on a race day. All of us need to fit our training in around work and family commitments etc.

So if i have a 100km race coming up and only a few hours a week to prepare in the month leading up to it- I just do a 2 hr ride at 100% intensity. No rests, no walking, and pushing my cadence to the controllable limit. I think the intense riding you do when you are shagged is twice as beneficial as a lot of comfortable kms.

Of course, I have no data to back this up- but I do have a fair amount of experience. Generally I don’t blow up in the cardio aspect of a big endurance ride. Normally its my muscles that fatigue and cramp before my heart and lungs give out. Maybe that means I don’t push hard enough in my races?

I have enough to worry about when I’m riding (dealing with nutrition, hydration and the anti cramping measures) so I don’t think i want another thing nagging at my attention while i’m trying to enjoy the experience of a big ride.

My key for training is intensity. A really hard 45 minute ride is much more rewarding for me than a 3 hr laze around on the trails. Thats why I only ever ride alone (no excuse to stop).


Mark, it sounds like she’s wanting to improve her conditioning in order to have the endurance to ride harder and longer, which would allow her to work more on muni technique.

Muni is to road uni what trail running is to road running, so it is not a bad idea to train on the road, reason being you can remove the technical aspect from the ride and focus entirely on sustained effort, which is what the OP is asking about.

That’s the approach I’ve taken. I’ve been on exactly two single track muni rides, both of which I’d largely consider to be failures. The first go round I’d have a UPD at nearly every root. I took that as an indication that I wasn’t ready.

I put in about a months worth of double track and road riding. Looking to increase my overall distance, time in the saddle without a dismount, and sticking every hill without walking. I hit a personal best of 18 miles and I never felt winded that entire time. I figured I was ready for the single track again.

I went back to the same single track and found that I was better, but I still got extremely winded over very short distances. The roots were no longer a problem… until I was winded, then they knocked me off just like before. I was hitting a few sections at “feel like a kid again” speeds, it was fun.

I find that with muni I ride the pedals almost the entire time, which wears me down very quickly. I think that at this point I’m not going to build muni endurance unless I’m out there doing single track on the muni. Roads and the double track just aren’t doing anything for my endurance anymore. I guess what I’m saying is that riding road and easier double track helped to prep me to even be able to take that next step, and boy is it tough to be on that bottom step looking up. :wink: