Since it is not possible (a lot harder) to achieve the same Maximal Heart Rate when cycling than with a different sport such as running, to what Maximal Heart Rate do we calibrate our training zones to? The MHR obtained during cycling or the slightly lower MHR during running?

Since we are only talking about a small shift in the Heart Rate Zones and I could not find any information on the subject, the second question would be: To what extent would the cyclist benefit from obtaining his MHR through an all-out effort in cycling and not from another sport?

  • 2
    I have heard people claim it was harder to elevate their HR while cycling vs running, but I never found this personally to be true. Cycling is not a natural body motion, I suspect it may have to do with inefficient muscle recruitment patterns.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 20:25
  • If you really think you need the thresholds or Heart Rate Zones, I would suggest a lactate test instead of using max HR and some one-size-fits-all formula.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


Firstly, it should be said that every reputable source recommends obtaining max HR under medical supervision only, due to inherent risks.

That is why many sites discuss various ways of estimating max HR.

From my understanding of the literature (sorry, no references to hand, I hope to add some later in the weekend), the max HR obtained from different sports ranges (from highest to lowest)

  • aerobics
  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming

Like all generalisations, there can be exceptions, as shown by the comment from Rider_X.

Having obtained your max HR, by measurement or estimation, you would use it calculate your training zones.

The main risk of using a max HR figure that's too high is that you can over train. You could potentially damage your heart doing this.

The main risk of using a max HR figure that's too low is that you'll get less benefit from your training.

So, to answer your question, there is no benefit in using a max HR figure for cycling that was obtained from another sport.

  • 1
    +1: Also not the Max HR is generally only needed to determine Aerobic threshold, which is used to set zones, and it is the Aerobic threshold, which changes with fitness and training, that is most important for training. Therefore nearly optimal zones can be found using various tests such a a Critical Power or Functional Power test
    – mattnz
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 22:05
  • I usually obtain really high hearth rates on bike I belie that they are not good. Once I got a pic of 201 bps in a climb where I push hard on my self and I really had to stop and take a break. But I can easly get to 170 and pass 185 on climbs or when I try to push harder. Can it be dangerous ? I am 28 y old and I am riding casually almost every day for the past 3 years.
    – kifli
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 7:27

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