I own a HRM that I use during most of my rides and I noticed that I manage to push myself to the limit when I ride my road bike but not with my MTB. My max HR is always higher with my road bike, my average HR likewise. Is there an explanation for this?

  • Are your MTB rides on the same road? Or are you comparing an off-road MTB ride with an on-road trip with your road bike ?
    – Criggie
    Jul 30, 2017 at 22:31
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    Also, what are your average speeds for each bike? 30 km/h on road bike should be easier than 30 km/h on the MTB. But 15 km/h on the MTB is very hard to compare with 30 on the road bike.
    – Criggie
    Jul 30, 2017 at 22:35
  • My guess is that your average level of effort is higher on the road bike. Jul 31, 2017 at 2:22
  • @Daniel R Hicks: yes, that's my guess too but I wonder why is that. Whenever I willingly push myself on the MTB I never reach the same HR (180+ on the road bike is not uncommon if I choose to go there, I rarely ever reach 175 on the MTB). Jul 31, 2017 at 10:46
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    @Criggie, when I'm comparing HRs it's on tarmac, it makes no sense otherwise IMO. Jul 31, 2017 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


Heart rate is not an indicator of effort - its an indicator of fitness.

The best tool for measuring effort is a power meter, but they're not cheap. Everything else is an estimate of power, rather than a measurement.

Your heart rate and your breathing rates will rise as your muscles demand more oxygen.

Could be your cadence is higher on the road bike and you're spinning, where-as you're mashing on the MTB which leads to different muscle fibres being used.

  • This very much makes sense. I don't have a cadence meter but I believe I tend to spin on the road bike. I generally switch to whatever gear I feel allows me to maintain certain speeds on certain road portions I'm very familiar with. Jul 31, 2017 at 10:50
  • Heart rate is not an indicator of effort? Can you increase effort and not increase heart rate? You have a strange sense of logic.
    – paparazzo
    Jul 31, 2017 at 19:31
  • @Paparazzi Nope. Consider a car's instrumentation. The rev counter is a direct indicator of engine effort, the speedo is second-order measure, and temperature gauge is third-order. Heart rate would be similar to the temperature in that its not a direct measure of effort, and measures the effect of effort. Sorry for the car metaphor but it fits quite well here.
    – Criggie
    Jul 31, 2017 at 19:53

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