One-Hour Workout: Joe Friel’s Bike Cruise Intervals

Build your cycling fitness and power with this workout from one of the sport's most experienced coaches.

Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

This bike workout is from endurance coaching legend Joe Friel, co-founder of Training Peaks and author of books such as The Triathlete’s Training Bible, Going Long, and Ride Inside. This session is intended for more experienced triathletes and can be done on an indoor trainer or on the road.

Friel said: “If doing this outside, do this on a relatively flat course, and if riding on an indoor trainer (in ERG mode or connected to an app) then you should aim to do three intervals, each of which are six to 12 minutes in duration. Each interval should be done at about your anaerobic threshold, which is RPE 7/10.”

He said power is the preferred gauge of intensity for this main set, but heart rate may be used too since the work intervals are long. For power, ride at or slightly below your FTP (functional threshold power) in zone 4. If using heart rate, gradually raise your pulse to just below your FTHR (functional threshold heart rate) on each work interval.

He added: “Remember that with heart rate, the timed work interval portion begins as soon as the hard effort begins, not when heart rate reaches the goal intensity. As your heart rate gradually increases in the early stages of each work interval, intensity is estimated based on an RPE of 7/10.”

After each work interval, recover in zone 1 with easy pedaling for one-quarter of the duration of the preceding work interval—not longer as that would reduce the benefits of the workout, Friel said. As an example, after a six-minute work interval you would recover for 90 seconds with easy pedaling.

Friel explained: “If you are new to this main set, you should probably only do one six-minute work interval the first time. Gradually, over a few sessions, increase the total combined work interval duration to about 18 to 30 minutes (for example, 3×6 minutes or 3×10 minutes). Focus on staying relaxed and in the aero position during each work interval. Your pedaling cadence should be at a comfortable, race-like level for each work interval.”

RELATED: Dear Coach: Should I Do Intervals During Ironman Training?

One-Hour Workout: Joe Friel’s Bike Cruise Intervals


20 min. smooth riding, gradually bringing the intensity up towards the end of your warm-up

Main Set

3 x 6-12 min. intervals @ 7/10 RPE followed by 1/4 recovery time, e.g. 12 min. interval is followed by 3 min. recovery


10 min. easy pedaling

More One-Hour Workouts

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.