Sweet spot versus LSD?

Sweet spot training seems to be commonly recommended by other coaches/resources, especially for the “time crunched cyclist”. Sweet spot training will definitely add more stress and fatigue compared to the LSD ride below LT1. But, are there adaptations from a 4 hour LSD ride that can’t be gained from a 2 hour sweet spot ride?


@robertehall1 great question about SST and LSD.

So yes, SST will give you some great aerobic adaptations, but to your question specifically, I do feel there are some adaptations to the 4 hour LSD that would not be gained from a 2 hour SST. Part of it is just sitting in the saddle another 2 hours and remaining comfortable, managing your effort/HR response, and fueling. Overall though, I think there is some good overlap in the adaptations you get from both in my experience.

As I was preparing for a 5 day bikepacking trip a few years ago, I did a lot of low end SST, and very few longer LSD rides, and was able to test the theory out. Most of the training rides were back to back days of ~90 minutes per day split into 2x45ish minute sessions of SST. The bikepacking trip ended up being 30-45 miles on dirt/singletrack every day, roughly 4-6 hours per day depending on the terrain. I felt amazing every single day, and particularly strong on the climbs, even late in the rides. So that was a great reassurance that we can accomplish some good gains in a time crunched scenario.

Keep in mind that the SST, as you said, requires more recovery due to the added stress and fatigue, so just be aware of how the days are arranged.

Coach Ryan


Coach @ryan:
Something I have been wondering for a while is what role one’s lifetime base fitness plays in optimal training prescription. For example, you cite the SST training for your bike packing trip as an example where SST can work. But do you think the underlying aerobic fitness you brought into that scenario in effect allowed you to up the intensity and absorb the work? How can you quantify whether this approach will work? Is it more of a periodization approach, meaning maybe it makes more sense to do SST base work during winter when outdoor riding is more inconsistent and then transition to LSD when the weather and daylight hours improve. (I should add that as a fall athlete I have all spring and summer to build a base - for summer events I realize the timing is different)

Bringing in another concept: is there a W/kg table identifying the range of LT1 power corresponding to Cat 5 through world tour pro? Can we use that to set objectives for our base training?

Hi @SteveHerman, that’s a great point. I think there is certainly a big role of lifetime base fitness when it comes to endurance performance. There was a paper published (and I can’t remember the name, but will see if I can find it) a number of years ago showing that cumulative mileage was a big factor in endurance performance. So our ability to absorb that training stress definitely improves with time.

I do think that cumulative mileage played a large role in absorbing that work in preparing for the bikepacking trip. I still let those days remain flexible so I could ride to the sensations in the legs. I wasn’t sticking to any particular power range during this training. It was more about the effort and heart rate that drove the rides.

As for quantifying whether this approach will work, I’m not sure there’s any way to quantify that, but you can at least make some assumptions to start (e.g., if you’ve never done SST before, you might only start with a 2 day block, and periodize the workouts accordingly). Since I’ve done that length of workout a lot in the past, I felt comfortable knowing that blocking up multiple AM/PM workouts would be a push, but a reasonable one.

In your case, I think you can mix things up to suit your needs as a fall athlete. You can also keep LSD in there almost any time through the year, so I’m not sure it’s as much of a transition to LSD as it is a primary focus. So you might have 1 LSD ride every 1-2 weeks while doing a SST focus. Or if you’re more time crunched, it might be a regular LSD ride weekly, and blocking up smaller blocks of SST. Then when you get into summer and outdoor riding is more consistent and you have more daylight, that could open up a lot of great time for that LSD focus.

Great question on the w/kg table for LT1. I’m not aware of anything, but tagging Coach @trevor on this one if he might have any information.

Coach Ryan

Hi Steve and Ryan,

Interesting conversation! Wish I could dive into more of your points, but for now, no I’m not aware of any table. Most of the tables generated comparing athletes focused on LT and above.

That said, Dr San Millan did create a table showing lactate responses. It did show given lactates at 0.5 watts/kg for various levels of cyclists. The issue is it really focused on elite athletes only. The key number I remember is that to be World Tour level, you need a sustainable LT1 around 4.5 w/kg. If you do the math, that’s BIG power.

Using that as a guideline, to be a good amateur cyclist, I would think 3.0 watts/kg would allow you to hang with the field and 3.5 watts/kg would make you quite competitive. But I’m ballparking.