Okay so you’ve done all the hard training, you’ve tapered, you’ve spent that hard earned money on your race entry, now its race time – let’s not mess this up…!

Pacing the bike correctly is key in triathlon and could result in our run split being minutes or even hours slower if we don’t get it right.

In this article we’ll looks at various ways of how you can monitor your effort and then how this applies to each triathlon distance.

In these days of modern technology we have many ways to monitor our efforts, we are going to focus on the main four:

  • Power (watts)
  • Heart Rate
  • RPE (how it feels!) 
  • Speed 

You could use just one of these, or keep an eye on a few of them for best results. We’ll quickly look at the pros and cons of each of the above options…

Power Pros: Its an exact measure of our output and gives us an instant look at our effort with no lagging.  
Power Cons: If we are having an off day (maybe sick) then purely sticking to power could result in going too hard.

Heart Rate Pros: It gives us a great indicator of our bodies effort on the day. 
Heart Rate Cons: It can be slow to rise, so you may not find out you are going too hard up a hill until its too late!

RPE Pros: Its simple, free and factors in how we are feeling on that specific day/moment. 
RPE Cons: Some people lack the experience/skills to judge what intensity then can sustain for a given time/distance.

Speed Pros: We know exactly what split we are going to hit.
Speed Cons: It doesn’t take into account wind direction, hills, road surface or the fact that you are much fresher (hopefully) on race day than you are in training.

If you have power, we’d recommend using that while keeping an eye on Heart Rate and RPE. If you don’t have power, we’d recommend racing by RPE and keeping an eye on Heart Rate. We wouldn’t really recommend using speed to judge your effort – but its good to keep an eye on so you can calculate how long you’ll be on the bike for.

You can calculate FTP and Heart Rate, and also read how to use RPE, on our Bike Calculators page.

Below we’ve put some effort guides for each triathlon distance. If you are a faster athlete you’ll want to be at the higher end of  the ranges, and if you are simply looking to complete you’ll want to be at the lower end of the ranges. This is simply because faster athletes can hold a slightly higher intensity because they will be racing for less time. But fast athletes beware, the higher in the range you go, the higher risk of blowing up later in the race! For most athletes a good race strategy would be to play it slightly conservative on the bike and guarantee you can have a solid run. 

So, on to the numbers…

Sprint Distance

Power: 90-100% FTP

HR: 90-100% FTHR

RPE: 8-9/10 (Hard, but sustainable)


Standard Distance

Power: 75-90% FTP

HR: 75-90% FTHR

RPE: 7-8/10 (Fairly hard, but sustainable)


70.3 Distance

Power: 70-85% FTP

HR: 70-85% FTHR

RPE: 6-7/10 (Moderate pace, you can still talk in sentences!)


Ironman Distance

Power: 65-80% FTP

HR: 65-80% FTHR

RPE: 5-7/10 (Fairly easy pace, you can still talk in sentences!)



Getting your pacing correct will help run better off the bike, it’ll also help digest nutrition easier, and you’ll find that you spend the later stages of the race going past people – which is great for a mental boost! Use the above as guidelines, but you’ll also learn each race what you can get away with personally!