A great tool for learning to ride a steady pace is a heart-rate monitor with an average-heart-rate readout. Use this feature during a hard ride or race. Afterward it will show the average heart rate you sustained. Then, the next time out, use this figure to gauge your pace on a new route to avoid overdoing it. For example: if your average (and safe) heart rate was 150 beats per minute for a sustained effort, maintaining 150 bpm or below during most of the new ride ensures an efficient pace from beginning to end.
Caveats Mind your monitor to avoid heart-rate spikes caused by big efforts such as sprinting up hills or pushing too big a gear as much as possible, as these efforts will quickly drain your energy reserves and make it harder to maintain your desired pace.
Weather Watch If it's 40 degrees and you feel like you're busting a gut but you can't reach your target heart rate, relax and try to gauge your effort by feel. Why? Because cold temperatures can lower your heart rate. The converse is true as well; heat can raise your heart rate. Also, the longer you ride the higher your heart rate will go for the same amount of effort and workload. This is a phenomenon known as cardiac drift.
The Beat Goes Up If you ride both on and off road, you should find that your average heart rate is higher when you're riding on the trails. The steeper pitches, upright seating position and greater use of your upper body usually drive your heart rate higher. And, if you try to hold the heart rate you held in a mountain-bike race for a road time trial or metric century, you'll blow sky high. The more you use your heart-rate monitor, the better you'll be able to distinguish between readings that are abnormally high or low and your regular readings.
Know Your Heart And Monitor There's a lot to know about heart rate and training with a heart-rate monitor. And it's important that you fully understand your fitness level and know how to properly train. We can offer guidance and books that provide more thorough information.