Ask the Expert: What is the RPE for Threshold Intervals and the RPE for the Recovery?

Cynthia has a question about the perceived exertion for threshold intervals and the recovery in between the intervals. She also asks for motivational cues. 

She asked the question in the comments of one of our Obsessed with Cycling Drills posts by Tom Scotto called The On-Ramp. Tom uses this drill to train his riders how to know how hard to push at the start of various-length intervals, so they can learn how to pace themselves, especially for the longer threshold drills.

Here is Cynthia’s question.

I’m going to do a section of my next class with this drill in mind. I’ll do a 30-second start up, and then 3.5 minutes of work and 4-minute recovery. I’m going to do this twice in the middle of class. So here are my questions—any feedback would be appreciated.

  1. What is the RPE during the hard work?
  2. I was just going to not talk at all during the 3 minutes of work and maybe even get off my bike and join them in class. If you do talk any cues you suggest other than the regular motivational cues?.
  3. And during the 4-minute recovery song, I presume RPE is 5?

Thoughts? Thanks so much!

Thanks for the great question, Cynthia!


  1. A few weeks ago I read the high intensity cue article and loved it. I love “commit, connect, control” for flats and “you can do it, you will do it” for climbs. I have been using those. Any suggestions on learning more about lactate threshold and what it is exactly? Also, when I am teaching an interval class, if the hard work is 4 minutes, does that mean you would recommend an active recovery at an RPE of 3 for 4 minutes too? Like what is the ratio in an interval class for hard work verses active recovery. Thanks

  2. Thanks so much for answering this question. My workout wasn’t an interval work out, so my recovery according to this chart should be an RPE of 4. This is a great chart. I did flat road songs (about 95 RPM) in this part of my class that were very high energy and suggested they close their eyes and work at an effort level of 7/8 RPE. And we recovered to fun sing a long songs. Thanks for the response!! I appreciate it.

  3. I like your RPE chart. We need this in the cycling room. Any chance of getting a hold of this and permission to reproduce?

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