How to Test & Track Your Cycling Performance
Would you like know if you’re improving and by how much? To discover what works for you and what doesn’t? Good, because in this post I am going to give you some tests you can complete to help track and improve your cycling performance.
First question, why bother?
Without testing and tracking your performance it’s difficult to know if you are improving much. Sure, you may feel fitter, stronger or faster but maybe you’re just having a good day?
Testing gives you a snapshot of where you are at any point in your training. Depending on your goal, your tests will be different. For example, if my goal was to lose weight a good test would be to measure body fat and take regular pictures of myself so I could see the differences over time.
What’s a good test for cycling?
A test could be as simple as a time trial on your bike or as complex as VO2 max testing in a lab. Fortunately we have some easy to do tests available to us, the most common and easy to do test is…
Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test
I’ve divided the tests up into two sections:
- The FTP test
- Power to weight & friends
TEST 1 – THE FTP TEST
What is the FTP test?
Put simply, it’s a measure of how much power (in Watts) you can deliver for an hour of cycling. This is the test that we are going to be using to measure your performance over time and we will use it to determine which training zones you should be working in. More on that later.
How to Complete the FTP test
You will need two things:
- A heart rate monitor
- A stationary bike that measures your power output
Top Tip: If you don’t have regular access to one of these, there will quite likely be a studio or gym near you that you can pay to use. You can do your test and treat the session as a workout. The Watt bikes especially are great for training sessions.
If you have access to a Watt bike, here is the test format. Saves me having to type it out again.
The FTP Test
- Do a warm-up – see notes below
- Find a resistance setting that allows you to have a cadence of around 95 – how fast your legs turn
- The resistance setting will probably need to be a little lower than you think, as it gets hard very quickly
- Make sure that your heart rate monitor is working
Some notes on performing the warm-up
- Make sure you complete a good warm-up first. A good 15-20 minutes.
- Raise your heart rate up to a high level and allow it to drop back down before starting the test
- Use high cadence (pedals turning fast) low resistance and low cadence, high resistance efforts to prepare your legs for the test
Interpreting the FTP Results
So now you have completed your 20 minute test. Hard work wasn’t it. Take a breather, you’ve earned it. Here is how to interpret the FTP test results.
Take your average power for the 20 minutes and calculate 95% of it. For example:
200 Watts x 0.95 = 190
190 is your FTP
Note: You’ll also have your average heart rate for the test. This will help you define zones based on heart rate so you can train effectively when you don’t have a power meter.
To Do: Keep these numbers safe. I recommend doing the test every 6 weeks to check how the training is paying off.
STEP 2 – POWER TO WEIGHT & FRIENDS
Power to weight ratio is how much power you can produce compared to how heavy you are. This is particularly important if you’re climbing hills. On the flat it’s not so important, and aerodynamics plays a bigger role.
Calculate your power to weight ratio
From step 1 above, you should now know your FTP score. Take this value and divide it by your weight. For example, if my FTP score was 250 and I weigh 80kg:
250 / 80 = 3.125 Watts Per KG
Power to weight is measured in watts per kilogram of body weight. It’s a good way to compare different cyclists and an indicator of how good they will be at climbing hills.
There are two ways to improve your power to weight ratio:
- Increase your power
- Reduce your body weight
Anything over around 75kg is heavy for a climber. If you’re 90+kg your speed and climbing ability will improve no end if you dropped some kgs.
To Do: Make sure that you weigh yourself every 6 weeks along with the test that you complete for your FTP. When you complete your FTP test, calculate your power to weight ratio.
Top Tip: You might be adding muscle as you train more so your weight might go up, but your body fat down. Bear this in mind if you are just tracking your weight. A better approach would be to also track your body fat %.
If you’re looking to lose weight it’s a good idea to start taking pictures. Just in your underwear, take photos from the front and side angles. Compare them every 6 weeks to help you see if you are losing weight.
Go back to the main page. From there you can decide what to do next, like plan your workout schedule.