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FTP Testing

We’ve discussed the benefits of training with Power and FTP so now we should discuss how we discover a person’s FTP value? The answer is that there are a wide range of tests all used to infer FTP with varying intensities and timeframes. Let’s take some time to briefly discuss the ICG® tests and then dig deep into a more generic Power testing protocol. 

At ICG® we have 2 tests built into the console of every bike with Coach By Color®. The 5-minute FTP test is a 5-minute all-out effort and it means that every person in a large group can start and finish the test together. This is a useful test as it can fit nicely into a class format along with a warm up, prep section and a cool down and so it can appear as a “normal” class format rather than a test for inferred FTP. If you’re not sure what a 5-minute all-out effort would feel like try to think of your fastest ever short-distance run (a Km or a Mile) and you’re somewhere in the ballpark.

The second test that we use (and my personal favourite) is the FTP ramp test. The FTP ramp test is a progressive test and I love it because it allows people to learn about Power values as they test. The test structure begins by requesting just 75 Watts. The rider matches that with a combination of leg speed and resistance to suit them. The rider must then maintain that output for 4-minutes at which point the target wattage increases by 25 Watts. The target wattage will increase by a further 25 Watts every 4-minutes thereafter until the rider can longer maintain the target at which point the rider ends the test and gets their result. Everybody starts together but everybody finishes at different times. The test is easy to begin with but tough on the last 1 or 2 ramps for every rider as they’re likely above their Functional Threshold.

These tests are brilliant and they serve the fitness user perfectly but if you read anywhere within the cycling community about FTP testing you’ll likely encounter the 20-minute FTP test or CP20 as it’s otherwise known. The CP20 is a 20-minute all-out effort and it’s a real test of Power output, mental fortitude and fatigue resistance. So how do you do it? Here’s a simple guide.

As you’d expect with any kind of all-out effort the body needs to be warm so the warm up for the CP20 is fairly extensive and takes a long time. In fact, we’re riding for a little over 30 minutes before we embark on our tested effort. The long progressive warm up ensures that all of the systems are ready for action, we’ve got warmth in our muscles to prevent injury and we’ve exhausted the anaerobic systems a little so they have less of an impact on the result. If you have an hour then it goes like this…

  • 10 minutes moderately easy riding at a cadence of around 90RPM
  • 3 x 1 minute “spin ups” to over 100RPM with 1 minute recoveries following
  • 5 minutes moderately easy riding at a cadence of around 90RPM
  • 5 minutes maximum effort at preferred cadence
  • 10 minutes moderately easy riding at a cadence of around 90RPM
  • 20 minutes Time Trial – Full effort for the whole duration steady state (as much as you’ve got)
  • 5 minutes progressive cool down
  • Jump (possibly slump) off the bike and then stretch. Bring the HR back down easy.

The average Watts sustained for your 20-minute Time Trial effort is the starting point for calculating FTP. Take the average number of Watts sustained through that effort and reduce it by 5%.

For example:
Average Watts for the TT effort = 354 Watts
354 Watts x 0.95 = 336 Watts. FTP = 336 Watts

If you’d like to perhaps take this as the next step on your Power journey after you’ve completed a ramp test on an ICG® indoor cycle then you should be aiming to hold around 105%+ FTP for the Time trial effort. You’ll likely flick between the yellow and red colour zones but that’s ok, that just means you’re in the right place. Try using the lap button to record the TT effort as a lap which will then provide you with the average output for that lap in the lap summary screen. 

Finally, keep it seated throughout your effort. We know you can push more power standing but it isn’t a sustainable position for very long periods so we need to know what you can do in the saddle. Also, there’s no hard and fast rule for preferred cadence. The slower you go the more your legs muscle fatigue will play a part in the result. The faster you go the more stress there will be on the efficiency of your pedal stroke and cardiovascular system. We tend to advise most people between 85 – 95 RPM.

Good luck! Let us know how you get on.