Functional Threshold Power – My First FTP Test – What The Numbers Say

img_20170105_122434271I just did my first Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. In cycling FTP is used as a gauge for fitness and a base number for training zones and plans. I did it at the gym on a newer Wattbike, an exercise bike designed in partnership with British Cycling, which is meant to be very accurate. I estimated my weight at 83KG. My result was 287 watts for 20min which equates to an FTP of 272 watts. (FTP is really based on what you can do for 1hr which is estimated based on 95% of what you can do for 20 minutes, as consistent 1 hour tests are harder to accomplish for various reasons) . My result equates to approximately 3.2 watts/kg.

 

Conditions were not ideal; the saddle not quite where I wanted, there were no fans blowing, and I was in my street clip in shoes. Nonetheless it was a solid effort and I cooked myself pretty good. I don’t quite understand all the idiosyncrasies with power, but I did not stand up and did not utilize the super high ‘perched’ position I get when I’m riding on my MTB. I’ve noticed before that when I do stand up on the Wattbike I seem to easily be able to maintain 40-50 watts more for a long period of time, but that is not how I would ride for 20min in the real world. I also notice that the Wattbike seems to respond to a consistent effort at all times, throughout the entire pedal stroke, which takes advantage of a pedaling technique I don’t normally do as my natural pedal stroke all these years.
 
I’ve always been jaded by FTP numbers. I’ve heard riders bandy them about for years. My experience has been limited to the gym, but I’ve noticed every machine I’ve been on, be it Wattbike or other, it’s been hard for me to maintain over 300 watts. As a coach though I realized how important FTP and training with power can be. But I’ve been wary of firstly the idea of letting power information determine race effort, and secondly, about finding out what my limitations are!
 
I have no doubt I can improve this particular number, and probably by a large percentage. The right shoes, a fan, better geometry, and just experience in how the actually works and how to get the most out of it, will make a significant difference.
 
That said, I’m very fit right now. Yes I’m in winter training, but I’m fit and fast; and I’m strong. I don’t see my muscles getting stronger than now necessarily as I’ll still be dropping a very significant amount of weight over the next few months; likely 10kg. But taking all this into account, my numbers would seem to fall amazingly short of what I hear everyone else is doing! Even with margins of error this result does not equate with my results in the real world cycling and racing
 
272 watts is not bad by any stretch, but it would appear to be a good 75 watts less than the standard to many other riders I race against, most all who weigh much less than me!
 
It could be that I’m pretty normal on the flat and that really my forte is the ability to crank out so many more watts when climbing. I really do sit in a different position on my bike, and I utilize a different combination of muscles when climbing.
 
Of course 20min is not my forte. But I would argue that actually 20 min at full power really is something I should be good at. 20min full gas is almost a scenario that never takes place in the start of an MTB race. 20min nonstop, though sounding short, for a sustained effort it is a reasonable amount of time. It’s at least a middle distance amount, and far longer than a sprint.
 

Whatever it all means the numbers are good to find out and good to build upon. But I’d cation riders as to any belief of what their particular FTP is telling them. Compare the results to it itself and yourself, and not necessarily to what everyone else is doing.

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