FTP Test ? what the F*** is a FTP Test…

Painful – that’s what it is…

Sadly, it’s also something of a necessity if you’re trying to Train on a bike using a Power Meter.    There’s a really good description of what it is, and how it can be used as a measure of how your training is progressing here – I’ve been back on the bike properly for around 14 months now, and after the first 3 months, my Physio made me undergo one of these tests every 2 months, just to measure, quantify and justify to me exactly WHY I was doing all those stupid exercises, drills, and endless miles at base-level heart rate…   And do you know something – he was right – and you could see and measure a definite improvement.

Now, this summer, we worked out a slightly upgraded training scheme, that saw me riding quite a bit harder, faster and further – after getting a good “base level” of fitness, spending some time “tuning the engine” was how he put it.

This section of the training scheme is pretty much complete now, and it was time to mark the end of the plan with another “benchmark”.    Hence, my requirements to perform a FTP test.    Now, due to certain logistical problems, for the next 6 months or so, I’ll be unable to actually get to visit my Physio/Trainer (problems not entirely unrelated to the fact that he’s going to be in the southern hemisphere, and I’m not!) so he’s given me a FTP test protocol based on a modified version of the one in the wonderful Book by Coggan and Allen – Training and Racing with a Power Meter.

The Test protocol is pretty much as follows…

Warmup

  • 20 minutes at endurance pace
  • 3×1 minute Fast pedalling (100 cadence) with 1 minute recovery pace between
  • 5 minutes easy riding

Main Test Set

  • 5 minutes All-Out Effort
  • 10 minutes easy riding
  • 30 minutes simulated time trial pace

Cooldown

  • 10-15 minutes easy spinning

I performed this test using a Tacx Bushido, which had been ridden for 10 minutes to warm up the bearings etc. then calibrated to 11.5 and the power output matched to a Powertap rear wheel using the “scale factor” option.   This in theory should mean that as long as I calibrate the Bushido to the same figure each time, the power should be to all intents and purposes the same as a reading from a powertap wheel.   The Bushido is connected to a Laptop computer which records and displays the training, saving a full analysis file to disk (providing the software doesn’t crash like it did last time I used it!)   This analysis can be exported as a .HRM file, and via Sportstracks3 and a couple of clever plug-in’s turned into a garmin compatible .TCX file ready to export to my online training diary kept within Garmin Connect.

The Analysis

While I use Garmin Connect for an Online training diary, being of a paranoid nature, I always like a couple of options – belt, braces, bit of string etc.   So,  I have 2 separate logging systems on my PC – one is the aforementioned Sportstracks3, which I have to say is a brilliant bit of software, and the other is an alltogether more specialised beast – Goldencheetah – which pretty much majors on power analysis.

With this in mind, I dragged the .HRM file into Goldencheetah, and used the helpful “Ride > Find Best Intervals” option to find the best 20 minute interval in the ride.   This gave an interval with average power of 191Watts   A simple approximation of FTP can be made by deducting 5% from this – i.e. 191 * 0.95 = 181.45 or rounded up to 182 for simplicity (bearing in mind that even the best powermeters are +- 2% we’re not going to quibble about 0.55 watts!)

The other part of the test (the 5 minutes eyaballs-out effort) is designed to assess what power you’re producing at VO2max – i.e., the Max. Heart Rate and Power at the end of this 5 minute thrash SHOULD be your Aerobic Threshold Power and Heart Rate.   I have to hold my hands up here, and admit that I didn’t actually “give it the beans” here, as I’d already been out for a 45 minute road-ride earlier in the day, and was worried that I’d tie up in the actual FTP test section.

Anyway – there we are – FTP’s up from 163 in Early May, 10% better – more importantly, the real measure being power/weight ratio – early may ‘s power/weight ratio was 166w/121.8kg – 1.3629w/kg, and we’re now standing at 182/110.4 – or 1.6486w/kg.   Still pretty pathetic figures, but hey – I’m not exactly elite athlete material here – this time last year I could barely ride 15 miles without needing half a hour of “quiet time” before I could hold a conversation…

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