VeloPro User Tip - How to Get the Most Out of Your FTP Checks

FTP Checks are Critical Training Waypoints

Functional Threshold Power or FTP is a scientific measure of cycling performance.  FTP is simply the average maximum power, measured in watts, that you can maintain for a 60-minute period.  This gives you a good idea of your cycling strength and fitness and can be compared across riders and events.  VeloPro uses FTP to help structure your overall training plan, the rigor of your training weeks, and the intensity of individual workouts.  The latter two are what comprise Training Load (TL).  Optimizing your TL by measuring your FTP ensures that your training is continuously challenging, and you progress to peak fitness for your event.

How does VeloPro come up with your FTP Number?

When you first join VeloPro, we ask you for your FTP.  If you are an experienced cyclist with a power meter, you likely have a good idea of this number.  If you are new to training or have not trained in a while, we provide you with a formula so that you can estimate your FTP.  FTP along with your years of cycling experiences gives VeloPro a starting place to generate your training plan and training load.

Over the course of a few rides, VeloPro will call for a workout with an FTP test to better tune your fitness and training plan.  One other way new users can help VeloPro dial in your training plan is to upload 5-10 past rides.  You can edit any ride and mark the FTP test checkbox. If you have a great ride in the recent past with a huge effort, you may want mark it as an FTP test.

VeloPro checks your FTP improvement every two to three weeks, depending on your periodized training plan.  This is done through an “FTP Check.”  VeloPro uses the 20-minute method to help encourage you to test and help you avoid injury.  The FTP check is administered after a normal warm up at the beginning of a regular training ride.  This actual test is an interval where you put in a maximum effort for 20-minutes.  Think of it as a mini time trial.

When you upload a ride with an FTP test, VeloPro uses your power meter data to derive FTP.  If you don’t have a power meter, VeloPro estimates FTP based on your rider profile and ride data.  Power meter data is more accurate.  If you get serious about your training, consider getting a power meter.

Understanding Weight and FTP

FTP is an unambiguous measure of cycling performance.  Higher is always better. However, it is not a measure of overall speed or guarantee of race results.  Why?  Weight and terrain.  Consider two riders with a common FTP of 200 watts.  For example, a 150lb cyclist climbing a 6% grade hill averages a power output of 175 watts to achieve 12 mph.  A 220lb cyclist doing the same climb averages 243 watts to produce the same 12 mph result.  More weight requires more watts to produce the same result.  What does this mean?  The 150lb rider is riding well within their endurance capabilities while the 220lb cyclist is riding at the limit of their anerobic capacity to climb the hill at the same speed.  The heavier rider will be more tired and over the course of a long race will not likely do as well. 

Conversely, on a flat road our heavy rider produces 856 watts for a 45 second burst of speed for a finishing sprint, reaching 32 mph.  Our lighter rider over the same 45 second averages 524 watts only reaching 29 mph.  This is why in pro cycling you see different rider specialties and a variety of races, so each rider can demonstrate their athletic strengths.

5 Keys to a Good FTP Test:

  1. Plan your route. You need 20 minutes of consistent uninterrupted effort.  This means no stop signs, red lights, coasting descents or bathroom breaks.  This can be a difficult challenge for urban riders.  Max efforts can produce great speed and you can burn through a route quickly. For this reason, some people prefer to take their FTP tests on an indoor trainer.  Another good alternative is to find a good long hill climb where max effort does not mean max speed.
  2. Check your bike. Make sure your bike and tires are in good shape.  You don’t want a flat or mechanical issue to take you out.  Check your chain.  Nothing will suck the watts out of your performance more than a worn chain or drive train.  Make sure your power meter and heart rate strap have good battery charge.  There’s nothing worse than a dead battery during an FTP check.
  3. Don’t skip the warm up. Maximum efforts require that you warm up to avoid injury and over revving your heart rate.  This is why you see pro cyclists vigorously riding a trainer before a time trial event.  Your engine needs time to heat up for top performance.
  4. Do the test! Some people don’t like tests. It makes them nervous and anxious.  We sympathize.  In VeloPro, nobody sees your FTP test data but you.  You have complete privacy.  If for some unavoidable reason the test does not go well, you can always edit the ride to remove the FTP checkbox. This will make the ride a normal training ride. Then you can try again
  5. Don’t sandbag. Yes you. A higher FTP does mean that your future workouts will ask more from you.  This is a good thing.  This is how you get fitter, faster and stronger.  Don’t be a Plateau Joe.  Plateau Joe is a champion of mediocrity.  He does the same thing every ride because it is comfortable and then doesn’t understand why he doesn’t get better.  Don’t be that rider.  VeloPro does build rest into your plan, so you have a chance to recover.  There’s no reason to sandbag.

FTP Tests Can Give You Confidence

FTP gives you a good idea of how you will perform at your event.  The more FTP tests you accumulate the better VeloPro will be able to optimize your plan and, best of all, project your future performance.  In the dashboard graph below the red dots are FTP tests and blue line is VeloPro’s projection of your FTP. Notice on the events below how closely the actual FTP matches VeloPro’s projection.  You can also see FTP fluctuation.  See below.

FTP Can Fluctuate

It is completely normal for FTP to fluctuate over the course of your training plan and your training year.  Don’t freak out if your FTP goes down.  There are many reasons this happens.  You could have had a poor night’s sleep the day of your test.  The giant breakfast where you ate your weight in pumpkin pancakes before the ride could be weighing you down.  You could be recovering from an illness or nursing a nagging injury. You may have taken a mid-season vacation and need a week to ramp back up.  The important thing is that the overall trend of your FTP should increase over time.

If you are training to plan and see a consistent drop in your FTP over 3-4 checks, there may be something else going on.  First, make sure your bike is in good repair.  Next, we highly recommend that you check in with your doctor. Athletic training of any kind may bring physical problems to light.  It is always good to be on top of your health.


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