Power Testing – How to Prepare for the 20-minute FTP Test


With a new ICE session comes the return of power testing.  If you have never power tested before, this quick guide will give you an idea of what to expect.  Even if you are a returning rider, a refresher on mental preparation always helps.  We will be testing during all classes on Saturday 2/1, Sunday 2/2, Wednesday 2/5, and Thursday 2/6.

Our classes are successful partly because we use only the most advanced hardware and software available, but when it comes to power training, workouts are only as accurate as each rider’s baseline intensity.  Cycle U uses a fairly simple testing protocol for ICE — the twenty minute max power test. What that means is that you warm up, go as hard as you can for twenty minutes, and cool down. Simple! The power that you can produce for the duration is a good indicator of aerobic fitness, which is tightly linked to cycling performance.  We use 95% of your testing wattage as your FTP, on which all subsequent workouts are based.

If you have not tested before, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your power test:

– Eat a good meal about three hours before the test. If you haven’t eaten recently, haven’t eaten well, or are still digesting, your body will have a hard time performing at its potential. If you are testing first thing in the morning, skip the meal, just do liquid electrolyte drink or water during if needed.

– Pace yourself. When a ride is “on the record” the way power tests are, you get an adrenal response at the start. This makes it easy to go out at an unsustainable pace, which you will pay for later. Keep yourself riding at a hard but sustainable pace for the first two minutes, and then start lifting the intensity. Two minutes is enough time for the adrenaline to diffuse, so the sensations you get from your legs will be more reliable.

– Get motivated for the test. When we say that it is a maximal effort, we mean it! While blowing up fifteen minutes into the test hurts, you will be kicking yourself if you finish the test with some juice left in the tank. The test will be hard, so take a few minutes in the days before the test to recall hard exertions you have done before–races, long climbs, hard group rides, anything that left you feeling completely spent at the end. That is the feeling you are hoping to achieve by the end of the test. Mental preparation will help you get the most out of yourself on testing day.

– Get a good warm up. We have an extended, power test-specific warm up that takes 20-25 minutes. Avoid the temptation to go easy on the warm up to “save it” for the test–this usually results in not being warmed up enough, using too much anaerobic energy in the opening minutes of the test, and not being able to recover. The suggested warm up consists of a fifteen minute build from easy spinning (Z1) to tempo (Z3); three minutes rest; 3×1:00 at the intensity you intend to target for the test with 3:00 rest between efforts; and 2×0:10 high cadence, low resistance sprints to bring the heart rate up. After a few minutes to recover, we begin the test!

– Don’t be intimidated. Really, all it is is you and your bike. No one else is judging you by the numbers you produce. They are simply a measure of your aerobic fitness, and there is no such thing as “failing” the test, so don’t write yourself off. Just come in prepared, give it a full gas effort, and see where you’re at.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect. Good luck to everyone testing!