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FTP Test Gear Ratio and Other Tips

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

FTP Test Gear Ratio and Other Tips

Old 08-19-20, 09:54 AM
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FTP Test Gear Ratio and Other Tips

Hi everyone,

I am expecting my Stages power meter in the mail today and am getting ready to do my first 20-min FTP test. Just a couple of questions for those more experienced than me:

1. Is there a gear ratio/cadence I should be shooting for? I have been doing 40/20 intervals once or twice a week on the 50/15 combo and that is pretty tough, but I can do 3 sets of 10 at an estimated 80-90 RPMs. Should I do that, or bump it down to 50/17 or even less? How much resistance should I be feeling at a certain cadence (e.g., medium resistance at 90 RPM)?

2. Any recommendations on type of road to do this test or how to deal with obstacles during the 20 min test? I have a MUP that is mostly used by cyclists about 9 miles away, but there are sections with 90 degree turns and road crossings. My area (north Tampa) also has many roads with speed bumps, stop signs, lights, or all of the above. I am struggling to think of a nice, straight road without some form of obstacle that I will have to deal with during the 20 minutes. If anyone knows the Tampa area and can recommend something, or just has general tips on road types/ways to deal with these challenges/or ways to interpret data given a less than perfect 20 minute stretch, I'd appreciate it.
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Old 08-19-20, 10:00 AM
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Whatever gears work and just say no to the MUP.
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Old 08-19-20, 10:04 AM
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If you are dead set to do this outside, I would try and find a neighborhood that you can ride around and only has residential traffic. By neighborhood, I don't mean a one block circle, I mean a road that encompasses or takes you around an entire neighborhood that is not part of the main roads. In my area there is a "neighborhood circle" (for a lack of a better term) that you can go around that is just over 4 miles. Stop and go, or slow and go is not something you want to do. The goal is to go as hard as you can, not get rest breaks.
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Old 08-19-20, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by joebiker1
Hi everyone,

I am expecting my Stages power meter in the mail today and am getting ready to do my first 20-min FTP test. Just a couple of questions for those more experienced than me:

1. Is there a gear ratio/cadence I should be shooting for? I have been doing 40/20 intervals once or twice a week on the 50/15 combo and that is pretty tough, but I can do 3 sets of 10 at an estimated 80-90 RPMs. Should I do that, or bump it down to 50/17 or even less? How much resistance should I be feeling at a certain cadence (e.g., medium resistance at 90 RPM)?

2. Any recommendations on type of road to do this test or how to deal with obstacles during the 20 min test? I have a MUP that is mostly used by cyclists about 9 miles away, but there are sections with 90 degree turns and road crossings. My area (north Tampa) also has many roads with speed bumps, stop signs, lights, or all of the above. I am struggling to think of a nice, straight road without some form of obstacle that I will have to deal with during the 20 minutes. If anyone knows the Tampa area and can recommend something, or just has general tips on road types/ways to deal with these challenges/or ways to interpret data given a less than perfect 20 minute stretch, I'd appreciate it.
Gear is whatever you can handle - specific gear combos are useless without knowing the type of road you are riding on, wind conditions, etc. For TTs and threshold tests, I typically settle in at somewhere between 83-87rpm as my cadence - but your optimal cadence will depend on you. I look for a little amount of lactic burn - what i know is going to be sustainable. What helps me is to break the interval up into 4 sets of 5' - 1st one is to get me in a rhythm, second and third, I adjust my effort depending on how I feel (it should hurt but be sustainable) and the 4th one, I spend the entire 5 minutes wishing for a quick death. The first one, it is ok if your power is up and down a bit. You get better at pacing as you do more of these.

Roads, I cant help you with - but as mentioned, it should be 20 minutes of uninterrupted riding. Get in a car and drive somewhere, if you must. Personally, I prefer doing this outdoors. It's a mindf'k trying to do this indoors, atleast for me.
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Old 08-19-20, 12:18 PM
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You're not going to figure your FTP out the day you get a power meter. You won't even come close. Pacing by power is a skill you have to work out before you're going to get a meaningful result. They say "training is testing and testing is training" but this kind of test only has any value when done all out, which fatigues you heavily, affecting your riding the next couple days, ie it's probably counter productive if you're not getting something out of it. Also, a 20 minute FTP test is useful for some people but not others depending on your endurance / resistance to fatigue.

For a couple weeks, you're better off just riding the way you normally do, paying attention to the numbers coming out of your new PM, and looking at things like the critical power chart after you ride. If you're doing intervals, just pick a number as your FTP, and then adjust up or down if the intervals are too easy or hard.
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Old 08-19-20, 12:27 PM
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What others have said about gearing: whatever works.
Re where to do it: Not every MUP is created equal. My local one works well because it's fairly deserted early in the morning and there are no hard stops. But the way you describe yours, I would not. I like the idea of a loop with right turns.
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Old 08-19-20, 12:41 PM
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I wouldn't even worry with a test. Just go ride for the next couple of weeks. Give it some efforts uphills and downhills and sprints, etc.. You're going to have to really get a feel for the numbers and how it feels to keep constant pressure on the pedals before you get a halfway-decent test effort.


A minute at one particular higher wattage and 10 minutes at that same wattage feel extremely different.

And gears don't really matter. Put out the highest power you can however possible.

P.S.. Finally, 20 minutes is not an FTP test. It's a 20 minute test. If you want FTPish, shoot for 40-45 minutes.
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Old 08-19-20, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval
P.S.. Finally, 20 minutes is not an FTP test. It's a 20 minute test. If you want FTPish, shoot for 40-45 minutes.
This.

Too many people do the 20-min. test without the pre-test efforts. The proper way to do the 20-min test is:
  1. 20-min moderate warm up
  2. 3x 1-min at 100 rpm, 1 min rest intervals
  3. 5-min easy spin
  4. 5-min all out effort with a small kick at the end
  5. 10-min endurance pace effort
  6. 20-min steady effort as hard as you can hold for a full 20-min. (This is the 20-min test)
  7. Cool down ride
Then take 95% of that 20 min test.
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Old 08-19-20, 01:24 PM
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Thanks everyone. I was planning on doing the test as topflightpro describes, but I really like the suggestions of riding the way I normally do for a coupe of weeks and paying attention to the numbers. I think that could be great during intervals too, because right now, I am flying blind on power and consistency/drop-off. Great thoughts!
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Old 08-19-20, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
You're not going to figure your FTP out the day you get a power meter ... For a couple weeks, you're better off just riding the way you normally do, paying attention to the numbers coming out of your new PM, and looking at things like the critical power chart after you ride.
Originally Posted by rubiksoval
I wouldn't even worry with a test. Just go ride for the next couple of weeks.
Yep. Don't worry about an FTP test yet.
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Old 08-19-20, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by joebiker1
...My area (north Tampa) also has many roads with speed bumps, stop signs, lights, or all of the above. I am struggling to think of a nice, straight road without some form of obstacle that I will have to deal with during the 20 minutes.
How about the Suncoast Parkway trail? I'm not from Tampa but I've ridden the Suncoast and seem to recall that it has long flat stretches and no turns. And, it's right in your area.
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Old 08-19-20, 08:13 PM
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Yeah, Suncoast Trail was what I was thinking, but there are a few intersections like 54 and another north of that. I’m not sure if I can finish before I hit that second intersection and the stretch before 54 is too short. I might drive further north and do it up there in a couple of weeks.
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Old 08-20-20, 09:24 AM
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Enjoy. If dead set on outdoors, pick something without disturbances and dangers. Also, I agree with riding around without a test for a while first just to get used to what numbers you see.

20min is CP20, not ftp. The same way that 5min would be CP5. It's simply a line in the sand from which to determine workout goals or capabilities.

Given that, determine what your goals are and then take the tests to achieve them. If you're not trying to get a 40k time trial personal best, I wouldn't worry about ftp.

If you don't need to know actual ftp, that's fine. But it takes a lot of hard warmup prep to make 20min meaningful for ftp short of doing a one hour trial. I've done over 305w for 20min. No way in hell I could do 95% of that for an hour. Even though before that I did 400's for about 3min as warmup. No way in hell I could do about 290 for an hour.

Stay safe if outdoors.
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Old 08-21-20, 08:48 AM
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I would do the test indoors with a proper warm-up given your circumstances. This is your first test and use it as a learning opportunity.

Where I live I can't do a 20min test without stopping at traffic lights, stop signs, car traffic, and all. There is too much distraction. FTP test is a guide that shows you where you are physiologically and learn how to pace yourself. It's just an input to your future training IMO. I'd adjust trainer test FTP lower by 10-15% instead of 5%. Keep doing your sweetspot and threshold workouts, and oh intervals outdoors.

Good luck!
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