Measuring your cycling ability by distanced covered and time in the saddle means you might only be getting half the story of all the great things you’re achieving! To get a better idea of how you’re progressing, you can also test your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) — the highest average power you can sustain over a one-hour ride, measured in watts.
It’s a really helpful tool, but if FTP sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry. Read on to find out more about it, including how it’s assessed, how you can improve over time and how we’ve incorporated it into our performance-based group cycling class, CYCLONE.
How an FTP test works
Although FTP is based on a 60-minute average, you don’t have to spend an hour in the saddle to determine your score. Instead, you can complete a shorter test ride to work out your result.
In David Lloyd Clubs’ signature CYCLONE classes, there is a short test ride (either 3 or 5 minutes), after which our software automatically calculates your FTP by taking 80-85% of your average power output.
For the most accurate measurement, tests should be ridden in the seated position with leg speed remaining between 80-100 rpm. Your coach will determine your RPE (or rate of perceived exertion) by pushing you to add resistance to the pedals until your effort level reaches an 8 or 9 out of 10.
Make no mistake, this is tough and will feel uncomfortable! Your muscles will begin to work anaerobically (without oxygen), your breathing will become laboured, and your legs will start to fatigue as the body produces lactic acid. But remember, these are all good signs it’s having a positive effect on your body and fortunately, it doesn’t last long as you’ll recover quickly.
What should I aim for when testing my FTP?
FTP is personal to every rider and is affected by many different variables, including body weight, gender, overall fitness, and cycling experience.
In other words, there is no perfect result for everyone to aim towards because FTP is your personal score at a given point in time; a benchmark to monitor and compare yourself against.
However, if you do wish to compare yourself to others, using your body weight is necessary to give an accurate evaluation between you and fellow cyclists. If you take your FTP result and divide it by your weight in kilograms it will give you your watts/kg, which can help to demonstrate the effect of weight and gender on power output.
Typically, an amateur cyclist will have an FTP of between 1.5 – 2.5 watts/kg. A good club cyclist would be around 3.0 – 4.5 watts per/kg and if you’re aiming really high and see yourself as the next Laura or Jason Kenny, you’ll have to be hitting an FTP in excess of 5.0 watts per/kg!
How can I improve my FTP?
Practice makes perfect, so the best way to push your FTP in the right direction is to get on your bike and regularly take part in CYCLONE or other group cycling class. But there’s more to your cycling performance than just turning up and pushing the pedals.
The key is to listen to your instructor, follow directions, and be completely honest when estimating your exertion. So, if you’re asked to ride to a 9 out of 10, that’s exactly what you should do. There is no better way to get a feel for the relationship between your leg speed, resistance, and endurance.
FTP in CYCLONE
CYCLONE classes are designed around riding in 7 colour-coded Power Zones, which challenge you to ride to a percentage range of your personal FTP. It doesn’t matter how your FTP compares to other riders in the class because it’s entirely personal to you.
As a result, CYCLONE is completely inclusive and accessible, regardless of experience and fitness levels. Every rider focuses on their own power goals, comparing performance against personal benchmarks rather than a common target.
Your FTP will change as you become fitter and stronger, so we recommend re-testing every 6-8 weeks to maintain an accurate score. This will ensure your classes remain challenging but achievable, delivering the maximum benefit every time.
Want to climb into the saddle, determine your FTP, and experience CYCLONE? Sign up for a taster class at your local David Lloyd club.