Welcome to the Pain Cave


How better to top off your Monday than with an FTP test? On the 12th February, we set up a RevBox studio in the downstairs space at the Department of Endurance in Fulham. Six brave cyclists (friends and ambassadors of Jam Cycling) took part in the evening, submitting themselves to the following test protocol under the watchful eyes of Jam Cycling’s MD, George Galbraith.

1. Start with a 15-min warm up with a progressive build-up of intensity, ramping up the effort every 3 mins, culminating in a 10-sec sprint. 

2. Perform a maximal 3 min effort i.e. go out as hard as possible and hang on. Attempt to maintain a speed/power that cannot be sustained for 2 mins and then… keep pedalling. The idea is that the athletes cannot ramp it up anymore at the end of the 3-min effort. 

3. Have a full rest and refuel. 

4.Finally, perform a 12-min paced effort. This is not like the 3-min effort, but the athletes should be pushing their limit the entire duration.

The aim of the evening was to collect a power profile for each rider, providing them with a baseline from which they could structure their training.

With music blaring, sweat dripping and encouraging shouts reverberating around the walls of the studio, our athletes gritted their teeth and dug deep. InfoCranks were on every bike, recording power output during the test. With the outcome of the first section of the test used to dictate the effort in the second part of the test, the athletes were focusing on holding a specific power for 12 minutes. As a spectator, I could see the determination on every face and was struck by the focus everyone had. There’s something to be said about training hard in a group; the effort is infectious. The RevBoxes demand hard work too, with no build-up of momentum, meaning our riders were working through the entire pedal stroke, never being thrown around it.

Once the testing was over, the rider data were uploaded and analysed. We recorded each rider’s mass (kg), their peak power (the highest wattage they put out during the test), 3-min power, sustainable power (obtained during the 12-min effort) and an estimated FTP (95% of sustainable power). Using each cyclist’s mass, peak power and sustainable power were calculated relative to their body mass, which is where it all gets very interesting.

Table 1 shows the peak power of each rider:

Table 1

 

Table 2 shows the peak power relative to rider body mass:

Table 2

 

As you can see, the riders rank the same between the two variables, demonstrating the strong association between body mass and explosive power.

Table 3 shows sustainable power:

The results are now completely different, those with the highest peak power do not demonstrate the ability to sustain such a high power. In addition, when the sustainable power is calculated relative to mass, as follows:

Riders B and C, who until now were ranking 5th and 6th, jump up the table to 2nd and 3rd.

But …what does this all mean?

Firstly, it’s a way of comparing a group of people who are physically different and standardizing their current fitness levels. Furthermore, it’s a good indicator of how this group of individuals would fare in a real-world scenario. You could surmise from these data, that on a hilly, long weekend ride, the cyclists would likely return home in the order shown in Table 4. On a flat, short sprint, the result would probably look more like the order of Tables 1 and 2. Mind you, these numbers don’t account for a large number of variables, such as head winds, mental toughness, bike weight…

The best use of these results is establishing the numbers as a baseline and structuring training sessions around them. Training zones, from Active recovery (zone 1) to Anaerobic capacity (zone 6), can be set using the FTP value, then these zones dictate efforts during training. After a block of training, for example 6 weeks, the test can be performed again and any improvements will be apparent… We’re just wondering whether our riders will dare to come back for round two!

You can also watch what happen in Vlogger Francis Cade's video here: