5 Performance Tests For Cyclists

Dru Ryan
by Dru Ryan
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5 Performance Tests For Cyclists

Whether you ride indoors or out, measuring your performance — and therefore your progress — is a great way to stay motivated. Getting faster and stronger is rewarding in many ways. Performance-conscious cyclists enjoy tracking their progress because it provides a baseline for future comparison, offers feedback on the impact of a new training regimen and helps you understand your training zones (power or heart rate).

These five performance tests are the gold standard for tracking progress. Of course, listen to your body and remember, “Pedal fast, breathe slow.



Functional threshold power is an estimate of the power (in watts) one can maintain when pedaling for one hour. FTP is a measure of how efficiently you can pedal and allows you to identify training/intensity zones.

Equipment: Indoor cycling bike with watts measurement
Length: 20 minutes (or 60 minutes)
Method: Warm up for 20–30 minutes prior, including a few efforts which invite exhaustion. Then pedal at a challenging, yet sustainable, pace for 20 minutes. Your energy should be spent upon completion.
Output: Take your average watts after 20 minutes and multiply it by 0.95 (95%). This is your estimated FTP.



Lactate threshold heart rate (beats per minute) is the apex where increased blood acidity occurs. Surpassing this mark leads to an eventual deceleration. Generally, endurance athletes train 80% of the time in the aerobic zone and 20% in the anaerobic.

Equipment: Heart rate monitor with mobile app
Length: 20 minutes
Method: Warm up for 10 minutes, then ride at your highest sustainable effort for 20 minutes.
Output: Your average heart rate over 20 minutes.



A hybrid of the FTP test, this step-wise protocol starts in relative comfort and ends just before you ride over the cliff. A ramp test identifies maximum aerobic power (MAP) — the point before anaerobic effort begins.

Equipment: Indoor cycling bike with watts (or speed) measurement and a lap timer
Length: 6–12 minutes
Method: Warm up for 10 minutes. Start the ramp at a very easy pace. Increase power by 15 watts (or speed by 1 MPH) each minute without pause. Once you are unable to maintain the pace, the test ends.
Output: Your max watts in the final successful minute is your maximum aerobic power.



Dubbed the race of truth, the time trial tests stamina and pits cyclists against the clock. Internal motivation is your only fuel as you pedal 10 miles in the fastest time possible.

Equipment: Indoor cycling bike with distance measurement
Length: 10 miles (time varies)
Method: 5–10-minute warmup then press the timer and begin
Output: Elapsed time to complete 10 miles



Critical power (watts) is an estimate of the strongest effort you can sustain for a specific time period: 1 minute to 3 hours. CP3, or the 3-minute critical power test, is a popular metric for cyclists.

Equipment: Indoor cycling bike with watts measurement
Length: Distance varies. CP3 is 3 minutes.
Method: Warm up for 15 minutes and then pedal as hard as possible for the chosen duration.
Output: Critical power is the average watts over your last 30 seconds

It’s good to retest every few months. But don’t let performance testing take the joy out of your riding. Use the results from these tests to help inform your training or simply to continue improving your experiences when riding indoors.

About the Author

Dru Ryan
Dru Ryan
Dru teaches indoor cycling at Equinox in Washington, D.C. His History of Hip-Hop classes at George Mason University and brief deejay career in the Bronx are two big reasons why his playlists are unique. Ryan‘s cycling claim to fame is having the former road world champion, Peter Sagan, comment on an Instagram photo. Follow Dru (drucyles) on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.


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