New FTP established, in-depth analysis; A word about my size.
I’m not even going to try and pretend that I’m not excited about this morning’s blog! Yesterday I re-tested my FTP using the Stages Cycling power meter, and this morning I am going to put on my nerd hat and crunch that data. Strap in, dear readers, this is going to get insane.
Of course by “insane” I mean that there’s a slight chance you may not doze off. Go brew a pot of strong coffee and let’s have some geeky cycling fun…
Before I dive into the numbers, I need to provide the usual background information. I realize that many of you (cyclists and regular readers of JSF) already know this stuff, but new people find this blog every day and I want everyone to feel cozy.
For information on the various terms I’ll throwing around in today’s blog, along with a basic primer on training with power, please see my article “Coggan’s Power Based Training“.
You can also check out my indoor bike training center (not-so-affectionately known as my “Bike Torture Chamber”) here. If you’re interested in taking your cycling training to the next level, my BTC article has all the information you need to get started, including plenty of photos and links to all the equipment I use in my BTC.
Okay, now we can get started…
My previous best FTP (measured using TrainerRoad’s VirtualPower) was 294. I set this PR almost 1 year ago on May 23, 2013.
This past December/early January I took some time off from serous cycling, mainly to get fat and play Xbox. Kidding aside, I knew my 2014 cut was coming up, and one of the ways I prepare for that extended period of extremely strict dieting and training is to give myself a few weeks to indulge.
When I started my 2014 cut, one of the first things I did was re-test my FTP. This test occurred three months ago to the day (January 16, 2014), and the result was an absolutely abysmal 243 (see “FTP test served up yesterday, with a side of humble pie“)–by far my lowest measured FTP ever.
Over the past 3 months I’ve been training my ass off, riding every single day, lifting weights and eating very clean. All those things have put me in the best cycling condition of my life, and I was eager to see the results in the form of a new FTP personal record.
VirtualPower is very consistent when compared to other rides using VirtualPower (assuming the same equipment is used, of course), but the VP data is not directly comparable to power meter data. To wit, I recently performed a series of tests comparing VirtualPower to the Stages Cycling power meter, and found that TrainerRoad’s VirtualPower (using my equipment) measured power about 12% higher than my Stages Cycling power meter. I disclosed and analyzed my test data in two articles: here’s Part I and here’s Part II.
So I knew heading into yesterday’s FTP test that the data was not going to be directly comparable to previous efforts but, thanks to my testing, I still had an accurate means of scaling my Stages FTP result so that it could be compared to my old VirtualPower FTP tests.
One of the many nice things about having a power meter is that I get power data all of the time, including outdoor rides. This past Saturday I performed an informal FTP test while I was riding outside, as I thought that information would be very interesting to compare to my “official” FTP test on the trainer.
My average 8-minute peak output during Saturday’s effort was 326 watts. FTP is estimated by multiplying the average 8-minute wattage output by 0.90, which–based on that interval–gave me an estimated FTP of 293.
I say “estimated” for a reason. It’s important to note that the official 8-minute FTP test includes two 8-minute intervals. The simple formula is:
FTP = ((P1 + P2) / 2 * .9)
…where P1 and P2 are the average power outputs from each 8-minute interval.
My informal outdoor FTP test on Saturday only included a single 8-minute interval, so I knew that Saturday’s result would likely be a tad higher than my official test using two intervals. The complete analysis of Saturday’s 8-minute interval can be found here.
The FTP test is brutal. It’s extremely painful, as you are required to ride as close to “all out” as you can sustain for 8 full minutes. Then, after a short active recovery period, you must repeat that effort.
Here are the results of yesterday’s test using the Stages Cycling power meter.
Interval 1: 323 watts / 176 BPM average heart rate / 99 RPM cadence
Interval 2: 318 watts / 179 BPM average heart rate / 97 RPM cadence
FTP: ((323 + 318) / 2 * .9) = 288
As I mentioned above, my testing indicates that VirtualPower on the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine reads 12% higher than a Stages Cycling power meter. That means if I’d used VirtualPower instead of the Stages, my FTP would be approximately 327. Not only is 327 watts a new FTP personal record by 33 watts, it’s 84 watts higher than it was just three months ago!
Factoring my significant scale weight loss over the past three months in with my wattage improvement gives me the following**:
January 2014 FTP/kg: 2.54 (214 FTP** / 84.1 kg)
April 2014 FTP/kg: 3.98 (288 FTP / 72.3 kg)
**Note that the January FTP is scaled down 12% (from 243 to 214) to account for the difference between VirtualPower and the Stages for an apples-to-apples comparison.
There’s no question that I’ve achieved what I set out to do–and then some–just three short months ago.
I am not only extremely pleased with my result, I’m very impressed with how close I came to predicting my FTP after just one 8-minute interval ridden outside. That’s not a personal brag (all I did was crunch the data), that’s praise for the consistency of the Stages Cycling power meter, and the FTP test itself.
To support the above point, let’s take a quick look at Saturday’s 8-minute interval (outside) alongside yesterday’s first 8-minute interval (on the indoor trainer). Both of these rides used the Stages Power meter to measure power output (click to enlarge):
The consistency between those two efforts is pretty incredible. Just look at how closely all the key averages match up:
Average Power (outside/inside): 327/324 watts
Average Heart Rate (outside/inside): 175/177 BPM
Average Cadence: (outside/inside): 100/99 RPM
I sort of suspected that the educated estimate I made about my FTP after Saturday’s outdoor interval was going to be in the ballpark, but that’s pretty much dead-on in every meaningful respect.
Okay, so for the purposes of this discussion I compared my Stages Cycling power meter efforts to previous TrainerRoad VirtualPower efforts. These comparisons were very interesting to me, and I hope that the information was useful to at least some of you. Having said that, my Stages/VirtualPower testing is over. I’m a power meter user now, and so it’s time for me to close the VirtualPower chapter. All reported data will remain firmly in the power meter realm from this point forward.
One final note unrelated to the subject of today’s blog. Someone on Facebook made a snarky comment about the size of my arms in the above picture. Sigh. Friends, I’m proud of what I accomplished when I was training for size, but I haven’t done that for years. Over the past decade I’ve always worked hard to reach my athletic goals, no matter what they were. I’m a cyclist now, not a bodybuilder; it goes without saying that these are two drastically different athletic endeavors with different “ideal” physiques. Yes, I’m small now. In fact, I can barely lift my fork, and your little sister can definitely kick my ass. I’m not changing, so it’s best that you move on if you can’t accept that.