We administer three kids of bike fitness assessments:

  1. FTP 20-min Max Effort

  2. FTP Basic Step Test

  3. Lactate Test

Times for all three are available per the schedule at the bottom of this page.


Each test has pros and cons and works a little differently. Here’s what you can expect:

[1] FTP by 20-min Max Effort - free, typically done in large groups

Pros: easy, quick, can do at home if you have a power meter, can do in large groups

Cons: provides only one data point to base your training around, and this data point is just an estimate

How it works: You bring your bike to our studio and mount it on either a KICKR or a CompuTrainer. After a guided warmup, you ride at your maximum sustainable effort for 20 minutes. Maximum sustainable effort means you aim to ride with consistent effort (how much force you apply to the pedals) and consistent cadence (how fast you turn the pedals), and finish completely spent when the clock hits 20:00.00. If you have no benchmarks for your FTP, it is very common to overdo it in the first 5-10 minutes and struggle for the second half. It is also common to not push hard enough, finishing the 20-min interval with “more in the tank.” It takes experience and practice to know how to approach an assessment. It’s OK to “overdo it” or “underdo it” on your first few FTP tests. After the 20 minutes and a short breather, we’ll invite you to “cool down” by spinning easy for another 5-10 minutes, which helps your body gradually step down from the intense effort.

What’s actually measured: Your mechanical effort in units called watts. A watt is one standard unit of energy (a joule) produced in one second, and is often abbreviated in the health and fitness world to just “w”; “250w” means 250 watts. A power meter connected to the KICKR or CompuTrainer is constantly measuring the joules you’re producing each second by turning the pedals on the bike, and displaying it as watts. At the end of the 20 minutes, the power meter will divide your total joules produced by the time it took to produce that energy (20 min * 60 sec/min = 1,200 seconds). That calculation tells you your “average watts.”

The result of the test: Upon getting your average watts, we take 95% of that amount and that is your FTP. Your FTP could be anywhere from 150-350w or more, depending on your size, experience and fitness. From your FTP, we apply percentages to that figure to give you your 5 Power Zones. Your FTP is near the top of Zone 4. Keep in mind, however, that zones derived by this method are estimates; everyone’s true zones are not the same “% of FTP” as everyone else’s. For example, two people may have an FTP of 250w, but one person’s true Zone 2 may be 150-170w while the other’s may be 170-190w.

Summary: If you have never done a bike fitness assessment, then this is a good place to start. It is better to gather multiple points from multiple outputs to determine your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, which is what you get in the Lactate Test and the Basic Step Test. Your training will be more productive when based on more accurate assessments, and we therefore recommend the Lactate and Step Tests over the 20-min Max Effort protocol.

Additionally, if you have done one recently and are curious to quickly check where you are now without going through the more complete protocol of the Step Test or the Lactate test, this is an acceptable method for obtaining an intermediary measure.

Total time: about 1 hour

[2] FTP Basic Step Test - $50, up to 3 people at a time

Pros: provides several data points for determining your Power Zones, more accurate than 20-min Max Effort

Cons: need a proctor to complete, not as accurate as Lactate Test

How it works: You bring your bike to our studio and mount it on either a KICKR or a CompuTrainer. After a guided warmup, you start riding at an easy level of effort. Every few minutes, the proctor will gather metrics that correlate with what your body is doing metabolically. After writing down the metrics at each point in time, the proctor will increase or “step up” the resistance, requiring you to exert more force to keep the pedals turning at the same cadence, requiring more effort from your body’s metabolic systems to keep up. What we’re interested in are the points where your body switches from producing energy with aerobic systems to using anaerobic systems, and how quickly that change happens. The test concludes when you can no longer finish a “step” without stopping.

What’s actually measured: Power (watts), heart rate (beats per minute or “bpm”) and rate of perceived exertion or “RPE” (scale of 1-10), taken every 2-3 minutes for 20-30 minutes or until you completely fatigue. Taking measurements from multiple sources at multiple points in time helps us correlate an estimate of what your blood lactate levels would be at each point, had we actually measured them.

The result of the test: Upon gathering all the data points from easy effort to total exertion, we construct curves for each data type and a matching estimated lactate curve. Together, these estimate your 5 Power Zones (with accompanying HR zones).

Summary: Unlike the 20-Min Max Effort test, which estimates all five zones from only one data point, the Basic Step Test takes multiple measures over time to produce a curve. The curve gets us closer to your true zones, but by secondary measures. This test is good option when you do not have access to a device that measures blood lactate or a team that can properly analyze the changes in your blood lactate levels.

Total time: about 1 hour

[3] Lactate Test - $150, up to 3 people at a time

Pros: the most accurate option, based on direct biological measures

Cons: requires a proctor, added cost for lactate analysis, takes about a week to get complete results, getting pricked

 During a Lactate Test, the proctor collects tiny blood samples after making a tiny pin prick in an earlobe.

During a Lactate Test, the proctor collects tiny blood samples after making a tiny pin prick in an earlobe.

How it works: The Lactate Test works the same as the Basic Step Test, with the addition of measuring lactate. After you warmup, the proctor makes a tiny pin prick in one of your ear lobes so s/he can get a very small blood sample (pictured at right, or above on mobile). At each data gathering point, the proctor gathers another tiny blood sample on a testing strip that feeds into a lactate reader, giving an instant measure of how much lactate is in your blood. The harder you are working, the higher your blood lactate levels will rise.

What’s actually measured: Blood lactate concentration (LT mml), power (watts), heart rate (bpm) and rate of perceived exertion or “RPE” (scale of 1-10). We collect these values and send them to Dr. Max Testa, the designer of our Power Program.

The result of the test: When Dr. Testa’s team gets your data, they analyze it and about a week later send you a personalized report. Rather than using watts, bpm and RPE to estimate your lactate curve and Power Zones, we have your lactate curve and Dr. Testa’s team can identify your exact Lactate Threshold 1 and Lactate Threshold 2, around which your 5 Power Zones are derived.

Summary: Whereas an FTP Test measures power to estimate LT2 (which is what’s most important, it’s what is actually happening in your body and indicates the limit of how hard you can push sustainably), the Lactate Test measures LT1 and LT2 to give you your FTP. Blood lactate is the only direct biological measurement in all three assessments; therefore, the lactate test is the most accurate, provides the best indicator of when, and how quickly, your body moves from aerobic to anaerobic cycles of energy production, and gets our strong recommendation.

Total time: about 1 hour

Note: Follow-up assessments are available for $120.

 

A Visual Comparison of a Max-Effort Test [1] vs. a Step Test [2-3]:

 
 Example of an assessment based on a Max Effort interval. What’s shown is actually a 1-hour time trial, but you can see the difference between a steady effort interval (above) vs a step test (below).

Example of an assessment based on a Max Effort interval. What’s shown is actually a 1-hour time trial, but you can see the difference between a steady effort interval (above) vs a step test (below).

 Example of a step test. A 15-20 minute warmup is followed by another 20 minutes of the test interval where resistance is turned up every few minutes, requiring your effort to increase until you fatigue. As the effort gets more difficult, your body switches from aerobic energy production to anaerobic. It is this change — at what efforts

Example of a step test. A 15-20 minute warmup is followed by another 20 minutes of the test interval where resistance is turned up every few minutes, requiring your effort to increase until you fatigue. As the effort gets more difficult, your body switches from aerobic energy production to anaerobic. It is this change — at what efforts

 

A Sample Lactate Analysis Report

  Red Lines:  Blood Lactate concentration   Green Lines:  Heartrate   Dotted with open triangles/diamonds:  Dec 2016 results - BEFORE   Solid with closed triangles/diamonds:  Oct 2017 results - AFTER   Vertical green (left):  LT1   Vertical red (right):  LT2

Red Lines: Blood Lactate concentration

Green Lines: Heartrate

Dotted with open triangles/diamonds: Dec 2016 results - BEFORE

Solid with closed triangles/diamonds: Oct 2017 results - AFTER

Vertical green (left): LT1

Vertical red (right): LT2

About a week after getting your lactate test, Dr. Max Testa’s team will send you a report including this graph with your lactate curve (the red curves). This particular report is from an athlete who tested in December 2016 and about a year later in October 2017. The solid lines are the follow-up test. In this case, shallower curves that extend further to the right (along the power/watts axis) indicate better fitness; it means that you are producing more power at each level of blood lactate concentration.

The report includes other metrics such as your power-to-weight ratio which is measured in watts per kilogram, or w/kg. It’s typical for heavier riders to produce more power, but a heavier rider requires more power to go the same speed as a lighter rider. If you wanted compare your power output to other riders to gauge how you might perform in a race relative to them, it would be helpful then to normalize everyone’s power output capacities to their weight.

 
 

Bike Assessment Scheduling

 

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