FTP increasing but slower in real life

I’ve increased from 2.35 w/kg to 2.8 w/kg so yesterday I was excited to try a challenging climb that I have done umpteen zillion times. Rode my fast bike — hard tail with racing tires. Trail was hard packed and fast. I was expecting to feel stronger and be fast. It felt just as hard as always and I was right in the middle with regard to speed. Is there a trick to translating the power gains on the trainer to the real world?

My first thought is: what gearing do you use on the trainer? High gearing and thus high inertia on the trainer my not translate 1:1 to steep, low intertia MTB climbs.

Also, it’s just one day and one data point. Did you eat enough, sleep enough, motivated enough, etc. any number of things can have you not perform to your potential one a single day.

Final thought, do you have a power meter on this bike? If so, how did your power compare?


Thanks @mwglow15! That is a good perspective. Just one data point. I haven’t put a power meter on that bike. My heart rate was way up, though. Air quality was terrible so that could have contributed too. Just a little disappointing. Thanks.

Happened to me as well a lot of times on the road. I have a hard time translating my effort indoors to outdoors when I spend couple of months on the trainer (usually every winter). As I start riding outdoors regularly, my heart rate (avg) reduces.

I am assuming that you hydrated well as dehydration can have a huge impact on your HR. Same goes for things like sleep, etc…

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Thank you @yajvans! Makes me feel better to not be the only one. Might have been a little dehydrated, too. Good point.

Yeah, it can take a few ride or so to get used to being outside. Lots of threads about indoor/outdoor power demands, so won’t get into all of that. If you’ve mostly been indoors then I would just give it some time. Usually takes me a week or two to get used to the real world


I’ve noticed as my ftp has risen from 1.68 w/kg to 2.8 w/kg that my overall speed hasn’t increased too dramatically. I am able to ride much further and longer than before. I can rip up hills that used to beat me up without trying nearly as hard. I can recover from efforts much more quickly. I can power into a headwind without losing too much speed or blowing my doors off.
I haven’t done any group rides or races yet this year, on account of the virus, but I suspect I won’t be barely hanging on when the pack surges. I think a lot of times an improved ftp may present itself in ways other than beating PRs.


@MrSmith670 — great perspective!! And kudos on the huge gains. I haven’t ridden outside much because social distancing on crowded trails seemed pretty hard. I will be really happy if I experience improvements like yours! You made my day!

Thanks @harrington! I guess I didn’t search with the right search terms. I will try to find the indoor outdoor power threads.

Something I’ve found is the increased fatigue load from regular training means I am barely ever at my best unless I take a few days off to recover and adapt. Then once fresh I can get those PRs I’ve been hoping for.

I’ve gone from 2.8 to 3.8 w/kg and there are times I feel slower which is often reflected in my time or average speed. But then there are times I feel I can hammer every hill or trail. Make sure you rest and recover after your training.


@lukas - I need to try to reign it in and do this. I blame my Apple watch for never letting me take a day off. I bet you are right, though. I am basically always kind of tired but I just figured that was adulting.

Also don’t go by feel, remember that old mantra “It doesn’t get any easier, it just gets faster”

It’ll never feel easier if your going for it.


My first question is about specificity. Is this a climb that takes you about 40-75 minutes and you usually ride it at FTP? If not, then the power zones you have been training while you increased your FTP might be far more relevant than the FTP increase.

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Where were you in your plan too? My outdoor social spins are generally off the back of my training week, of at least the three “hard” workouts.

Now I would say I came out of lock down and back to club spins stronger, but I’ve also put a rest or easy day either side of my group spins to try and manage fatigue a bit better.

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@kryton57 I had forgotten that. It should feel hard. You’re so right.

@cyclhist It is about 20 minutes with punchy sections. Good point. My strength has always been low level endurance. The punchy stuff has always been a struggle for me.

@Macy Thank you! I will try to manage my fatigue a bit better too before vesting too much expectation in my performance.

This was meant to be encouraging but I realize that this might have been too curt. What I meant to say is depending on where in your periodization you are, you might have increased fitness, but not specificity for the climb. I don’t know what your goals are, but for the sake of argument lets assume you do TR to get really good at this particular climb. Then raising your FTP is great, because it is some evidence that you have gained fitness, but the real progress will happen in specialty, which you should pick according to the demands of the climb.

Or maybe you’re racing crits. The same thing applies: let’s say you’re in base or build and your FTP goes up. Maybe it’s higher than it’s ever been. But if you jumped into a crit right now, you’d likely feel horrible and perform far less well than last crit season, etc. etc. FTP is just a benchmark to dial your training. The real test comes at the end of specialty when you test yourself against your goal. Patience!

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@cyclhist thank you for such a thoughtful response. I actually didn’t realize that the specialty phase had so important a role. I skipped it and went back to ss base thinking I didn’t need it since I wanted a bigger ftp. Thank you for explaining that to me!