How did you 5w/kg+ riders make it there?

Continuing the thoughts about weight – as Chad has said many times on the podcast, you are probably putting yourself in a bad position if you carve yourself down to your lowest possible weight in pursuit of a w/kg goal. You can actually end up a worse cyclist, and a less healthy athlete, by doing so.

My personal experience with this was in the 80s and early 90s, and then in 2015. When I was in my 20s, I kept myself at 67-70 kilos, just because of the mantra “skinny is fast” (I’m 1m 84). From some lab tests, my relative VO2 was 75 ml/kg/min at 68 kilos. But, I was injured or sick at least twice a year, and never made good progress. From those same lab tests, I wasn’t getting as much wattage as I could have out of that oxygen I was consuming – my best 4mmol output was 350w, so a little over 5 w/kg, but my lactate threshold was only 80% of my VO2 max, because the consistency was never there from 87-98 in my training. Always some injury undoing a month or two each year, always colds and flu each year. And I didn’t get much better – it’s hard to make progress when you only train 7-8 months out the year, and spend 4-5 months sitting around healing up.

I took a couple of years away from the bike in 99-00, and then started riding again at 76kg, and I’ve been 75-77 since. Getting proper orthotics and shoes (orthotics for me only solved most, but not all of my foot issues) has been a part of the picture over the last 18 years, but maintaining a healthy weight and being able to train 600+ hours a year has been the big difference.

I’m actually getting more power at MLSS and fat VO2 peak than I was at 68kg – my system is older and not as strong, but there is more muscle mass to use the oxygen, and more power. It’s very possible to keep yourself at a weight that gives you a great w/kg number, but that actually has your body in a weakened state – also, when you get really skinny it’s the fast-twitch fibers that get catabolized first. I’d bet my EVO that I was getting more power for 5min at 45, 77kg than I was at 25, 68kg, just because I had the fast-twitch fibers to call on during aerobic capacity efforts.

Right now I can consume about 5L/min of oxygen, at 52, 77kg. At 25 I was doing 5.1 L at 68 kg. For me (n=1 again), the heavier, more muscular version FTW. A little slower up the hills, but healthier, and able to train consistently without breaking down. I can consume close to what I did almost 30 years ago because of the consistent training volume. My FTP is a higher percentage of VO2 than when I was young and skinny, for the same reason.

Really, w/kg may not be the best goal to target. It’s not “what is the lightest me” but “what is the strongest me” – those are often two very different things. Absolute power will get it done more often than power/weight, unless you’re doing summit finishes all the time…


Great post. If TR had a “reddit gold” equivalent, this would be worthy of it.


:point_up: important to keep in mind


Where is this chart from? I wonder how much data for each age group. At 61, with an FTP of 4.1, I can’t believe I’m in the top 1%. Must not have enough data from well trained riders??

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It’s from TR, but is subject to sample bias. A 60-80 year old is probably much less likely to use TR than a 30-40 year old.

4.1w/kg at 60 is great though! That’s fast and I hope I’m doing that well at 60 :slight_smile:



And here:

Extrapolate whatever speculation you want out of that data. :wink:

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I got friends of all ages who would kill to be at 4w/kg


Great post. The follow-up question would I suppose be “how do I know what the strongest me is?”.

Does it relate to your natural body shape? Might one person function better at a higher BMI than another, and what would cause this difference?

I was a skinny kid and young adult, and perfectly healthy, so I’ve always assumed I’m not taking a health risk by aiming at the lower end of the healthy BMI range.

Edit: I suppose the other way to phrase it is: what is it about Chris Froome that meant losing a load of weight turned him into a GC monster, whereas it might have made another rider weak and ill?

The strongest you is the one who puts out the most wattage on a daily basis and is healthy, happy, and strong for 12 months at a time.

The strongest you is lean – visible ripped abs and vein chart legs and all that – while also carrying the muscle mass that your body wants to carry, and unless you are a pro, the strongest you does not have the upper body of a pre-pubescent.


I fear that I may never be the strongest me! A complete lack of chest hair doesn’t help matters.

I do my core work and push-ups though, just to make sure it’s functional.

I’m sorry but this comment has so little to do with the vast majority of cyclists of all abilities, ages, genders, and riding disciplines that it’s laughable.


It would be an ideal.

For the vast majority, the strongest you would be reasonably lean.

The important part of that post is the puts out the best wattage day in, day out, and is healthy…



There’s still a big difference between reasonably lean and your description of what I would call very lean. most cyclists don’t have a large percentage of muscle mass, so ripped abs is well below 10% (caliper) and for some people may be below their setpoint. a setpoint is something that some experts in the field of dieting/body composition have suggested as why we see some people able to hold low percentages of body fat while others cant.

Well WTF then? I do have well defined abs, defined pronounced veins in my legs and according to my Tanita scale (athlete setting) I’m at about 7.8 - 8% body fat. I’m 6’1" and 172 lbs and that still only puts me at 3.7 w/kg (ramp test next Tuesday though). I am actually trying to get down to 165 lbs and at present I would not consider myself very lean (wife would think otherwise though). So at 165 lbs would I be “super lean” or too lean?

If I’m considered “very lean” then where is all my BS body weight coming from? Damn, maybe I am carrying too much upper body mass, but that has to be somewhat useful racing MTB.

How lean each person can get is highly individual is what I was trying to emphasize. But if your tanita matches up with caliper readings, if you were to only lose fat you’re proposing getting down to 4% bodyfat by caliper, which is extremely lean. As a point of reference, I am just above 10% (tanita and recent caliper) trying lose something like .25 lb a week and I am hungry about half the day, eating roughly 2500 calories outside of during workout nutrition. 2-3 lbs for me will only come off through consistent good habits.

I’d encourage you to get a Dexa to validate the number you are getting from your Tanita. 6’1+172 probably isn’t a true 8% unless you are significantly above the average in terms of muscle mass.

If you are carrying lots of upper body mass and you aren’t willing to shed it (nor would I encourage you to), then you won’t get the headline number w/kg, but that means you can justify the weight weenie bikes :slight_smile:

According to the TR crew, Tanita matches caliper and Dexa is roughly twice that amount, so I’d be 16+/- % Dexa.

Just judging by your description of your physique and your power, I would think more power is your immediate opportunity. Weight loss would be secondary.

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If you are 16% on the Dexa, you have plenty of fat you can shed if you so desire