If I was writing clickbait for this amazing audience I’d call this; "How I added 100W in two weeks” … but I’m sure you all know there’s no such thing as a silver bullet.
Instead, I’ll tell you I’ve been a Trainer Road user for about two years and until the last week of 2018, I’d done all of 5 FTP tests in that time (just one RAMP).
I’ve now done 12 in two weeks (starting Dec. 26th), and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned along the way in the hopes it would help others. I didn’t try to crush every test, just worked my way up based on my gearing. I’m effectively “back where I started” (more on that later) in terms of raw numbers, but much better off in so many ways.
Here’s a picture of what it’s looked like;
I was really spurred on by comments in the Facebook group (thanks John.P, Alvin.R and Alex.S among many others in that thread) that hitting 19:30 would result in you testing to whatever FTP you started with initially. Thank you all so much for that information, and inspiration if effectively allowed me to tell myself I could gut out at least that time and forced me to practice my pacing.
I’ve always assumed my lack of pacing went hand in hand with an understanding of gearing ratios (gear inches) only slightly beyond basic. That’s why I decided for my new years resolution I wouldn’t shift during the test at all, not once - not ever. Maybe it’s obvious to others, though for me it sounded like a dumb idea, but it’s been anything but in terms of helping me get comfortable with the test.
So in one of those “what’s the worst that could happen” moments I decided to look up my gearing ratios (in terms of gear inches), order them from smallest to biggest, and continue to take RAMP tests - accepting any of the suggested outcomes - until I topped out. Now’s probably a good time to admit I don’t have a smart trainer, but my Kinetic Road Machine has been solid through the years, and I put my money into the power tap P1 (left and right) pedals.
I’ll spare you any sob story, my previous (painful) RAMP test was 173, but I haven’t trained much since July, and I’m not a racer. I’ve done exactly one Sprint Tri, way too long ago, which I loved and tell myself I’m training for more, but I keep letting life get in the way. Really, I use Trainer Road because it’s cheaper than a gym, helps me hurt my buddy on rides, and you all (and the podcast) are super motivating.
Basically, I try… but I hope I’m not the only one who wishes we were shooting for a high kg / W instead. So, perhaps I’m something of the target n00b for the RAMP test, and certainly I was dreading doing a “real” one to start the new year.
So looking back at my first RAMP test I think my pacing strategy went something like;
- Starting out thinking I’m crushing it…
- then I figured I should start to “spin up” a big chain ring,
- then I ended up getting buried and,
- jumped back down to my little ring to try to get cadence,
- then I gave up on finesses and tried to muscle it out again with a big ring.
Yea it was as terrible as it sounds…. I tried to estimate my gearing from that one “untrained” RAMP test and think it went something (per interval) like;
34x19, 34x21, 34x19, 34x17, 34x17, 34x17, 50x21, 50x19, 34x15, 34x14, 50x17, 50x17
50x16, 50x16 … Tip: don’t do that
Here’s what my pacing looks like now;
As you can now imagine I started my first test in the “granny gear” and tried to keep going. Of course that sucked, but then I took that initial number and have been working my way up ever since. 
Here are a few ideas I’ve had as a result of this experience;
Having a fixed time target really helps, at least for me. I’m sure my “improvements” would have been more drastic if I took some of the initial tests longer, but then I’d have been far more demoralized when the latter tests couldn’t go as long.
- Knowing I wasn’t going for some “maximal number” really made the multiple tests a lot more interesting to me, seeing anywhere from 2-24% “improvement” (excluding the first three I’ve averaged about 5% each test) even if it’s less physiological and more just measurement based has been very motivating
So far, every “gear inch” has been worth ~2.5 Watts of power on my FTP - though I expect that to degrade once I get closer to my current limit.
- Gearing does matter, but not near as much as I thought. I think from here on out I won’t bother shifting. Something I now assume all you “smart trainer” owners have known for a while. 
Generally speaking my HR ramps really consistently. I know HR can fluctuate and we don’t use it for training, but the trend lines suggest that HR could help you figure out if it was a “bad” test
- The slop is consistent because the work increments consistently, but I noticed a large delta based on gearing (e.g. higher cadence implies higher heart). Again, not surprising but something for me to think about in the context of testing.
I am getting way better at pacing (maybe within a watt or two as you can see in the graph above) and after about 5 “easy” rides (working my way up ) the initial trend line was able to predict my next FTP really closely.
- this is really the result of being “locked” into the protocol vs. some amazing mathematical insight and I’m sure the curve will “break” soon once I hit closer to my physiological max.
- I’d say at most I have another 30% improvement (50 Watts) I could go if I keep “running the rings” all the way - which isn’t going to happen but gives me a good set of targets to train towards
I started hitting an FTP >= my eventual FTP on roughly the 10th step, which means I only had to suck it up for 5 more minutes. However, in some cases I hit it a minute earlier in the big chain ring. So that may factor into people’s experience and outcomes.
- I suspect some of the “sprinting FTP vs. endurance FTP” I’ve read in this forum may have to deal with people’s gearing selections / preferences - e.g. if you’re more comfortable muscling a higher gear combination for the test vs. longer workouts.
Overall, I started hitting an FTP >= my eventual FTP on roughly the 10th step, which means I only had to suck it up for 5 more minutes. However, in some cases (e.g. in the big chain ring) I hit it a minute earlier, so that may factor into your experience.
I have lots of charts, and can tell you way more about what I started to track if anyone’s interested.
Recommendations for other RAMP takers:
- don’t look at your number or the line - flick the middle screen to the “numbers” and watch the power per interval (i.e. the overall average). I have 6 sec of power smoothing and even then watching that number too much causes more problems than it’s worth
- don’t try to “jump” it - I had a natural (e.g. ~10 W) jump when the clock changed over even when I tried not to, this will then drift back down, possibly under the power target… that’s ok. (see next point)
- give yourself 20 seconds to “settle” into the new target and think about “dragging” the number up (if you’re low) or “slipping” it down (just slightly less cadence). obviously don’t make it an obvious over/under interval but don’t freak out, there’s a whole minute to average your numbers
- if the interval wants to be “too easy” - LET IT, they’ll get hard later. I thought I was pacing more consistently by say trying to hold 100W for 3 intervals vs. 80, 90, and 100 W respectively (aka don’t try to be a hero too soon).
- pick a single gear - maybe that’s not actually the best advice, but it’s worked well for me and I’m certain when I do need to use multiple gears in testing now I know how to break it up much better.
Contrasting my “Power per Gear Inches” metric vs. the “Cadence per Gear Inches” numbers I suspect I’m not being as efficient (and consistent in applying pressure) so I have a few more potential elements to explore. However, I think I’m finally ready to start up my training block and take a RAMP test “for real” and see what I can do about increasing it.
Hope that helps some of you who may be feeling a bit more trepidation!
PS here are a few things I’d recommend to Trainer Road to consider;
When you pause the test it’s confusing that you have to “Return to Ride” to end it; e.g. “Pause” -> “End Workout” ends up with a greyed out “Save & Close” and the “Return…” option is hidden at the bottom of the screen
The test should automatically stop when it knows you can’t reasonably make a target - e.g. if you’ve done 2 intervals at 60% - otherwise the test can drag on in the worst kind of way where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to keep going
I’d suggest considering a fixed duration of the test vs. having it so open ended, though I did love reading Coach Chad tell me they’re going to hang my picture up
“copy / paste” from the website is regrettable, I had to transcribe data (i.e. .FIT files aren’t very friendly to spreadsheets) so maybe give an optional format to download in, as well as an option for bulk export of rides during a certain timeframe. What I’d really love is for you to consider mirroring the Golden Cheetah API; https://github.com/GoldenCheetah/GoldenCheetah/wiki/UG_Special-Topics_REST-API-documentation
Mentally the phrase “8 minute test” sounds awesome, and sucks in practice. “RAMP Test” sounds scary, especially when I tell you I took it for 20 minutes, but for me the method proved far more doable and trainable
 I have a stock Raleigh Militis 1 (other than saddle and pedals) that could really use some love - aka I have some slight mechanical issues, including a slightly bent derailer, hat cause drag
 I assume everyone knows that sometimes a small chain ring can be harder to push than the big one, depending on the cog size but I’d never explored that extensively. In addition, l know I feel more comfortable at some gear ratios and cadences but have never really tried to puzzle out a relationship beyond staring at Golden Cheetah charts and scratching my head.
 As it turned out (because of my first ride) I always ended up stopping my effort at 20 minutes, waiting 30 seconds at ~0 power and then ending the test. I’m sure it’s not quite what the test expects, but it’s worked reasonably well as a consistent protocol for me, and it’s something that I know I can make myself gut out now.
 If I’m lucky enough to really get my FTP up then I’m sure I’ll need 2-3 gears, but I won’t try “running the links” or anything like I used to assume was needed