Low initial FTP - am I doing it right?

Brief background:
I turned 40 last december, and have since been diagnosed with liver disease (I don’t think the 2 are related, but thought the detail was pertinent). I am currently a little under 220lbs (100kg, I think) and 6’2" (no idea what that is in cm). I haven’t ridden my bike really in any kind of proper capacity in 10 years. Prior to that I worked for a famous bike company and literally rode 30 miles a day on a single speed to/from work, and I also road l’etape du tour up ventoux in 2009 (I think), so historically I have been pretty strong on the bike, but since have probably put on about 50lbs and 10 years.

I decided to get back into cycling and trainerroad was an obvious choice after MANY youtube videos, research and discussion with my wife. So, my first real ride back on the bike in 10 years and 50lbs later was a ramp test. It started me at 146 FTP but I ended at 120, with my heartrate around 180 (no idea what my max is), but I was literally hanging off the bike at the end and ready to vomit, so I think I did it right. Anyway, this number (to a layman) seems incredibly low? Or is it? Or does this just mean I have a great potential to increase it? I’m not worried so much that I did it wrong, more that I’m really, really unfit.

Any thoughts, guidance or reassurance would be appreciated!


What trainer / power meter were you using?

As far as potential, Nate often says how he started at 180 ftp, and is now hitting 370, so anything is possible!


I bought a saris m2 smart trainer and I have a garmin heart rate monitor, both connected via bluetooth to my PC.

It doesn’t seem incredibly low given the 10 year gap of riding. I bet you will probably see some large jumps after a few months and some steady gains for a year (as long as you are consistent).


Are you using virtual power? Depending on the trainer and tire, it can underestimate for heavier riders.

Also, 140ftp seems like a good starting point for someone who hasn’t cycled in 10 years IMHO. For reference, this 20 years old guy got 190 FTP after one year of Peloton:



Did you make sure calibration was done correctly, I’m not sure how good those trainers are, if they estimate power or if they have a strain gauge, I assume they estimate, so power could be off if not calibrated.

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Not that I want to dissuade you from TR but just get out and ride. Ride regularly. The first and best structured training plan is to ride regularly and not slack off.

I applaud you for doing a ramp test right out of the gate!


Agree with the above - just go out and ride! If you don’t want to ride outside, ride on zwift, but don’t do any workouts, just ride.

That number does seem low, given your history, but it is likely because your body is not used to it. Especially the need to go to vo2max at the end of the test. I think it will change very quickly, so quickly that it will make following a TR plan difficult, thats why I think you should just go and ride. Give it 1-2 months, let your body settle back into cycling, and then start TR.

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Don’t get discouraged or hang on what your starting FTP says. Consistency will pay. I remember my first FTP test, was literally ready to vomit on the 2x8 min back in 2016 (you can see my HR was high). FTP was 158W. I had been riding outdoor for a couple of months prior with a group and was struggling to do more than 2 rides a week. Now, I am over 260W. I am pretty sure your next test will be above, just by the mere fact you get used to the whole testing thing.

That said, I am not going to lie: riding indoor kept me focused. I am not saying you can’t do it just by riding outdoor, but following a training plan (and now you can even take the workout outdoor) will pay big time!

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Welcome and well done for starting. The first time I tried TR was the 20min ftp test, the power readings kept cutting out, the tyre kept slipping, I got so annoyed I nearly threw the bike away :slight_smile:

As long as the session didnt have any mechanical problems I wouldnt worry about the number. It gives you a reference point for your training so that you get easy when you need it, hard when you need hard (without being too hard). This gets you rolling on a low volume sweet spot base plan and with consistency and patience you’ll make good progress.

Pair that with addressing your health and diet and there will be no stopping you.:+1:

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I was very much in the same situation as you.
Used to cycle a lot pre-kids, back in 2010
I tried TR for 2 years in a row, when you had to do the 8 or 25 mins test, and found it super hard, but also, had other distractions
This year, I went for it, ramp test in Jan, FTP was 139. I also thought it was low-balling me, but I stuck with it, and went for the base phase. After SSB1 LV i was up at 179, and 8 months later, i’m at 214 (after a stint at 220)
Your body will found its way back to fitness. Just follow the plan :slight_smile:


Think this sounds about right.

I started TR after 3 or 4 months off the bike completely, and the 2 or 3 months prior to the time off I was only pootling about. So over 6 months with next to no “hard” cycling and when I signed up to TR at the beginning of this year FTP was 145. I completed a outdoor ride around the same time and averaged 16mph.

Fast forward to June - FTP was at 203 and the same 20 mile ride was averaged 20mph+ with very similar heart rate.

One thing to keep in mind - ramp test is highly dependant on V02, so I found at the beginning being untrained it undercooked my FTP. This meant that the first few sessions in sweet spot base were fairly easy so ended up re-testing a week or so later with 8 min test and adding 10 watts.

Should add - I’ve used TR in the past, have since changed turbo trainers and using virtual power finding the numbers between trainers can vary quite a bit. I’m probably not massively far away from where I was a number of years ago (based on outdoor rides), but numbers on this trainer are way down from before. But as long as you have an accurate variable to train with I’m not really bothered if power is correct.

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In my n=1 sample what you are experiencing is normal. I had a hiatus of years as well.

I started last year at about 145, trained for the season stopping at 220 FTP in Sept. picked training up again in Feb and trained steadily since, focusing on weight loss.

Tested Monday at 267 so it seems normal. I’m 43.

Edit: oh damn I just had a birthday I’m 44!


Thanks for all the feedback and input guys, I really appreciate it!

I am going to stick at it, and will be doing low volume to start. I can ride outdoors at the weekends, but I live in Wisconsin, so in a couple of months I won’t be going anywhere outside. I wanted to get started on this before the winter and get into a routine so by the time it’s too cold to ride outside I’m already in a rhythm.

Again, thanks for the comments, they definitely help!

My first FTP test came in at 170 watts but that was after a few years of just riding (around 1000-1500 miles per year). Before that I had a long layoff like you.

Two years ago I decided to get serious and got my FTP up to 250 over those two years. Plus I lost 25 pounds. At 54 years old, I think this was pretty good. Maybe I’m maxed out but I have good short power and have over 2 pages of Strava KOMs (almost all under 10 minutes, most in the 1-4 minute range). That was always my strength in cycling.

Keep up the work. Join a bike club. Put a couple centuries and fondos on your calendar. Do some gravel or mountain biking at times to mix it up. Keep it fun!