My FTP puzzle: +30W on out-of-the-saddle steep climbs. Why?

hey y’all,

I am at a loss and google hasn’t been able to help me either. Maybe the answer lingers in one of your heads! Your thoughts are very much appreciated:

The puzzle: :male_detective:
My FTP when seated in the flat or medium climbs: ~310 W
My FTP when out of the saddle on very steep climbs (+12.5%): ~340 W
What is going on there!?

My hypotheses: :thought_balloon:

  • Powermeter readings are off for low cadence
  • Weird carry-over effects from running (best 5k time is 16:10)

Context: :flamingo:

  • PM: stages gen 3 left side - calibrated every ride
  • FTP estimates are no anomalies. They are based on multiple 20min efforts. Pattern is consistent
  • Age: 32
  • Weight: 68 kg / 150 lbs
  • Length: 184 cm / 6 ft
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Muscle fiber composition, temperature, pacing can all play a role, as will anaerobic contribution.

If you post the power files, it will be easier to diagnose.

Could you post some more information about how you’re calculating your FTP for these two scenarios? Are you doing a prolonged 20 minute out of the saddle effort and comparing that to a 20 minute seated effort? 8 minutes each?

How many times have you repeated these efforts and seen this type of gap?

Basically - what type of information are you basing these two FTP numbers on?

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I thought of this as well. You can do max intensity for 20M out of the saddle? Or 8M twice? Or 20+M on the ramp test?

Hey guys,
Thanks for the prompt replies!
As I am travelling without trainer, my recent data is all based on outside rides.
I am actually using Xert for my FTP estimates. sssst, dont tell! :shushing_face:

Example of standing climb (sustained effort for 25min): 350W avg
https://www.strava.com/activities/2585845653/analysis
Example of seated climb (sustained effort for 50min): 300W avg
https://www.strava.com/activities/2572925835/analysis
(pacing here a bit off, but not enough to explain the big delta)

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These aren’t similar efforts, so they aren’t really valid as apples to apples comparisons.

Your FTP is probably around 300-310. It’s definitely not 340w.

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I have the exact same problem and come from a competitive running background. I’m convinced that it has something to do with standing being more similar to running. I can do 20-30w higher threshold efforts standing vs seated.

A quote from EF Education First’s Mike Woods on the matter: https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a28382640/mike-woods-tour-de-france/

I fell in love with running early. I was a competitive runner all through my teens. Because of that, I really developed, I think, just a natural ability to produce really high power in a running position. As opposed to a lot of my pro cycling [peers], they’re used to being bent over a bike. That’s why at time trials, when you’re really bent over on the bike, I’m not as good. But when it comes to standing and climbing, with the drafts less important and you stand up and be less aerodynamic, I excel. I just basically try to run on the bike. The greater the steepness, the harder the climb, I tend to be better because I can stand more and I can get more into that running position.

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According to twitter someone is collecting and analysing this right now: https:fft.tips/positionform ; however I haven’t seen any results so I assume they are still in the collection phase.

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Admit to skimming the replies, but you’ll always generate a bigger number on a climb. Don’t know about the reasons, but it seems to be true.

Even if you want to use crude rules of thumb, a 20min test is a lot different than a 50min test.
Take 95% of your 340avg over the shorter test and you’re at 323, so now its a 13w difference, and in relative terms only 4%
Lots of variables can explain the 4% difference.

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don’t know for sure, but it feels like I’m able to push harder during out-of-saddle efforts because of the assistance of body weight. The analogy that always comes to mind is digging a hole in hard dirt with a shovel. Would you jump on the shovel to get your full body into the effort? Or stand with foot on shovel, and only push with leg muscles?

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Remember, Hunter Allen’s “95% of 20 min” is only valid after doing an all-out 5 min effort before the 20 min. A lot of folks want 20-25 min while fairly fresh to be 105% of their FTP, and it’s simply not the case.

If you did 300w on a sustained climb and that was all-out, then you take 300w as your FTP.

Also, if you’ve fed enough data into Xert, and you’ve got recent (last two-three weeks) efforts that represent your max across durations from 5 sec to about 20min, the MPA algorithm should be in the ballpark.

Or, you can just warm up for 15-20min, hammer an hour of power, and take that as your FTP.

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same amount of work being done, just a matter of how you are choosing to do it.

I’ve never matched my best 20 min steep climb part out of the saddle but pretty steady all time power PR from two years ago on any kind of steady non climb ftp test or interval attempt since.

I also didn’t find 95% of that climb test as a ftp estimate to be at all representative of fitness I can carry to longer intervals either. It’s also the only part of my power curve I haven’t PR’ed further in past two years, and I think it’s just not very relevant to training for “normal” riding.

Hypotheses 3:

Your L/R power balance is different standing than sitting, but your left-only PM is not detecting this.

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I believe you can generate more power standing than seated in the same vein as sprinting. You are able to recruit more of your glutes and gain more torque through your back. If you dont get more power standing especially for short fast kicks, then your technique is wrong. Watch someone like Valverde to see how it should be done.

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Exactly! I also thought of Mike Woods and included him in my google searches, but he doesn’t provide a deeper reason why other than “similar to running”.

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Let’s park the “how did you test?” discussion for a second. Humor me, and just believe me when I say the difference is there (which Mike Woods also appears to be experiencing).
Firstly: What could be the underlying reason why a runner would excel at steeper climbs?
Is it the lower cadence that is more similar to run cadence? Is it the use of different muscles? Could it be blood circulation matter?
And more importantly: can - with specific training - the “flat FTP” be brought up closer to “steep FTP”?

I’m going to ignore the testing inconsistencies from here on out with one last comment that you are significantly handicapping your training by thinking you have a higher FTP. I can speak from experience on this; I wasted a good 4 months and ruined a peak season with a too high FTP generated from one great power file. But, I digress.

You don’t have two FTPs. What you do have is muscle fiber composition that naturally lends itself to one type of riding more so than another. “flat” versus “steep” isn’t specific enough.

Where do you do the majority of your training?
What events do you race?
What are the decisive moments?

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether it’s even worth investing energy into speed work (either on the road).

At par value, if you want to get better at flat riding, training more in high speed/low force generation scenarios like fast group rides, rolling hills, etc. You can also simulate this a bit by using the big chain ring, little cog on a smart trainer, but it’s less of an effect.

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I’d suspect this could be something to do with how the crank arm power meter calculates power so would be interesting if the same observation persisted with a hub-based power meter for example.

But also I suppose different muscle groups are used when standing and your lungs won’t be as restricted so could be real difference.