Outdoor FTP testing, hill or flat?

So thinking to skip ramp test next week and do a test outdoors as I’m doing my POL training outdoors. The power meter on the bike and terrain I’m on maybe makes more sense for me right now. Also want to have a go at a 20min best effort and see where I’m at.

Read an article there that said not to use a hill, as it engages different muscles. I get that, but the reason for building power for me is mostly to use it on hills so, think it makes more sense to do the test on a hill?

I’m one of those idiots that rarely tests. Maybe been years since I’ve tested. Guys like me wreck your bell curve on those spikes.

I’ve always done them on the flats (out my garage door), but my coach and coaching company prefers a 2-3% grade:

"When available we’ll recommend a steady grade hill free of stop signs, descents and any section of road that requires the athlete to stop pedalling. Ideally a 2-3% steady grade hill like this Strava segment . Steeper climbs tend to bog athletes’ cadence down which skews the test results. Conversely, some athletes make greater power uphill than they can on the flats. Whichever you choose, it is absolutely imperative that you ensure your test is repeatable, accurate and reliable. Apples – apples. "

Source: 20 Minute Power Based Field Test

If you are during and training on hills then I’d go with field testing on a hill.

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I don’t understand what’s the relevance of cadence in this case. Do you?

I always do a hill, when its on the flats something always goes wrong, because there really aren’t many flat areas without stoplights, loads or cars, etc.

I think I’m stronger on a slight hill anyway.

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I think they mean it might be less repeatable and steady as some people can generate more watts uphill, and the other side of the coin is it’s harder to hold watts up a steep hill. So it has more spikes.

Considering the typical experience that:

  • Lower Cadence = More Muscular demand, and Less Cardiovascular demand
  • Higher Cadence = Less Muscular demand, and More Cardiovascular demand

It could alter the demand in testing if you strayed too far from what may be your “normal” training cadence. In a sense, if you train mainly on flats at 90 rpm, and test on a steeper hill at 70 rpm, you may be testing a bit different than you train. Then there is the whole “inertia” aspect that is it’s own monster, and may well have some impact on muscular loading.

Might be splitting some fine hairs, and I am guessing, but can see a potential in the requirement. The “test like you train” makes sense and is likely a good goal to keep in mind. But depending on the actual variation, it may well be negligible in the end.


Thanks. This makes sense. The quote from @bbarrera seems to be making some broad generalization.

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To be clear, Frank Overton the head coach at FasCat wrote that.

Yes more aerobic v more muscular…

Going to see what the options are, most hills here have spiked gradients, 10%+

2 or 3% hill would be a nice compromise, not sure I have that though…

I’d do the test on precisely that terrain then (i.e. wherever your training focus will be). That is, if you want to use the result for your training in some way (which I don’t find so straightforward).

If it’s just as a benchmark to compare yourself to your past or future you, then I’d go for whatever terrain you like most and is readily available. Just my 2c - or how I do it personally (I don’t use 20min tests for my training, just to judge my progress, occasionally).

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As a thought experiment, I tried to figure out where my nearest hill is that would take me 20 minutes to climb by bike…I think the closest is a 3-4 hour car drive away… :confused:

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I am going to give my answer without looking at the other replies. (I’ll go back and look in a minute)

Ideal is a 1 - 3% gentle and consistent incline. Steep climbs recruit muscles in different ways and skew the results.

Second best is pan flat; maybe road following a river flood plain, no wind direction ride upstream of the river or look at the weather and it is not gusty against the wind (gusty? pick another day or consider the affect it might of had.)


“Training and Racing with a Power Meter” recommends slight up hill or into a headwind, “where you are forced to ride a maximum effort for the entire 20 minutes” especially for those not accustomed to the effort. I seen many citing 1-2%.

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I agree with the slight incline approach. I find it slightly more manageable to push into a 2-3% grade rather than a dead flat section :man_shrugging:t3:.

Power is power. Slight grade as mentioned or a good headwind has been my preferred for outdoor testing.

same here although flat with headwind allows for something to push against. For example my last field test:


was enough headwind for 274W average power to result in 18.5mph speed. Also, I don’t normally do intervals outside in an aggressive aero position, so that was ‘test as you train’ normal body position (more wind resistance).

Before COVID I would test in tenerife on mount Teide where I would go every couple of months.

My best outdoor numbers always come on the consistent 4-8% grades you have there.

Actually, My best ever numbers are on a climb that starts at sea level but it only lasted 19 minutes before I got to the top and couldn’t hold my numbers !!

Summary: I test on hills outdoor. My ego prefers the results and I like the sunshine on the beach afterwards. At that point I don’t care about the physiology!

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You must have been gutted that your best numbers didn’t qualify for a 20 minute test.

It doesn’t actually matter unless you have some specific weakness or strength in making power in a particular scenario that would impede your ability to train appropriately with the number


Other than in TTs I have only tested outside a few times. I’ve found it impossible in UK at least to get a course that is consistent, well surfaced, long enough and without junctions/ driveways etc for a true outdoors test.