Ramp tests not reflecting current FTP

Dear TR Crew

I am one of your many millions of fans who follow your podcast every week and absolutely love it. I’ve been competing at a high level in sport for 20 years and I’m still learning thanks to you all. It’s a continuous journey of self improvement :blush:

In order to give you some context behind my following questions, I am a 48 year old woman with two grown up kids, have a marathon time of 2:35 from 2004, competed elite for both triathlon and duathlon until 2008, and finally got into competitive cycling after a 6 year break in 2015. Having spent a couple of seasons competing road and cx, I’ve settled on time trialling and in 2019, rode 100 miles in 3:48:23 to become the oldest woman to go under 3:50 in the U.K.

I have two questions. Despite my ability and o compete and ride at high speeds, having spent 3 years on TR, I still have a woeful ramp test result. This December, after my annual break, I decided I’d go wholeheartedly into the ramp test again, and when it planed, I stopped. The watts were terrible and as with every other test I’ve done, know it doesn’t represent my current FTP. So confident am I of this that on my first session, I raised the watts by 10% and managed every session that week, and then raised it again. So first question, why is this that I’m so bad at these tests? And what would you do? I’m so fed up with my cycling friends commenting on “you need to raise your ftp” that I now hide my sessions from public sites!

More a reflection now. Because I hide my sessions now, I find I’m more likely to complete them. That’s I’m sure because I’m more prepared to fail and people can’t see when I do. Doing something is better than doing nothing so it’s the pressure from others and their expectation that’s more likely to be a limiter than your own mind. Happy for anyone to share their experience and comment.

Thanks for your help
Michelle

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There’s a lot of threads about ramp tests not suiting everyone but they do the majority. Unfortunately I am not the majority either. I am not half as strong as you but I am a TTer too maybe that has something to do with it. I’ll push a good bit higher on intervals, 20min tests and it’s. I started out with a FTP of 270w pre TR, my first ramp test put it at 265w but it then started to decline (the last time I did a ramp test it put it at 229w). When it went below 250w what I was putting out having just did 264w for 45minutes I started to ignore it. Most recently I did a 40min version of a 20mins test and did 285w which I have took 92% of as an FTP value which feels about right just now.

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First the “why”. Ramp test assumes a “normal” power curve. I’m guessing with your background in marathons, tris and long distance TTs that you’re going to be right at the endurance end of the bell curves of power curves! I.e. huge aerobic capacity and the ability to sustain a high % of FTP for multiple hours, but you probably haven’t spent much time working to improve your anaerobic capacity and ability to sustain 120% of FTP since that’s simply not needed in your events. Somebody who did short power events like crits or hill climbs but no sustained power events is likely to have the opposite problem - high ramp test FTP that they couldn’t hold for sweetspot or threshold workouts.

And now the “what would I do”. If you’re planning to race some short power events then there may be value in continuing to use the ramp test, and my guess is that training your 1 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute power would see you get some big gains in the ramp test numbers pretty quickly. If you’re going to be continuing with long TT type events then I simply wouldn’t bother with the ramp test. Use the TR 20 minute test instead. Or if your indoor and outdoor power measurement is the same then use an FTP number from something like a 25 mile TT. One of the main reasons for TR implementing the ramp test was because a lot of people aren’t great at pacing a 20 minute effort so the results weren’t that reliable. With your background that’s not going to be an issue.

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Great answer! Thank you. I guess I’m trying to follow the programme and do what’s prescribed, and feel that in entering that I’m doing an endurance event in TR as an A race, why it’s included in the programme? But you’ve given me my answer which is to ignore the ramp test, replace it with 20 min test (which is just about equivalent to 10m TT where I normally confirm my current FTP but hasn’t been possible this year) and the continue the rest of the programme. I still see benefit in training 1, 3 and 5 min power, so will continue to do so. Thanks so much!

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YMMV!
I am a triathlete… and i can do the ramp mostly OK, but struggle with a 20 min test.
A good friend is a mountain biker and he struggles with the ramp but crushes the 20 min test.

everyone is different. I have a high tolerance of pain, so that helps!

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Yes, I agree.

yes, from the TR ramp test FAQ:

As @cartsman stated, TR was looking for an easier test protocol. The ramp test estimates maximum aerobic power or MAP. It then uses 75% of MAP to estimate FTP. Sometimes that is accurate, sometimes it isn’t. If it isn’t accurate, then use another test protocol :smiley:

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Just make sure you are using the same power meter. If you are using two separate power meters (like one is your trainer) then you may have to do indoor and outdoor tests.

Also, some trainers have notoriously bad power meters so keep that in mind as well. (My Tacx Vortex, for example, could read 30-70 watts high depending on roller tension and how warm it got.)

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Can anyone help me with this FTP issue. I began last November at 202 FTP it then dropped 172 then up to 195. In the summer I reached 204 but has dropped ever since to 192 FTP. This is very frustrating I have exercised regularly, been consistent but have not made all these advances that others make. Can anyone help me or advice me how to change this disappointing outcome.

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If you make your account public some peeps will go see if there’s an issue based on the workouts.
It may also be the case that you’re one of the few that the ramp test doesn’t suit.

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How do you make it public?

What plan have you been following?

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I train for TT so I have done base, build and speciality and now back to base. I have done a lot of threshold work for TT.

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I use the wahoo kicks. My weight at the Dec 19 was 152k it has gone up a bit since then but not by a big degree.

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Possibly have the same issue as the OP then, in that a lot of your training and racing is done at threshold or below, so you might get a more accurate FTP estimate from the 20 minute test.

Has your TT performance improved? How does your volume since starting TR compare to what you were doing before?

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Few question.
What’s your trainer?
Do you have a power meter?
Do you get to minute 20 of the workout?

This could easily be a hardware issue…
so dont be discourage by this…

For an experiment I have dropped from mid volume to low volume to see it it is a fatigue problem so I suppose I need to give this several months?

Yes think the trainer and power meter are consistent and good. Tacx Neo Smart only.

Tacx Neo Smart is my trainer and power meter. I’ve consistently failed for 3 years!
I haven’t tried the 20 min test but that’s my plan next time round. I don’t think it’s a fatigue issue as this time round I’ve taken a break, and some minimal effective dose not to lose all my fitness over that break. But I’ll report back after I do 20 min test beginning of Jan :blush:

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Did that info help to cast any light on the problem?

go into your account settings and its there under gender beneath your profile pic if you have one. It’s ok if you don’t want to share but usually ramp tests not working out that well are due to the training leading up to it - consistency tends to give better results each time, but you could be doing too little or too much or not the right kind of training,
There’s usually a reason and maybe another few pairs of eyes could point you in the right direction.
It’ll also depend on what trainer you use, whether you’ve changed trainer as they all read differently etc etc etc or maybe you’re just one of those that the ramp test doesn’t “work” for.

and

there you go