Shifting while using ERG Mode for the Ramp Test

Any ‘trick’ used on a ramp test is only cheating yourself. If you end up with a higher than accurate FTP, you’re the one that’s going to suffer in the end. Makes more sense to me to follow protocol, and adjust workout intensity if required - if you find yourself going that alot, I’d consider adjusting FTP upwards or downwards until the next ramp test.


I’ve found that I have to do this - I use a Tacx Vortex and as the power increases on the ramp test if the wheel speed is too slow (easier gear) the wheel starts slipping. If I start in a harder gear then I’m way above target power unless I drop my cadence to 50-60. I make sure I shift about 5 seconds before the next ramp starts to stop the slight easing off of power as the wheel starts to speed up. It’s a pain but the only way I’ve been able to make it work. I train in a similar way so think doing it in the ramp test doesn’t have an impact to target power levels - VO2 has to be in a harder gear or I have the same problem with the wheel slipping.

Of course, I might have misunderstood the fundamental thing about testing. I’ve always thought that ftp test was about to go the absolute limit. Regardless of how you got there. Yes I know that an all out sprint is out of the question, but that’s not what I’ve been after with my little trick.
Actually, if raising the cadence is cheating, why isn’t lowering cadence considered cheating? :face_with_monocle:
You raise to keep on going a little longer.
You lower to keep on going a little longer.
Shouldn’t you stop the test then, when you fall 2 rpms off where you can hold the power?
And actually, to reiterate, I’m not really not after raising cad. but more after brining it back to normal

Shifting to overcome trainer limitations from Wattage Ceilings and Wattage Floors is very real, and has not been mentioned yet. In those cases, it’s appropriate and even necessary. It affects many of the lower to mid priced options, but is not an issue with most higher priced trainers.

But as mentioned, the general guide is “to be consistent” so doing those shifts should be repeated each time at appropriate power level requirements.

That is very different from what this discussion is mostly covering (shifting to ease the effort a moment when the test gets hard).


I really HAVE to do a ramp test tonight and send the link to Chad for him to analyze :grin:
The only problem being that I haven’t bee riding for 4 months, so I’ll suck big time :sweat_smile:

I know this discussion had happened before, in the course of other discussions.

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For reference, here are my last 5 ramp tests, if anyone wants to see my efforts.

Setup and Use:

  • ERG mode

  • Wahoo Kickr17 (ERG mode power smoothing turned OFF, for “real” power display)

  • Cadence from an old school magnet reed switch counter

  • 34t x 17t each time (no shifting)

  • Most have notes related to my “failure” mode that I felt (like legs vs lungs)

  • You can see a general flat cadence and then points where it starts to decay. Often around 16 mins plus and sometimes I can rally and get it back while others is the beginning of the end and it’s clear to see.

  • Attentive people will see a big cadence drop at the very early steps. This is me shifting from the 34t to 50t big ring, so I can stand one time at the beginning of the steps, for a booty rest. I sit down and shift down after about 30 seconds standing and remain seated and in the same gear for the remainder of the test up to failure.


I think a lot of arguments that come up again and again on the forum about the TR ramp test could be avoided if more people really listened to that part of episode 158. In theory, anyway. This is the internet, after all.

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It’s not about what kind of “cheating” is OK vs. what is not.

It’s about getting a reliable result that will allow you to set your training intensities.

If “cheating” gets a result that informs the right training intensities for you, then that’s fine.

I would try and just keep your cadence up, but if it does drop for whatever reason and you need to shift once to being it back up, I wouldn’t worry at all about it. Just make sure you get back up to power immediately, the moment you shift the fly wheel is going to be going faster than your cassett is spinning, which means you have virtually no load on the pedals, which means you should be able to accelerate the pedals nearly instantly. If you do that, I dont see how anyone could call the result invalid. If you take your chain off, how long does it take you to spin up to 90 rpm? I would venture to say less than one pedal stroke. Spin it up that fast and your test results should be accurate.

Damnnnn…what a thread! hey on topic but off topic on gearing. Do you guys try to use the same gearing combo everytime you test. and does it really matter (not shifting during tests-protocol)
i wonder if it matters, seems like it should not. The other day had a pretty good test then realized i was 3-4 cogs up on the cassette and i’m usually in my 12t for testing.

12T sounds great, lots of room for shifting :laughing:.

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  • Yes, consistent testing requires consistent use of equipment.
  • Using the same gearing is important if you want any ability to compare prior tests, and keep your training pointed in the right direction.
  • I don’t have the proof, but with a capable smart trainer, I predict people will hit a different “FTP” if they tested in max gearing vs min gearing.
    • The difference in flywheel inertia is real and I expect it to impact results. We have enough anecdotal feedback (mine included) that flywheel speed makes a real difference in feel (and I expect related fatigue) between high and low gearing.
  • This leads to my other main suggestion, to test in the same gearing you plan to use for most of your training. Testing at one extreme and training at the other is likely to lead to issues.

Overall, I’m not claiming that a few shifts in a ramp test are going to totally invalidate the results. But the WILL change things in a way that I don’t think was intended for the spirit of the test. Most people I’ve seen use this “trick” are doing it to extend the test.

  • Is that good or bad?
  • The answer may well vary between earch rider.
    • What I know, is that if I bury myself in a test vs popping “a bit early” and quitting “on purpose” vs going until my eyes explode… the popped eyes ones lead to just enough “extra” FTP that workouts can hit the border of doable vs failure.
    • For me… I am a “good” ramp tester apparently and may well over-perform compared to my capabilities at Threshold. So I have found that underperforming (or manually reducing if I happen to die in the test) is better for me than taking a “higher” FTP value.
  • I would bet that others are the exact opposite of me in that case.

Point being, there are ways to learn from a ramp test and get what you need from it. Maybe shifting is one of those “tweaks” but I think there are better ways to handle it than introducing the trainer delay, power delta and all that comes with shifting as a “trick”. But if it works and people use it consistently, maybe it’s the “best” solution in their situation for all I know?

  • I would just recommend consistent application of that or any trick each and every time you test.

If you did an FTP test outdoors you’d change gears. The ramp test will not provide an “exact” FTP. From these forums you know that for a lot of people it gives a sub optimal result. Changing gear in Erg will give you what… An extra 10 secs? It’s definitely not going to give you a minute so this is a pointless argument. It may add 1 to 2 watts or if indeed it does, I’d expect it to disrupt your rhythm. Not going to make any difference.

  • That’s a simple statement for something far more complex.
    • Which test (1x 20min, 2x 8min, 1x 60min)? [since the Ramp is NOT recommended for doing outside]
    • What terrain (good and consistent dead flat, rolling, fixed for variable grade)?
  • That all gets really interesting once you make a mix of those.
  • I just don’t think outside testing is related to the ramp test in any meaningful way. They both aim to find an FTP value, but the ultimate method can and needs to differ here (not the least of which is that some choose to use ERG when on a trainer… that is not an option outside).
  • Much the same can be said for the other FTP test format. Not are perfect or any guarantee of success.

I do agree that the shifting is likely more of a hiccup than a solution. Would be amazing to see a direct comparison of a ride to dead vs ride and shift result. I do think it’s likely just a few watts in the grand scheme of things, but could be more for some riders?

I agree with what you say. If someone is switching gears, if think they’d be close to finishing. By the time erg catches up they’d be back to struggling. Just not going to get you any meaningful watts. It may gain you a few seconds at most m my points about the FTP test is that there is no perfect way to test it. FTP will fluctuate daily due to many different circumstances, stress levels, sleep, nutrition, time of day,indoors, outdoors etc. For over threshold intervals it’s a sub optimal way of defining training zones. Any gain (if any) from changing gear would be within the range of daily fluctuations. If I got an FTP of 300 for my test if consider myself to be within 290 - 310 range. I certainly wouldn’t think my FTP is 300 exactly for a 6 week training block. This is why the AT will be a changer because your ramp test result will have a much smaller incorrect to your training zones as your plan adapts. I just find it funny that people are accusing the op of cheating a test. The gains (if any) would be insignificant and certainly not lead to a massive overstatement of training zones.

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Depends on why you cadence dropped.

Can you expand on any reasons other than fatigue, and the aforementioned need to shift to avoid Wattage Floors / Ceilings?

distractions, just to name one…

So that is a one direction “shift to easier gear / get lower flywheel speed / momentary relief to get cadence up” choice and no plan to shift back to the starting gear option?

Just seems odd to me, but whatever gets it done I guess.