5 Basic Principles for Cycling Performance Tests

As a medical doctor, I like to see proof that something works. So please show me the facts. Perform a test on an ergometer bike and show me the numbers. Hard facts. I like it.

Cycling performance tests can provide insightful information about your current fitness level. In addition, these tests can be used to evaluate and optimize training programs.

Since my early start as a cycling coach, I have tested my riders on ergometer bikes with power outputs or even better on their bikes equipped with SRM crank systems. Optimized their training programs again and again based on my empiric data stream…

Here are my five basic principles that can help you to benefit from cycling performance tests:

1. Watts

Get a power meter or use an ergometer bike. It’s essential to know how many watts you put in the pedals. If you use an ergometer bike, make sure it’s calibrated correctly every time you use it for performance tests. Please note that heart rate is exciting but definitively not the primary concern in a cycling performance test. We want to know the power output in Watts (or even better Watts per Kilogram).

2. Support

Don’t do physical tests on your own. Have an assistant to guide you through the test. It could be your cycling coach, cycling buddy, or just a friend or member of your family.

3. Specificity

Make the performance test as specific as possible. No test provides answers to all questions. A performance test must be designed to measure the physical parameter you want to test. For example, if you’re going to test your anaerobic endurance, perform a test designed for that skill, e.g., 60sec max power. If anaerobic endurance is your primary concern, it doesn’t make sense to do tests not focused on anaerobic endurance.

4. Test Protocol

Instead, write down (or get your assistant to write down) every detail about your test. Get all the numbers written down: Bodyweight, watts, heart rate data, etc. Also worth noticing weather conditions if you make outdoor performance tests.

5. Evaluate

After performing a physical test, it’s essential to evaluate and discuss your results. Use your results to optimize your training routine and let the performance test inspire you to train even harder.

3 thoughts on “5 Basic Principles for Cycling Performance Tests”

  1. Hi I have been following your 12 week winter training book. I have bought a turbo trainer with watts on it. I have trained for the last few years with a heart rate monitor and am looking for a bit more!!
    I am a seasoned veteran rider who was third in our national criterium race at the end of the season.I am 52 and race in a age related group.
    I do a 10 mile TT test every 4 weeks and use my heart rate monitor as a pacing tool.
    I need to know how to do the same test with the power meter on my turbo trainer?
    do i need to do the same time/distance and what wattage do i start with? also do i need to do any other test, your book suggests a 5 min effort but does not disclose the protocol to this test!
    I train hard but also learned the value of rest days/weeks unlike some of my training partners.
    the turbo trainer i am using is a tacx flow 2200
    any help on this matter would be greatly received
    best regards Notsofastfred

  2. Hi Fred,

    I suggest you do the same testing procedure as you did in week 1 of the winter training program. So you need to do two separate tests to estimate your current VO2 max and threshold power. VO2 Max intensity refer to your avg. power output (Watts) in the 5min test. Threshold power intensity refer to avg. power output (Watts) in the 30min test. (30min test might at least, in theory, overestimate ”˜functional threshold power”™ but from a practical point of view, you shouldn”™t worry about it.)

    When you perform a one of these tests, try to estimate how much power you can produce for, let”™s say, five minutes and then keep a consistent pace. It might be necessary to adjust your pace throughout the test, but that”™s how performance tests (and time trials) are.

    It’s important that you do your best to make similar conditions as during the tests in week 1. That way it is possible to track your progress.

    Good luck!


  3. glenn restvedt

    Greetings! I am having a little bit of a issue finding my threshold power for the 30 minute test. During the five minute max test for vo2max intervals was 452. How would I go about pacing or estimating what I should stay at cadence and watt wise for the 30 minute test? For some reason I have better muscular endurance when I’m at 95 plus rpms holding a givin wattage than a heavier gear at a lower cadence but holding the same watts.


    I wanted to test this out. I held 95-100 rpms at 400 watts about 5 minutes longer than when I tried a heavier gear at 85-90 rpms.(heartrate about 15 beats higher as well here) I’m thinking this has to do with more stress getting put on my anaerobic engine when I am heavier geared? Therefore i might have more muscular enurance than anaerobic?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    Glenn Restvedt

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