What is the best cycling fitness test?
Fitness testing is an essential part of improving as a cyclist as it allows you to quantify where you are, set training zones for your workouts (either through heart rate or power), and track your progress over time. Over the years many different testing protocols have developed by sports scientists, coaches, and training platforms. With so many tests out there it can easily get confusing.
So let's review the various ways of assessing your cycling fitness, including:
- What each test measures
- How they measure it
- How difficult they are to pace correctly*
- The relative benefits and drawbacks of each approach
* Proper pacing is an important part of getting accurate results. To show how different tests compare, we’ve included a “Pacing Difficulty” scale, with 1 being the easiest to pace and 5 being the most difficult.
Measure More, Train Better
The more a test assess, the more you know about yourself and the more effectively you can train. The Sufferfest's 4DP™ Full Frontal fitness test is the only testing protocol that gives you a complete power profile (Functional Threshold Power, Maximal Aerobic Power, Anaerobic Capacity and Neuromuscular Power), rider type, and primary weakness in a single testing session.
The other tests only find a single element of your power profile: FTP (Functional Threshold Power - roughly the maximum average power you can sustain for efforts lasting around an hour). The MAP Ramp Test gives you MAP, or Maximal Aerobic Power. MAP is correlated with your power at VO2 Max.
Results May Vary
Chances are if you completed every test protocol we have listed below, you would get just as many different FTP values. Just as every testing protocol has its own method, each also uses its own calculations to set training zones. For example, one test might set your Zone 2 Endurance power as 50-70% of your FTP, while another might define it as 75-90% of your FTP. That means you can’t take your results from one test and use it in conjunction with the training zone calculations from a different test. Doing so would have you training at the wrong intensity.
The chart below reviews the most common testing protocols: