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Cycling Performance Test

The Cycling Performance Test measures the maximum average power you can maintain for 60 minutes. It's also known as the functional threshold power, FTP-test. The test can be used to determine your individual cycling power zones. When you have your individual power zones figured out, it's easier to optimize your training. The test is also good for tracking your cycling performance development over time.

How often should I take the test?

We recommend repeating the FTP test every two to three months. The key idea is that you perform the test regularly. Performing a maximal test more frequently isn't often necessary as each test may compromise your training plan due to prolonged recovery as compared to a normal training session. Also, performing the test prior to an important race is not recommended.

Should I take a 20, 30, 40 or 60-minute test?

In addition to the 60-minute FTP-test, you can also take a shorter test that lasts for 20, 30 or 40 minutes, in which case we'll estimate the 60-minute result. The 60-minute test is very demanding. The shorter tests are better for inexperienced cyclists or if you're recovering from an injury. Note that with the shorter tests the result may not be as precise as with the 60-minute test. Always take the same type of test to make the results comparable over time..

Test conditions

The idea is to maintain constant power throughout the test. For this reason, we recommend using an indoor bike with a power sensor to get the most reliable results, but you can take the test outdoors as well. If you take the test outdoors, it's wiser to take a shorter one in order to minimize stopping and power changes. Plan your route before the test. Choose a route on flat terrain, and avoid traffic lights or any other reasons to stop.

Preparing for the test

You should feel rested and energized before the test. Thus, avoid exhaustive exercise on the day preceding the test and maintain a normal bed-time schedule. As the test places a considerable demand on your energy supply system, eat carbohydrate rich food 24 hours before the test. This ensures that the lack of muscle energy content does not limit your performance.

Also, check that your weight is set correctly in your physical settings. This is important so that you can compare your results over time. In your first test, we'll guide you with a power target that's based on your background information. This helps you maintain a steady power throughout the test. When you repeat the test, the target is based on your earlier results.

Before taking the test, read the Health and Training section in the user manual or in the Important information sheet that came in the product package. The test is very demanding so do not take the test during illness, injury or if you have any doubts over your health. Take the test only when you feel recovered. Wear cycling shoes and clothes that allow freedom of movement.

To take the Cycling Performance Test you need a compatible cycling power sensor. For a complete list a compatible cycling power sensors see WHICH THIRD-PARTY POWER SENSORS ARE COMPATIBLE WITH POLAR VANTAGE V2? The power sensor also needs to be paired with your watch.

Performing the test

The cycling test includes warmup, test and cool down phases. The warmup phase is power-based, and the cool down phase is based on heart rate. Note that the warmup and cooldown phases are optional. You can skip them if you wish. To get a result the test needs to last for at least 20 minutes.

If the power signal from the pedals is lost during the test, the test can end. The test is never aborted during the test if you go too slow or too fast.

  1. On your watch go to Tests > Cycling test > Duration, and choose 20, 30, 40 or 60 minutes.
  2. Then go to Tests > Cycling test > Start and scroll down to see an overview of the test. When you’re ready to start the test, choose Next.
  3. Check the questions concerning your health and accept to go to the pre-training mode.
  4. The sport profile is shown in a purple color in the test view. Choose an appropriate indoor or outdoor cycling sport profile. Stay in the pre-training mode until the watch has found your cycling power sensor.
  5. Tap the display or press the OK button to begin.
  6. The test begins with a warmup phase. The warmup should be about 20 minutes of easy riding in the beginning. Include 2-3 full-on sprints in the middle of the warmup, about 1-minute each with recovery. Now you should be well warmed up and ready to take the full-on test. If you choose to do a shorter warmup, make sure to include the fast sprints and recovery moments, nonetheless. The warmup also allows you to check that everything works as it should and that your bike is adjusted optimally for you.
  7. After a proper warmup, choose Start test.
  8. Speed up and find the maximum power you believe you can keep up for the whole test. The test view shows your power in watts. The red value tells your current power and the white value your estimated target power. Try to keep your pace close to the target, and make sure you stay on the same power level throughout the test. Slowing down will make the results less reliable.
  9. The test phase ends after the pre-defined time is over. We recommend performing the cooldown phase after the test.

Test result

The test summary shows your FTP value which shows power in watts, your maximum heart rate and your maximal oxygen uptake known as VO2max. You can view your latest result in Tests > Cycling test > Latest result. The test results are stored in your watch for at least 28 days.

The test result is calculated in your watch but to update your values (FTP, VO2max, heart rate and power zones) you need to have the Polar Flow app on your phone. After the test sync your results to the app to update your values if you wish.

Dividing FTP with a cyclist's weight produces a comparable value, called power-to-weight ratio- which can be compared with other cyclists of the same sex. The more power you can produce in your current weight, the better your power-to-weight ratio is. This reflects your aerobic fitness. We use a simplified, 8-tiered result table ranging from untrained to world-class when giving you feedback based on your power-to-weight ratio.

In your first test, your result is compared with other cyclists of the same sex as you. When you repeat the test, the result is compared to your previous test results and test feedback is also based on them.

To help long-term follow up, we’ve gathered all the test data in one place in the Polar Flow web service. In the Tests page you can see all the tests you’ve performed and compare their results. You can see your long-term progress and easily view changes in your performance.

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