It’s all in the numbers, or is it?

Wilier Performance Progress Lab test
Wilier Performance Progress Lab test

Last week the Wilier Performance Progress lab set up here at Quest Adventure to do some testing. In all five of us had our FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and lactate tolerance tested. Now I am not training for anything, however, all my life I have been fascinated by my body’s ability to perform. I can remember as a teenager running and wondering what would happen if, say, I speeded up, or lengthened my stride or sprinted up hill. Legs would kick, heart would pump and lungs would suck. When I started cycling in earnest when mountain bikes arrived heart rate monitors were all the rage. I was fascinated at the way that such a small pump could drive such a big motor. I quickly learn to do a Conconi test to work out my threshold and eventually did a King Cycle test. I knew my max and resting heart beat and my threshold. I also knew that in a mountain bike race I would average above my threshold. Yes, even back then, before STI and disc brakes we could still down load the data from a race.

So whilst I only have one goal and that is 9 hours for the South Downs Way next summer my fascination with the way the human body works is still as strong as ever. In today’s sporting world modern training programs are all base on wattage not heart rate. Heart rates vary but watts never lie. More watts equal more power equal more speed. Whilst we pride ourselves in the knowledge that we pass on here (in the shop you should never leave without learning something) my knowledge of power was limited so the Wilier Progress Performance Lab test was essential.

The testing is tough. You get on a Watt Bike, give a blood sample and then the fun begins. You pedal at 90 rpm and every two minutes another sample is taken (to measure lactate) and the resistance goes up one level. Easy enough! On my report the word “Failure” is written next to 14 minutes. This is not a driving test where failure means that you can have another go. Failure, in this instance, is complete body meltdown manifest in extreme muscle pain and lung burn. The results though are really interesting. I now know that my threshold is 222 watts at 135 bpm, the latter figure I pretty much knew. This is the level that I can ride at all day and that is about 22mph on the flat.

Everyone is different and the most interesting part of the test is what else it reveals: how much pain you can endure, how quick you can recover, how to avoid cramping, how to avoid lactate build up in the warm down and how to go faster. Pete Webster (WPPL) is a mine of information and having trained and currently training many pro athletes he can really help you as a rider whether you have a power meter or not. Pete gives every rider a thorough debrief once the test results have been e-mailed out.

It can be fun too! As well as the full FTP test these evenings are a real laugh when we do the two minute power test. In this test you have a two minute warm up then two minutes flat out to the cries and shouts of your mates. You are then weighed and graded according to your watts per kilo. Your name goes up on the leader board aka. Top Gear.

So what did I do with this new found knowledge? I ignored the figures and rode using the

Nice collection of Scotts
Nice collection of Scotts. Our demo Addict is for sale.

mapping function on my Garmin Edge 510 instead. I did check the power twice but when I saw that it was as expected I continued without the figures. I knew how I was going to ride, on threshold or above for the six hours it would take to finish. It was going to be tough enough without the constant reminder that I was getting tired. I will start to use the information and see if I can go faster by going slower if you see what I mean (less is more). I will write up more on the test, the results and how it benefits you as a rider when I have had another debrief with Pete.

Here’s the ride: Strava, Garmin. It is the South Downs 100 course which I did last year. It is on the 19th October and definitely worth doing. The route is really very good and on the 19th you’ll have signs, marshals and check points with essential food.


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