Traditional FTP tests have many downsides so we developed the Ramp Test. It hurts less, removes pacing from the equation, and takes less time to complete.

The Need for a New Testing Format

Testing is the foundation of effective training. But there’s a problem: traditional testing protocols are difficult to perform and more stressful on the body than necessary. A better testing protocol had to be made.

This became apparent when our team got together to discuss content ideas a few months ago. We were looking to do an article about how to execute the 20- and 8-minute tests better. During that meeting our CEO Nate asked if anyone there actually tested. This was a room full of high-level athletes, three of them being pro. No one raised their hands.

Everyone thought that testing was just brutal. They didn’t enjoy it and thought it really took a while to recover from. That’s when our new Product Manager Pete Morris piped in. He said that Team Clif Bar was using a modified ramp test to get their FTPs. A few of us in the office tried it and we all fell in love with it. We then began the project to replace our tests with what’s become the Ramp Test.

Advantages of the Ramp Test

Not only do riders avoid testing, those who do perform traditional FTP tests often fail. They either don’t complete the test or perform the test poorly and have to redo it. This didn’t sit right with us.

To make the Ramp Test the best and most efficient fitness assessment for cyclists, we addressed a large number of factors that too often impact the success of an FTP assessment and a rider’s willingness to do a test:

Pacing is a Nonissue

Even pacing over long durations is crucial with traditional testing protocols, otherwise your FTP estimate and training will suffer as a result. Pacing is a really hard thing to nail. Even experienced riders can struggle. The Ramp Test eliminates pacing from the equation altogether. Resistance simply steps up every minute and you ride until you can’t maintain target power any longer.

You’ll Never Have to Retest Due to Failure

When riders simply guess at their FTP without some assessment protocol, they have a tendency to overinflate it. This comes at a great detriment to all the workouts that follow.

The structure of the Ramp Test steps up until the rider reaches a point of failure. This structure has shown us that we can’t overestimate FTP. Meaning even if a rider overestimates their FTP coming into the Ramp Test, the test starts at such a low intensity and ramps up so gradually that we’ll always get a usable and accurate estimate of their FTP.

You Don’t Have to Switch Trainer Modes

With traditional testing, riders have found it a bit confusing with mode changes on electronic trainers. The Ramp Test solves this. Riders simply choose one mode and stick with it for the entire duration of the test.

Less Overall Stress on the Body

Unlike traditional tests that require max effort for extended periods of time, the Ramp Test really only hurts for about 2 or 3 minutes and then you’re done. This means less stress on the body overall, less recovery is required, and you have the option to follow your test up with a structured workout.

In summary, the Ramp test is the new preferred testing protocol to estimate fitness because it:

  • Does not require even pacing
  • Does not require trainer mode switching
  • Is easier to repeat precisely
  • Is less stressful on the body, allowing for a follow-up workout
  • Hurts less
  • Takes less time
  • Allows for the most effective training

Process for Creating the Ramp Test

In trying to calculate how a ramp test could lead us to an estimate of FTP, Coach Chad and the team experimented with a number of calculations until we landed on a formula that was reliable and repeatable.

Over 7,000 tests were completed during our beta period with the new Ramp Test. The testing format and calculations were refined until we saw improved training benefits from subsequent workouts at the proper progression.

All the ride data collected showed us that a 25% reduction of your highest 1-minute power during the Ramp Test is the best way to estimate functional threshold power in an efficient manner that delivers the highest quality of training.

How to Perform the Ramp Test

Now for details of the actual test. The Ramp Test is simply a graded exercise test. It begins with a really easy 5-minute warmup and then every minute thereafter it gets slightly harder until the rider cannot maintain target power any longer.

Ramp Test FAQ

What is the formula?

We take 75% of your best one-minute power. If you are above target for the final minute, the app will reduce your result by a small amount. It’s important to follow the target power as you progress through your test.

Can/should I do the Ramp Test more often than the 8/20 minute tests?

We still recommend assessing every 4-6 weeks. If you’ve taken some time off from training, resume training following an FTP assessment workout.

I’m a steady state athlete (TT or triathlon). Should I do the Ramp Test or is the 20-minute test a better assessment for me?

We recommend the Ramp test. Even though the intensity of the effort required during the final steps of a Ramp Test is well above the intensity required during a longer, lower-intensity effort, the information gleaned from the ramp protocol is more accurate than an FTP estimate based on a poorly paced 8- or 20-minute test. With a sufficient level of commitment and freshness, this format leaves little room for error in cyclists of all disciplines.

I went into the test fatigued and got a low score. I thought the new test is less dependent on fatigue?

While the new test may take less time and may exact a smaller physiological toll on the athlete, it is not any easier. You need to be reasonably recovered and prepared for any assessment workout in order to obtain usable results.

What if I score higher on the 8/20 minute test?

If you score slightly higher we recommend you still take the Ramp Test result and see how training goes. We’ve seen a lot of athletes not fall into the 90% and 95% reductions on those tests and they struggle doing sustained threshold work or any Vo2 max work after “overtesting”. As you train, if you feel that typically very hard workouts are just too easy you can always manually adjust your FTP.

If you score a big difference in FTP we recommend to check the following:

  • Did you REALLY dig deep and go hard?
  • Are the two tests recent and on the same equipment?
  • Do you have excessive fatigue?
  • Did you have a major power dropout during your Ramp Test?
  • Were you able to achieve a level of performance similar to recent PRs?

Will you still have the old tests?

Yes, the 8 minute and 20-minute test aren’t going anywhere and you can still use them if you prefer them.

Can I increase the warmup?

Due to the very low-intensity nature of the warmup and the fact that it’s scaled to your previous or predicted FTP, this assessment incorporates a sufficient warm-up period that will adequately prepare riders for the higher-intensity steps that will close the ramp assessment. If, however, you’d prefer to add a few extra minutes of warmup time prior to beginning the Ramp Test, do so every time you perform a Ramp Test in order to keep the results and protocol consistent.

Should I do the test in aero position?

Yes. If you plan to race and do the majority of your training in the aero position, testing in the aero position is recommended. Aero positioning often recruits the pedaling muscles in slightly different manners than more upright positions. Aero positioning also changes the stress on other, less obvious muscles which can contribute to the strain you’ll experience when training or racing in an aero position. So establishing an FTP that is specific to these altered demands is appropriate.

Should I do this test in ERG mode?

If you have a smart trainer we recommend that you do the test in ERG mode (default). A smart trainer is not required and those doing the test in ERG mode do not have an advantage over individuals on a traditional trainer.

What is a good ride to do after the Ramp test to keep my TSS inline with the 8/20 minute tests?

It’s not required to do a workout after the Ramp Test. But for riders who want to get a little work in, we recommend actively recovering for 10-15 minutes followed by one of these workouts:

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Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee is a Level II USA certified cycling coach and the host of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. His background in the sport of motocross has translated into a passion for cycling, mountain biking and all things training. If you have a training question, submit your question for Jonathan to answer on the next episode of TrainerRoad’s podcast.