So keeping in line with Mondays swimming post on how to:
  1. determine your HRmax
  2. set up your Heart Rate training zones
  3. set up your swimming interval times
I have decided to continue on this tack, and have a look at some of the cycling specific tests that are out there.

Let's begin by differentiating between Field tests and Laboratory tests.

Field tests
are tests that are performed outside of a controlled laboratory environment, and are generally inexpensive, easy to administer and do not require to much equipment (if any at all), and do not require the person administering the test to be highly qualified to do so.

Lab tests on the other hand are performed in the highly controlled laboratory environment, often do require expensive equipment and a qualified tester to administer the test, and can be very costly.

The next area that needs to be discussed involves 2 very important terms associated with research and testing - Validity and Reliability.

is whether a test actually measures what it is supposed to measure. For example, if a student required a good comprehension of English to pass a Math test, then the Math test is not a Valid test of that individuals abilities in Mathematics.

Reliability is more concerned with whether the test, if repeated at another time in the very near future, if administered by another tester, will get the same result and the results sre free form error.

Now the question needs to be answered: I am not en Elite athlete - What is the purpose of doing testing?

Here are a few of the more important reasons to get regular testing in one form or another:
  1. It identifies and quantifies your strengths and weaknesses. If you are always being beaten in the sprint for the finish line, the 30 second Wingate Test will be able to tell us what your ability to maintain a Peak Power Output (PPO) is, ad how quickly you fatigue once you reach your PPO.
  2. Developing a Training program. The Training program should be developed around improving the athletes' areas of weakness, and maintaining their areas of Strength.
  3. Was the Training program effective? A program of testing provides feedback on the effectiveness of the Intervention (training program), whether the areas of Weakness were effectively addressed and whether the areas of Strength were maintained or improved upon.
  4. Monitoring Athlete Health status.This is important for all athletes who train regularly and want to perform at their best. Overtraining and Overreaching, illness and various other health affecting issues can often be nipped in the bud early thanks to having a regular testing program in place.
  5. Improved Athlete education: The educational benefit is huge, because athletes learn to understand how and why there bodies respond to training, and this understanding improves levels of trust in Coaches and Trainers.
Let us now have a look at a few of the more well known tests cyclists can use to evaluate their fitness and their performance.

Laboratory tests:
  • VO2max test:
    • This test is used to assess Aerobic capacity i.e. the athletes Peak Oxygen (O2) uptake.
    • By comparing the volume of inspired O2 to the volume of expired CO2, we are able to determine how much O2 the 1kg of wet muscle is able to take up and use in 1minute.

    • This number is represented as either an Absolute value, in Liters per minute
      or a Relative value, in milliliters per kilogram per minute (ml/kg/min).
    • The more O2 the muscle can take up and use for Aerobic energy metabolism, the higher the score will be.
    • Values can range from: 2-6L/min or 30 - 95ml/kg/min. The higher the score the better conditioned the athlete.
    • This test was once considered the GOLD STANDARD for predicting individuals Endurance potential, but has lost some of its gleam, as there are other factors that have been shown to be of greater importance to good Endurance performances (Anaerobic threshold and movement Economy).
  • Anaerobic (Lactate) Threshold test (AT or LT):
    • There are many terms used interchangeably to name this test, but the bottom line is this test is one of the most important tests for determining Endurance potential.
    • The testing protocol involves an Incremental test to exhaustion to be used, and is invasive in nature (requires blood sampling).

    • Unfortunately there is very little agreement about how to best identify this threshold, some testers use a set 4mmol Lactic Acid concentration [LA], some use the first point of exponential increase in [LA] to designate the AT.
    • The Threshold being looked for is the point where Anaerobic energy metabolism begins to exceed Aerobic metabolism, and this results in an increase in the production of Lactic Acid and Hydrogen ions (as a result of increased reliance on Anaerobic Glycolysis), which can ultimately have a negative impact on performance.
    • The longer this "shift" can be delayed for, the better the individuals' performance will potentially be.
    • By having a Heart rate and a Power output from which to work, we can work out training intensity zones for application into the training program.
  • Cycling economy test:
    • This is another extremely important measure of Endurance performance.
    • The test requires the individual to work at various % of PPO (60% - 90%) and measures the energy cost of doing work at these intensities.
    • This can also be used to look at pedaling economies.
    • During each test increment, certain physiological parameters, such as Respiration rate and Resipratory Exchange Ratio become affected, and we can observe a decrease in economy.
    • We can determine at what Heart rate and Power output this decrease occurs, and this will help us to see what the limiting factor is in the individuals performance, and use this to develop their training program.
  • Anaerobic Power test:
    • Most cyclists have heard of this test, not many have done it.
    • It is a 30 second, Anaerobic Power test that requires a 110% effort, in an attempt to generate the highest a wattage possible on a stationary cycle ergometer.

    • Over the 30 second test, we then look to see what wattage the cyclist can maintain.
    • From this we can determine what their Peak Power Output is, and what their Fatigue Index (FI) is (What % of their PPO they lose over the 30 seconds).
    • Cyclists have achieved values over 2000 Watts, and when we talk about FI, we want to see values of below 40% (maintaining a wattage over 1200W for the test if their PPO was 2000W)
Those are a few of the more important Lab tests we use. Field tests are a lot more simple and much easier to implement.
  • Time Trial:
    • This is a very easy test to administer, and a great source of information on performance ability.
    • This test can be done indoors, or on an outdoor course.
    • Measure or set up a flat course (20km - 40km), and ride it as fast as possible.
    • Be sure to spend 5-10 minutes warming up thoroughly before starting the test.
    • Record your time, average and maximum heart rate, average and maximum power output (if you have a device that measure wattage), Average cadence and your Caloric expenditure.
    • After 6-8 weeks of training, redo the test, an compare your scores to see how much improvement was achieved.
    • Perform this test in your UNLOAD week of training, or during a phase of your training when you are not excessively fatigued.

  • CTS Field test:
    • You will need to measure out a flat 4.8km course - try to keep it as staright as possible.
    • This test requires you to be well rested.
    • Ensure you have warmed up thoroughly before starting this test.
    • Complete the 4.8km course 2 times, allowing a 10 minute active recovery between efforts.
    • Record your time, average and maximum heart rate, average and maximum power output (if you have a device that measure wattage), Average cadence and your Caloric expenditure.
    • Repeat this test every 6-8 weeks to track your progress and your improvement as you move through your training program.

    There are any number of tests out there, some give useful and relevant data, other do not.

    When deciding whether a test is suitable for you or not, remember to determine what relevant information the test is giving you and how is that information going to help you to improve your performance.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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