What Is FTP Cycling And Why Is It Important?


Functional Threshold Power or FTP is a commonly misunderstood cycling term, especially amongst beginners. It is the power output that can be sustained in an hour. This is a good way to measure your fitness and cycling prowess. It is the gold standard in the evaluation of cycling performance. 

What is FTP cycling? How is FTP computed? Is FTP important? These are some of the questions that we’ll try to answer in this short guide. 

What is FTP Cycling? 

As mentioned in the introduction, FTP stands for functional threshold power. This is the average watts a rider can sustain in an hour, expressed as wats per kilogram (w/kg). This refers to the power produced by an individual divided by the weight of that person. It is a nominal value that assumes that riders require more power to go at a specific speed and less if you lose weight. When it is expressed as a percentage, then this is the power output that does not yet consider your weight in the calculation. The power output alone will not be enough to give you much information about your performance, which is why you will also need to consider your weight. 

When the test is conducted regularly, historical data will let you know your improvements. This is a crucial component of MTB training or any other kind of bike training. It also gauges your physical capabilities, especially as related to cycling. 

Your FTP can vary over time. Many factors will affect this, such as your current health status and training season. External factors, such as stress and your mood, will also impact the results. Even environmental conditions, such as a harsh headwind, will also influence the outcomes. Because of the latter, you might want to consider completing the test when you are indoors or in a more controlled environment. Stop fixating on the results. Rather, train harder and you will eventually see a huge improvement in your FTP. 

What is a good FTP for a cyclist?


A good FTP for cyclists should be anywhere from 2.5 to 3w/kg. This is common for recreational cyclists. If you are new to cycling, you might even get a lower value. It can go as low as 1.5 for females and 1.86 for males. 

Why Is FTP Important to Cyclists? 

Now that we have briefly talked about what is FTP cycling, let’s talk about why it is important. Among others, this is important for training. It determines your training intensity and also reveals the success or failure of your training program. Calibrating your training zone is possible if you know your FTP. This will also allow you to customize your workout without putting unnecessary strain on your body. 

As mentioned above, you will be able to determine your training zone depending on the result of the test. For instance, if your FTP is less than 55%, your training purpose is recovery. If your FTP is more than 150%, which is the highest range, then your training purpose is sprint power. To set your training based on your FTP, refer to the table below. 

Zone 1<55% Active Recovery 
Zone 256 to 75%Aerobic Endurance 
Zone 376 to 90% Tempo Rides 
Zone 491 to 105%Lactate Threshold 
Zone 5106 to 120% Aerobic Capacity 
Zone 6121 to 150% Anaerobic Capacity 
Zone 7>150% Sprint Power 

With the FTP test, you can also determine sustainable effort levels in different situations or durations. It will quantify your power production, which is also a great way to evaluate the limits that your body can take when riding a mountain bike, road bike, or any other bike. 

If you want to compare yourself to the pros, them testing your FTP will also help. Do not be frustrated if you see that you are too far from their performance. Instead, take this as a motivation to do better. 

However, despite the importance of FTP, it is a subject of debate. While this can measure your level of fitness, it lacks specificity. Because of this, some trainers are not keen on using FTP when evaluating a person’s performance. 

How is FTP Calculated?

FTP is calculated through a variety of tests, such as the 20-minute test. Take your maximum average for 20 minutes and multiply it by 95%. You can also do I through the 8-minute test, wherein you will cycle eight minutes and multiply the amount to .9. 

To have a better understanding of what is FTP cycling, below are some of the best ways to measure it. To conduct this test, you will need a power meter, which will display the results you are looking for. If you have a high-end turbo trainer, this can also help gauge your FTP. You can also mount your bike in an indoor trainer. 

20-Minute FTP Test 

This is the gold standard when conducting an FTP test. Despite its popularity, however, a lot of people are still doing it wrong. You don’t want to be one of those people. Otherwise, the results will be inaccurate. 

Start by having a five-minute all-out cycling effort. This is important to give you a more realistic view of what you can aerobically generate. Cycle for 20 minutes to complete the test. For new cyclists, this can be quite challenging. You will most probably easily feel tired. Because of that, this test is best for the pros. Seasoned riders will be more familiar with proper pacing, and hence, this test will be easier for them to complete. 

8-minute FTP Test 

In this kind of FTP test, you will cycle with as much power a possible continuously for eight minutes. This is more suitable for beginners compared to the 20-minute test because you will be pedaling shorter. To know your FTP using this method, you just have to multiply the number by .90. 

1-hour Time Trial 

For athletes, this is a great choice for testing FTP. This is grueling, so this is not advisable for beginners. However, if you can sustain the effort required for this test, this is one of the most accurate methods of measuring your FTP. All that you need is to cycle at your maximum sustainable pace for one hour. Your average power is your FTP. 

1-hour Criterium Race 

This is similar to the 1-hour time trial, which will also provide an accurate representation of your sustained power when cycling 60 minutes. You will participate in a local criterium race using your hardtail mountain bike, touring bike, or any other bike attached to a power meter. The result is your FTP. There is no need for any conversion. The result that you will be provided is the normalized power. 

Use Training Software 

This is perhaps the easiest way to compute for your FTP. You just need to upload information in a reliable training program, and the latter will automatically do the calculation for you. The results will only be smart estimates. This is also the least accurate of the methods for testing FTP, so we strongly advise against doing this. 

What is a good average wattage cycling?

Good average wattage cycling is 2.5 to 3 w/kg if you are a recreational cyclist. For those who race regularly, on the other hand, the average wattage cycling is 3 to 3.75 w/kg. If it is over 3.75 w/kg, this is already for racers. Meanwhile, those who are over 4.25 w/kg are pros. 

What is a pro cyclist FTP? 

The FTP of a pro cyclist can range anywhere from 5.6 to 6.4 w/kg for males and 5.3 to 5.6 w/kg for females. For a domestic professional cyclist, on the other hand, the FTP will range from 5.2 to 5.7 w/kg for males and 4.5 to 5.2 w/kg for females. 

Tips for Success in Your FTP Test 

In this guide that talks about what is FTP cycling, we would also like to give you some tips to complete the FTP test successfully and achieve accurate results. 

  • Be mentally prepared. It is not only your body that should nail the test. Your mental aptitude is equally important. Visualize the test and the effort that you have to do. 
  • Rest before the test. This will help in effectively conditioning your body, making it easier to unleash good performance. The test can be gruesome, so be prepared physically. 
  • Warm-up is an important procedure when you are completing the test. It is a great way to prepare your body for the test. Doing cycling stretches can also help. 
  • Stay seated. This is important to keep your body at a stable and sustainable pace. Standing will make you inefficient and cause fluctuations in your performance. 

Globo Surf Overview 

To improve your training and gauge your performance, you need to understand what is FTP cycling and how it is calculated. Whether it is through a 20-minute or 8-minute test, utilize the right methods to compute your FTP and identify the training zone where you should be falling under. While it is a subject of debate, FTP can be a great way to gauge your cycling capacity.

Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!