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Cycling: What is Functional Threshold Performance?

February 8th, 2020 | 2 min. read

Cycling: What is Functional Threshold Performance?

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By Michael Schmidt - Paseo Club Group Class Instructor

Cycling at The Paseo Club has come a long way over the past four years.

Before, cycling was simple, you got on the bike and you rode to an instructor imagining and cueing you with cadence and resistance to make you think you were on flats or hills. Depending on how much resistance you had or how fast you moved your legs determined your workout and calorie consumption. There was a lot of guesswork to determine if there was any improvement over the hard work being put into every pedal stroke.

Then came Performance Base Cycling that effectively measured a cyclist power output. A number, measured in watts that is achieved by cadence and resistance. Wait! What ‘s a watt? My bad! A watt is a measure of power per unit time (1 joule per second, to be exact). I will get more in depth about watts in future blogs, but for now let’s just keep it simple, watts measure how hard you work.

The best way to provide a baseline of how fit you are is to perform an FTP test.

FTP, or functional threshold power, is the average number of watts that a cyclist can sustain over an hour. To have a member sit on a stationary bike for a full hour thinking about nothing except trying to achieve a constant pace would be torturous. So, Spivi, our Performance Based Software Program has developed shorter tests ranging from 3 to 20 minutes in length. To adjust for the shorter times, Spivi takes a percentage of your power output measured in watts and calculates your FTP. The percentages range from 80% to 95%, the shorter the test, the lower the percentage, and the less accurate. Some instructors at The Paseo Club will use a 3-minute test (80% of work output) while others will use a 5-minute test (85% of work output). Anything longer than 5 minutes and attention span starts to wander.

What is the FTP number good for?

The number becomes data and data is your friend! With this number you can track progress from one workout to the next, week after week, month after month, and year after year. The fitter you become the more the number will increase. During class this number becomes the foundation to the workout, it is a snapshot of your fitness at that moment. During the workout the instructor can cue the class to hit a certain percentage of their FTP for intensity or recovery and it becomes equal work to everyone in the class. Everyone is putting in the exact same effort at the same percentage! Now the classes become competitively fun and not discouraging.

All of The Paseo Club's cycling instructors are all certified and trained in knowing performance-based cycling and use that knowledge to create classes that increase fitness and burn calories all in a fun fast paced environment. Whether you’re training for a triathlon, working toward a fitness goal, or building endurance for the courts, we can help you achieve your goals.