Big vs Small Riders?


People are wildly overestimating what the average joe can attain for an FTP.


Agreed - 4 w/kg FTP is a pretty serious milestone that many (most?) cyclists will never approach


I like to think I live a relatively dedicated to cycling life… although there are areas, especially in nutrition, that I have been making an effort to improve. With all that in mind, I topped out at 3.8w/kg last year and hope to improve on that this year. 4w/kg isn’t ‘normal’, its great!


I remember reading Coggan thought 4 W/kg could be attained by the ‘average’ person with training.


I guess the question is - are they still ‘average’ people when they suddenly start optimising their lives and focused training 8 hours a week?


I interpret average relating to their innate physical ability, not necessarily their motivation or dedication to training.


I think there are two types of limiters that prevent people from hitting various fitness goals.

Everyone focuses on the first of these - physical genetic limitations. I think this is what Coggan (and others) mean when they say that the ‘average’ person can obtain a certain milestone such as 4W/kg. Essentially what I think they mean is that your genetic limit as an ‘average’ person should be above 4W/kg

The one that they don’t often focus on are lifestyle or motivational limitations. These are more varied and are very different.

For instance - you’d never assume that someone with a completely full work and family life who can only train 90 minutes a week would be able to hit 4W/kg - no matter what their genetic potential might be. Doesn’t matter how structured their training is, 90 minutes a week simply isn’t enough.

Likewise - you’d never assume that someone with all the time in the world to train, great genetics, but no mental toughness to complete hard workouts would hit 4W/kg. Say they rode 20 hours a week but anytime they had to do anything at threshold or above they just gave up because it hurt too much and they couldn’t push through. You wouldn’t expect great performance gains and they’d top out at a big aerobic engine and no ability to increase their actual threshold.

Same thing with the kg side of the equation - they could ride all the time but if they eat crap and weigh 250 lbs it’s going to be pretty hard to get the power necessary out of their body.

So I don’t think it is fair to say that any person can hit 4 W/kg. Surely you could say that their genetic limitations are probably not what is holding them back but that doesn’t mean that the other limiters aren’t just as real and every bit as limiting as the potential genetic ceiling


Not any person, just roughly 50% :grinning:

Joking aside, I completely agree with you.


Seeing all these bigger guys close to my weight does make me wonder if i’d have the same power i have now without my upper body mass. I’m only 5’8" and trying to get down to 68kg. If i can get there losing body fat only i’d be about 9% currently sitting at 69.5kg and 11% so i have some skin i can pinch but after 3 to 4 lbs those pounds are going to be hard to lose. At my frame though i definitely only gain 5 to 10 watts per training block.


One of the things that I love about this topic is that for non-cycling friends / family, they think I’m the fittest, most dedicated amateur athlete… but I’m usually bringing up the rear in 4th cat road races and crits (UK equiv of Cat 5 in the US!). Love it though.



This is so true! Anyone racing, regardless or category, is typically more fit and training more than anyone they know.

If you ride a bike more than a couple hours a week you’re already an outlier in many respects. If you ride over 8-10hrs “normal” people think you’re some kind of professional level athlete.


TBH, I was speaking of raw power more than w/Kg. I think 3.8 or so w/kgis definitely doable for the average committed rider. I think 300 watts as an FTP is ludicrously overstated. 260-280 maybe


The problem with this, at least for me living in Chicago, is that base phase is almost always during the winter – and in the winter it is very, very difficult to target weight loss because my overall lifestyle becomes much more sedentary. There are no long walks with the dog, or days playing with the kids at the beach, or the quick jog after work, or bicycling here-and-there around town.

The only activity I generally get during the winter is the time on the trainer or at the gym. In the summer, there are longer weekend rides and all of the other ancillary activities that help with weight loss.

All of this is to say nothing about how the diet gets crushed around the holidays . . .


I think you’re making a common mistake in conflating weight loss with activity level. Really you lose weight in the kitchen, not at the gym.

I find base season (winter) the easiest time to control my diet (and yes - my total caloric burn on the bike is lower in the winter, same as most people) because it is in social situations where I struggle with my diet and those are reduced by the same sedentary trends that you see.

If you’re really struggling with weight I’d suggest you take a hard look at where your calories are coming from and work on adjusting your input instead of your expenditure. Sure - increasing cycling volume will help with weight loss but until you have your diet under control you’ll never really have a good handle on your weight.


I agree - I find weight much much easier to control in the winter. My workouts are generally quite tightly controlled (AKA TrainerRoad) and I know what kind of food intake I need to fuel my workouts. In the summer there is a lot variability and I usually end up eating quite a bit more…


Bbq and brews season is harder to control weight for me, especially because all the salty snacks make my weight fluctuate a lot during the week.


Wait . . . I actually have a pretty good handle on my weight :wink:

I never said I didn’t! (gasping with feigned indignation…)

I just said that I don’t really lose weight that well during winter/base phase. I’ve lost over 40lbs in the last 3 years, so I must be doing something right…


Do you guys (the smaller <70kg) also have problems to stay on front of a faster groupride?
Like our fast ride is around 36-39 km/h. on flat ride
I get smashed. And the bigger guys can stay much longer on the front.


From my local racing experience, 300-320W FTP seems to be attainable by any reasonably-trained cyclist (almost irrespective of height)

I think this sentence needs a bit more explanation. I would argue someone going through a series of plans would be reasonably well trained but that does not guarantee a 300 plus FTP.

Good point. This metric is different for everyone.

By ‘reasonably well trained’, I mean someone that races at a fairly high local level (in Aus I’d call that B-grade local racing or higher. In US, I believe that’s equiv. to cat 3? or higher) and also has at least 4-5 seasons of actual structured training under their belt.

I say ‘reasonably’, because it is difficult to become a highly tuned athlete on only 2-3h of training a week - which is what many with families and full time jobs can achieve while maintaining a good bike-family-work balance. However, in comparison to the general population (or a new or non-racing cyclist) these ‘reasonably well trained’ riders will usually be seen to be hardcore, committed cyclists.


Don’t get demoralised, just keep working at it and find a way to make it fun! Celebrate the little wins and improvements. Don’t make your cycling purely about hitting a number, make it about enabling you to enjoy what you want to do more!

W/kg and raw watts are just numbers. If you’re in it for racing, there is more to racing than just the numbers. If you’re in it for getting PR’s, finishing a fondo or just beating your mates to the next street sign any improvement should give you more motivation and cause for a pat on the back. :slight_smile: