Disappointing Ramp Test



I agree. Used the ramp test for all of 2018 and am switching to 8 min for the rest of 2019. I’ll admit ego sometimes clouds my thinking after a test, but really its all about setting proper power targets to support structured training.


I suspect that many go into Ramp tests expecting some certain FTP improvement, and therefore expect things to be easier at certain parts of the Ramp. Most know going in that they get a bump in FTP at 19:30, so if you’re expecting some 2-10% jump in FTP, correspondingly you might expect 19:30 to hit and the effort to still feel much easier, or at least markedly more tolerable, than before.

Instead, when you’re already fit - as many of the people who have done 8 ramp tests and two full seasons of TR undoubtedly are - the gains are in the margins. A 2-watt or 5-watt increase will feel the exact same at 19:30, and it might feel worse based on rest, fueling, sleep, work, kids, etc. I think, as you said Chad, you have to go into the ramp tests as it were a race: “This is going to be really hard, and I’m going to have to bury myself to get an accurate result.” If you go in thinking, “I’m going to get to 21:00 this time, no problem”, and 19:30 hits and feels really hard, you are far more likely to check out earlier and misexpress your true physiological capability.

Finally, I know ego is a real thing, but I think a lot of people are way too hard on themselves when they get a marginal decrease in FTP based on testing. These tests are fungible IMO, and there is error associated with them, and many factors contributing. A 2-watt decrease in FTP from a ramp test followed by a 15W increase from an 8-minute test doesn’t necessarily mean the ramp test doesn’t work for you. It could be as simple as your ramp test result pissed you off and properly motivated you coming into the 8-minute test after you weren’t properly prepared in some way for that ramp test. I think this is way more likely the case than otherwise for a large number of users who are quick to dismiss the ramp test protocol based on a disappointing result.

TL;DR - it is a hell of a lot easier to mentally tap out of a ramp test than it is to complete it to physical failure, and I think that happens more often than we want to admit.


Fantastic stuff, @nash031! Really great thoughts.

The variability and tolerance in the measurement tools is too often forgotten, and can lead to real differences, especially if we are looking to measure somewhat small changes (up or down).

I also think you nailed the potential head space issues. Motivation and preparation are real and necessary for any test.

I think this topic should be covered in the cast, as a “How to best prepare for and take an FTP test”. There are some common elements regardless the chosen test, but I think there are some really important differences in getting the most out of each one as well.

Then add in the factors of taking the test with full data, blind, or some mix of data. I think that optimizing the performance of the test is as important as the results, and should be covered in more detail than the current info in the site and related videos.

Thoughts, @nate and @Bryce?


This comes up so much on the forum, I’d be interested in a conversation on the podcast regarding how someone could determine if they are indeed a candidate for a legacy protocol instead of the ramp test, or if indeed that’s even a “thing”. Seems like a few times a week we get a post about a disappointing ramp test and how a user is going back to an older protocol that showed them better gains in the past, sometimes in spite of several prior examples of accurate or, to perhaps be more precise, well-executed ramp tests. I think, as a user base, we are all predisposed to go back to what we are used to and have used for years (in my case the 20-min test) when we are confronted with the first disappointing result, rather than maybe admitting that that wasn’t our best day or our best effort on that day.

I recall past 20-minute road tests where I didn’t get the number I expected, and rather than scrap the protocol (in favor of what, I don’t know!), I made incremental adjustments to training zones as felt appropriate based on RPE and knowing myself. That action was as sound and rational then as it is now that I’m doing the ramp test, IMO.

Indeed someone who never trains VO2max might be better off testing an 8- or 20-minute test. I don’t know. Interested in @chad’s thoughts, unless it’s a topic that’s already been covered.


I’m finding the ramp test to be really difficult psychologically. I find it really starts to hurt around the 16:00 mark and then I psyche myself out knowing it’s only going to get harder from there. So far, out of 4 or 5 tests I’ve only managed one where I really felt like I managed to completely bury myself. I also find that only having a dumb trainer makes doing the ramp test quite mentally taxing as you’re constantly adjusting your gearing and cadence. I know that the purpose of testing is to have a repeatable measure to establish training zones. Unfortunately, when I can only test meaningfully 20% of the time the test is not fulfilling that purpose. I think I may just be bad at testing generally, and that maybe I need to work on my mental toughness. There was a thread on the forum recently where Nate was hinting at developing a protocol that would estimate changes in FTP without having to test. For me, this can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, I’m going to keep trying to improve my consistency with the ramp test (If I executed it well once I should be able to do it again, right?) and estimate my FTP changes based on RPE when it doesn’t work out.


I am thinking the same thing. I have done the Ramp Test 4 times and cant get a good reading. The lack of clearing efforts really makes a difference IMHO. I warm up for races and other hard rides by opening up my lungs and legs, then recovery spinning for a while so it seems something similar is in order for testing.

On the 8 minute test I use the last minute or so of each segment to gauge improvement. If I pick up the pace so that I can hold 5-10 watts or more above the target for the final 60 seconds, then I add that to my FTP. Then tweak things a little after the first workout with the new setting.


I agree that running the ramp test on a dumb trainer is likely more difficult/taxing than on a smart trainer, having done my ramp tests on a Fluid2 but now having experience with erg mode on a Kickr Core. The simple act of unloading the task of cadence and gear searching correspondent with appropriate power from my brain leaves me with a lower RPE during most erg mode workouts, even though erg mode is a relentless task master. I’m interested to see how my next ramp test - performed in erg mode - compares to previous ramps on the Fluid trainer. On one hand, I’ve got the proper stepping down on the fluid trainer now after being very spiky on the first few. On the other, erg mode will do that for me…

Sometimes I wonder how reasonable users are when coming in to ramp tests off a training period where all of their workouts were properly powered and they were just at the edge of failing at the end of over/unders, VO2, threshold work. Is it really reasonable to expect a marked bump in FTP when you aren’t seeing a marked change in RPE over the course of the prior training block? During SSB1MV this time, I went from dying at the end of the first O/U workout to easily completing the last, more difficult one. I had a pretty good idea I’d see a good bump on the SSB2 ramp test, and I did. This time, I’m not quite so sure as the RPE for most workouts seems about the same, albeit the workout difficulty has gone up. Next week - Lamarck - will be telling and should give a good idea of what I can expect at the next test.


I think there is probably a lot here.

I’ve taken two sets of ramp tests, …as in, testing for a new FTP twice, took the test twice each time (because of COURSE the low number couldn’t be right, LOL).

Each time, the tests were within 1 watt of each other. This may be obvious…but going off of the text from Chad in the test itself, you’re supposed to go to muscle failure. It was very obvious each time for me…legs just stopped working. I accepted that I was probably going to be hurting for 3-5 minutes, and just waited until the legs stopped working. I think the ramp is much more accurate than any steady state effort…


Did you leave off the “for me” in the statement above?

I ask because that is a highly subjective conclusion, and one that is contradicted by more than a few users who find better results with one of the other FTP tests. The Ramp test is interesting, but not the be-all, end-all for FTP testing.


I agree, if executed properly. The latter part is the problem… but I think it’s more likely that most people can push to failure over the course of a minute or two than they can pace 20 minutes to the point of failure at the 20-minute mark. Neither is easy or even likely to get right every single time, but one is at least notionally more likely IMO.


That’s a fair criticism :slight_smile:


There are lots of ways to test, all of which are estimates of something which in itself is somewhat intangible and difficult to define. As you point out @mcneese.chad there are users on both sides of the physiological spectrum for whom different tests produce very different results.

IMO individual physiology plays a huge part in results and in particular the relative relationship between threshold/LT2 and VO2 Max level.

The wider the gap between LT2 and VO2 Max the more potential room there is for the ramp test to overstate threshold values whereas the smaller headroom there is between the ceiling and the roof of those two values the more likely that a ramp test will understate those threshold values as there simply isn’t enough left in the tank to reach anywhere near the level of power needed to generate a realistic threshold value once LT2 has been and gone.


I haven’t had a good test yet with the FTP test. Twice now I’ve tested lower than my current FTP and went ahead and increased anyway because I felt I was ready for it despite the ramp test results.


Finishing up SSBII mid. Modified my training plan to accommodate the over 50 body:). Because of the plan change I did not have a recovery week before the ramp test. I improved by 1 watt but disappointed since I feel stronger but fatigued. Going to keep FTP number into build. Smart move?



Just to say, no feckin way am I going back to the 20 minute test hell.

Up to this point I have trusted the ramp test. I tried to fuel it properly but I going to take on board other Chad’s advice about treating it like a race. I’ll also try it blind as well. I think for me, it was a one off issue with me, rather than the test protocol.


what’s odd for me personally, is that I have 6 good ramp tests that appear to give reasonable ftp estimates. And then 2 ramp tests in the last 6 weeks that have been complete failures:

  • Sunday Dec 9 did a group ride with PD curve showing 20 min effort at 233W - that was a hard push and not full effort. Felt really good that day and Monday the 10th.
  • Ramp Test on Tuesday Dec 11 gave me an estimate of 188W, it was as if I just ran out of oxygen and couldn’t breath anymore. At the time I theorized lack of recovery from the Sunday group ride. Kept ftp at 240 from ramp test 6 weeks prior
  • Wed Dec 12 struggled with Ebbetts (4x8 @ 88-94%)
  • Sat Dec 15 no problems with Donner which is 3x12 minute @ 95-99%
  • Dec 17 manually bumped ftp to 245W
  • Dec 19 did first 3 intervals of Kaweah another 95-99% threshold workout at new ftp of 245 and then stopped because of the dog (the next day we euthanized the dog)
  • flu bug late on Dec 20 and hung around for 4 weeks. I did workout a few times and nailed Bluebell and Jepson, while struggling on threshold and over/under due to shortness of breath
  • another sub 200 ramp test on Mon January 28

Weird. Ramp test worked for most of 2018, then failed in Dec and again this week.


There is a lot going on here, and I’m not sure the ramp test is to blame. Are you using the same power meter indoors and out? A ramp test result of 188W on Dec 11th means your highest 1min power was ~250W, yet two days prior you did 233W for 20 minutes during a ride without pushing? I would look at improving your cooling when riding indoors, because it doesn’t matter what type of FTP test you did that day, there was something going on to limit your power output considerably. Your next test was low too, but that was after struggling through workouts and a month of illness. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the ramp test, but instead look at 1) eating enough carbs, 2) getting healthy, 3) making sure you’re not drenched in sweat when riding indoors, 4) not doing too much TSS.


yeah not blaming the ramp test but like I said, starting to prefer the 8-min test for other reasons. Food and macros are fine. Cooling is fine. Stages PM and TR’s PowerMatch for one source of power truth both inside and out. Which leaves physical health and stress.

So now blame game starts looking more closely at my TR calendar, starting with travel Nov 9-11 and great ride on the central coast (!) but too much driving (for me), and then poor air quality from Camp Fire the week of Nov 12 , then only 3 days doing TR the week of Nov 19 because of Thanksgiving travel, and then two 6+ hour driving days (Mon and Wed) for work the week of Nov 26 and seeing notes of “heavy fatigue” in my calendar. Key point - I don’t travel well. Followed by 4 days air travel the week of Dec 3. Which bring us to the fun group ride on Dec 9, followed by failed ramp test on Dec 11.

Think I see the smoking gun now… Nov/Dec didn’t do me any favors. First week of January started with almost 7 hours training, followed by 4+ hour weeks due to work. Hopefully the New Year crunch is over and I’ll fall back into a groove and can ramp up my training again.


I agree and have come up with a process for just that. I do Davis first, which has some clearing intervals. It’s only 20 minutes and an excellent warm-up for the Ramp test. Now with that said if you do it, I would suggest doing it every time to keep things consistent. I have found that my FTP is pretty accurate since I have done this. Good luck!