Threshold Testing

If you want to get serious about your training you need to determine your threshold power and/or heart rate.  Your threshold can be most simply defined as the highest power/heart rate that a rider can maintain in a steady state effort for approximately one hour.  This is a very important piece of data to have as all of your training levels are based on a percentage of your threshold.

Here are the instructions for the field test to estimate your anaerobic threshold. You will complete a 20 minute time trial on an indoor trainer or outside on as flat a course as possible.  Any significant downhill sections will skew your results.  Also, avoid any stop signs and traffic lights.

The information gained through this test can be used to fine tune your power and/or heart rate training zones to improve your training program. During the test you need to collect the data with your power meter and/or heart rate monitor. The average power and/or heart rate will be needed from the 20 minute test, therefore make sure to start a new interval or reset your training device after the warm-up and before beginning the 20 minute TT test. The data will be recorded by the device during the test. When the 20 minutes are up you must end the interval so that you can retrieve the 20 minute TT test data later after you have cooled down. If there is no interval function you must stop and collect the average data at the end of the test before cooling down. Record average heart rate, average power, average cadence, average speed, and distance covered (not all may apply.)  Make sure that you have this process mastered before doing the test.  You do not want to subject yourself to 20 minutes of torture to find that the data did not record properly!

Make sure that you are hydrated before the test by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Also make sure that enough time has gone by since your last meal. Two hours or more since eating your last solid food would be recommended. Having a sports drink or water in the two hours before the test is recommended.  Be mentally prepared because it will be a hard effort!

Warm-up– Perform a 20 minute warm-up including the following:

First 5 minutes at an easy pace at your preferred cadence

At minutes 6 and 9 perform a 1 minute spin-up (increase cadence to your max in the last 15 seconds) then back to your easy spinning

At minutes 12,14, and 16 perform at the intensity that you think you can maintain for a full 20 minute period.  Easy effory between and after to finish.

The Test- Perform a 20 minute time trial.

This should be a maximal effort.  It will hurt!

Make sure to start out a little bit on the easier side for the first minute or two and then build up to your maximal sustainable effort and maintain to the end of the 20 minutes.

Use your gears as needed and try to maintain a consistant cadence.

Try to remain seated throughout the test.

Cool-down– Once the test is complete make sure to end the interval on your power meter, trainer or heart rate monitor so that you can retrieve the test data (average heart rate and average power, etc) after you are finished with your cool-down.

Take your 20 minute power and heart rate averages and subtract 5% from them.  This will give you a very close approximation of your threshold rates without the need to do the full hour of suffering.

Next week I will discuss how to your threshold figures and create your training zones.  Thanks for reading.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me at  To learn about my custom training plans go to