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Testing Guidelines for Heart Rate Zones, Power Training Levels and Performance Benchmarks

There are two reasons to conduct cycling performance field tests:

  1. To set a performance benchmark. After future tests you can compare performance benchmark data to check you are improving or see if you are not improving and need to make changes to your training plan. Keeping tabs on performance benchmarks gives a good reality check. Maximum distance ridden or average power output over a specific duration are standard metrics to track.
  2. To set training zones to follow during workouts. Average heart rate from a 20 minute time trial is used to estimate lactate threshold heart rate and set heart rate training zones. Power training levels are set with average power output from a 20 minute time trial. Use the LW Coaching power level and heart rate zone calculator to compute training levels or follow the instructions in your TrainingPeaks training plan to use their tools.

Conduct accurate tests!

To test accurately you must limit as many variables as possible. Follow these testing guidelines each time you test:

  • Arrive at the test in a rested state, ready to ride fast.
  • Arrive at the test adequately fueled, hydrated and ready to ride fast. During the last 45 minutes before you test, drink a sports drink to boost energy levels along with aiding in hydration.
  • Use the exact same course every time you test. A 10 minute out, then 10 minute back course or continual gradual climb is optimal. No traffic stops is an essential. A road course is the best idea as it is difficult to control trail conditions from month to month off-road. Put slicks on your mountain bike to test on the road or use a road bike if you have one.
  • Test under the same conditions. A calm day is optimal.
  • Always conduct the same warm-up routine before every field test of at least 30 minutes warming up with at least one effort near lactate threshold.
  • Select a gear that allows you to maintain a cadence between 85 and 100 rpm. Avoid the impulse to mash a big gear at slow rpm – the greater resistance will build more leg-burning lactic acid. The secret is to use the gearing that is most efficient for your personal riding style. Most athletes will respond better to using a slightly lighter gear than what you are accustomed to. Settle into your pace and avoid any power surges or accelerations. Pedal at the maximum effort you can sustain at an even pace for 20 minutes – don’t blow up halfway!

Data to record

  • Distance covered in 20 minutes. This is your key performance benchmark number.
  • Average heart rate from the  20 minutes. This is used to estimate lactate threshold heart rate and to calculate your heart rate training zones using the LW Coaching Heart Rate zone calculator.
  • Average power from the 20 minutes, used to calculate Functional Threshold power and set power training levels.
  • Perceived exertion (scale of 1-10) at the end of the test.
  • Weather conditions.
  • How you felt on test day.
  • Any other information relevant to the test outcome.

Calculate Heart Rate Training Zones

Calculate Power Training Levels


Coach Lynda

Coach Lynda’s testing tip: Do your first test at the start of a training block. Repeat your test every 6-8 weeks to track training progress, fitness development and keep your training zones on target.

By Lynda Wallenfels Google+

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