Sports testing for Cycling an Overview


Is there a benefit to forking out your hard earned cash on sports science tests? Or should you just put it towards those new wheels?

This article will briefly outline the role of sports science testing for athletic performance and a look at the differences between field and lab based testing. The articles to follow (hopefully shortly) will take a more in depth analysis at the tests available their back ground, physiology and the testing procedure.

Sports science is a growing industry and is involved in all sports at an elite level. Of all sports cyclists and I include at the risk of offending some people triathletes and ironmen collect and analyse data more so than almost any other sport.

SRAM Quarq ELSA 10R Power MeterWhether it be kilometers per week, time ridden, elevation gained, heart rate, RPE, cadence and mother of all POWER we gather and hold in our hands more data than scientists for many other sports could dream of getting their hands on. This data has many important uses some more scientific than others (yes I’m talking about you Strava). What we do with this information can have a huge impact on realizing you’re cycling goals.

Role and benefits of physiological performance testing

Physiological performance testing is used by sports scientist the world over to gather information and provide coaches with the details of an athlete’s condition. The type of test chosen and the testing procedure itself will be determined after a thorough analysis of both the athlete and the specific demands of their sport. Some of the common benefits and data collected are listed below.


–          Record physiological characteristics

–          Determine adaptions to training stimulus

–          Assess the impact of cadence and positional changes

–          Evaluate performance potential

–          Determine individual training zones

–          Construct individual power profile

–          Monitor training fatigue

–          Talent ID



There are two key terms to keep in mind when talking about testing of all kinds.

Reliability: is the degree to which a test produces stable and consistent results. Using a pre-established testing procedure and sticking to it will go a long way to improve reliability.

Validity: Does the test measure what it was set out to do. Ie: does a 30 minute time trial provide you a valid measure of FTP (yes) Or a bad example of validity would be a 1 minute interval to measure maximal aerobic power.


On the bike sports testing is a way to gather the data in a reliable and controlled manner and it comes in two easily recognizable forms.


Field tests

Field test are easy to pick as the almost always occur out in the sun, these tests are usually easy to complete and involve cycling at varying intensities for pre determined distances. Some common field based tests include the Functional Threshold test conducted over either 30 minutes or 1 hr, Power profile test or the “Local hill climb test”. Field based testing can be adapted for every cyclist and situation the field used can vary from the velodrome to the mountains.

Lab Based Testing

Lab based testing has traditionally been regarded as the domain of pro’s and university researchers but due to decreasing cost of equipment and an increased interest from amateur athletes it is fast growing into popularity. There are two main aerobic tests completed in the lab for endurance athletes the VO2 max test and the Lactate threshold test. On the shorter end of the spectrum are the alatic and repeat sprint tests.  The last of common lab based cycling tests is the power profile test encompassing efforts from 6 sec to 10 min.


Below is a table of the pros and cons of both Field and Lab based testing



Pros Cons

Field Based

–          Inexpensive-          Easily Scheduled-          Adaptable to training programs –          Uncontrollable environmental conditions-          Inability to capture all physiological data-          Difficulty in keeping testing

Lab Based

–          Controlled environment-          Large range of physiological data-          Data professionally interpreted-          Accuracy and reliability –          Expensive-          Time consuming


Testing for cyclist and endurance athletes provides valuable feedback on a wide range of physiological characteristics and whilst this article has only briefly dealt with on the bike sports testing there is a whole other world out there of tests available including Strength, Power, Body Composition and anthropometric data tests. In the articles to follow I hope to spell out the details and specific uses for a range of commonly used cycling performance tests.

For details on having laboratory based testing in Sydney check out our friends at Sydney Sports and Exercise Physiology here at

For body composition scans check out Measure up at

photos by: Sport Nottinghamshire & Glory Cycles

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