Sub-1hr bike session: Test fitness

Use your local gym to benchmark your bike fitness with this intermediate-level workout

Sub-1hr bike session: test fitness

A gym bike provides the perfect fitness testing tool. Use this intermediate-level session from Joe Beer to turn your local gym into a performance lab…


This is ideal when you have a short block of time but would otherwise just do yet another base session. Doing a fitness test is relevant at any time in your week, especially if you need something useful with which to divert your attention for 30-50mins.

For this session you’ll need: gym bike (set the seat height as close to that of your road/race bike as you can); old running shoes, notebook, pen and heart-rate monitor.

Fitness benchmark


Very easy 5-10mins, 80 watts or less ramp test.

Followed by 3mins @100 watts, 85-95rpm, note HR in last 20secs. Increase to 3mins @125 watts. Repeat until you’re at or just above your threshold. 5mins light spin.

Main test

20mins steady state effort. Adjust test depending on your race distance: Ironman: take 30% off last workload in ramp test (e.g. 250w threshold means a fitness test at 175w); Middle – take 20% off; Olympic – take 10% off. Ride at target wattage for 20mins, aero position, 85-90rpm. Hold effort, monitor HR throughout and note down.


Easy 5min spin.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

This session is ideal for gauging your current fitness level. You’ll either pat yourself on the back or discover you’re losing fitness, then you can act accordingly.

Mental benefits

The data often confirms what you’re already feeling in training. But actual numbers give you the confidence of knowing you’re making good assessments for that day. No test is good or bad, it just tells you what level your fitness is at. Less guess work, more simple science.

Physiological benefits

There’s still exercise taking place, up to mid Zone 2 [see last issue for a complete guide to zones]. You get a fit-for-purpose test as well as adding some extra ride time to your training week.

Some athletes do this test as a warm up for their steady state riding indoors – especially if they have a power measuring system on their race bike.

(Images: Jonny Gawler)


For lots more bike advice head to our Training section