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2019-01-04 1:38 PM


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Subject: Low Power on Bike
Hello All,
New to the forum. I am 36 and have done 2 triathlon seasons. Signed up for my first HIM in sep 2019. I only aspired to finish I'm events so far, and now I am trying to get a bit more serious and learn things properly.

What I am finding is that I am slow . In all disciplines. I wanted to ask about improving my speed on the bike. In the olympic distance, I managed ~ 18mph in a course that had 1000 ft of elevation gain.

I recently got a Wahoo Kickr and measured my power for the first time. My FTP test yielded 158W. But most workouts of 60-90 mins I average 110-120W. Isn't that abysmally low? I see other riders on Zwift putting out 3-4 Watts/Kg compared to my sad 1.5.

How long does it take to get stronger? Any advice .. I am riding 80 Miles/ week for the past 4 weeks. ( This is significantly more than I have ridden before)


2019-01-04 2:32 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Getting faster and stronger on the bike is a process.
Make sure you are studied up if you are going by power. It can be a GREAT tool, but you have to know how to use it.

It's a factor of how often you ride, how you ride and how you recover.
If you just ride 3 days a week with no structure on focus to get better, you'll kind of stay where you are at or gradually improve.

If you ramp up smartly, you could make serious gains by Sept 2019.
2019-01-04 9:53 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
It is about where I started....I had you beat on watts/kg but not absolute power. My guess is you need to follow a structured training program with more higher-intensity efforts. There are good programs on this site (Jorge's off-season program). Also look through the threads--another member is starting a power-based winter training group. Zwift probably has some programs as well. (Not familiar with it--I've been working with a coach for the past few years and just do my own workouts with a power meter.)

It took me about four years to get my FTP from 150-ish to just above/below 200 (depending on the test). At 53 kg, that is really, really hard for me! I came from primarily a run background, and quickly realized I really didn't have much concept of how to suffer in training on a bike. My previous bike background had entirely been commuting and casual touring, and I think I unconsciously carried that approach over to my early efforts at bike training--just putting in the miles/hours without much intention or intensity. Most people see substantial gains within a season/year of starting a structured training program. The gains would probably be more dramatic for a beginner who was still improving basic aerobic fitness, and in younger athletes, than in my case.

Depending on your body composition, some weight loss and/or targeted strength training may also be helpful in improving your power numbers. Speed is a more complex issue--depends partly on your power output and body weight, as well as the course, your equipment, how aerodynamic your bike position is, etc. This is something I still need to work on--I know women my size who are considerably faster on the bike with similar power numbers.
2019-01-05 9:31 AM
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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike

Riding with faster riders will help you lift your power.  Even if you are mostly drafting at first, your body will begin to adjust to the faster pace.  Ride hills.  Build a good cycling base and add some intervals.

This season I've decided to follow a structured plan for the first time and am trying TrainerRoad (https://www.trainerroad.com).  Lots of people have had success improving power using their plans supposedly.  I'm finding it nice to have the structure to my training.

One of the members on here (Donto?) posted a link on another similar thread to this free training software which he helped develop.  It might be worth looking at if you want to keep the budget down.  https://maximumtrainer.com/



Edited by SevenZulu 2019-01-05 9:31 AM
2019-01-05 8:04 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Originally posted by orijitdhar

Hello All,
New to the forum. I am 36 and have done 2 triathlon seasons. Signed up for my first HIM in sep 2019. I only aspired to finish I'm events so far, and now I am trying to get a bit more serious and learn things properly.

What I am finding is that I am slow . In all disciplines. I wanted to ask about improving my speed on the bike. In the olympic distance, I managed ~ 18mph in a course that had 1000 ft of elevation gain.

I recently got a Wahoo Kickr and measured my power for the first time. My FTP test yielded 158W. But most workouts of 60-90 mins I average 110-120W. Isn't that abysmally low? I see other riders on Zwift putting out 3-4 Watts/Kg compared to my sad 1.5.

How long does it take to get stronger? Any advice .. I am riding 80 Miles/ week for the past 4 weeks. ( This is significantly more than I have ridden before)



If your bike fitness is mostly untrained/raw, just getting time in the saddle will yield gains. As much volume as you can fit into your schedule. Then you can start pairing that with some structure. I've had good success with Trainer Road plans. It takes time to get to 4 w/kg. . . and keep in mind that most of those folks on Zwift are just riding and don't have to make time for running and swimming too. If you drop the other two sports and ride 6 days a week, you may be able to get there too. But it does definitely take multi-year time and persistence.
2019-01-07 1:57 PM
in reply to: Hot Runner


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
thanks for the feedback. and congratulations on your tenacity and gains.

I did the same. I would just ride and get the miles in, because I was happy to just be able to finish. I was a couch potato in 2017 Dec, when I got started.

I started on Zwift with structured program , I immediately see that the workouts are varied and force me to push effort at high cadence, which I would never do naturally. So I am hoping that helps. will keep this thread posted..


It seems it requires a lot more discipline and dedication than I realized. 4 years to get big gains. Wow! I am a bit overweight, and I am beginning to get leaner, I hope that helps too.

I also struggle with position, esp saddle and aero bars. . Before getting my trainer. I did about 2000 miles total over two years. I am seeing increased volume due to the trainer.

I have 9 months to go for my HIM, is I have faith I will improve... only way is up


2019-01-07 2:05 PM
in reply to: ziggie204


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
thank you . I have a better understanding of how long it takes thanks to this thread... I am focusing on volume / structure.

Been doing 80 miles/ week for the past 4+ weeks. Now starting to thread in some runs. Swim will start in feb...

I am very excited to be part of this amazing experience of triathlons. Especially getting to race in Santa Cruz California.
2019-01-07 5:47 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Progress may well be faster for you. I did not start tri as a true beginner. Years of running (from age 10), though not always at a very serious level. My aerobic "engine" was pretty strong already when I started cycling training, but bike-specific strength was not. I have a very small build and making strength-related gains has always been a challenge. This seems to matter less on the swim as I had decent technique from a lot of competitive swimming in my youth, prior to starting tri, and efficiency matters more than brute strength for the swim distances in tri.

More muscular people would probably see faster progress on the bike. Being a bit heavy doesn't actually hold back absolute power; in fact it can be an advantage as there is more torque on the pedals. I have to work much harder to put out 200 watts than someone who's heavier. Being really light is mainly an advantage on hilly courses. Some of the top guys at Kona are quite big. Lean, of course, but big bones and plenty of muscle on some of those "uber-bikers".
2019-01-07 10:21 PM
in reply to: #5253417


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
@hotrunner . Its interesting you say that. I am kinda short and stocky. I do pretty good on short sprints on Zwift. 0.1 - 0.2 miles, I am able to hold 700-800 watts. Prob from mountain biking these last two years. I have decent upper body strength. But over distance , I see that I have a long ways to go to hold reasonable power.
2019-01-08 11:50 AM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike

Originally posted by orijitdhar thank you . I have a better understanding of how long it takes thanks to this thread... I am focusing on volume / structure. Been doing 80 miles/ week for the past 4+ weeks. Now starting to thread in some runs. Swim will start in feb... I am very excited to be part of this amazing experience of triathlons. Especially getting to race in Santa Cruz California.
Santa Cruz is just an awesome area, that should be a great race.  I was there on business in October and loved running along Cliff Road. Keep up the good work, you'll be amazed at your progress along the way. 

2019-01-08 2:13 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
If you can do those short bursts at that wattage you will be fine. I think the one other thing to mention besides for amount of time in the saddle is the structure to the program too. I'm a beefy guy too (5'11" 185lbs) and relatively new to cycling. I had the strength to put out big watts but it took me a solid year of working with my coach, following the plan, and getting between to 4-6 hrs of cycling time in per week to get my endurance up and keep that power for prolonged time. My peak power outputs are probably in your range, 5 sec is just under 900 watts and 1 min is around 550. However, my 20 min and thus FTP are above that 4 watt/kg you see on zwift. So, you will get there. So, the best thing is time and structure. If you have any other questions feel free to PM me.


2019-01-08 2:22 PM
in reply to: #5253546


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
@jnuger, that’s pretty dead on . My 5 sec is 950 or so and falls off fast past 20 secs . So the writing is on the wall. Time and patience. I am going the Zwift route. I find them very challenging. Good mix of tempo and high cadence stuff makes me suffer
2019-01-10 12:23 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
You have a typical power curve for a mountain biker. 80 miles a week is enough to improve but as others have said it matters what you do with those. If you want to get faster you need to incorporate different intensities, or, touch all the power zones. Since you're on zwift, you can do one of the training plans.

Also, jump in a zwift race once a week and tear your legs off. They are great training. Some people cheat, but the talent pool is also very deep.
2019-01-21 10:47 AM
in reply to: 0


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
UPDATE -
Been on my Wahoo KICKR and Zwift for about a month and half.. Been pretty religious with the structured plans. Re-tested my FTP.

I went from 158 to 170. I am quite happy with the progress. Some of it could be the mental aspect of the test and learning to test better.
But I am happy to see progress.

Thanks to all. Starting to run more often. Hoping to up my mileage to about 10 miles/ week over 2-3 runs.

Edited by orijitdhar 2019-01-21 10:50 AM
2019-01-21 9:17 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Congrats on the progress! 12 watts in that time frame is nothing to sneeze at. I am STILL stuck at 200 watts +/- 5! (Three Januarys in a row; I suspect it is higher in the summer when I'm in peak race shape, but we usually don't test then.) I think in my case, I really need to develop the strength to push bigger gears--it's gotten to the point where at one setting, my legs are okay but my lungs are giving out and HR is through the roof; gear down one and I could hold the effort level cardio-wise, but my legs just can't take more than 10-12 minutes of it.

There is definitely a learning curve on the FTP test--figuring out how to pace your effort through the whole 20 minutes, and what gearing/cadence will yield optimal power for that length of time, given your physical makeup and current fitness.
2019-01-22 8:23 AM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
It's not just about pushing bigger gears.
The right balance of intervals, power, cadence, etc over the winter can actually raise your FTP over the winter without the need for slogging in hundreds of miles and hours per week.

I got an athlete up 17 watts from a year ago this Jan. It wasn't fun for him (I might or might not take enjoyment in his suffering), but it got the job done while he works a high profile job and manages 4 kids with his wife.


2019-01-22 9:36 PM
in reply to: TriJayhawkRyan

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Sigh....I am working on it. We do lots of different intervals at various intensities and cadences--I do high-cadence intervals, big gear strength work, and FTP intervals at race gearing/cadence. In my case, I am quite sure that strength really is a big limiter for me on the bike. My FTP tests tend to be at 100+ RPM, in one case over 105. I'm very aware that it's not efficient--My HR is much lower with a bit bigger gearing, but my legs can't get past 10-12 minutes of it (it used to be less than 5, so that is progress.) I am about 115 pounds with a really small build--developing strength and power has always been challenging. A big engine in a small body is great for running but not so much for absolute power on the bike. I'm also not that great at hills on the bike. I can climb steadily for a long, long time (as in Mt. Ventoux and the like) and possibly destroy a lot of people if the climb went on for a few hours, but I am not fast on the shorter "roller" variety of hills typically found in triathlon courses). I actually tend to do better on flat courses or those with long false flats. To me that also suggests the need to develop strength.
2019-01-23 7:33 AM
in reply to: #5253417


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
@hotrunner . I have the reverse problems. I am stocky and trying somewhat unsuccessfully to lose 10 pounds. Running is tough for me. I get all sorts of injury and i am planning to ramp up real slow. At 3-5 miles a run .

You could try a weight training regimen to bulk. I have always been into strength training, i was a short small guy and ended up doing a lot of pushups and weights . I did taekwondo. thats excellent for power and strength but probably not typical.

Best of luck to you.
2019-01-23 9:10 AM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Ugh...I have been doing weights and other strength training on and off since age 14, with little visible result. Women (well, some women--I guess everyone's genetics and hormones are different) don't tend to "bulk up" as easily as men. Trying to do some things to at least improve strength for cycling. Building obvious muscle mass is not a given in my case--hasn't happened yet.
2019-02-17 10:27 PM
in reply to: Hot Runner


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Quick update . Finally realizing what high cadence is for. It’s quite a breakthrough, I don’t think I ever spun up faster than 60 rpm, it’s remarkable how much power one can produce at 90+ rpm with seemingly little burn in the quads, now just to learn a new way to suffer
2019-02-25 5:50 PM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
Originally posted by orijitdhar

Quick update . Finally realizing what high cadence is for. It’s quite a breakthrough, I don’t think I ever spun up faster than 60 rpm, it’s remarkable how much power one can produce at 90+ rpm with seemingly little burn in the quads, now just to learn a new way to suffer


Oh, yes, you should see a bump in sustainable power if you can move your cadence from 60 into the 85-95 range. You've probably noticed a higher HR and more labored breathing, but that's because you're making better use of your aerobic system. You're not working harder, just different....with more input from an energy system that's capable of sustained performance.


Are you doing any structured training? Or just riding around on Zwift?


2019-02-25 9:42 PM
in reply to: gary p


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
90% structured workouts... Just ride around on recovery days. or extra long endurance.

Heart rate averages are going up... Just did another FTP today... hit a 20 min HR average of 181... which is very scary for me... But I seemed fine.

Hit a new FTP of 183... so improved from 158 to 183 in 10 weeks .. I am pretty happy ... its amazing what good advice will do for you... thanks everyone....


Originally posted by gary p

Originally posted by orijitdhar

Quick update . Finally realizing what high cadence is for. It’s quite a breakthrough, I don’t think I ever spun up faster than 60 rpm, it’s remarkable how much power one can produce at 90+ rpm with seemingly little burn in the quads, now just to learn a new way to suffer


Oh, yes, you should see a bump in sustainable power if you can move your cadence from 60 into the 85-95 range. You've probably noticed a higher HR and more labored breathing, but that's because you're making better use of your aerobic system. You're not working harder, just different....with more input from an energy system that's capable of sustained performance.


Are you doing any structured training? Or just riding around on Zwift?
2019-02-27 9:36 AM
in reply to: orijitdhar

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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
181 sounds normal for an FTP test, as long as no symptoms other than agony of effort! I am usually well into the 170"s on those things; sometimes higher for hard runs in hot conditions. All-time high (at least that I hit while wearing a monitor) was 191--almost hit by a motorbike while in the final minute of a tempo run in 90 degree weather (in Vietnam). And my resting rate is usually under 50.
Power is a better indication of progress than HR. Ideally over time you can produce the same power (or higher) at a lower HR, but there are a lot of variables that affect resting and working HR day to day, besides fitness.
2019-03-04 7:18 AM
in reply to: orijitdhar


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Subject: RE: Low Power on Bike
First off, I'm from cycling background not tri. Power is the way to go as long as you know what it means to your body and how to interpret the data. There is a lot of resource out there to guide you.

As far as Zwift and w/kg is concerned, there are two things to point out. firstly, most are cyclists not triathletes. secondly and more to the point, many on Zwift don't have accurate weight programmed in. My power is around 180w at the moment i haven't weighed myself recently (ignorance is bliss) but don't compare yourself to others. The best way to think of cycle training is in time and effort, speed will come. It's almost impossible to compare an average speed to others or even previous rides on the same course. There are too many variables. bike type, and weight, aero position, frontal area, wind, temperature did you have a cold. How many times did toy come out of aero tuck to check out etc etc.

Even with Power on a turbo, you are not going to put the same power out if you have a cold. The x factor is the human powering that turbo. Heart rate will give you an indicator if you are run down or fighting that cold that the kids kindly brought home from school for you.

Good luck but don't beat yourself up over it.
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