CTS Cycling Field Test

The CTS Field Test should be completed before you begin any CTS training program. When you view the programs, you’ll notice that the CTS Field Test is not included in the schedule. Rather than work it into the program itself, I want you to complete it a few days before you begin one of the training programs. The Field Test itself is two eight-minute efforts, but when you get on the bike, you’ll need time to complete the warm-up, the Field Test and a good cooldown, so budget a total of an hour for the whole Field Test workout.

CTS Field Test Instructions:

When performing the CTS Field Test, collect the following data:

  • Average heart rate for each effort
  • Max heart rate for each effort
  • Average power for each effort (if you use a power meter)
  • Average cadence for each effort
  • Weather conditions (warm vs. Cold, windy vs. Calm, etc.)
  • Course conditions (indoors vs. Outdoors, flat vs. Hilly, point-to-point vs. Out and back, etc.)
  • Rate of perceived exertion (RPE, or how hard you felt you were working) for each effort.

Step 1: Find A Suitable Course And Warm Up

The CTS Field Test can be completed on an indoor trainer, or you can find a relatively flat course or a course that is a consistent climb of about a 6 percent grade. (A course with steep climbs or descents will dictate your effort more than you will.)

Above all, find a course that’s safe, without stop signs or traffic lights. For the sake of being able to compare one test to another, complete the test in weather conditions that are reasonably common for your area.

Field Test Warm-Up
​Start with 10 minutes of east to moderate-intensity riding and then complete the following warm-up routine:

  • ​1 minute FastPedal (light gear, bring your cadence up as high as you can without bouncing on the saddle)
  • 1 minute easy spinning recovery
  • 2 minutes FastPedal
  • 1 minute easy spinning recovery
  • 1 minute PowerInterval (max-intensity interval at 90 to 95 rpm; bring the intensity up gradually over the first 30 seconds and hold that effort level through the end of the interval)
  • 2 minutes easy spinning recovery
  • 1 minute PowerInterval
  • 4 minutes easy spinning recovery
  • Begin CTS Field Test

Step 2: Begin Your First Effort

Begin the effort from a standing start. Resist the urge to start too fast; you should reach your top speed about 45 to 60 seconds after you start, but not before that.

Step 3: Find Your Pace And Gear

Keep accelerating and shifting until you reach a speed you feel you can barely maintain for the length of the effort. Focus entirely on completing this effort at the highest power output you possibly can. Try to maintain a cadence above 90 rpm on flat ground or on an indoor trainer, and above 85 rpm if you’re completing the test on a climb. When you get to the final minute of the time trial, really open the throttle.

Step 4: Recover And Prepare For Effort #2

When you reach the end of Effort #1, you should be completely drained, but keep pedaling for the whole 10 minutes of recovery.

Step 5: Complete Effort #2

After the 10-minute recovery, begin Effort #2 from your start point. Gradually increase your speed for 45 to 60 seconds, just like the first effort. Avoid the temptation to pace yourself based on your first effort.

Step 6: Cool Down And Record Your Data

All that’s left is to cool down with easy spinning for 15 to 30 minutes. Record your CTS Field Test data, and use the information below to calculate your training intensities.

Calculating Cycling Training Zones And Intensities For CTS Workouts

To calculate your individual training intensities for CTS Workouts, you need to know either the higher of the two average power outputs or the higher of the two average heart rates from your CTS Field Test. If you have both pieces of information, you should calculate both power and heart-rate training intensities, but use the power ranges to gauge your interval efforts whenever possible.

Instructions For Calculating CTS Cycling Training Zones And Intensities:

1. Find the higher of the two average power outputs, and/or the higher of the two average heart rates from your CTS Field Test.

2. Multiply your higher average power output by 0.90 to get your threshold power number. Multiply your higher average heart rate by 0.93 to get your threshold heart rate.

3. Multiply this threshold power output and/or threshold heart rate by the percentages listed in the table below to establish the upper and lower limits of your training ranges. We have also provided a calculator below for you to auto calculate your training ranges.

Recovery 0-54% 0-68%
Endurance 55-75% 69-83%
Tempo 76-90% 84-94%
Threshold 91-105% 95-105%
VO2 Max 106-120% 106%-Max
Anaerobic Power 121%-Max N/A

Sample: Training Intensities For Joe Athlete

Let’s say Joe Athlete completed the CTS Field Test and calculated a threshold power output of 300 watts and threshold heart rate of 175 bmp.

He would use the 300 watts and the 175 heart rate to calculate his training intensities using the table below.

The lower limit of Joe’s Endurance intensity range would come out to 300 x 0.55 = 165 watts. The upper limit of his Endurance intensity range would come out to 300 x 0.75 = 225 watts.

So Joe should complete Endurance rides at a power output between 165 and 225 watts. The table below has been filled out with all of Joe Athlete’s intensity ranges.

Recovery 0–54% 0-162 0-68% Resting HR–119
Endurance 55-75% 165–225 69-83% 120–146
Tempo 76-90% 228–270 84–94% 147–165
Threshold 91–105% 273–315 95–105% 166–184
VO2 Max 106-120% 318-360 106%–max 186–max
Anaerobic Power 121%-Max 363+ N/A N/A

CTS Cycling Training Zones & Intensity Ranges Calculator

You can use the Google Sheet calculator to calculate and save your cycling training zones.


Learn More About The Key CTS Cycling Workouts