One part of owning a Peloton is that you are able to track your fitness levels, and the bike has a test that can help you do this. It’s called the FTP test, and what you do is a ride at 95% of your maximum capacity for twenty minutes. After that, you can compare your results to other riders and see how fit you are. But how reliable is it?
The Peloton bike does not actually measure the effort (pressure) like power meter pedals but rather does a calculation based on the resistance knob and cadence. Due to this, the FTP results are said to be within a 10% accuracy or offset, as stated by Peloton.
Discover exactly what FTP is, why you need to know about it, how it is correctly measured in real-world scenarios, how the Peloton FTP results compare to it, and whether you should be concerned with it all.
How Accurate Is The Peloton FTP Test?
Before determining how accurate the Peloton FTP test is, we will need to understand it in its entirety to grasp what it is, how it works, and how it applies to you and your Peloton.
What Is FTP?
FTP in the fitness world (not IT) stands for Functional Threshold Power. In simple terms, this can be viewed as the amount of energy that you can expend over the course of one hour if you are pushing as hard as you can (all-out). The measurement used to define FTP is watts (power).
Take into consideration that professional cyclists such as those who ride the Tour de France have FTP readings that move past 400 watts. Amateurs that are excellent at cycling will have an FTP range in the 300s. Then the average cyclist can have an FTP reading of anything between 100 and in the 200s.
How Do You Typically Measure Your FTP On A Bike?
Typically, you will purchase power meter pedals and attach them to your bike. These pedals will calculate your total power output over your specified time and distance. They work by calculating how much pressure you exert on each pedal as you push.
Take note that this is the correct way to measure FTP (with actual power output). Also, note That FTP is calculated over an hour and not by any other time interval.
So How Does Peloton Calculate FTP?
It is evident that the Peloton does not have any power meter whatsoever in its bikes. This means that the Peloton does not measure power output (watts) how it should be calculated (like with power meter pedals) but rather via a few variables and then math calculations.
The Peloton bike uses the resistance knob (this provides the braking power), a sensor that will track the knob’s position, and then the cadence meter to calculate your FTP. Utilizing mathematics, Peloton will check your cadence against your resistance knob position and thus will determine and draw your resulting power output.
Take note that this method is less accurate than using power meter pedals. This is because the method by which Peloton draws your total power output has no bearing on actual resistance. Peloton brakes have been known to be aligned out of position and are not highly consistent, unlike power meter pedals. The brake has also been known to drift over time when the bike has been used continuously.
Hence you could have a scenario where the same FTP result would be given to a bike where there is no resistance (easy to ride) and one where there is a lot (more challenging to ride). You can tell by this scenario that the bike is not actually measuring effort.
Peloton claims to have a 10% accuracy offset compared to power meter pedals that are more likely to be within 1%. Now, 10% may not seem like a lot, but consider scenarios where you would want to set out and ride (an actual bike) at 85% of your FTP for an hour. If you were tracking your progress through power meter pedals, you would expect to last the duration of the ride and come out the other side no worse for wear.
However, if the offset accuracy is 10% on your Peloton and you decide to do the same ride, you’ll more likely be riding at your max level, struggling, and you would be wondering what is going on.
Also, take note that the Peloton only measures your FTP based on 20 minutes and not an actual hour.
This means that the Peloton FTP test can be considered to be not that accurate, and you should just use it for a basis on which to improve.
Real World FTP And Peloton Situations
Mitch Boyer, an avid cyclist from California, tested out the Pelotons FTP and regiment (that helps you improve) over the period of a couple of weeks. He also tested his FTP using his power meter pedals.
At the start of his experiment, Mitch used his bike (with the power meter pedals) and went to the Rose Bowl Stadium to conduct his one-hour FTP test. His results had him at an FTP of 234.
One month later, while utilizing the Peloton FTP training test, Mike scored an FTP result of 317. Mike knew something was incorrect because, in the span of one month, he magically rose two categories in Zwift, placing him in the top category, which means he was at Zwift’s cyclings’ highest tier.
Not to mention that there was a month gap between taking the FTP test (for which he trained excessively) with his power pedals and when starting the “discover your power zones program” from Peloton.
Mitch decided to replace his Peloton pedals with his actual power meter pedals. Hence Mitch could track his FTP from the Peloton and additionally use his power meter pedals. The results he found were shocking.
While riding, not only did he discover that the Peloton FTP calculations were favorably biased, at some points during his class, he saw that the power output reading for the Peloton was as far off as 100 watts compared to that of his power meter pedals.
One thing to note is that Mitch did calibrate his Peloton bike and get help from customer support to get his Peloton to give him the most accurate FTP reading.
So How Should You Consider The Pelotons FTP Results?
As one Reddit user put it, “Treat them as numbers to improve on, not as useful numbers for comparing to people you see online, either Peloton riders or actual PM riders.”
We discovered that, in fact, the Peloton FTP test could be considered not to be that accurate because of the fact that the bike does not actually measure effort but bases it on a mathematical calculation based on your cadence and resistance. This can give the FTP reading an offset of 10% (and is Pelotons official statement).
However, power meter pedals are only off by 1 or perhaps 2%, and in an experiment conducted, the Peloton FTP results were found to be out by as much as 100 watts.