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FAQ ~ Turbo Speed Variances

chris stephens

Team President Chris Stephens
He's smiling because it hasn't started yet ~ this is a Ramp Test warm up

I get lots of emails from riders asking about the discrepancies in turbo speeds between their sessions and those of other riders doing the same session.  The question asks directly, or hints at...

How can someone I ride comfortably with at the weekend's be 5 mph, or 10 kph, quicker on the turbo?

As with all these things, the answer is simple, if you know it!

Resistance is Useless...
Just as we are all different, in height, weight, lung capacity, cardiac volume, metabolism, mitochondria density, oxygen uptake, VO2max, lactate tolerance, personality, stress-characteristics, etc, etc, so are our turbo's!

Below is the exact, same, turbo Tempo Ten Turbo Session, ridden by four riders, on the same day.  As you can see, the results are as different as the riders themselves. 


Three use power, one is a lady, all are over 40, two are over 50.  They range from 55 to 75 kilos and obviously have completely differing resting and max heart rates.

None of them ride the same make or model of turbo, so they all get a different reaction from their machine as they increase speed, cadence or gearing.  Hence the speed differential.

turbo curve

Fluid, or oil, based turbo's increase resistance as speed increases.  Differing magnetic or electronic models can do the same to varying degrees, depending on their specification. And ergometers can be programmed to keep the same level of resistance, no matter what the speed.  Here's more info on turbo's...

What Is The Session's Objective
It's not the speed or distance that's important. The most important factor of any workout is, "did you create the physiological adaptation you were after, or your coach prescribed".

Different riders, with different FTP power outputs will be required to hit differing power ranges to stay within their Tempo Target Zone.  But the zone will be within a specific percentage of that FTP, whatever it is.

Heart rates will respond differently depending on the time of day, the rested (or stressed) state of the athlete, heat build up, caffeine and/or recent food consumption and a whole other multitude of factors over which we have no control.

Also, the Suffer Score (in red) is reflected by the accuracy of the heart zone set up in Strava.  Another curve ball that may not reflect reality.  The accuracy of all this output data is dependent on the accuracy of the initial set up. 

This isn't always the case when the system select defaults are chosen.  They need constant monitoring, which for some is brilliant, for others a pain they can do without.

So, the overriding question is, did the session "feel right"?  If it did, perfect, keep the pressure on for next week.  If too easy, just ramp it up and go on perception, then check your Strava reports and adjust the default settings accordingly, to suit your customised needs. 

If too hard, throttle back and follow the instruction in the programme that say you should "just" get to the end of the sessions feeling pleasantly fatigued, not battered!" 

Whatever it is on the day, all you can do is all you can do!  So don't push too hard to sustain a power or speed that is beyond you for that day.  It could be an early sign of sickness, so listen to your body.


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