Establish your threshold~Kevin Livingston, Pedal Hard

Pedal Hard founder Kevin Livingston in Karlsruhe, Germany (2002) with teammate Bobby Julich.

Testing your threshold in the New Year

My suggestion would be to get 7-14 days clear of the holidays then consider doing a short test to help establish training zones for your next block of training. Be sure to go into this effort 1-2 days rested so you have strong legs and good motivation. It can be hard to motivate all by your lonesome so take advantage of a group class or a training center à la “Pedal Hard training center” to do your test ride. I suggest a 20 minute test protocol. Pick a goal wattage and go around 5 watts under for the first 5 mins then at the goal for 5 mins then reassess – go harder or stay the same. The last 5 mins you should have paced so that you can be planning to give just the littlest extra of push. This can be a good way to mentally break up the effort otherwise 20 mins can be pretty daunting. Another option, not a cop-out by any means, would be to go a comfortable hard for 20 mins and assess how many watts higher you might’ve done going all out and make a slight adjustment. If you test every 4-6 weeks this might be useful to keep motivation as the 20 minute time trial can become a quite feared workout.

Test Protocol

The Warm-Up


The initial goal of the warm up is to stretch the legs and get loosened up and into your pedal stroke and settled into your position on the bike. In the center you’ve probably heard me refer to this as lazy warm up. You’re just turning the legs over in a very light gear but not yet concerned about rpm and especially not power. This is a good mental drill too to get your mindset shifted over from wherever you came from and into training – beast mode. 


Next level of warm up is adding some focus on rpm. Get the legs turning over and pedal with intent! Focus on form and delivery of power to the pedals. Look down at your legs and feet. They should be aligned and heel drop should match to create symmetry in your pedal stroke. At higher rpm you want to give in to the path of the pedals – just a light tap at approx. 5 o’clock (right) and 7 o’clock (left) where you can feel some resistance. Once you’ve tapped, we’re not yet pushing or stomping, then focus on getting that foot out of the way so the opposing foot can do its work. 


Time to take the warm up a little more serious. A series of shorter intervals to venture into the upper zones will help ensure you’re ready to start your test. You essentially want to build up and touch into your threshold for a few minutes to turn on that lactate system and then remove-reduce the build-up and roll right into your test. This avoids you having to go through turning on that system during the test. This protocol of a warm up can be very useful for a short time trial as well. 

WARM UP Overview

  • 3′ LAZY
  • 3′ SPIN – RPM focused. Build your rpm 85-100 over the 3 minutes. Keep the power low.
  • 3′ POWER – build into your medium zone, 90s rpm
  • 3′ POWER – tempo, 85-low 90s rpm. So bumping up over your medium zone but still below threshold.
  • 2′ SPIN – RPM focused. Same as 2nd stage of warm up. RPM focus – spin.
  • 3′ POWER – threshold. A good guideline here is your starting wattage goal for your threshold test, 88+ rpm.
  • 5′ SPIN – RPM focused. Spin out the warm up and get ready to test.

The Test

20 minute time trial. Pick a goal wattage for the test:

  • The first 5 minutes pace 5-10 watts under your goal average watts.
  • From 5 to 10 minutes work on building up to your goal average watts for the test.
  • From 10 to 15 minutes hold on to those watts and keep in mind that you want to have a little in the tank to really push the final 5 minutes.
  • The final 5 minutes take it to the line. After working so hard for 15 minutes make sure you finish it off as strong as you can. In other words don’t be a quitter!

The Cooldown

  • Record your result.
  • Spin very easy for 5-6 minutes then;
  • add just a little power (Zone 2) and force yourself to spin for 10-12 minutes.
  • Finally super easy – lazy legs again for 5 minutes. That’s a wrap!

Check out my previous blog post on Cycling Threshold Explained to get going on setting up your zones.

Nice work getting down to business.

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