No one likes the sound of the word "test". And if you add pain in there somewhere, it becomes even less attractive.
But testing your power output from time to time helps tremendously with goal acquisition. Why? Because sometimes we aim too low with our power ranges for our workouts, which can ultimately result in sacrificing fitness gains. I also find that many athletes' power ranges vary across the season, with their highest sustainable power usually coinciding with their peak for goal events.
I've seen all kinds of baseline test examples, ranging from 20-30 minutes, and even up to an hour for very advanced individuals. Although I certainly think it's possible, it's not really realistic for most of us to do an hour-long test to see where our power output stands. There's just no need to cause that type of unnecessary stress.
For my athletes, I've found that the 2 x 8 Minutes Time Trial developed by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg, in their book The Time-Crunched Cyclist, works really well. It's just enough of an effort to truly test your mettle, but not so difficult as to cause you to have to take extra days off the bike for recovery. Carmichael and Rutberg say that the average power of the higher of the two 8-minute efforts is around 90 percent of your functional threshold power.
I never had the luxury of having my coach present for one of these tests, but this is something that I make available to my local athletes, for a nominal investment. Check out my page here for more information on that.
Talitha Vogt is a certified endurance and wellness coach with an elite racing background. She has 22 years of experience as a mountain biker, including 12 total years of racing and other events. Leveraging her wellness coaching experience, she provides custom-tailored training plans and accommodating coaching for women locally in the front range of Colorado and online for anywhere else in the world.