How much power can a big rider expect to generate?

Question for the clysdales out there.
I’m around 200lbs. I was a competitive cyclist years ago (pre-power meters) and had a racing weight around 185lbs.
I am new to zwifting and use 4iiii power meters. I love the quick races for a workout after work. Today I did a 30k race and averaged 305 watts with a w/kg of around 3.4.
My overall power was around average for cat A, was in the top 10% for cat b and was the highest in c. My w/kg is around average for group b.
If I’d like to improve, I can either increase my power or reduce my weight. I’m working on shedimg a few pounds. My question is, how much power can I expect to gain by working harder? Any big riders out there working to increase their power? How hard did you have to work at it and for what gains?

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Have you seen this before?

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When I started cycling seriously again after several years off, I weighed about 85kg. I now weigh 71kg.

After about 6 months back into it, weighing around 80kg, I set power pbs for 1, 2 and 4 minutes that I’m yet to better.

My w/kg has improved substantially, and my power pbs for 5 mins plus are all set at around my current weight, but I can’t match those shorter duration numbers from when I was heavier.

The likely explanation is muscle loss. Just about every overfeeding study has shown that even in sedentary individuals, some calorific excess is used to create more lean tissue. Conversely (at least without the use of anabolic steroids) it is almost impossible to lose significant amounts of fat without losing some lean tissue. That’s not to say it can’t be regained later, but that’s why, I suspect.

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I’m not sure what you’re asking for specifically, are you asking for a way to calculate how much you theoretically are capable of producing? I’d wager there is a theoretical calculation for this based on Vo2 max testing at a variety of weights in combination with blood lactate tests in a lab but that’s not particularly practical.

In my experience Zwift’s speed calculations favor heavier TT type riders with bigger absolute power numbers. I wish I could go up grades IRL as fast as I can go up them in Zwift and my weight # in the program is accurate if not heavier than reality.

For training plans I cannot recommend the British Cycling Insight zone plans enough. I got them when they were free, I don’t think they’re very expensive nowadays but they got my FTP from 280 to 348 at peak and I regularly sit at 330-340, previous high FTP was 315 while using a coach. I’d select TT and base oriented plans if you want to do well in Zwift races, my experience is that they favor guys who can pump a good 5 minute power# followed by steady 20-25 minutes at the upper end of z4, keep in mind a lot of the B races are like mixed field women’s races where your goal is to latch onto the faster group and then build a gap as they carry you.

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your power is good. how much more you can gain depends on your VO2 etc. and your training.

it’s probably easier to build your w/kg by losing weight.

Surely only w/kg is the metric that matters? Absolute numbers aren’t easily comparable. That’s why someone can have A grade power and still finish midpack in the lower ranks.

Most likely by trying to increase your power, your weight will reduce as a side-effect of riding consistently anyway, unless you really go in on the calories. The methods for increasing power are the same for big riders as it is for small riders. I’d say many riders going from fairly inactive to training diligently often achieve 20–30% improvement in watts per kilo within six months, going by Trainer Road podcasts discussions.

Only when you’re climbing…

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I don’t do any actual training. Just ride how I feel. I could incorporate some power building intervals but I figure I would be able to increase ftp by what 30 watts, 50 watts? I have seen the w/kg chart that puts elite riders at 5w/kg. So what? I’m supposed to get up to an ftp of 500w? Is that possible? I was just curious what kind of watts big riders on here can actually achieve. I was curious about what other big riders did for training and how far it took them.

6ft6 here and between 190lbs and 170lbs here depending on the season. ( was 260lbs when I started riding road bikes)
UK TTer and occainal Road racer (capable of reliably placing top 10 to 20 in the national TT champs over here when I’m not injured) the bulk of my training is sweetspot under over work. so a typical interval session might be 80-90% FTP for 10 mins or so then 3 mins at 120-130% ftp then another 10 mins at 80-90% FTP x3
My best 20 min power last year was 413W on the Road bike and 383W on the TT bike but I’m a bit of diesel so those shorter efforts don’t really suit me or my training.
But I’ve done some bloody hilly stage racing in Ireland ( against CTs Ronan occasionally) where I’ve had 3 days back to back of 300W average 340-370W Normalised Power for 4-5hrs a day so FTP isnt everything ha.

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Andrew Coggan post from Slowtwitch forum from a long time ago may help but as you do not know how gifted (or not) you are the only way to know is to train and see how far you can get

Andrew Coggan

May 18, 10 8:52

Post #31 of 139 (84795 views)

Let’s do some figgerin’…

The average healthy but sedentary, college-aged male has a VO2max of approximately 45 mL/min/kg. However, I have seen it argued based on studies of, e.g., aboriginal tribes (and there are population data from Europe as well as military inductees here in the US to suppor the conclusion) that the “default” VO2max of the average human male is closer to 50 mL/min/kg, and the only way to get below this is to assume a couch-potato lifestyle, gain excess weight, etc. (and/or grow old, of course). So, I’ll go with that latter number.

With short-term training, VO2max increases by 15-25% on average, with another perhaps 5-10% possible (on average, anyway) with more prolonged and/or intense training. That gives a total increase of 20-35%, so I’ll go with 30% just for argument’s sake.

So, if VO2max is, on average, 50 mL/min/kg and increases by, on average, 30%, that means that the average Joe ought to be able to raise their VO2max to about 65 mL/min/kg with training. Indeed, there are many, many, many, MANY amateur endurance athletes with VO2max values of around that number (not to mention the fact that athletes in team sports with an endurance component - e.g., soccer - often have a VO2max of around 60 mL/min/kg, something that is also true in other sports that you don’t normally consider to be of an endurance nature, e.g., downhill skiing or motocross - i.e., motorcycle - racing).

The question then becomes, how high might functional threshold power fall as a percentage of VO2max (again, on average), and what does this translate to in terms of a power output? The answer to the former is about 80% (LT, on average, being about 75% of VO2max in trained cyclists), which means that in terms of O2 consumption, a functional threshold power corresponding to a VO2 of 65 mL/min/kg * 0.80 = 52 mL/min/kg could be considered average. If you then assume an average cycling economy of 0.075 W/min/kg per mL/min/kg, this equates to…

3.9 W/kg

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I’m 100kgs and usually tick over powerwise about 200watts… i know it’s normal to do less tho I’m a bigger guy and big muscles have bigger power tho lose out on climbs due to the weight

I rode close to 5000 miles in 2021, mix of indoor (Rouvy) and outdoor (and I’m 59–I used to ride a lot in my 20’s and 30’s). Started out at 294 lbs, down to about 215 now, shooting for 195. My FTP and w/g have gotten way, way better. But now that I am relatively fit and seeking even higher FTP, I am reminded that I ride a bike a lot because I like to, but I’ve never been a good sprinter, middle distance, or endurance runner, even when I was in my late teens/early 20’s and weighed 170-180 and was a multi-sport athlete. No matter how smart/hard I train, I have a hard cap on how high my FTP and w/kg will be. My max hr is about 165 (pretty close to what the formula is). FTP is about 225. I can hit 500 watts for 10-20 seconds, and that’s it.

There’s a time in your life when you think you can always get better, and a time in your life when you realize those days are behind you. I’m mainly hoping for longer endurance at this point. It’s a bummer, but, as the kids say, it is what it is.

Currently training to do 2 metric centuries this spring and a full-on century in September.

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Fucking awesome man, that’s some great work and legit inspirational.

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This post of Coggan’s always generates a ton of controversy, and it’s quite a long way from being universally accepted. I personally think it’s a touch conservative, not least as data from Alan Couzens suggests that many people will need 6 months averaging 700 TSS to hit 4w/kg; many, many people just don’t have time for that.

There is a prediction chart somewhere, where if you enter your age, average TSS/CTL for the last 6 months, and highest ever w/kg (if known), it will guesstimate your maximum potential.

1 piece of anecdata: I’m 40 years old, average just over 600 TSS, and am pretty much exactly 4w/kg* (*4.1 per the ramp, 4.0 by the 20 min test, 3.9 TTE). I am fairly sure that if I had all the time in the world to train (and the motivation to use that time), I’d be able to get to 4.5w/kg (the chart suggested 4.8 iirc, which I doubt).

One other thing to note: pure w/kg (or even pure w) doesn’t measure ability to sprint after a long, hard ride, or punchiness; both of these things are potentially more valuable in real world racing/riding situations.

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I’ve hovered between 90 and 100kg for most of the duration of my time being a cyclist. The leanest I ever was (around 11/12% body fat) was 85 kg. Producing high w/kg is harder at my size for physiological reasons that have been explained to me but forgotten.

I’ve always been able to produce high absolute power though. When I started around 9 years ago, I did my first 20 minute test at 312w.

My best test ever was two summers ago when I was heads-down, super focused and not drinking for three months. I did 403w for 20 minutes at ~88 kg.

I haven’t done a real test where I do a rest week beforehand since then because I haven’t done much real interval training. There was an off-season and then the pandemic decimated racing. I think if I did that, I’d end up around 410w but I’m closer to 95 kg now.

You can push some big absolute power and with some focus, I could get down to 85 kg again but that would still mean I need to generate 420w to do 5 w/kg.

Agreed. On flat races I can win C grade and beat half of B grade. If you are 100kgs and putting out 300W you are doing well.
Would also add FTP isn’t the most important thing for Racing, it is shorter sprinter efforts.

Indeed.

I have to work very hard not to get dropped on flat, circuit type efforts by a couple of bigger guys I ride with. Both are well over 6ft, and over 90kg. I know one of them has an FTP of about 330, while the other doesn’t have/use a power meter AFAIK. In terms of pure w/kg, I’m appreciably stronger than both riders, but either/both would beat me in a crit, assuming comparable strategic and handling skills. Up any decent hill, neither can hold my wheel if I go at over 90%.

In some situations, pure w is the key. And no metrics can measure handling and strategy. There’s a David Heatley webpage somewhere where he goes through 2 riders’ power files during a crit. I forget the details, but one guy put out something like 0.5w/kg average less than the other and came third, while the second rider was mid pack. The first rider kept their nose out of the wind and timed their sprint well following a good last few corners, while the second spent lots of time pushing at the front, got boxed in late on and missed the decisive jump.

So by all means work on the power, but if you’re going to race (IRL) work on bike handling and strategy too.

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I used to race in the early to mid 2000s at ~80 kg / ~175 lbs (that is as skinny as I could get as I had around 5% body fat; I am 183 cm / 6’ tall). The best 20 min power I could put out back then was 360 Watts, which theoretically put my FTP around 340 W. I never made it out of Cat 3 :smiley:

I reckon that was a combination of me not wanting to train for more than around 10-12 hours per week, and also perhaps limited by my genes.

Fast forward to today, I now weigh 100 kg (I eat too much) but I can still put out over 300 Watts for extended periods of time. I imagine I would do OK in a flat crit but I always get dropped on any decent climb.

So who knows, you might be able to increase your power a lot higher depending on how much you are willing to train and how your body responds to that training. Or you could train more and not really improve much. Some people are blessed with better genes :slight_smile:

It’s interesting to hear the experiences of other bigger riders. I love riding and tend to ride as much as I can a mixture of easy rides with the wife mixed in with harder rides on my own. Mtb is usually 70% of my riding so I doubt I will ever endeavor a real training program. I think some over under workouts is doable. Even on my mtb. Unfortunately work is always busy so longer rides are limited and sometimes I’m just too beat to do a planned workout.

Obviously weight loss is the easiest plan. I’ve already lost about 8 lbs just by cutting out a few easy things and without adjusting my training at all. I think it will be easy to keep dropping a little further without much trouble. I am aiming for around 90kg. It will be interesting to see how my performance changes with some changes to my workouts and more weight off.

I’m around 190lbs (usually slightly lower in race season), I’ve been cycling for around 15 years, 7 years competitively - I only started more structured training when I started racing. Initially, my FTP hoovered around 300w, now it’s closer to 350w. Based on some of the numbers other lads my size put out TTing, this seems about average for a trained cyclist of my weight.

But what I can do doesn’t really matter though, without proper training (and consistency) the reality is you’re probably not going to get much stronger.