Cycle at District - The what, why and how

This is it. You’ve done it. You’ve made it to your first Cycle class at District! They’ve given you the shoes. They’ve given you the towel. You can hear the music blasting. So far so good…

The instructor at the front smiles and tells you “you’ll be fine!” and helps you clip your shoes into your bike and sets to work telling you all about your glowing panel attached to your bike and what it all means. Got it! Suddenly the music starts and there’s no time to think about anything other than the pounding of your heart and burning in your legs. Everyone is grimacing and smiling and laughing and sweating. And before you know it, you’ve survived! The adrenalin is pumping and you feel awesome because “shaky legs are happy legs!” 

So what exactly just happened? There were colours and numbers and awesome vibes but…what exactly! For the inquisitive minds out there wondering what to expect, this article will give you a crash course in what to expect when you walk through the door. It’ll sum up exactly what you need to know about your bike’s glowing gadget and how it can help you in your training (Fear not! Your instructor will refresh your mind before every class!). 

The main piece of equipment in our Cycle class is not necessarily the bike (although obviously this helps!) but actually the wonderful technological panel attached to it.

There are a few different numbers that come up on your screen which each mean different things. They are as follow:

  1. RPM (top left corner) = the speed you are going.
  2. Level (top right corner) = amount of resistance you have got on.
  3. Wattage output (bottom left corner) = how much energy you are producing i.e. how hard you are working!
  4. And finally, your colour zone (bottom right corner) = what percentage of your maximum effort level you are working at. For instance, in the blue zone you are working at 56-75% of your maximum effort. 

Essentially, the colours work as a guide for how hard you are working and will be influenced by the level you are working at. It makes it really easy to get the most out of your workout and takes the guess work out of everything. Super simple! You’re instructor will be able to see which colour zone you are in and guide you to work within your optimal zones for whatever the focus is at any particular track. (Also, it makes it harder to cheat!)

But hang on a minute, you entered one more number before all the fun party lights started. But this isn’t on the screen? Why did you enter it? What is it? What does it do? So many questions! This number would have been your FTP based on a couple of variables (fitness regime, age and sex) and has a HUGE impact on the data of your workout. Basically, it influences every number on your screen… no big deal. 

So, let’s go through exactly what FTP is all about and why knowing your FTP will elevate your training!

First thing’s first…

What does FTP even mean?

‘Functional Threshold Power’ or just FTP is one of those fun Cycling terms that gets thrown around by cycle enthusiasts without much explanation of what exactly it means. 

To put it really simply, FTP is the the maximum average power (watts) you can (theoretically) maintain for a set amount of time, uninterrupted. In other words, how hard or fast you can pedal without stopping. 

There are a few different methods for finding out what your FTP is but at District we use the ‘Ramp test’. Essentially what this entails is staying at a certain wattage level for 4 minutes and keeping up with the increased wattage until you can no longer physically continue. Think ‘beep-test’… but on a bike!

At the start of every Cycle class you will be asked to enter your FTP number into your bike. The more accurate you are with this number the more accurate you’ll be able to track your fitness and stay within your optimal colour zones for the best possible results (it’s all starting to make sense now!).
P.S. If ‘wattage’ and ‘power’ makes no sense to your mind, have a read here for a quick crash course.
NOTE! The Ramp test is currently only done at certain times, which means that for your first class you might not know what your FTP number is to enter into your panel. A little bit of educated guess work is thus needed to establish where to pitch the level of your class.
The panel will ask you to identify if you think your fitness level is:

  1. Very Low
  2. Low
  3. Medium
  4. High
  5. Very High

Based on your estimation the panel will then give you a number which you can use as a guide for your FTP. After your class you might decide that you would like to actually increase your FTP level for the next class for a more challenging work out (or not). As said before though, the more accurate you are with this number, the better you’ll be able to track your fitness and work within a range that will achieve optimal results. 

There will be FTP specific classes starting in the New Year, so keep your eyes on the schedule to book yourself a spot. Remember, your fitness level will change with your life and your workout regime, so taking and re-taking the Ramp test is a good idea to continually ensure you are doing everything possible to reach your goals. 

Why is this important?

Ultimately, an FTP test is a standardised workout that gives you an insight into your fitness level. This ‘fitness snapshot’ takes all the guess work out of how hard you should or shouldn’t be working. As such, it is tremendously helpful in creating achievable goals for you to improve on and work towards. Simple as that! 

But I have a heart rate monitor?

The MYZONE heart monitor is an awesome tool for gauging your personal effort in any given session! The accompanying app gives you real-time feedback on your workout sessions and gives you a snapshot of what your heart-rate was doing in your class. Plus, it’s got some fun colour grades for each heart-rate section, which is pretty cool to see, let’s be honest! Also, it’s a great way to see what the people you connect with are doing and is awesome for motivation if you’re a bit competitive… just saying. However, while the HR monitor is awesome for personal tracking it is not  specifically helpful within a class environment for the instructor. Having similar fitness levels within a class does not necessarily mean you will have a similar HR output which makes it tricky to use within a group class environment. This is where knowing your FTP is incredibly helpful! There are many different variables which will influence your heart rate levels (what you had for breakfast, how much sleep you are getting or how stressed at work you are, to name a few) but technology doesn’t lie! How hard or fast you are peddling will have a direct correlation to your calorific expenditure, for example, and you’ll be able to see that reflected on the screen instantly in your colour zone. The colours on your panel will also give your instructor an indication of how hard you are working and will assist them in cueing you into your optimal zones. 

Well, that’s all folks! Hopefully you feel more confident stepping into our Cycle studio with funky music and party lights now! Wrapping it up, the points to take home are: 

  1. FTP = fitness level.
  2. Knowing your FTP = being able to set achievable goals and work towards them with tangible, real-time feedback.
  3. FTP also influences how hard you work i.e. the higher your FTP number, the harder you have to work to get into you optimal colour zones and vice versa. If you find your FTP number increasing, the fitter you’re getting (go you!).
  4. MYZONE heart rate monitor = awesome for personal fitness tracking!

If you take only one thing away from reading this: get your butt to Cycle! Cycle at District is definitely a visceral experience with kick-ass instructors who will do their best to answer any and all questions fired at them. In return, they’ll be only to happy to put these words into practice and show you exactly what the red zone looks - and feels - like… (you’re welcome!). 

We’ll see you in the studio!