Joining The Sufferfest

Wahoo’s The Sufferfest is, as far as I am aware, the second biggest online / indoor cycling platform available to the sweating masses right now. Again, I’m guessing, but I believe Zwift is the first. This completely disregards closed platforms like Peloton.

I’ve been promising myself that I’d get involved in The Sufferfest for months. And I do mean months.

What I believe has been putting me off is the belief that the very first thing I needed to do was their 4DP test. For those unfamiliar, 4DP, or Four Dimensional Power, is The Sufferfest’s variant of the widely known / feared FTP test, and is more rigorous. Which I guess means it’s harder.

It was on a GCN episode that I learned that the 4DP test is mandatory and is the very first workout you must do.

But either that is no longer the case, or was incorrect. Either way, it definitely put me off. However, it seems that it isn’t the first workout I need to do, if I already know my FTP:

So that’s nice.

The 4DP process should then be able to tell me what kind of rider I am:

I’m surprised to find they don’t have the seventh type of rider: Lazy, which is closer to where I feel I fit.

Anyway, after completing the setup process, I was then dropped to this page… which is a bit weird. Not sure what I was supposed to do on this one.

What I wanted to find out is how can I do a Sweet Spot Training style workout. Is that even a thing inside The Sufferfest?

I watched the video to ‘take a tour of the app’, which was a useful 2.5 minute overview of what’s on offer. There seems like a lot – from cycling, to running, strength exercises specifically for cyclists, weights (I think!) and yoga.

Then I went looking for the SST session I so like from Zwift, or something roughly equivalent.

Here’s the one I found:

What I thought could be improved upon here was to make that graph interactive in some way. It would be nice to be able to mouse over the different sections and see things like length of time, and intensity. Unfortunately it’s just a picture.

At the time of writing, it seems there is an event on – Spring Loaded – probably not something I’m going to pursue right now, what with just getting setup and started.

I also wanted to call out that there are various search functions and filters:

This hasn’t touched on the other big section of the app which is Training Plans. I’m not going to cover them here, as that is again, way beyond the scope of my initial ride.

Before I jumped into the SST session, I first wanted to make sure I was all setup and ready to roll. There’s a dedicated video for this:

There is another video for getting started on a mobile device. As it says:

New to The Sufferfest and using our Desktop app? This video takes you through how to connect your devices, customize the screen and read the different metrics. Be sure you’re on your bike, have your devices powered up and are ready to do a little bit of pedaling.

## Getting Started: Desktop – The Sufferfest

So in short, a working tutorial. Let’s get cracking.

The ten minute introduction to the app started well enough. The mustachio man goes over the various bits and pieces, though somewhat unusually talks about setting up the app to work with a trainer – yet you need to have connected the trainer already to make the video start playing… so that’s a bit weird.

Anyway, my biggest, or perhaps more accurately, smallest gripe was that at 4K, the top right box was so small I couldn’t see any of it from the bike. This inevitably meant I kept starting, listening, stopping, unclipping, going to the screen to see what the heck he was on about, then repeating … about five times.

In the end I decided to sod all that and just googled what each symbol meant.

Whilst he talks, you pedal, and this is where things were a little… weird?

As you can see below, there’s two big numbers – 193 watts, and 106 rpm / cadence. The numbers above this are what I should have been at – 172 watt average, and 90 rpm.

This was the precursor to my problems, though it didn’t really matter so much on this introduction ride.

With that out of the way I swapped to the FTP Over-Unders: 3 Sets 8 X 1:

Over-Unders are one of those tried and true sessions that folks have been using for years to improve their FTP and get faster. This session works on the same physiological principal as sessions like Who Dares and Fight Club. Those sessions hit you with short efforts well above FTP, followed by longer efforts moderately below FTP.

The concept is simple: you alternate blocks of time just below your FTP, with equal duration blocks just above your FTP. For this session, each interval is 8-minutes in length, with 1-minute blocks at 95% of FTP (Under) and 1-minute blocks at 105% of FTP (Over). The real training benefit comes from that time spent just below FTP trying to “Recover.” Physiologically, you train your body to be more efficient when working just below FTP. Mentally, it shows you that you can still “recover” (or at least hold on for dear life) as long as you are riding just a little below your FTP.

This looked to be the closest workout to Zwift’s SST ride – perhaps a tad easier, even?

And so off I went.

Immediately, my numbers were stupid.

You can see above, even during the warm up (about the only place I was able to manage to use the keyboard to take a screenshot), I was way over my numbers.

The three or four warm up surges had me really pushing – mainly because my power meter was reading way higher than was displaying on screen.

To give some idea, above is one of my on blocks.

At 105% of a 238w FTP, I should have been at 250w.

I was killing myself during the on blocks, and recovering (or trying to) above FTP during the off blocks. Totally unsustainable.

Of course I had these visions of being able to see it through.

Of being able to make it to the end of the workout, to have been given a ridiculous challenge, and made the best of it.

But when it came down to it, I just didn’t have it in me. I was dying. Hard.

Like Bruce Willis, in that film of a similar name. Pulp Fiction.

Anyway, this discrepancy can be best seen in the training peaks workouts. At the top is the combined Garmin Edge 530 stats for my entire workout. And below are the two The Sufferfest reported workouts.

Quite the difference in training stress score.

Now, this is not the first time this has happened to me. I had this happen in Zwift.

During the workout I tried mucking around with the various settings I’d learned about inside the 10 minute intro video, but didn’t find the right one to get this power discrepancy to go away.

However, it may be that I need to do this to make my Favero Assioma DUO pedals work with The Sufferfest. I hadn’t done that prior to riding. It’s possible that caused the fault.

The other thing is maybe to drop ERG mode and control my own resistance – if that’s the case, I will very likely give up and move on. Hopefully not.

It pains me to have failed this workout, but like a bad workman, for the moment I am going to blame my tools. With another try, a bit of persistence, and a touch of luck, I shall hopefully have another go at this one tomorrow, and see the bugger through.

2 thoughts on “Joining The Sufferfest”

  1. Glad you got into the Sufferfest! Although I was hoping to hear about that 4D test :p

    Totally legit to blame the tools here. I did a ramp test the other day and during the “Leg Openers” workout I was using as a warm up, HRM continously dropped and power did too at one point. Also my Stages power meter was reading 10-20w higher than the Kickr was reading on Zwift. Between that and a colleague continuously pinging me on Webex (go the lunch break rides) my hear just wasnt in it.

    Hopefully you get your tech ironed out for the 4D test 😀

    • I did see you’d done a ramp test. That’s kinda what jogged (slash, shamed!) me into moving on. But then I saw that I could get away with not doing it. And I also wanted to make sure I’d got my setup right before hand. Clearly, I haven’t.

      Very frustrating when all the kit doesn’t work.

      My approach has been to use the Assioma pedals for both indoors and out. This seems great – I think it was your suggestion, way back – as whatever I see in and out correlate nicely.

      If I pursue TSF then I think I might have to switch back to the Tacx Neo as the “source of truth”. What this will inevitably mean is my FTP is wrong / way higher than it ought to be. No bad thing, in some ways. I could have two settings, that’s not the end of the world. But clearly I can’t use it as it stands.

      There’s some guidance on merging the Assioma pedals, but then that means I need to unsync them when I go out … and all that’s just a massive ball ache I’m never gunna remember.

      Anyway, I’ll give TSF another go – pick a recovery ride and do that next. Killed myself yesterday, and then things just went crazy IRL after that. No desire to ride today. Just knackered.

      But yep, all things being well, I shall do that 4DP test this weekend and cry into my chamois cream over my newly revised FTP of 98w.


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