The Sufferfest: # Full Frontal (4DP Test)

Right. Well then. Where the heck to begin?

I guess we should start with what the heck is a 4DP Test, and why you might even want to do one.

Being the differentiating factor, or unique selling point of The Sufferfest, the 4DP / Four Dimensional Power test is their own spin on the traditional cycling FTP test. Being proprietary, the best place to find out exactly what the 4DP test is would be to look at their official webpage.

However, the very short form version is it’s four power measurements:

  • 5 second – Neuromuscular Power
  • 1 minute – Anaerobic Power
  • 5 minute – Maximal Aerobic Power
  • 20 minute – Functional Threshold Power

Combined, these are your 4 different data points, or Dimensions, that make up your full power profile. The idea is that these values can then define the type of rider you are, and then personalise future workouts to focus in on your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Why you might wish to do a 4DP test? Well, you could enjoy the suffering aspect. I guess that’s one reason. It wasn’t my reason. My reasons were:

  1. See how this differs to the traditional FTP test
  2. Do the big thing that The Sufferfest is known for and ultimately, designed around
  3. See whether my overall form has improved since my last FTP test

Also, you know, it makes good blog content 😉

One last note: some of the screenshots in this post are from during my actual test, and then most are from me going back and snapping them post ride. There was just no chance I could do this at my best effort and fanny around taking screenshots.

My Starting Stats

You may or may not know, but at the time of writing I am on my 14 day free trial of The Sufferfest. In fact, I am very close to the end of my free trial. I knew that if I were to continue on, to get the most benefit from the program I needed to have accurate power numbers.

At the start of the joining process I was asked three questions:

  1. Height – 181cm
  2. Weight – 68kg
  3. Current FTP – 238w

My weight has been fluctating a bit over the last few weeks, between 67kg and 69kg. From what I’ve seen, this appears normal for me. I picked the middle value.

Regarding my FTP, I have no idea why I have kept it at 238w… I can’t remember where that figure originally came from (I did hit it, I promise). I took this value from 95% of 251w. However, my last ramp test had me at 224w, so keep both of these figures in mind for the end of this post.

As I only had my FTP figure to begin with, The Sufferfest had calculated the following values for me as my guesstimated 4DP profile:

  • 5 second – Neuromuscular Power – 654w (guessed)
  • 1 minute – Anaerobic Power – 358w (guessed)
  • 5 minute – Maximal Aerobic Power – 286w (guessed)
  • 20 minute – Functional Threshold Power – 238w (my provided value)

Pre Ride Prep

Not gunna lie, I was anxious about doing this.

The very first time I did an FTP test, I felt like I was going to die. I hit a maximum heart rate of 202 bpm, and whilst the process and resulting figure was eye opening, and useful, it took me a good long while to pluck up the courage to do another one.

Then the second time I did one, it was nowhere near as bad as the first. However, I kinda cheated. I did my FTP tests using Zwift (which becomes important in a second), and I skipped the bit at the start that puts a bit of stress in the legs.

Being the know it all arse I am, I figured I should skip that bit, right? It kicked my ass, and then subsequently screwed up my best 20 minutes… so surely it would be best to do the effort at my peak?

Now, I would have to say that’s a failing of Zwift. They don’t explain why that’s a terrible idea. In fact, compared to The Sufferfest, they don’t explain very much at all.

By comparison, The Sufferfest has an entire build up routine that they advise you follow before doing this test. And by and large, I did it. For me, that’s huge. Having that structure, that element of science, that level of thought and explanation as to how / why this stuff matters, and how to prep for it before and during the ride? That’s just huge. So massive props to The Sufferfest for doing that stuff.

Getting Underway

The warm up to this one is fairly laid back. I’d actually started a little earlier, just to get the legs spinning, make sure everything felt right and was generally as best it could be before the big show.

There’s a few little warm up efforts thrown in here, but I made sure to reign myself in, even if that meant being in the granny ring for most of the first five minutes. Mentally I knew the rough stuff most definitely lay ahead.

Having done the pre-ride reading, I knew the structure for this ride was as follows:

  1. 5 second sprints
  2. 5 minute effort
  3. 20 minute ‘traditional’ FTP ride
  4. 1 minute empty the tank, whatever is left, try not to soil yourself

I also knew, or thought I knew and therefore did, not to spin up ahead of the sprints. They were supposed to be ‘tractor pull’ or standing start efforts.

Sprinting is absolutely not my strong suit.

I did my best, and you get two attempts at this, though neither were stellar. I’ve probably done better sprints in my time, but especially on the second one, I really did try. I mean, I tried on the first, but I feel my second was the better of the two.

Then it was into a nice little rest and recovery.

Not so bad, right?

Yeah, it genuinely didn’t feel awful. Yet.

5 Minutes Of Cycling, How Hard Can That Be?

The true test (for me) began with the 5 minute max effort.

Whilst I had done my pre-ride prep, and figured out a solid target value for myself, I should point out that The Sufferfest will generate a suggested target value (for all segments) based on your existing 4DP profile.

Note, the screenshot above is taken from my 4DP values after this session, because I went back and took screenshots after the workout was completed / in a new session.

My suggested target was, I think, something around 280w. I’d written down on a piece of paper that I had next to my bike that my target was 300w.

For this one I tried to keep my cadence high. About 100rpm high, though I think I was closer to 95-97rpm average… I haven’t checked.

True enough, by 3 minutes in I was absolutely hurting. My legs? Sure. But also my stomach. In fact I remember my stomach hurting more than my legs… and my legs hurt!

One thing I found in both the 5 minute and 20 minute efforts was my head kept dropping. This had the negative impact of cutting off my air flow from neck up / fully open wind pipe, to slightly obscured wind pipe. Of course, it’s not a major thing, but every little helps when you’re on the limit. So keeping that head high became a ‘thing’ for me.

Those final two minutes though? They hurt. Hurt real bad.

I’d say I hurt the most in the 5 minute block. Boy did I go for this one.

My kids, my wife, and my neighbours all got treated to grunts, groans, gasps, and finally a rather elated sigh of relief.

Walk It Off

Interestingly, the cool down period for the the two big efforts involved getting off the bike.

This was, again, hugely different to Zwift, and something I haven’t even considered before.

After the effort, it switched up to a very light pedal stroke – back to the very easiest gear I had. This was around 70w / 90rpm.

And then after ~2 minutes of this, the penguin waddled across the screen and the prompt told me to get off and walk it off.

Actually, this was a perfect chance for a toilet break.

And yes, I do believe it helped. Both the pee break and the walk.

5 Minutes? Pfft, Now Do 20 Minutes

One the the 4DP Test does differently to the classic FTP test is to take the full power value from your 20 minute effort.

In other words, this isn’t ride at max, and get 95%.

This is ride at max, and get 100%.

Of course, the caveat is your have just absolutely emptied the tank to do the 5 minute effort, and have had ~5 minutes recovery. Your best 20 minute effort is therefore not going to be absolutely mesmerising.

Mine certainly wasn’t.

Pacing this one, I went out at the suggested 238W.

Note, this is suggested to be your existing FTP. Not over, curiously.

The challenge being: can you hold your FTP for 20 minutes, whilst already smashed?

I have to say, the first 2 minutes went fast enough. When I first looked up, after finding a rhythm of sorts, I was at 18:10 remaining.

Not so for the remaining 18 minutes, sadly.

By 5 minutes in, my cadence was almost rock solid at 97rpm, but my power was fluctuating.

Whereas I’d come in a little hot at around 250w, I’d already fallen off to around 220w. Forcing more power out of each stroke was going to be a challenge.

Getting passed that initial 5 minutes – down to 15 minutes remaining – was perhaps the biggest ask of the day.

I’d run out of water, and thankfully my eldest came back with my water bottle topped up, with ice cubes in there for luck. So kind. And boy did I need that – given it was the hottest day of the year (so far). What a time to pick to do this one.

Getting passed 10 minutes in / remaining felt good, but as ever those mental questions are already well passed being raised – my God, it was that hard and I have to keep it up for the same amount again? How? HOW? HOW!?

Yet, some how, I did.

Though it wasn’t a great performance. And those final two minutes? Jeepers. Misery. Why are those final two minutes always so hard? It’s like the full 20 again.

What’s 20 Times Easier? Just One Minute!

Much like after the 5 minute test, the recovery / off the bike walk about was repeated after the 20 minute effort.

By this point, I was mentally over the line.

Yes, there was one hard minute remaining.

But. BUT!

But this was a max effort, right ?

This, for me, is actually (mentally) easier to process than a gruelling slog of multiple minutes. Why? Because I can get out of the saddle, push as hard as I possibly can, scream, shout, let it all out. And a minute? It goes by fast. It really does.

And sure enough, whilst not professional standard by any stretch, I got through it, and by the time I looked up, there was only 5 seconds remaining.

I’d sprinted for 15 seconds out the saddle, and done the rest (in a variety of increasingly easy gears) in the saddle. No standing sprint finish for me today, sadly.

The Unexpected Results Of My 4DP Test

With that done, the 4DP test was over.

And whilst I felt absolutely knackered, I also felt great.

Mission accomplished.

Would I have even bothered if I hadn’t committed to doing this in the weekly review, and had a blog post to write after the fact?

Honestly… maybe not?

The most surprising thing of all – from my point of view – was the result I got:

OK – so it’s not 100% confident, because I wasn’t wearing my heart rate strap. Well, trust me, The Sufferfest, that Wahoo Tickr? Garbage. Better off without it. I’m going for a Polar strap instead. Sick of wasting my time with that at this point.

Anyway, yeah… an attacker, eh?

I did not see that coming.

Frankly I’ve always considered myself as an all rounder. Not particularly good at anything 😀

Turns out my best effort was considered to be my 1 minute ‘attack’, which blows my mind. However, it’s also consistent with some other similar efforts I’ve done previously on Zwift. So maybe there is method to the madness, after all?

Having the new profile is super useful.

The next step is doing a follow on workout – one of each of the below, strength / weakness workouts to push myself further where I’m doing well, and pull myself up where I need to improve.

So, of course, I shall be continuing my subscription – or starting it, putting in the ol’ credit card details – to continue on with their service. I bet their continuation rate from free trials who complete the 4DP Test through to Paying Subscriber is phenomenal.

Lastly, there’s one question I want to address. One which I had right back at the start, which is:

Half Or Full Monty?

It says the Full Monty is for ‘experienced cyclists’, whereas the Half Monty is for … I guess, newbs?

Well, from what I can see, the only difference is the Half Monty doesn’t include the 1 minute effort, and the 2x 5 second sprints.

From my point of view, those two were the easiest bits. You might as well do the Full Monty and show off everything you have got. Because I’m guessing after doing either, you won’t be keen to repeat again within the next two months 😀

Anyway, that’s me done. My next ride will be an easy one, that’s for sure.

2 thoughts on “The Sufferfest: # Full Frontal (4DP Test)”

    • Thanks, yeah I was definitely anxious about tackling this one.

      Truth is, if I can do it, anyone can do it 🙂 It’s not much different to the Zwift FTP test really – both hurt, both are no fun. There’s the 5 minute bit which is exhausting, but the 20 minutes can be done at a ‘realistic’ intensity, so somehow not as bad?

      I don’t know. I’ve had two beers and a BBQ since then, so it’s all a bit murky.

      One of them crazy things that in hindsight doesn’t seem as bad as it was, and the ‘high’ you get for completing it makes it seem somehow worthwhile. I’m genuinely looking forwards to seeing what my workouts are now that I’ve done this. Nuts.


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