Rib-busting test: Simon is put through his paces at Athlete Lab / Teri Pengilley


I can now reveal that I have a functional threshold power output (FTP) of 285 watts and, therefore, a power-to-weight ratio of 3.39watts/kg. Yay! But what does it mean, and why have I just about splattered my lungs over the walls of a basement to find out?

I'm at Athlete Lab, a new cycling facility in the City of London, where 30 adjustable road bikes offer the best simulation of real riding I've come across. They include real wheels, gears and, Michael Flynn tells me, "a bit of flex so you can chuck 'em".

Flynn is an amateur triathlete in private equity who decided no gym or road adequately served the time-poor rider. Each bike in his labs throws live data on to a giant video wall, which can also show footage of famous roads. The set-up is so advanced that riders who draft behind others will "feel" the benefit.

Newcomers do the FTP test so coaches can select the right program from those devised by Shane Sutton, the man who helped Wiggo to victory. My 285 figure shows, simply, the highest power I could sustain for an hour, based on a rib-busting 20-minute test. I push incrementally harder so that I have nothing left, and almost fall off my bike.

Further sessions need not be so painful but then, as a quote printed large on a wall here says: 'You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week, or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime'. Bit much, but there's something in that.

Cheapskate's version: Get on yer bike!

Price: single sessions, £30; from £99 monthly. The UK lab is at Monument, London EC4; athlete-lab.co.uk