The Training Hours

Golden Cheetah – Basic Setup, Care and Feeding

Home » The Training Hours » Golden Cheetah – Basic Setup, Care and Feeding

Analyzing your powermeter data is as important as training with power. In my previous post I made an overview of what actually a Training Analysis Software (such as Golden Cheetah) does behind the scenes so to speak.

Initial Setup

After you install Golden Cheetah there are couple of important things you need to take care of before you can use the program – here is a quick start guide.

First you need, to set up you training zones. Go to Tools > Options > Athlete.

Click on the Power Zones tab. Enter your (estimated) Functional Threshold Power. Golden Cheetah refers to FTP as Critical Power (CP). If you have no idea what your CP is, 3W/kg body weight is a good starting point. Golden Cheetah can help you estimate better (more on that further down). Also enter the date when this CP “starts.” For example if you started training in January 2012, enter January 1st, 2012.


Similarly you can setup your Heart Rate (HR)  Zones, however, knowing your Lactate Threshold (LT) heartrate (NOT your max HR) and such takes some testing and/or understanding training with a HR monitor. In my experience estimating your max HR using the 220-Age formula is not very accurate so if you want to setup your HR zones, guesstimate as best as you can, you can correct it later on, after you have collected some data. My Resting HR is a total shot in the dark. I should measure it one of these mornings just out of curiosity…

Remember that Golden Cheetah is a Power analysis software so HR is not as important.


NOTE: If you correct your LT HR or CP (let’s say your starting season CP was 330W instead of 300W), Golden Cheetah will update ALL your training files automatically from the date of the new HR/CP.

Optional Setup Steps

You can change the colors of pretty much everything inside the program. Go to Tools > Options > Colors. I am not a big fan of the default theme so I changed some things to something that looked better.

Uploading a Ride (File)

Golden Cheetah supports file formats from all devices (.tcx, .fit, etc) so all you need to do is connect your Garmin Edge, etc to your computer and Go to Ride > Import from file or press CTRL+I. Select the file you want to upload, wait for Golden Cheetah to verify it and click Finish. You are done. You can enter ride notes (I highly recommend doing so) just like you would do in a training diary. Golden Cheetah recognizes some keywords in (the first line) of your notes like: Endurance, Tempo, TT, FTP, etc., and assigns a color to your ride based on them. You can see them under Tools > Options >Settings > Ride Data >  Notes Keywords. For example a TT or a Race gets colored red, a Z2 endurance ride appears light green, etc. I find this a nice perk so you can just glance over your calendar and easily find your last race, etc.


Manual Ride Upload or Estimating Variables

Sometimes things go wrong – your powermeter or bike computer run out of batteries mid ride so at best you are left with a broken datafile. Usually though it is not salvageable so you have to manually import the ride. Also workouts on the indoor trainer I find are better judged by perceived effort and heart rate because the power is lower than what I see on the road. Therefore you can also manually import so you are at all times on top of your training progress. Go to Ride > Manual Ride Entry  or CTRL+M. The key here is consistency. If you import one file and make the program estimate based on time, every time you need to estimate using time not distance and vice versa. As you train and collect enough files you will be able to get a feeling of what a 1h Z2 ride is in terms of Bikescore etc. In my case a 1h Z2 is ~40 Bikescore and ~20 Daniels points, etc…

NOTE: There is one caveat though. Golden Cheetah uses all your data to estimate your training stress. Therefore if you have no other files, GC cannot give you a number.

The Performance Manager (PM)

How hard did you work and how did your body respond? How tired are you after a week of training? Are you fresh/fit for you important race? That is what the Performance Manager shows you. More details on how everything is calculated is in my post here. In general Blue is fitness, Purple is Fatigue and Yellow is freshness (I changed the default colors). Fit and fresh is the best state to be for races, however, you have to be fatigued to get fitter. Balance is important!


There are 3 metrics in Golden Cheetah – Bikescore  and Daniels Points (both using power to estimate training stress) and TRIMP, based on heart rate.

Critical Power

The third tab in Golden Cheetah is the so-called “Critical Power” (CP) or your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). I find that part being quite useful.  If you do a good amount of hard group rides, intervals in your daily training etc, Golden Cheetah puts all the data together and estimates your FTP and as you get fitter it adjusts accordingly. Basically you need to do a little bit of everything (threshold riding, tempo, endurance, VO2 max) and the software connects all the dots to give you a number.


I found it to be good within 5-7W which is less than 2% on 300W. Of course the best way to determine is by testing, however, there is no single best way determine your FTP it besides doing an all out 1h time trial – LOTS of pain. Also doing a test every couple of months/weeks might not be feasible so if you keep checking the CP screen you can see your improvement and adjust your training zones. The black line represents the ride you have selected from your calendar.  If you click and hold anywhere on the screen you can see your best power for a given interval (in this case 20min), your current ride 20min best and where does the CP curve fit. As you can see my 2012 season 20min best and the CP are within 4W of each other.


That’s it – the most essential information regarding analyzing your powermeter data.

In a later post I will cover more advanced features of the software such as (Aerobic Power) Metrics, Predicting Training Stress, etc.

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Home » The Training Hours » Golden Cheetah – Basic Setup, Care and Feeding

19 replies on “Golden Cheetah – Basic Setup, Care and Feeding”

I’m glad you found my tutorial useful. I’ll be adding more Golden Cheetah guides in the future so stay tuned.

Good luck!

Nice tutorial. I use GC extensively, but I’m confused by what happens when you upload results from a trainer ride that has a a distance of 0.0. It looks like it can’t accurately assess the data. I’ve used the Garmin speed sensor with the magnet on the wheel before, but I don’t feel like setting that up on my new bike. I’ve hacked some of the .tcx files before importing them to estimate the distance just to get GC to behave, but I’d rather not be forced to do this. Any idea?

I suggest you take a look at my post Making Sense of your Powermeter Data: (

Basically Golden Cheetah is a program that measures and records training stress. How long x How Hard = Training stress. Golden cheetah uses Bikescore and Daniels points to measure training stress based on power and TRIMP based on heartrate

Distance is not a direct measure of how long so you gotta have some way to measure how hard. Best way is a powermeter, after that is Heart Rate and Perceived effort, last is jsut Perceived effort.

For example: a 1h Z2 (endurance) ride is about 40 Bikescore and 20 Daniels points.

I have a post about Indoor Trainer Workouts and such where I touch upon importing trainer workouts and evaluating how hard you worked (without a powermeter for example.)

I hope that helps, if you have further questions you can reply to this post.

Good luck!


Can’t you put a speed sensor on your rear wheel? It works for me, and my power is generally the same indoor and out. When it’s hot it’s even better better inside than outside. The biggest difference is staying cool. Use fans big ones and more than one. I use a fluid trainer, and it’s like riding into a 7 mph headwind. So, add a indoor mileage bonus of about 10-15%. But it’s flat where I live. If I were climbing mountains I might have to subtract miles, but you’ll know what’s normal for you at a certain watts how many miles you average.

Hi David,

Thank you for the comment. In general after many years training, I have come to the conclusion that there only two things that matter time and intensity, mileage is just a by-product of the two and as such a simple stopwatch and a HR monitor is all one needs. Power meters, IF/WHEN used correctly (correlated to HR as a very basic example) are definitely an invaluable tool both indoor and outdoor. Therefore trying to add mileage to indoor rides does not really serve a practical purpose in my opinion. I guess the various VR trainers that have really become popular in the recent years all use some algorithms to do that, though I have no personal experience with any of them.


Hi and thank you for the comment.

I am glad it helped. Although it is for an earlier version, it is more or less the same. I have bunch of posts about other features of Golden Cheetah coming soon(ish). So stay tuned and best of luck with your training!=)


Yes I have downloaded the newest version and it’s a little bit different to the screenshots on your page, but I’m slowly getting my head around all the acronyms, options and features. A lot to take in! I look forward to your future posts. Cheers.

The current version (3.0) is basically the old version at its core with a lot more other stuff added. The color scheme makes it look much different, however, you can change it like the ‘classic’ theme from Options>>Appearance. I like the old white background much better so even the new version looks like the previous ones. Let me know if any other questions come up as you discover more of the features of Golden Cheetah.


Hi again=)

I was away last weekend so apologies for the delayed response. To answer your question I will direct you to my article Making Sense of Your Powermeter Data ( There I explain the basics and what the Performance Manager Chart (PMC) actually shows. Understanding this basic principles of training stress would definitely help you plan and make sense of what workouts do to your fitness.


Hey there,

I was down south and my powermeter died. I’m trying to in put my files into GC and everything goes in perfectly but when I look at my PMC Chart the data doesn’t show the stress. I couldn’t figureout what values I in put to generate my skiba stress number. Any ideas?


Hello and thanks for your comment,

As you correctly have observed without power data, Golden Cheetah cannot calculate Bikescore/TSS (Training stress) so it cannot populate the performance manager chart. Therefore your best bet is to estimate your training stress. In short 1h at normalized threshold power (FTP) = 100 Bikescore. Also from my experience 1h endurance ride at steady pace comes to about 40. From there you can make a good guess of how your training stress and than enter it manually in the Metric (don’t forget to save afterwards). If you have a heartrate monitor, you can use the ‘Time in zone’ for a more accurate estimation. It won’t be perfect, but it will be close enough and that is what you are after anyway. I’ve had my fair share of estimated rides when i forget to charge my Garmin (happens more often than you think…). Another quite reliable method is to use similar rides you did in the past as templates.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck!


Thanks for the help I read through some more of your posts and figured out that I needed to add a bike score and Daniel points in order to generate the Skiba stress. Not my PMC chart looks more accurate.

Thanks again

Hi Nikola

Ive just started using GC and would like use it to monitor my endurance riding and help me get in to an appropriate training program. I have a heart rate monitor attached to a Bryton bike computer and now have 2 months of data. Some quick queries:

1. is it worth getting a power meter? It looks like the best way to directly measure power and so stress and intensity
2. my rides vary from 40min through to 12hrs, almost all with full HRM data. What is the best way to estimate bikescore to enter manually?
3. I guess developing an appropriate training program is too big a topic (and overlaps with you post on MAF, but is there a good basic series of metrics to monitor to judge improvement?#

Thanks again for the thoughtful blog!

Hi Mike,

Thank you for the nice words. My first advice is (and it comes from personal experience) is to not focus on all the ever-increasing metrics that Golden Cheetah and all those training analysis programs (Strava, etc) seem to provide. What I mean by that is that we already have the best fitness tracker – it is called a brain, we just need to learn to use it.

Getting to your questions, they are in a way related so I will adress them together, in case I mised something/assumed wrongly, please let me know.

Is it worth getting a power meter – my answer is ‘YES’ though it is easy spending other people’s money=). You did not mention the way you currently train – MAF or otherwise, though it is best to have at least two (connected) metrics in order to monitor your progress. For example HR and Power. If over time you produce higher power at a given heartrate – you are fitter. Power is a very robust metric and as cyclists we are lucky to have such a way to measure it directly. Obviously there are other methods such as time over a course at a given (MAF) HR, though you start to introduce variables (wind, temperature, etc.). GPS computer is extremely helpful here. The latter is defintely doable, and I have been doing it for the good part of 4years on my commuting route (no power meter on my commuting bike). Defintely check out my post here ( to give you some insight on how to set up ‘segments’ to monitor your progress. The current version of Golden Cheetah supports making your own personal intervals/segments so if you have GPS data, you can retrospectively look at your past rides (with HR data). Let me know if you need some help with that. I recommend crank based powermeters, since they give you the most flexibility, and pretty much any brand today is of high quality and would serve you well.

As far as estimating Bikescore, *in my opinion* this is barking under the wrong tree and you can literally drown in the pages of discussion on how to estimate it based on this or that or that other thing. Yes it does make for some pretty graphs though that is about it, it realy doesn’t tell you anything about your health and fitness. MAF tests are such a simple and yet highly robust way to monitor your progress that if you couple that to how you *feel* – tired, hungry, sore, etc you have the best endurance program. As I already maention we all own the best fitness tracker ever invented.

Indeed, making a ‘program’ is a bit too broad of a topic and I don’t know any specifics on your current fitness/family/nutrition/stress/injury/etc situation so I cannot give you any advice. The MAF method is (I hate using that word) holistic, so it is a bit more that just writing down a couple of workouts. You can take a look at my posts under the Me and MAF tag here ( to get an idea and I highly recommed reading Dr. Maffetones Big Book of endurance Training and Racing; another great resource is “Primal Endurance” by Mark Sisson and the related podcast. Also I have a good nubmer of ‘primary source books’ here (

All the best with your cycling pursuits and defintely let me know if you have further questions.



Hi Philip,
I am not familiar with Wahoo bike computers, though the principle should be the same. connect your device to yuor computer via USB and then Ride>Import from File. You should look for the folder on your device that contains the activities. On Garmin devices for example that folder is Garmin>Activities and files are organized by date.

Saving to the desktop should work as well, though it is an extra unneccesary step.


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