Objective To investigate whether poor preoperative cardiopulmonary reserve and comorbid state dictate high-risk status and can predict complications in patients undergoing radical cystectomy (RC). Patients and Methods In all, 105 consecutive patients with transitional cell carcinoma (TCC; stage T1-T3) undergoing robot-assisted (38 patients) or open (67) RC in a single UK centre underwent preoperative cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET). Prospective primary outcome variables were all-cause complications and postoperative length of stay (LOS). Binary logistic regression analysis identified potential predictive factor(s) and the predictive accuracy of CPET for all-cause complications was examined using receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. Correlations analysis employed Spearman's rank correlation and group comparison, the Mann-Whitney U-test and Fisher's exact test. Any relationships were confirmed using the Mantel-Haenszel common odds ratio estimate, Kaplan-Meier analysis and the chi-squared test. Results The anaerobic threshold (AT) was negatively (r = -206, P = 0.035), and the ventilatory equivalent for carbon dioxide (VE/VCO2) positively (r = 0.324, P = 0.001) correlated with complications and LOS. Logistic regression analysis identified low AT (<11 mL/kg/min), high VE/VC02 (≥33) and hypertension as significant factors, such that, in their presence patients were 5.55-times more likely to have complications at 90 days postoperatively [P = 0.001, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.2-13.9]. ROC analysis showed a high significance (area under the curve 0.78, 95% CI 0.69-0.87; P < 0.001). In addition, based on CPET criteria >50% of patients presenting for RC had significant heart failure, whereas preoperatively only very few (2%) had this diagnosis. Analysis using the Mann-Whitney test showed that a VE/VCO2 ≥33 was the most significant determinant of LOS (P = 0.004). Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that patients in this group had an additional median LOS of 4 days (P = 0.008). Finally, patients with an American Society of Anesthesiologists grade of 3 (ASA 3) and those on long-term β-blocker therapy were found to be at particular risk of myocardial infarction (MI) and death after RC with odds ratios of 4.0 (95% CI 1.05-15.2; P = 0.042) and 6.3 (95% CI 1.60-24.8; P = 0.008). Conclusion Patients with poor cardiopulmonary reserve and hypertension are at higher risk of postoperative complications and have increased LOS after RC. Heart failure is known to be a significant determinant of perioperative death and is significantly under diagnosed in this patient group.