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Evaluating my cycling progress over the past year.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


The route that I did on Sunday’s solo training ride was the exact same route I rode on another solo training ride I did almost exactly 1 year ago. My original intention–and the stats geek in me was pretty excited about this–was to compare and contrast the two rides in yesterday’s blog. Unfortunately the whole truck thing became the focus of yesterday’s blog. I’d like to put that unfortunate event behind me now, and get back to my originally scheduled cycling nerdgasm.

First, let’s take a look at the raw data.

Here is the data from my 2014 ride (click to enlarge):

Ridden Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

Ridden Tuesday, April 1, 2014.


Here is the data from this past Sunday’s ride (click to enlarge):

Ridden Sunday, May 3, 2015.

Ridden Sunday, May 3, 2015.


Here are a few similarities and differences between the two rides that are not necessarily reflected in the data.

  • There is an extra mile on this past Sunday’s ride. That’s because I rode a short distance off the route to stop and check my bike over a second time (this was after the accident). Apart from that minor deviation, there is no difference in the two routes.
  • I had aerobars on Sunday’s ride, while I did not on my 2014 ride.
  • My scale weight for the 2014 ride was 163 pounds; My scale weight on Sunday’s ride was 167.4 pounds.
  • As you can see, the average temperature was nearly identical (75°F in 2014 vs 73°F this past Sunday).
  • I was in excellent shape when I did the 2014 ride, less than a week away from the 170 mile cross-Florida ride, for which I’d been training hard. I would say my current conditioning level is as good, or better, than it was in 2014 (the data will help confirm or deny this).
  • I was not hit by a truck on the 2014 ride. 😉

Okay, so my average speed on this past Sunday’s ride (21.4 mi/h) clearly blows the 2014 ride (19.8 mi/h) out of the water. While the aerobars played some role in the difference, the bigger factor is that my average power output was higher (nearly 11% higher) this past Sunday compared to the 2014 ride.

My weighted average power on the 2014 ride was 210 watts, while on this past Sunday’s ride it was 234 watts. The interesting thing about that is my average heart rate was virtually identical: 160 BPM in 2014 vs 161 BPM in 2015. Put another way, my Power/HR ratio in 2014 was 1.3125:1, while this past Sunday it was 1.4534:1. That’s a nice improvement, and it tells me that my overall conditioning is indeed superior to what it was one year ago.

Even though I train with power, I still find heart rate to be a very valuable metric. POWER tells you how much energy you’re generating, HEART RATE is your body’s response to that work. Comparing my heart rate to another athlete is mostly meaningless, but comparing it to my own data is very telling.

Of course watts/kg is very important, too. On the 2014 ride my scale weight was 73.94 kg, which is 2.84 watts/kg for the ~3 hour ride (using weighted average power). My current scale weight is 75.93 kg, and that puts my power-to-weight ratio at 3.08 watts/kg on this past Sunday’s 3 hour ride. So that’s another very nice ~8% performance improvement.

Wind speed, wind direction, aerobars, no aerobars–all of that stuff is not part of the equation when comparing watts/kg. A watt is a watt, and my weight is my weight. Good or bad, watts/kg is The Truth.

The takeaway here is that I’ve made some very significant and tangible progress as a cyclist over the past year. In other words, my training and hard work is paying off. This article actually just scratches the surface of the numbers I look at after every single serious ride. I highly recommend that you check out the awesome, powerful (and free) Golden Cheetah software. There’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

If you train hard and care about becoming stronger on the bike, examining your ride data should be an important part of your training program. Don’t just train hard, train smart.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “Evaluating my cycling progress over the past year.”
  1. I’ve only had my power meter a couple of months, but am already beginning to collect enough data and rides to do some similar comparisons and analysis. Without a power meter this kind of in-depth and useful analysis is virtually impossible. I agree that HR is secondary, but it definitely is worth adding into the fitness equation when comparing the data. In particular, for me when my power starts to dip , but my heart rate stays the same or goes higher I definitely know I’ve either over-trained, under-hydrated or something along those lines, and if I think about it can pinpoint and adjust. Without the power all I would really have is the HR and if it was the same from one ride to another I wouldn’t have a quantifiable way to adequately compare since there are so many variables with speed or “how I feel”. Another factor you didn’t really touch on was cadence. For me anyway, the power meter has really shown what different cadences will do for my performance and fitness. I’m getting a real feel for the kind of cadence and gearing for optimal power as well recovery periods during a ride. It’s not a primary focus, but definitely more relevant with a power meter.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. Those who have not trained with power have no idea what they are missing. Of all the upgrades I’ve made to my bikes over the years, I would say without hesitation that a power meter has had the largest positive effect of them all.

      Cadence is a deep topic, and probably deserves its own blog (or blogs). Personally I’m a spinner, and a proponent of high cadence in almost every situation. That said, I know some super fast local cyclists who are grinders (Owen Shott comes immediately to mind).

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