Do you have a local hill/mountain/flat section of pavè that is a favorite place to test your current fitness or handling skills? I always imagine the time before power meters and real science being put into application to measure a cyclist’s fitness that one would use a benchmark ride and perceived effort as a quasi-empirical way to determine skills and fitness.
In theory this is a very sound way to determine your fitness level throughout the year (disregarding things difficult to measure):
Observation: Cycling performance throughout the season.
Hypothesis: I am a faster rider than earlier in the season.
Experiment: Record data with cyclocomputer at points in time throughout the season on the same loop.
This will be a single subject design, therefore only be a control group will be present, with access to the knowledge of results throughout.
Being able to access the knowledge of results (cyclocomputer data) throughout the span of the experiment (season) in separate studies has shown statistically significant increases in performance.
Why the increase in performance? This is not easily explained with just one experiment, but theories for further study include:
- Humans being naturally competitive with others and one’s self.
- The desire to increase performing efficiency of a task (cycling).
- Plain old curiosity of exploiting or manipulating techniques or behaviors for intrinsic reward.
These benchmarks allow you to basically be able to plan, train for, and reach goals set for one’s self.
By being able to measure the variable of performance which is presumable going to increase or decrease against a constant variable (distance/elevation/etc), one can learn to adapt to that ride, and possibly decrease times/increase fitness on the loops.
Examples of this are how long it takes you to commute to work every day when you first start, versus how long it takes when you are still commuting two years later, same idea with that hill/mountain on your benchmark ride. One of my unspoken tests of fitness and ability is a half mile flat stretch between two businesses that comes across on many group rides I join in on.
These kinds of measurements are great when you don’t have others to base your fitness against. It is just you and the clock… and time can be a huge motivator.
What do you think? Do you ever compare previous time measurements to current ones for signs of improvement? I’ll have to say with the Garmin Edge 500 and Garmin Connect, it really makes these kinds of inquiries a lot easier. It never hurts to be able to record your progress and enjoyably look back and see how much better you are now as compared to then, no?
Don’t forget that wvcycling’s freebie contest ends Feb 1st