Cycling 'form'

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Cycling 'form'

Postby Arlberg » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:22 pm

Just wondering about cycling 'form'.

About a month ago I smashed a PB of 3 minutes 23 seconds on a hill I train on regularly. My previous PB was 3 minutes 33 seconds, so quite a significant difference.

Since then I have not been able to get anywhere near that time again.

Also, the day I did that PB, my average heart rate for the climb was 159 bpm, with a max of 169 bpm, considerably lower than it normally is when climbing that hill as fast as I can.

So how is it that on that particular occasion I was able to not only go faster, but also do it with a lower work output. (lower heart rate)?

Since than I am absolutely maxing out the heart rate trying to beat that time, yet still going considerably slower. Why?

And a secondary question, why does the power output line graph on Strava fluctuate up and down so much? This hill is a steady 5% all the way and I felt I rode it smoothly all the way up, yet the power graph varies from 897 watts to almost zero. How does that happen?
Last edited by Arlberg on Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Cycling 'form'

Postby Strawburger » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:36 pm

Easy, just remember the formula: Form = fitness + freshness (google it to find the details). Weather conditions will vary results too. Actual power readings is the only way to compare efforts.

Actual power fluctuates, strava power is a guestimation and is smoother than actual power.
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Re: Cycling 'form'

Postby cyclotaur » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:54 pm

I have a similar situation where my best time up a popular local climb (21:24) is 1:04 faster than the next best and the next 5 times are all within a minute of that second best. I did that time 3 weeks into a 6 week period of higher kms/week late last year. At the start of that block I was 1:23 slower and 5 weeks in I was 1:09 slower. My top 6 times (out of 33 efforts over 2+ years) are all clustered around that period of intense 'training', such as it was. All ridden in good conditions, as I can pick the days I ride.

It's a longer climb than yours, obviously. I think your climb is too short to read much into the times you do, any slight hesitation or delay will ruin your effort at a PB. And being relatively short the Strava speed/time and power data (estimated by algorithm) will be pretty lumpy.
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Re: Cycling 'form'

Postby march83 » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:09 pm

garmin's data or strava's interpretation of it can be a bit dodgy on starts and finishes of segments. that can explain away a few seconds here and there.

HR is extremely subjective so it is difficult to use as an indication of effort. hydration, diet, stress, temperature, etc, can all add or subtract a few bpm.

not meaning to take anything away from your effort, just pointing out a few potential sources of error.

as strawburger says, form = fitness + freshness. in theory, the combination of lots of chronic training stress and very little short term stress will produce a period of good form. wonderful write up of how it is tracked and managed when training with a powermeter here: ... chart.aspx

that said, "form" is something of a dark art - i've had some of my best short term power outputs (3, 6, 10 minutes) in periods of training when short term stress was extremely high and training balance was extremely low. go figure.

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Re: Cycling 'form'

Postby Arlberg » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:38 pm

Thanks for the replies. The funny thing is that I set the PB after riding a hard 100km including the MWCC West Head road race, so I certainly wasn't feeling 'fresh'. When I have tried to better (or even match) that time I have virtually ridden straight to the hill (it's the Zoo Hill in Mosman by the way) and started up it, but as mentioned cannot get anywhere close to that PB despite the 'fresh' legs and lungs in comparison.

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Re: Cycling 'form'

Postby boss » Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:38 pm

I have been pondering the same thing, there is a fairly popular climb here in Adelaide that I PB'ed back in March. It's 8km and I ran a 25:05, at that point in time it shaved 1:36 off my previous PB.

To add to the mystery, in the same ride I PB'ed two 20% climbs prior to the 25:05.

After that run, I've only been able to get within 45 seconds of it. And that was 2 weeks later. Most of my times are about 2 minutes off.

I think in my case, it's a combination of not being able to put together freshness, weather conditions and mental state.

Another factor is that I pretty much always ride early mornings, and I'll only eat a banana or muesli bar before heading out. The 25:05 time was middle of the day.

So I guess... for me, I think it's simply a case of the stars aligning.

Also - I believe a couple of very fast times on other climbs have been caffeine affected. I get a noticeable performance boost if I have a coffee or strong iced coffee... so now, in general, I try steer clear of caffeine before and during rides, I like to ride clean :P

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