We often hear comments about the need to test, maybe it was to determine training zones, but rarely do we hear about the process of how to test. Because if you are serious, you have probably wondered about how to test this mysterious element called "faster." The simple element of outputting more power, or being more aero, may not be the whole story.
What Is faster?
If you are like most of us, you probably have a favorite training ride that you use as a benchmark, or maybe a long hill someplace. When you compare the time or average power numbers, have you ever wondered "Man, I felt stronger, so why am I slower?" The facts are clear and yes, you may have done better, but if the numbers aren't what you expected? What do you do?
Let's dig deeper. What does it take to really measure improvement? If you have the personal discipline and time to conduct some tests, we should be able to discover your true potential, such as questions concerning the benefit of equipment changes, a bike fit, or the benefit of a new warm up routine.
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To find answers, we need to perform quality testing.
Fun in Testing
If the word "test" causes you to flash back to cramming for an exam, don't let it put you off. For cyclists, tests should be fun and enlightening—even the part where we are cranking hard. To set up a test protocol, start by answering these questions:
- What do you want to test?
- What conditions are relevant for this test?
- Which of the conditions will be controlled?
- Which of the conditions will have variation?
- Which variables can't be controlled?
Those questions might sound complicated, but let's treat this process as another challenge. Say you want to monitor your progress in training for a 40 km time trial in an upcoming race. Your progressive performance is a 40 km time trial, but from the perspective of quality training this distance is too great to complete in a test so let's cut it in half and test 20 km for the purpose of producing a realistic test with effective training value. Let's begin with a baseline result. This means we will use an initial performance—either an existing effort at 20 km or create an initial effort for comparison to later performances. Let's assume you have a previous result so we can apply some variables.