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Updated May 19, 2022 | By Bob Fugett

Prequel: the story before the story

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"If you can ride 10 miles in under 30 minutes you may be ready for mass-start racing."

That statement was in the first book I read on cycling in 1997, and it seemed like an objective enough reference for judging my cycling performance.

That is, until I started planning my test and realized, "Vague, vague, vague."

Was the test to be performed on the local rail-trail where my training partner and I had worked hard to achieve consistent 16 mph averages by fighting each other for the lead, while darting around and through automobile traffic, walkers, runners, and rollerbladers?

The trail was partly paved, partly gravel and although mostly flat it did include a few town streets with a couple hills.

Or should my 10 mile test be done fully out on the local roads where hill after hill was the norm.

If so, which of our courses with what grade hills, and how about sharp switchback turns and stop-lights?

How about wind?

Maybe it should be done on a track and indoors.

In fact a 20 mph pace was daunting under any circumstance, because breaking a 17 mph average was cause for great celebration at the time.

There was no way I could have known that a steady 20 mph pace requires only the energy needed to lift a full 32 oz water bottle gently off the floor to set on a table top—over and over.

It is unlikely that even the author who suggested it knew precisely what a 20 mph pace meant, because at the time power meters were found almost exclusively on laboratory ergometers, and the brief reference to power measurement in the book I was reading only slightly mentioned that some metered "consumer" stationary trainers were becoming available, or gauges could be placed on the bottom bracket, pedals, or rear wheel axel.

Objective references were rare.

The book described how to track training progress based on a number of other criteria such as heart rate, timed intervals, and race results that were no less vague than the "10 miles in under 30 minutes."

Having an objective measurement of riding effort which was simple, reliable, and repeatable that could be used during a ride in the real world remained a dream of pure science fiction.

So I started trying to figure it out on my own using knowledge about training I had learned in high-school and college sports.

Eventually, on bicycle power meters became available, and after getting one I soon realized I had to revise everything I thought about strength, power, and performance.

I had to do that twice: once on starting with the power meter, and again on realizing the truth about the undocumented and extremely counter intuitive relationship of Torque vs. Watts.

In fact, as of this writing only one measurement system even provides a separation of those numbers.

Suffice it to say, using poor technique can result in an inordinate amount of power being pushed into the pedals without any of it getting translated into speed on the road.

Cycling Performance Simplified is all about resolving performance issues which cause one to work harder and harder with less and less result.

By the end you will have no doubt a 20 mph pace really does require no more effort than picking up your cycling water bottle and putting it on the table.

Right now we need to address Torque.

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