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Updated January 22, 2016 | By Bob Fugett

t @ P/W

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Simple is simple, and possibly the simplest way to describe something is to use a formula.

It does not  have to be a true mathematical formula but maybe just quasi-mathematical such as the one below:

The formula  t @ P/W  is at the core of principles described in Cycling Performance Simplified.

You may have noticed that the formula's At sign operator (@) is not a typical Equals sign (=) or similar, so this should be a clue that it is not about something that is merely equal to, greater than, less than, or relative to something else.

It is something which is in and of itself significant... an intrinsic value.

It stands for the amount of time (t) you can hold a specific power (P, in watts) relative to your weight (W, in kilograms).

In other words: how long can you turn your pedals at a given power to weight ratio?

Such as:

5min @ 4.41

Such expressions can be used to precisely define your current health and cycling ability, and if you must make them equal to something else you need only compare your own time at power to weight ratios to that of other riders.

Stating this concept as the formula  t @ P/W,  and then highlighting its significance as the primary metric for judging performance, is an expression unique to Cycling Performance Simplified, and it undoubtedly represents the most refined and useful way to assess your cycling ability ever. 

You need only track your development based on the amount of time you can hold any given watts, and everything else will fall into place.

For example, let us say you can ride 5 minutes holding a 300 watt average, and you weigh 150 lbs which converts to 68.04 kg.

That results in the time at power to weight shown above, that is: 5min @ 4.41

You can easily compare that performance to anybody else in the world. You and friends could even print out your own figures to pass around like trading cards (just for fun) to see who can do what to whom.

For your convenience, you can use the Power to Weight Calculator which will convert your pounds to kilograms while calculating the ballpark estimate average speed that would result from any specific power to weight performance on a course which starts and finishes at the same location.

The Allen and Coggan table (also presented by the calculator) takes this time at power to weight concept one step further by dividing required efforts into specific time categories using data gathered from a sampling of actual real world performances in order to account for best sprinter, best jumper, best pacer, and best long haul time trialist while outlining a simple metric for finding the best overall performer.

Taking information from the Allen and Coggan table we can thus state (more intuitively for people without power meters) that our 5min @ 4.41 is equal to a performance expected for:

Cat 3 Men

Race categories are generally stated from Cat 5 up to Cat 1 and Pro divisions.

The online calculator does a quick and rough calculation for your Race Category, and you can compare your own real world results at 5 sec, 1 min, 5 min and FT (Functional Threshold) to the Allen and Coggan table (presented with the calculation) in order to get a baseline on how you stack up to other riders.

Speed in miles per hour is extremely variable over varying courses and conditions, but over the widest possible range of riding conditions and courses (discounting team tactics), the rider who holds the highest power to weight ratio for the entire ride or race will always be the winner.

Of course, you might choose one of the old ways (in addition to speed) that people previously used in order to guess at their level of performance such as heart rate, perceived effort, or awards.

Unfortunately, all of those methods are really guesstimates at best, because each method varies wildly (even for the same athlete) over a range of ride conditions, plus race results can easily be attributed to pure luck as much as to any close measurement of ability.

However, stating that a performance is 5min @ 4.41 provides an objective repeatable reference that is the same for everybody anytime and anywhere in the world.

Beyond the comparative aspects, using a power meter in this way allows insight into elements of performance that otherwise defy measurement.

We once enjoyed a ride with somebody whose average power output was significantly higher than reported rides of the strongest riders in the world, but that person was beaten on every hill and worn down to a schmear until they were finely dropped from the ride entirely.

It would have been easy to believe the rider was weak and severely out of shape, but the data from their power meter showed their average power output for the full two and a half hour ride rivaled the absolute limit of human potential, and they were by far the strongest rider there that day, but they were also by far the heaviest... and physics will not be denied.

How sad it would be for that person if their only performance benchmark came from there inability to beat much lighter riders absent an absolute objective reference.

On the other hand, effective use of time at power to weight for informing a training program will ultimately result in skills and abilities that beat those other guys, so it is not just a matter of finding something good in a bad situation.

A summary of the situation just described might be, "Listen dude, you are about as strong as a human being can get (and that is impressive), but if you really want to beat those guys, you are just going to have to lose the weight."

Once you have an understanding of your current level of performance based on a simple objective repeatable reference you can work rationally (and most efficiently) to improve.

Therefore, the simple formula  t @ P/W  with the concept it embodies is the basis for everything else in Cycling Performance Simplified.

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