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A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling Metrics

Tracking specific data while you cycle can help you see your progress and improve your performance. However, with our ever-growing ability to track and monitor all kinds of data, it’s easy to get lost in it all and lose perspective. To help you cut through all the noise, we’ve put together this list of the most critical cycling metrics you should be tracking. But first, let’s look at a definition.

What are cycling metrics?

Woman reviewing metrics on paper.

Cycling metrics are specific measurements of your performance that you can quantify. For instance, instead of just assuming you’re getting faster, you can track your speed with a fitness watch or a cycling speed sensor and determine precisely how much faster you’ve gotten based on a comparison of the numbers.

What are the most important cycling metrics?

Two cyclists on the side of the road, one is drinking water.

Tracking cycling metrics and also learning how to read cycling metrics can help you set realistic cycling goals and better understand your progress as you work toward achieving them. You can use your metrics to guide your training and establish an effective workout routine that gets you results without overworking your body and resulting in burnout.

Regardless of which metrics you choose to track, it’s important to remember that your data will sometimes be influenced by other factors, such as how well you fueled your body before your workout or how well you slept the night before. Just keep these factors in mind when assessing your cycling power metrics.

Top cycling metrics to track

Female cyclists setting up bike to track performance.

Speed

Tracking your average speed in miles per hour (mph) is a great way to see if you’re getting faster and fitter on your bike. And the best part about tracking this metric while indoor cycling is that your speed isn’t affected by factors like wind, rain, or other less-than-ideal weather that would likely slow you down outdoors. If you plan to bike outdoors, consider these factors when looking at your final speed statistics.

Improving your speed is a great goal. But if you’re aiming for speed gains, watch for consistent improvement over time. For example, if you typically ride the same route at an average of 13 mph, but lately, you’ve consistently been cycling it at an average of 15 mpg, you can count that as a win. You’re getting faster!

You can use any basic fitness watch, a speed sensor, or the Vingo app to track your speed. Alternatively, if your stationary bike has a built-in sensor, you’re good to go!

Time

Tracking your cycling time is ideal if you’re trying to work on your pacing. Whether you prefer short, challenging interval routes or longer rides, it’s helpful to monitor how long it takes you to complete each ride. You can monitor your time with any basic fitness watch or your phone. 

You can also use Vingo to explore fun and unique biking routes in virtual reality while the app keeps track of your time for you. You’ll see a running clock on your screen as you cycle, and once you complete the route, you’ll see a summary of your ride time and other metrics on your screen.

Distance

If your goal is to improve your cycling endurance, tracking your distance can help. Not only is it incredibly motivating to see how long you’ve ridden, but it’s also a fantastic way to train for a long-distance event or just tackle some of your personal goals for fun!

While monitoring your cycling distance statistics, setting goals and starting small is ideal, especially if you’re new to cycling. So, if you want to bike 10 miles, start by just biking three or four and gradually work your way up to 10 over a few weeks. Taking things slow will reduce your risk of injury, and you’re also much more likely to enjoy the process instead of getting burned out!

You can use a fitness watch or a cadence sensor to track your cycling distance. Alternatively, if you plan to complete your ride indoors, you can use the Vingo app to see how many miles you’ve biked on the virtual reality routes you choose.

Heart rate

Monitoring your heart rate (or the number of times it beats per minute) is a good indicator of how hard you’re working. And you can also use your max heart rate (MHR) to design a training program that targets your specific goals.

You can easily track your heart rate while you cycle with a fitness watch or smartwatch. Some cycling apps will also track your heart rate while you ride. As you get fitter, you’ll be able to ride faster with lower heart rates.

While heart rate is a great way to track changes in fitness and overall performance, it’s important to note that other external factors can also affect your heart’s beats per minute (BPM), like how much caffeine you’ve had that day, how well-rested you are, and if you’re very hot while you’re riding. For example, riding outside on a hot and humid summer day will definitely increase your BPM.

FTP

FTP stands for functional threshold power, which measures your highest sustainable power output for 60 minutes. Most cyclists use this figure as a basis for their training and complete structured workouts in particular power zones with their FTP in mind. (You can read more about these power zones and how to improve your FTP here.) As you get more fit, your FTP will increase, and you’ll also need to adjust your training regimen and reset your training zones.

To measure your FTP, you’ll need a power meter. A power meter is a device fitted to your bike that measures your power output. To determine your FTP, warm-up for 15 to 20 minutes and complete a 20-minute time trial. Once you complete the trial, multiply your resulting average power by 0.95 to get your approximate FTP.

Calories

Let’s say your ultimate goal while cycling is to lose weight. In that case, keeping track of the number of calories you burn each ride can help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Although calories burned are one of the easiest cycling power metrics to track, it’s definitely not an exact science. Depending on the tool you use to track your calorie-burning activities, no device is perfect, and your results will always have a slight margin of error. Some tools like a smartwatch or a cycling app will estimate the number of calories you burn based on algorithms, while others use your heart rate and movement to determine how many calories you burn off. And as you continue to bike, you’ll also get more fit, which means you’ll burn fewer calories as your body becomes more efficient at burning fuel and using oxygen. When this happens, don’t get discouraged. Continue to challenge your body with more rigorous rides and routes, so things don’t get too easy.

Keep this in perspective as you compare your metrics, and try not to obsess over the numbers so much that you stop enjoying your rides. Remember that you’re making great progress with every route you complete!

Elevation

Tracking your elevation gain (or how many feet you climb throughout your ride) can help you build strength and endurance. Whether you cycle indoors or outdoors, you can increase the difficulty of any route by adding hills.

Finding hills to cycle outdoors isn’t too difficult in most places. But with Vingo, you can tackle hilly and challenging routes anywhere at any time. Completing hill challenges might not sound like the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but the workout will help you improve your riding performance.

Power

Your power is an accurate measure of the amount of effort you put forth on any particular ride. With cycling, your power is measured in watts of energy, and the more energy you can produce at your size, the better! If you’re consistently struggling to reach your wattage goals while you cycle, it might be time to rest or reassess your goals. Working with a trainer may also be helpful if you can afford it.

To measure your power on your bike, you’ll need a power meter. This type of meter will give you immediate feedback on how hard you’re working.

Key Takeaways:

Tracking these important cycling metrics will help you improve your performance on the bike, monitor your fitness trends, and achieve your cycling goals. Regardless, the most important thing is always that you have fun and enjoy the process!

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