Short flat TT, applying power in short bursts vs steady power


I did some testing, took a 3 minute straight road and rode it 2 different ways:

  1. keeping steady 380w all the time with minor changes in power
  2. holding speed, every time speed dropped 0.5-1kmh I pedalled harder for a few seconds at around 500w and after that held power at 300-350w

I did the test multiple times and tested it in both directions to see the differences in both headwind and tailwind situation.

in both cases avg power was the same 380±5w BUT I had 1.5kmh higher avg speed when I used the second method. Avg heart rate was also the same in both cases but the second variant felt easier.

Great thing about bicycles is that they keep rolling and the speed wont drop very fast even when you completely stop pedalling, thats how the method probably works.
Is this a thing or am I just overthinking?


Average power or Normalised Power? If AP is the same then I’d expect NP to be significantly higher for the run where you are spiking. NP is the real test of how hard it is and what it’s costing you. Can’t see any way in which spiking power can make you faster for equivalent NP. Pushing slightly harder into a wind or up a hill is backed by physics, but one way on a flat road? No chance

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I think one of the legendary UK TTers (maybe Dr Hutch?) used to recommend micro rests of a couple of seconds every so often. I doubt that was combined with a power spike though, just a break and then resumption of effort. Your power spiking method sounds like it would take more out of you than keeping it consistent.

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However, I suggest you test this method over the actual distance you will be riding.

A 3 minute effort probably doesn’t give you the data about whether you can sustain this approach for the full TT.

What distance are you going to be riding?

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How many of these spikes were there in 3 miles? How hard were you riding between those spikes (as in, did your speed drop precipitously, or was it a slow degradation)?


Plug it into bestbikesplit and see how they recommend pacing it