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There are many aspects to successful cycling, and a lot of science surrounding it. You will find such information scattered across many books, with occasional updates on the latest findings in magazine article - but every now and then it is helpful to bring everything together to create one definitive reference work. I think that Cycling Science has done that, making it the most comprehensive source of current scientific thought available to cyclists today.
During my time as a competitive cyclist I would often seek out articles that covered the science of cycling performance, so I was interested to see the arrival of Cycling Science. The publisher Human Kinetics has a history of offering books about health, fitness, and performance with scientific backing, and this is a logical addition to its existing titles of Running Science, and Triathlon Science.
The book's editors are Cheung and Zabala: they also wrote some of the chapters, and then brought in acknowledged experts in their respective fields to write about various other topics. Names such as Hunter Allen, Todd Carver, and Stacy Sims were known to me through their own books, or an involvement in the industry; the other 40 or so contributors sound equally well qualified, making for a stellar cast.
The aim of the book is to 'maintain scientific rigor and an evidence-based approach to various practices, whilst at the same time ensuring that such knowledge is delivered in an accessible manner and with strong practical applicability'.
Let's consider those points in turn, starting with the evidence-based approach. Take the science behind warming up as an example: the author reviewed 18 studies that 'analysed the effects of various warm-up protocols on different cycling exercises', and concluded that 'no consensus has emerged from the scientific literature'.
There is agreement that some form of warming up is beneficial, but there is insufficient evidence as to exactly what routine best suits a particular activity. That is a theme repeated throughout the book: if there is insufficient evidence to recommend something, then nothing will be recommended.
Compression clothing has as many detractors as advocates. Does it work? The conclusion here is that 'although only minimal research has been done on compression garments and recovery for cyclists, the small amount of data suggests that compression may be beneficial and is not harmful in any way'.
Looking at the 'various practices' that are covered, I think it is fair to say that the range of topics fulfils the desire to be 'comprehensive in our survey of cycling science'. You can see the full list of subjects here. There may be a few chapters that don't interest you, but there will be many more that do.
It is when moving on to the 'accessible manner' that I need to raise a warning flag. It may be deemed accessible for an academic work, but that doesn't make it an easy read. Despite sharing many topics, it is in marked contrast to Max Glaskin's book of the same name: Glaskin's book has lots of pictures and colour, whereas this one does not.
I would go further and say that without a certain level of existing knowledge one might struggle to understand some aspects of the science here.
However, often that does not matter, as the promise of 'practical applicability' is fulfilled. Every chapter concludes with practical recommendations of how you can apply the scientific findings to your own cycling – whether you understood all of that science or not.
You may not have heard of 'proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation' stretching beforehand, but you'll still able to look at the recommendations on stretching to see if it can improve on your usual routine.
While the book should have obvious appeal to students of the subject, or to coaches trying to keep their knowledge up to date, it is these sections on 'applying the science' that will give the book its appeal to 'normal cyclists' – or at least those willing to put some effort into finding ways to improve their performance.
Despite its academic roots, this book is rather good value for money, as you get a lot for £23. The 40 chapters are spread over 476 pages, backed up with another 37 pages of references. That is the sort of detail expected from a serious scientific work, which is what this is.
I am conscious that best practice evolves as time goes on, so what is recommended today might be different tomorrow. Could it also be that another authority reaches a different view from the data available, either now or in the future? Possibly, but that would not stop me from embracing the knowledge on offer in Cycling Science today, and using as much of it as possible to improve my cycling speed, efficiency, comfort – or whatever aspect of your performance you would like to be better.
For those of you familiar with Bicycling Science by DG Wilson, I would regard this as a comparable but complementary tome, with one concentrating more on the hardware, and the other more on the cyclist. The two of them would make the basis of a good reference library for your bookshelf.
Probably the most wide-ranging, up-to-date, and authoritative book about cycling science available today
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cycling Science By Stephen Cheung and Mikel Zabala
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
From Human Kinetics:
Finally, the authoritative resource that serious cyclists have been waiting for has arrived. The perfect blend of science and application, Cycling Science takes you inside the sport, into the training room and research lab, and onto the course.
A remarkable achievement, Cycling Science features the following:
* Contributions from 43 top cycling scientists and coaches from around the world
* The latest thinking on the rider-machine interface, including topics such as bike fit, aerodynamics, biomechanics, and pedaling technique
* Information about environmental stressors, including heat, altitude, and air pollution
* A look at health issues such as on-bike and off-bike nutrition, common injuries, fatigue, overtraining, and recovery
* Help in planning training programs, including using a power meter, managing cycling data, off-the-bike training, cycling specific stretching, and mental training
* The latest coaching and racing techniques, including pacing theories, and strategies for road, track, MTB, BMX, and ultra-distance events
In this book, editors and cycling scientists Stephen Cheung, PhD, and Mikel Zabala, PhD, have assembled the latest information for serious cyclists.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Cycling Science
Author: Stephen S. Cheung & Mikel Zabala
Publisher: Human Kinetics
Date: August 2017
A lot of book for the money, but little in the way of diagrams and pictures.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It is current, comprehensive, and most of the science is understandable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It is never an easy read, and sometimes the science is hard to follow.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, because even when hard-going it was 'doing me good'.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
If you want to understand more about your performance on the bike then I doubt that you will find a better collection of the current scientific data.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding