What is VAM and can I use it to improve my climbing?

A cycling metric that doesn’t need power meters or heart rate data but can still be used to improve your climbing. Everything you need to know about your VAM

Improve your VAM
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

In the days before power meters were ubiquitous, cyclists often used VAM to measure their climbing prowess. VAM is an acronym for the Italian phrase velocità ascensionale media but over time has become known in English as vertical ascent in metres. Your VAM is a number that shows the amount of metres you are climbing, vertically per hour.

It is a simple but pure measure of how quickly you are going up. Not up a slope, hill or gradient, but straight up. Vertically. It’s you and the bike versus gravity, and the higher the number the better.

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Simon Richardson
Magazine editor

Editor of Cycling Weekly magazine, Simon has been working at the title since 2001. He fell in love with cycling 1989 when watching the Tour de France on Channel 4, started racing in 1995 and in 2000 he spent one season racing in Belgium. During his time at CW (and Cycle Sport magazine) he has written product reviews, fitness features, pro interviews, race coverage and news. He has covered the Tour de France more times than he can remember along with two Olympic Games and many other international and UK domestic races. He became the 130-year-old magazine's 13th editor in 2015.