is an acronym for the Italian phrase 'velocità ascensionale media,' which translates to English as 'average ascent speed.' The term was coined coined by Dr Michele Ferrari
Michele Ferrari is an Italian physician, cycling coach and author.-Biography:Ferrari was born in Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, where he still lives...
and is the speed of elevation
The elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface ....
gain, usually stated in units of meters per hour. VAM is a parameter used in cycling as a measure of fitness and speed; it is useful for relatively objective comparisons of performances and estimating a rider's power output per kilogram of body mass, which is one of the most important qualities of a cyclist who competes in stage races and other mountainous events. Ferrari also stated that every one percent increase in average gradient increases VAM by 50. For example, a 1650 VAM on a climb of 8 percent average grade is a performance equivalent to a VAM of 1700 on 9 percent average grade. Ambient conditions (e.g. friction, air resistance) have less effect on steeper slopes (absorb less power) since speeds are lower than on gentler slopes
The acronym VAM is not truly expanded in English, where many think the V stands in some way for vertical, and the M represents meters, for instance "Vertical Ascent Meters/Hour." Ferrari says,
I called this parameter Average Ascent Speed (‘VAM’ in its Italian abbreviation from Velocità Ascensionale Media).
A direct translation of "velocità ascensionale media" is "mean (average
In mathematics, an average, or central tendency of a data set is a measure of the "middle" value of the data set. Average is one form of central tendency. Not all central tendencies should be considered definitions of average....
) ascent velocity" leading to an expansion of the acronym in English as Velocity, Ascent, Mean.
VAM is calculated the following way:
VAM = (metres ascended x 60) / Minutes it took to ascend
A standard unit term with the same meaning is Vm/h, vertical meters per hour; the two are used interchangeably.
The relationship between VAM and relative power output is expressed as follows:
Relative power (Watts/kg) = VAM (meters/hour) / (Gradient factor x 100)
This gradient factor ranges between 2.6 for a gradient of 6% and 3.1 for a gradient of 11%
To work out the gradient factor take 2 + (% grade/10)
1800+ Vm/h: Lance Armstrong
Lance Edward Armstrong is an American former professional road racing cyclist who won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, after having survived testicular cancer. He is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support...
- and Marco Pantani
Marco Pantani was an Italian road racing cyclist, widely considered one of the best climbers in professional road bicycle racing...
of olden days
1650-1800 Vm/h: Top 10 / Tour de France GC or mountain stage winner.
1450-1650 Vm/h: Top 20 / Tour de France GC; top 20 on tough mountain stage.
1300-1450 Vm/h: Finishing Tour de France mountain stages in peloton
1100-1300 Vm/h: The Autobus Crew
Other examples of its usage can be found at CyclingNews.com.
An online VAM calculator is available at Cycling Fitness
, also Cycling Power Models
which has a VAM and Relative Power Calculator including comparison of the latter with an alternative, validated power model.