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Marginal Gains

...aren't so marginal.

It was over two decades ago when David Brailsford introduced the term marginal gains to British Cycling. Previously, the organization had few successes to speak of over the last century. In just 5 years, he would help propel British riders to the pinnacle of the sport using his theory of "the aggregation of marginal gains".

"The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together."

The early adjustments were simple: more anatomical saddles, conditioning tires for better grip, and skin suits on the road. As the results started coming in and technology progressed, the search for additional gains only intensified. By the time Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France in 2012, it was clear Brailsford's marginal gains theory was working.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

But how does a few percent improvement transform a previously uncompetitive federation into a cycling juggernaut on the international stage? A single watt here and there or a few extra minutes of sleep on their own won't make a major difference in an outcome on their own. Yet when you consistently stack good decisions and tiny improvements, you end up with the Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

When the margin of victory is often decided by a tenth of a percent, we can see why making the best equipment choice or optimizing your training is so important. Considering how widely Brailsford's theories have been adopted by the competition, those not utilizing marginal gains are quickly outmatched and left behind.

Not Just For the Pros

Anytime you are testing yourself against the clock, your riding companions, or in competition, every small advantage counts. Since the aggregation of marginal gains only increases with time, amateur athletes who are on the course longer actually benefit the most from stacking small improvements.

For example: accumulating just a 10 watt savings through small drivetrain efficiency or tire rolling resistance improvements could save an average rider several minutes on their next century or club ride. Start combining these gains and you can really see how the time savings start to add up! (Check out our other Tech Tip topics where we dive deeper into specific systems to help optimize your setup.)

Let's Get Nerdy

If you're interested in getting the most out of your training, optimizing your bike setup, and achieving your best possible results in competition, click the button below to schedule a one-on-one Marginal Gains consultation with an ARC Performance System's coach today!

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