VAM is the abbreviation for the Italian term velocità ascensionale media, translated in English to mean "average ascent speed" or "mean ascent velocity", but usually referred to as VAM. The term, which was coined by Italian physician and cycling coach Michele Ferrari, is the speed of elevation gain, usually stated in units of metres 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 decreases VAM by 50. For example, a 1700 VAM on a climb of 8 percent average grade is a performance equivalent to a VAM of 1650 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 on steeper 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 metres, for instance "Vertical Ascent Metres/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) 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 metres per hour; the two are used interchangeably.
The relationship between VAM and relative power output is expressed as follows:
- Relative power (Watts/kg) = VAM (metres/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 - and Marco Pantani during the EPO era.
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
- Maloney, Tim. "An Interview With Dr. Michele Ferrari, part one - The Eye Of The Storm".
- Ferrari, Michele. "The rider’s performance: how to measure it?".
- Brown, Gregor. "Efimkin does 1600 metres/hour".
- Brown, Gregor. "Simoni goes 1850 metres/hour".
- Jones, Jeff. "Mayo's Ventoux performance".