It’s no use spending your hard-earned on the latest technology if you’re not going to learn how to use it. Here are our top tips for ensuring your power training yields the right results…
AAt Verve Cycling ( vervecycling.com) we had a team on hand during some of the main endurance events in the Alps this summer, including La Marmotte and Haute Route, to analyse the use of power meters among the keenest amateur cyclists. In particular, we have close interaction with many riders who entered the Haute Route InfoCrank pacing competition, so see and hear how many good riders are using their power meters, if they have one. The aim of the competition is to select a winner based on his or her ability to pace their cycling over each of the cols on the final day of competition.
“Riders who took pacing advice and followed it improved their position over the course of the race”
The Haute Route events are marketed as the toughest cyclo-sportives in the world. Think of seven straight days in the mountains of the Tour de France and you have an idea what these amateurs are trying to do.
From our survey of the competitors in the pacing competition, we found that: • Less than 50 per cent of riders had
a coach. • For the one and three-day events, many
riders did not have a training plan. • More than 50 per cent of riders have a
power meter. • Less than half of the riders with a power meter had done a Functional Threshold Power test (see page 12). Some didn’t know what the FTP test was. Some riders had never uploaded their data and assumed that what was on the screen was all there was. • Many riders did not finish within the time limits, even though those limits were quite generous.
Another takeaway that wasn’t a surprise, was that the riders who took pacing advice and followed it improved their position over the course of the race and finished strongly each day.
Verve Cycling has also instituted the MYPOWER programme based on two years of grass roots research with Haute Route riders. This gives us a wonderful insight into the changes that occur when riders either get a true and precise power meter for the first time or change to the InfoCrank and seek to improve.
This programme, available online at mypower.vervecycling.com, has now been opened to all of those interested in improvement in cycling performance and enjoyment on the bike.
It seems reasonable that if you are investing so much in technology to assist you to improve on the bike, then you should at least follow some simple steps to get the most out of it. 1 Buy a proven power meter that is both true and precise. Averages are not good enough for anything in life and certainly not for measuring your power. What you really need is the true number displaying for each and every pedal stroke, only then can you make a correct diagnosis. Excellent data is required for genuine improvement and comparison.
2 Make sure that you can truly measure both of your legs. Even if you are perfectly balanced today, you won’t be the day or month after your next accident and probably not after your next endurance event. Balance is not the main thing, you want to know your pedalling effectiveness for each leg – truly measured, not an algorithmic estimate. Once again, with true, accurate data, you can diagnose problems and correct them. 3 Upload your files to a programme that doesn’t strip out any data – at least do that first before you upload to social media-type programmes. When you need to analyse data, you’ll want all of it and it must all be directly comparable. I’m often asked to review performance data and give a diagnosis, but I hate to do it if the data is defective or key information is missing. You don’t go to a doctor and ask what he feels might be wrong – you want to have data on your blood and other levels. 4 If you don’t wish to use a coach, then put aside a bit more reading time. You need to understand some basic principles and work out how to put them into action. Your improvement is always your responsibility, so coached or not, you should try to understand some of the key aspects of measuring power.
“Do all your exercises (a better word than intervals) with the aim of finishing better than you started”
5 Don’t become fixated on terms such as FTP, but understand their idea and limitations. We ask all riders if they know their FTP and many do, but many don’t know what FTP actually is and what it means in practice. Acronyms and scientific terms are only of use when you understand how to use the information you’ve gained. 6 Get in charge of your power meter and don’t be a slave to numbers. Your Critical Power numbers are there to beat, not to practice aiming at. Critical Power is not necessarily a tested number, but the outcome from your training on different days and over different times. It also reflects real world power – what you have and what you don’t have, and changes regularly. Get in charge of it and improve all your CP numbers with specific training – when you get this you are ready for a big step up. 7 Do all your exercises (a better word than intervals) with the aim of finishing better than you started. When your exercise results start going down, take a break. Consider any exercise or interval a fail if you cannot finish stronger than you started. Form (your pedal stroke) is very important and once it gets ragged, doing more intervals is a waste of time and energy and doesn’t lead to improvement. 8 Understand that cycling employs skill as well as force, but when you measure the force (torque) truly, then the rest can be evaluated. Think position, bike fit, fitness, pedalling efficiency, cornering and much more. The more correct base data you have, which is directly comparable to your own and other riders’, the more that can be fed into your improvement. When you improve, enjoyment follows and that’s what we like to see out on the road. Verve Cycling, the manufacturers of the acclaimed InfoCrank, is the official pacing consultant to Haute Route and assists any rider with pacing advice at the events.
Bryan Taylor is the president of power meter brand Verve Cycling and personally attends the Haute Route events to assist amateur riders, including MYPOWER riders, achieve their optimal outcome. He has also ridden numerous Haute Route, Tour Transalp, and one-day events over the past decade and more.