Notes from the Grup­petto

The good and bad, but mostly good, of power me­ters

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Bart Eg­nal

The good and bad, but mostly good, of power me­ters

“Va­ca­tions are highly over­rated and you are bet­ter off stay­ing in your lo­cal con­fines, suf­fer­ing on the trainer in win­ter while oth­ers jet off to mis­er­able sun-kissed lo­ca­tions.”

One of my favourite parts about rid­ing in a group is the chance to chat with friends about bikes, rid­ing, and of course, gear. When it comes to gear, the big three top­ics of dis­cus­sion tend to be wheels, frames and groupsets. In re­cent years, a fourth topic has been com­ing up more of­ten – power me­ters.

Power me­ters typ­i­cally use strain gauges to mea­sure the torque ap­plied by your ped­alling. When com­bined with an­gu­lar ve­loc­ity, the re­sult is a power num­ber, mea­sured in watts. Power me­ters come in many shapes and sizes. There are hub-based power me­ters built into a wheel, crank-based power me­ters and pedal-based power me­ters. All es­sen­tially do the same thing and I won’t bore you with the com­par­isons. What is im­por­tant to note is that dur­ing the past sev­eral years, power me­ters have gone from ar­cane, $5,000 tools re­served for pro cy­clists to $600 ac­ces­si­ble tech­nol­ogy that am­a­teurs are scoop­ing up in record num­bers.

The re­sult is that I find my­self in­creas­ingly talk­ing with club rid­ers about their new power me­ters. The con­ver­sa­tion of­ten takes the fol­low­ing form: Me: Nice­new­pow­er­me­ter!howarey­ouen­joyin­git? Other rider: Well,i’ve­ha­di­ton­the­bikeal­lyearand­don’t re­al­ly­do­much­withit.

Me: Doy oud own­load/use/re­viewt hed ata?d oy ou train­dif­fer­ent­ly­withit? Other rider: No.wishi’dspent­the$1,000on­ava­ca­tion. Now, if this is you, don’t de­spair. Va­ca­tions are highly over­rated and you are bet­ter off stay­ing in your lo­cal con­fines, suf­fer­ing on the trainer in win­ter while oth­ers jet off to mis­er­able sun-kissed lo­ca­tions. Sure, you have a power me­ter that you don’t use and it pro­vides lit­tle com­fort, in­stead of spew­ing out reams of use­less data. But if you could use it, that would be spe­cial.

So, as some­one who can’t ride with­out power (well, I can, but I love my data), I thought I would share with you my per­spec­tive on train­ing, rid­ing and rac­ing with power.

Tip 1

The first thing I found the power me­ter to be use­ful for was self-as­sess­ment. I spent my first year ped­alling and stor­ing my power files, but do­ing noth­ing with them. Af­ter that sea­son, I at­tended a workshop with Hunter Allen who showed me how to plug that data into Train­ing­peaks. How can this help? Look­ing at your best 20-minute, 10-minute, 5-minute, 1-minute and 10-sec­ond power will al­low you to re­al­ize quickly you aren’t go­ing to be beat­ing Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint, but that if you were to go out for a Thurs­day night time trial, your abil­ity to suf­fer more than 20 min­utes will serve you well.

Tip 2

Once I had my data, I re­al­ized that my power me­ter would be­come my best friend in the off-sea­son. Now ev­ery year, from Oc­to­ber through March, I bid farewell to rid­ing on the road and say hello to the trainer. My work­outs (de­signed by my coach) be­come highly struc­tured – ini­tially fo­cused on en­durance and aer­o­bic base and then grad­u­ally mov­ing into higher in­ten­sity as the sea­son draws closer. The power me­ter al­lows me to hold my­self ac­count­able on the trainer to ac­tu­ally do the work I need to be do­ing. It also al­lows me to com­pare my fit­ness year over year as race sea­son draws closer.

If you’ve bought a power me­ter, make use of it dur­ing your off-sea­son to train. It will al­low you to have a disciplined and pro­duc­tive pe­riod of build­ing your fit­ness with­out burn­ing your­self out do­ing a “race” type of work­out ev­ery time.

Tip 3

Un­less you are rac­ing a time trial, don’t look at your power dur­ing a race or group ride. Once the sea­son starts, avoid re­ly­ing on your power me­ter. On group rides, it can suck the fun out of your rid­ing. In races, it can be down­right detri­men­tal be­cause it may pre­clude you from at­tack­ing or go­ing on in­stinct. I’ve gone deeper and hit big­ger num­bers in races than in train­ing be­cause I just had to cover that wheel or had to bury my­self in the sprint. If I’d thought about my watts, those ac­com­plish­ments would never have hap­pened.

It’s still worth look­ing at the num­bers af­ter a ride and com­par­ing them with how you felt and what your heart rate was. For ex­am­ple, if you felt in­cred­i­bly fa­tigued but the in­ten­sity of the ride was not high when you reviewed your data, you may be over­trained or over-raced. Con­versely, if you’re putting out big num­bers on the club ride and not re­ally feel­ing tired, you’re prob­a­bly com­ing into some form.

Tip 4

En­joy the ride! As some­one who loves power me­ters (I have one on ev­ery one of my bikes), I of­ten have to re­mind my­self that I love cy­cling more than the data. The pur­suit of fit­ness, the thrill of rac­ing, the ca­ma­raderie of the ride with friends – none of these things re­quire power me­ters. The power me­ter won’t pedal your bike for you, but I firmly be­lieve if you use it for good and not evil it can make your train­ing a more mea­sur­able and fo­cused process. It can help you en­joy the ride.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.