Ever since power was introduced nearly 30 years ago by SRM they’ve completely shaped and changed the cycling world. As they become more accessible to the regular cyclist, a varied set of training software platforms can analyze and advise your data to give you a very high level insight to your body. To be blunt, a power meter is the single most effective training tool in cycling.
Gains won’t happen overnight but overtime you can begin to track your progress and through consistency and commitment you’ll be able to begin to see the gains. There’s a lot more to riding with power than seeing just how much you can put out, it will influence your session choices and the quality you can get out of your workouts.
What Does It Do?
Power meters take away any guessing that you might have. Bad weather, slow gear, drafting, hills or any other excuses you may have, there’s no hiding from the power meter. They can tell you exactly how much effort you’re putting out and how well your riding. Mix this with just how tired it’s making you and over time you can transform your athletic ability. With this data you can tell just how fatigued you are and exactly when you should probably hang up your boots!
Essentially it makes output quantifiable. You can put numbers on stuff. If you’re on Strava you’ll know who worked the hardest over a segment, rather than who was fastest. This will give you an idea of weather conditions. You can compare two efforts such as a 10 mile time trial on completely different courses to see which was actually the best, rather than just the fastest.
Not to replace your old heart rate monitor, the power meter will tell you very different things. Heart rate is a relative figure that measures your bodies response to the effort that you’re putting out. This can be affected by external things such as heat, altitude, nutrition. Power measures the output absolutely, regardless of how much effort it takes you to get there.
Who Can Use Power?
Anyone stands to benefit from a power meter – the data can tell you a lot about yourself and how to move forward. Whether you’re an elite racer or a fair weather weekend rider, you can learn about what your legs are capable of without the guessing game.
The power meter will give you areas of your riding that you need to work at, and allow you to work on precisely the right areas. As long as you keep your end goal clear, a long with what you need to work on to get there, the power data will give you the perfect platform to work off.
It’s easy to track progress by riding the same course again and seeing if you go quicker… right? Well maybe it’s not that simple, the weather can affect it, the bike you were on, what you were wearing, the position you rode in.. amongst a lot of other factors. Power will give you a definite output so you can see your progress regardless of speed.
Your heart rate may not vary much through the course of a season, maybe a few beats here or there. Which in turn can be massively impacted by things such as stress, sleep, nutrition… However your power might increase massively. With this number you can really see when you’re moving well.
The power meter won’t lie to you. If in March you max effort for 20 minutes is 280 watts, but by August it has increased to 310 watts, you know you’ll have made a vast improvement. As long as the heart rate is in a similar region, you’ll be able to see the gains you’ve made.
Pacing for Training and Racing:
Similar to being able to track improvements, you can also make them. By knowing what you want to work on, you’ll be able to set your training programme accordingly. If you need to work on your bursts throughout a road race, or longer more controlled efforts for time trialling, you’ll be able to work accordingly.
This will begin to start to outline your training plan, what you need to work on and when. You’ll need to manage your stress score – the amount of stress you put your body under. This is so that you get the optimum amount of recovery. Flesh out the programme with some other, less specific sessions and you’ll soon have the outline of the week.
This will make all your goals much more achievable. You know exactly where you need to be and when, as well as how to get there. By ticking off the sessions you’ll slowly be able to see your body working towards where it needs to be.
In races you’ll know what power you can hold for different amounts of time. This will mean that you never go over your limits or burn out. In training you can pace your efforts perfectly so you don’t go out far too fast and end up blowing up short.
The fastest way from A to B is to put out a constant power. A constant effort or negative splits will certainly get you to the top of the climb fastest, so now there are no excuses for blowing up halfway! Go get the new pb you’ve been chasing for seasons!
It’ll never lose value:
Power meters aren’t the cheapest of items, and they often slip outside of the monthly budget for your cycling hobbies. But if you can get one, it’ll be a gift that just keeps on giving. The value it’ll hold won’t necessarily be monetary, but it’ll help you improve your riding to no end.
A new bike, skinsuit, wheels will all improve your times on racing, but you’ll only see the improvement once. They’ll buy you some time but they won’t continue to make you faster and faster.
Buying a power meter will give you consistent improvements through your cycling career and help you reach your full potential. So… what are you waiting for?!