Do You Need A Power Meter?

The question has been vividly discussed for a while now, but does not seem to go away.
So let’s jump right in and clear up the obvious question: Why would you need a power meter?

  1. Chris Froome uses one (a lot). Froome’s eyes are glued to his power meter to the extent that most of the epic scenery that accompanies the Grand Tours is lost on him. That and that motorbike parked on Ventoux (OK – maybe that's a bit harsh). But if the 3 times winner of the Tour de France is prepared to stare at his power for 21 days straight it must be good, either that, or the numbers on the head unit are simply more enticing than Richie Porte’s backside.

  2. The fast guy in the club has one. You know who I’m talking about. He was the first one to switch to electronic shifting, in fact he’s on his 3rd generation of Di2, he was the first to get deep rims and his other bike is a Time Trial, or at least one of his other bikes is. He’s got a power meter, he knows all about riding to threshold and he’s far more powerful than you. You know that because he tells you.

  3. Estimated power must be wrong. Some apps estimate power values for you. If you have ever comes across it you might have looked at the numbers in utter confusion and possibly died a little inside - you’re way more powerful (or at least you thought you were). Used algorithms are clearly inaccurate. You need evidence of your true power.

Those are all valid reasons, but not exactly factual evidence, persuasive enough to make you spend a whole bunch of money on a fancy power meter. So what would the experts tell you?

  1. Power is the only true objective measure of your performance. What about speed? Not really. Hills, wind, etc. make it unreliable. You are crawling uphill with maximal effort, while you are flying downhill and barely pedalling. You see why speed is an unreliable measure of intensity. What about heart rate? Again, too subjective. You can be running a cold or be boosted by a caffeine gel. Either one can change your heart rate at a given intensity. Only power is objective.

  2. Power meters improve you as a cyclist, you can learn to pace yourself more effectively, improve your pedal stroke (if the power meter is dual-sided), and identify your weaknesses. Power meters also help you make better decisions about off-the-bike rest and recovery.

  3. Track your performance overtime and measure progress as part of a structured training programme - with targeted training zones and underpinned by reliable data. As your power increases you can be sure so is your fitness.

  4. Knowing exactly what your body is doing allows you to manage your training load and add structure and focus to your training program. As a reliable and accurate measurement of your effort, power will tell you exactly what level your training efforts need to be at every time you train.

  5. Training with a power meter - knowing how much power you’re producing helps you to understand your limits, discover how long you can push yourself until you reach your peak physical performance.

Power meters are a great example where amateurs, the weekend warriors, aren’t a million miles behind their ProTour cousins. Sure, you can buy the replica jersey. If you’ve got deep pockets you can also wear the same carbon- soled shoes, sport the same aero helmet, ride the same roads and even ride the same bikes (very deep pockets). But if you want to train like a pro, there hardly isn’t a way around a power meters. Just to clarify, I am not saying you will become a pro. You might not even want to race. However:

If you have a goal, whatever that may be, and you are looking to reach it in the most efficient manner, tapping more of your potential, think power meter.

BUT: before you let power go to your head and your hand in your wallet. Stop, take a breath and ask yourself:

  1. What’s the plan? If you don’t have a training plan you need one to maximize the benefits of a power meter. Make a plan or consider getting a coach that can design a training plan and help you analyze the data that the power meter generates.

  2. Is your data good? Some things can go wrong between taking your new power meter out of its box and fitting it to your bike (or bikes). Study up or get a mechanic who is familiar with power meter installation.

  3. Do you have the patience to analyze, learn and respond to your power data? There is no point generating power data if you don’t take the time to understand what it’s telling you and how to apply it to your riding. Start out with some free analysis tools to familiarize yourself with the matter – I recommend www.strivemax.com :)

It’s what you do with the power meter that matters.

When you’ve got a plan, your bikes set up right and you’re minds in the right place, then you’ll be that guy with a power meter, just better because you know what you’re doing.

Keep Striving – with Strivemax
Ben