If you are a cyclist serious about improving your performance, you need a power meter. Speed and heart rate do not necessarily represent your true performance on the bike. Speed is dependent on hills, wind, drafting, terrain, and other factors. Heart rate is a measure of the effort your body is putting into the bike. Power meters track your exact output, measured in watts. What do you do with this information? Here are 11 ways a power meter can help you improve your ride:
- Track your fitness changes. Am I getting better? Without a power meter, it is hard to tell exactly. With a power meter, you can accurately compare your output against previous efforts and published benchmarks.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses. Time Trialist, Sprinter, Pursuiter, or All-rounder- your power data will reveal what your relative strengths are on the bike. This is called Power Profiling.
- Specificity of training. Training zones are not arbitrary, they are based on your body’s different energy systems (i.e. Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity, etc.). Training with power is the most accurate way to target and improve each of those systems.
- Avoid overtraining and injury. Simply tracking mileage or time spent on the bike does not account for intensity. A power meter gives you that information and allows you to accurately track training stress.
- Achieve Peak Performance. Leveraging tools like TrainingPeaks and WKO4, you can achieve peak performance by managing Fitness, Fatigue and Form through a Performance Management Chart.
- Track your efficiency. Analyzing heart rate (input) as compared with your power (output) gives insight into how efficient your body is during steady state (time trials, triathlons) efforts.
- Position and aerodynamics. Bike fit is not just about comfort, it is about identifying trade-offs between power output and aerodynamics (reducing drag)… this can only be done with a power meter.
- Race pacing. For steady state efforts, using your power meter to pace during a race is a HUGE advantage. Keeping your output consistent regardless of conditions (hills, wind, terrain, etc.) will help you produce your best time.
- Race analysis and preparation. Reviewing your race data will provide insight into the specific demands of the event , where you did well, and where you struggled. Use this information to prepare yourself for the next time you do that race or one similar.
- Motivation. Seeing your power numbers and fitness improve over time is a huge incentive during training, especially during winter months spent on the trainer.
- Save time. Unless you are a professional athlete, time to train is probably your biggest limiter. With a power meter you can create very specific, focused training sessions to fit your schedule.
Attack Cycling Athletes have rolled into 2016 hard! We’ve had three athletes increase their Functional Threshold Power (FTP) by over 10 watts in 1 month! Also, some great results in racing (Attack Cycling athletes are not afraid of the cold).
Roseann and Mike Peiffer at the Cleveland Metroparks’ Fat Bike race.
For most athletes, this time of year is spent focusing on “Power Base” training which consists mainly of Endurance, Tempo and Threshold work. Sweet Spot Training (SST) is a small range (88-93% of FTP) that includes upper end of Tempo and lower end of Threshold. SST workouts have been key workouts for most of my athletes in January.
What was most exciting to me about the big FTP gains in January was that the 3 athletes took different paths (training plans) to get there:
- Athlete 1: Masters Cyclist & Triathlete with years of cycling under his belt. 2 key cycling workouts per week plus normal regimen of running and cross training. +15 watts in FTP
- Athlete 2: Cat 3 Cyclist. Sweet Spot and Threshold work with a focus on longer durations. +14 watts in FTP
- Athlete 3: Cat 5 Cyclist, new to training with power. Mix of Tempo and Some Sweet Spot work. +11 watts in FTP
No two athletes are the same, everyone’s path is unique.
Finally, some results: First, Cycle Werks Tow Path Time Trial. This was an 8.6-mile, out and back route on the gravel path along the Maumee River (Strava Segment). Weather was in the single digits with a little bit of snow on the ground. Shout out to Attack Cycling athletes: Roseann Peiffer won the women’s division on her Fat Bike with a time of 30:33. Matt Thourot won the Cyclocross (and overall by nearly 3 minutes) with a time of 21:48! Matt clearly can throw down wattage when he is in a race mindset, registering an average power of about 40 watts above his FTP. 3rd place was myself at 26:01 and Mike Peiffer took 7th at 26:57.
Matt Thourot crushing the Tow Path Time Trial!
Speaking of the Peiffers, the pair rounded out January with a Fat bike race in Cleveland. Mike took 18th place overall (impressive for riding a 40lb, 2007 Pugsley)! Roseann was just a few minutes behind in 21st (4th amongst women).
Awesome stories and 2016 is just getting started!
Welcome to Attack Cycling!
I became a cycling coach because it is a merger of three things that I am passionate about: Cycling (obviously), Data Analysis/Technology, and helping others reach their full potential.
Since I started cycling competitively, I have been fascinated with the sport… there are so many variables: from the mental and physical aspects of the sport to the latest technology and sports science. When I bought my first power meter, I immediately started reading everything I could get my hands on how to use the data my power meter gave me to improve. The power meter provided a meaningful way to measure improvement- and soon the process of training became just as rewarding as racing results.
Over the last year I have been exposed to some leaders who are strong advocates of the idea of a “growth mindset.” I believe that mindset, along with time to train, are the 2 biggest limiters for most cyclists.
So, combining the latest in cycling science (I just finished a power certification course by Hunter Allen) and the idea of embracing a growth mindset, I am starting Attack Cycling. The goal is to simply help cyclists seeking high performance to improve- not matter their current level.