Training With Power

Over the last few years you have probably heard a lot about power meters and how cyclists are using power to train. We all know that cyclists produce power when we ride, but why is that useful to us? As an everyday cyclist, why is power important? And, most importantly, what is a power meter?

What Is Power?

Power is a measurement of the work the cyclist is doing, and it’s measured in watts. Power meters use small sensors called strain gauges to measure the amount of power, or watts, you’re putting into the bicycle to make it move forward. The sensors send this information to your cycling computer, which gives you a read out of your power stats. There are a few different kinds of power meters, and each have their pro’s and cons.

Power Meters

  • Real Wheel Hub Power Meters, which place the strain gauges in the driveside of the rear wheel. Generally this is the simplest type of power meter to install and use, since all you have to do is replace the rear wheel. They are fairly accurate, but generally can’t give you some of the finer points of power measurement, like if you’re generating more power with your right or left leg.

Rear wheel power meters, like our exclusive PowerTap G3 Reynolds Assault Wheelset, are an easy and convenient way to add a power meter to your bike

  • Crank Power Meters, which place the strain gauges on the crank spider. These power meters are a little trickier to install, since they involve replacing the entire crankset and sometimes the bottom bracket. They are also more expensive, but some experts argue that they give a more accurate picture of power output, since they are closer to the source of the power output (your legs) than the rear wheel.

A crankset power meter like this one from Quarg is a great way to add a highly accurate power meter to your bike

  • Pedal Power Meters, which place the strain gauges in the pedal spindles. These are probably the most accurate power meters available, since they can measure directly how much you’re pushing and pulling with each foot—and they can also tell you if you’re power output is unbalanced. Another advantage is you can swap them from bike to bike or travel with them fairly easily.

Pedal-based power meters, like the Garmin Vector, are the most versatile and portable way to get power readings

Why Is Power Important?

Power is important because it gives a more dependable measure of your fitness and your ability. Average speed is ok, but it’s too dependent on variables like wind, how hilly your route is, etc… and doesn’t really tell you how hard you’re working. Heart rate is fine, but again it’s too subject to variables. Don’t believe us? Try strapping on a heart rate monitor and then think about your heart rate. We’ll guarantee you it goes up. Heart rate also doesn’t really give you a complete picture of what’s going on, since a high heart rate doesn’t always translate into increased work. This isn’t to say that these training tools are without value. Heart rate and average speed are both very valuable indicators of your fitness, and have a place in any cyclist’s arsenal. But unlike these other, more mercurial, measurements, power is a raw measurement of how much energy you are putting into the bike at any given moment. Even if it’s a terrible day, with the wind against you, and some vicious hills that produce an average speed that makes you want to hang your head in shame, you will still get consistent power readings that will tell you the true effort you were putting into the bike.

Training With Power

Training with power is also an improvement over old methods, because it yields more consistent results. You can’t really train to lower your heart rate—it just happens as a natural byproduct of becoming more physically fit. But you can train to improve power. Training with power opens up a whole can of worms that will be the subject of future blog posts, but there’s some rough things to know.

When training with power, there are generally two important numbers to look for:  maximum power output and maximum sustained power output. Maximum wattage output is a measure of your all-out, everything you got power. Generally, you can’t sustain this for more than a few seconds—think the end of a sprint. This is the maximum amount of power you are capable of transmitting into your bike. The second number, maximum sustained power output, looks at how much power you can put out for a prolonged period of time. Generally riding at this threshold should be uncomfortable, but doable—think slogging up a long hill or mountain. There are specific tests you can do to find out each number, but we’ll get into that in another post.

No matter how long you’ve been riding, or what your end goal is, a power meter is the best way to help you improve your training. We have plenty of options for you to choose from, and for almost any budget.

4 Ways to Make Your Indoor Training Better With Your Smartphone

A few weeks ago we wrote about our strategies for indoor training, including ways to cope with the fact that you’re riding your bike indoors. But if you really want to get the most out of your indoor training (and spice up your solo sufferfests), check out some of the new technology available to track, plan and interact with your trainer rides, all from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet.

1. Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer

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Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer

First up is the Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer, recognizable for its use of a “wheel-off” design (since you remove your rear wheel and mount your bike directly on a trainer-mounted cassette). Its super flywheel design with electronic resistance is engineered to replicate the inertia of an actual rider on the road, give the smoothest indoor riding on the market, and run extremely quiet. But we’re here to talk tech, and the KICKR Power Trainer has that in spades. Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ technologies wirelessly connect to your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Garmin Edge and let you control resistance levels, structure interval workouts, and simulate real-world courses using your favorite App (including the free Wahoo Fitness App and many other popular cycling Apps and 3rd party software). You even get truly accurate power measurement, since the wheel-off design allows for direct, lab accurate power measurement at the hub which is consistent and calibrated throughout every grueling mile.

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Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer in use

But that’s not all for the KICKR Power Trainer, as their newest trick is Strava app integration through the new Wahoo Segments app. The Segments app lets you ride any Strava segment indoors – you can compete in head-to-head matchups against any rider, on any Strava segment, anywhere in the world! The Segments app controls resistance to match the elevation profile of each course, meaning the KICKR Power Trainer realistically simulates the grade of each Strava segment’s climb in real-time. Resistance adjustments are instant, making it easy to replicate everything from a flat or rolling hill course, to the coast down a hill after a hard climb. When you’re finished you can then upload your workout to your Strava profile as an indoor workout.

2. Elite My E-Training App

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Elite Qubo Fluid + Trainer integrates with the My E-Training App

The folks at Elite trainers have taken a different approach with their e-training technology, but the good news is that all you need to get going is your Elite trainer, the My E-Training App (there is a small annual fee for this service), an ANT+ Wahoo Dongle (for your iPhone), any ANT+ speed/cadence sensor, and any ANT+ heart rate strap (if you want to track heart rate data). Since many of you already have some, if not all, of these pieces, you can be up and running with Elite’s sophisticated e-training tech in short order.

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My E-Training App from Elite

It’s like having a virtual coach that travels with you whatever your destination – you’ll be able to track power, pedal cadence, heart rate, speed, time and distance directly from your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with the My E-Training App. You can establish your anaerobic threshold, create personalized monthly indoor training programs, or even create races from all over the world with Google Maps. And of course all of your training data can be saved, shared and exported to chart the course of your training and improvement.

3. Kinetic inRide Watt Meter

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Kinetic inRide Watt Meter pod attached to a Kinetic fluid trainer

If you are interested in the benefits of a wattage-based training program and you’ve got a Kinetic fluid trainer, then the new Kinetic inRide Watt Meter is a perfect add-on to your training. This watt meter pairs a heart rate monitor and power sensor pod (included in the kit) with the new Kinetic inRide iPhone App to measure wattage with any Kinetic fluid trainer using the Bluetooth Smart communication protocol from your iPhone or iPad.

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Heart rate monitor & power sensor pod pair with the Kinetic inRide iPhone App

A highly accurate power curve allows precise wattage readings at exact speeds – firmware in the inRide Sensor Pod measures speed and cadence at the tire, translating it to wattage, and finally, that data and the heart rate data are collected and displayed on your paired iPhone or iPad. When you’re done, you can upload your postworkout file to a favorite website or email files to a remote coach – the Kinetic inRide Watt Meter is a great tool for the aspiring cyclist in training.

Kinetic inRide Watt Meter
Ride data is displayed on your paired iPhone or iPad (mount not included)

4. CycleOps VirtualTraining App

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CycleOps VirtualTraining App

The folks over at CycleOps have come up their own VirtualTraining App, for desktop or tablet, that lets you control your training on CycleOps trainers, Wahoo trainers, power meters or with any ANT+ speed/cadence sensor (for a monthly subscription fee). If you’re connected to a trainer that lets you control the resistance (like the Wahoo KICKR Power Trainer), you can manage the resistance level to match a virtual route or pre-set training ride. The Virtual training software even integrates GPS and Google Earth technology to synchronize route mapping and videos with actual outdoor terrain, while adjusting the load generation of the resistance unit to reflect actual changes in terrain along the route. It even supports consumer-generated real life video content, so you’ll be able to share courses with other cyclists from around the world!

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CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer

If you have a trainer where you can’t adjust the resistance level remotely, like the CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer, you can still use the VirtualTraining App (in conjunction with an ANT+ speed/cadence sensor and ANT+ heart rate strap) to record all of your training data from connected ANT+ or BlueTooth Smart sensors and then upload to the VirtualTraining portal for detail analysis.

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