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.

Winter Training Tips: Using Music To Motivate

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Listening to music on the trainer can help motivate you for a training session or a race.

Have you ever gotten on the trainer, spun the pedals for about 3 seconds and then decided you just weren’t feeling it? You decide to slog it out, so you shift down to an easier gear and spin. After an eternity of riding in what surely must have been a multi-hour, 900-calorie crushing session you look down at your computer, to see that a paltry 6 minutes have passed. We’ve all been there.

There are many reasons this can happen. Sometimes, it might just be your body telling you you need a break. Winter is a good time to take a long rest, relax, and let the legs recover from a hard season. Other times, though, it might just be a lack of motivation.

The problem is that motivation can be very difficult to find from within. On those tough days, sometimes  motivation needs an external nudge to get going, and one of the best of these is music. In 2008, Sports Psychologist Costas Karageorghis found that by listening to music you can reduce your perceived exertion by up to 10% . Plus, we’ve all experienced that sensation when a good pump-up jam comes on. Suddenly we hear the song (we’re pretty partial to the Karate Kid theme…), you get a second wind, the legs seem strong, the form feels better. You just feel faster and stronger than before.

The secret though, is to find music that you enjoy, and that is tailored to your work out. Most indoor workouts should be roughly separated into three distinct phases: warm up, workout (base building, intervals, threshold, etc…), cool down. Building a playlist that helps you move through those phases with different types of music can help you pace yourself, and make the workout feel more natural. Plus, it’s fun.

To help get you motivated, here are a few employee trainer playlists to get you started (note, you must be signed into Spotify to listen to these playlists).

BrianIndie/Punk: Reformed skateboarder turned roadie.

  1. DIIV: Sometime
  2. Austra: Spellwork
  3. Naked Raygun: Soldier’s Requiem
  4. Black Flag: My War
  5. The Misfits: Skulls
  6.  Bad Brains: Sailin’ On
  7. Gorilla Biscuits: New Direction
  8. Bleached: Lookin’ For A Fight
  9. Minor Threat: Small Man, Big Mouth
  10. The Business: National Insurance Blacklist
  11. Beach House: The Hours
  12. Caveman: Old Friend
  13. Youth Lagoon: Posters

 

BobClassic rock: “If you ask me tomorrow it would probably completely different, but for today this is my riding list.”

  1. Band of Heathens: Jackson Station
  2. Janis Joplin: Piece of My Heart
  3. New Riders of the Purple Sage: Louisiana Lady
  4. Van Morrison: Jackie Wilson Said
  5. Shooter Jennings: 4th of July
  6. Led Zepplin: Hey Hey, What Can I Do
  7. Cheap Trick: Southern Girls
  8. Bruce Springsteen: Promised Land
  9. Phil Collins: Behind the Lines
  10. Procol Harem: A Whiter Shade of Pale
  11. Bright Eyes: Waste of Paint
  12. The Doors: LA Woman
  13. Allman Brothers Band: Soul Shine
  14. Paul McCartney: Instrumental (junk)

DevlinElectronic: One album, many rides

  1. Tycho: Dive (full album)
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