Riding with a Power Meter
Riding with a Power Meter
By Aaron Allen
You’ll notice we didn’t use the word “training” in the title. Power meters have long been reserved for “The Racer” and have been not only hyper expensive but also complicated and unreliable. Those days are gone and modern power meters are more reliable and definitely cost less than your first car. So now, power meters can provide benefits to all sorts of riders whether you’re “training” or not.
Why do you need a power meter? Let’s start with what a power meter does. Power meters measure your actual effort (measured in watts). That’s important because a heart rate monitor only measures your physiological response to that effort. Heart rate is affected by stress, caffeine, sleep, alcohol and diet as well. Your heart rate is also a step behind so to speak. In other words, when you stop pedaling, your heart rate doesn’t change right away, it takes time to adjust. Power data is immediate, in real time and it’s the truest measurement of your efforts. So when you’re trying not to blow up on a climb, accurately measuring your effort and knowing what your limits are is pretty important. Knowing when the pace is too fast for you BEFORE you have a negative physiological response (super bonk) is a pretty handy piece of data.
Post ride data collection from power meters can shed light on all kinds of things you may not have known about yourself as a cyclist. Perhaps you always thought you weren’t a good climber but just a few tweaks and a change in your riding style may actually change things. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses using quantifiable data is game changing. Now you’re training.
What power meters are the best? Crank based power meters from SRM, Pioneer and Quarq are the current market leaders. Crank based power meters are the most accurate and the most reliable and our favorites from these players are by far the best. Crank based units generally use more robust technology and hardware and will yield better data and less chance of any problems. These folks are also good partners in that they stand behind their products and carry solid warranties.
In summing it all up, power is truly the most useful piece of data you can collect on a ride. All of the power meters we offer still include GPS data and all the other data points you’ve become used to. Speaking personally, I use wattage, left right balance and efficiency and form analysis far more than I use GPS or any other data. My goal is to have a more positive cycling experience. That includes riding smarter, more comfortably and more efficiently, more often. A power meter allows me to do exactly that. The rest is just pedaling.
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