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To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I'm in love with power.  But is it worth the price?  Like $1500?

I think i might need to start saving up for a power meter for my bike because i'm hooked.  Over the past years i've realized that, at least for me, having some sort of objective metric through which to analyze my training efforts is one of the keys that allows me to maximize the results.

What this has meant in the past is doing at least one workout a week where i used this metric both to create the 'target' for the session and as a means of tracking progress.  For runs this is most easily done using the treadmill, although back when i was a graduate student i favored the indoor, 8 laps=1mile track over running in place.  And while i certainly don't love running on the mill, i've come to tolerate it simply because it allows me to push myself in the objective way that i think is so important (and see my progress very clearly).

A year ago i started using Wattage as my metric of choice for the bike during the winter.   I'd ride at the YMCA on an older precor model stationary bike, which is fine when its cold.  The wattage seems consistent from machine to machine (it should be, a watt has a standard definition after all, and you are actually doing work on the bike... as compared to a calculated speed or distance.  I don't know about you but unless i pick up the bike and move it i don't actually go anywhere from all that pedaling) and, at least in theory, could actually be compared to an outside ride. 

And speaking of outside rides, now that spring is here it will be more and more tempting to actually get on my a real bike... but i'm not sure i'm ready to give up the watts quite yet.  For whatever reason i work harder when i'm looking down at that number that seems to actually say something about how hard i'm working.  No other metric does this - HR varies.  mph varies (with the wind up here, significantly so!).  Perceived exertion is too open to the rationalizations of a mind trying to wimp out and get away with it. 

Another reason i love wattage is that it lets me look back and compare a variety of workouts by using average watts and get a broader picture of improvement or progress.  For example, about 1 year ago, about a month after shifting from three hours a week to two,  i recorded the following ride:
friday, May 13, 2011 - Bike [40] *1+* - stationary bike at Y.  10 mile time trial.  Ended up riding @ lvl 9 i think (maybe level 10) @ about 95 (give or take RPM) and usually 242-251 watts.  Tough by end.  Took ~27:45 to hit 10 miles.  The remainder of the 30 minutes was spent spinning, then i bumped up to lvl 20 and maintained a consistent tempo of 55+ RPM (~200+ watts) for the final 10 minutes.  Good workout, particularly the time trial bit.
 The average watts for the time trial, where i was pushing the pace the whole time, was under 250 watts.  Compare this to Wednesday's (yesterday's) ride:
Wed, March 28th, 2012 - Bike [45] - WU lvl 8, 217-225 watts, 5 min. then 10 min @ lvl 10, ~259-267 watts, 10 min lvl 11 267+ watts, 10 min lvl 10, 250+ watts, 10 min lvl 11, 250-267 watts.  Hard, but good.  

where the average watts for the 40 minutes was probably around 260 or greater.   Now i'm thrilled at this - because according to which apparently is THE place to go for power/speed calculations, my 60 kg frame traveling down a flat asphalt road in the absence of wind should be moving along at a nearly 26 mph at 260 watts.  If only that were true.  But comparing the results between the 2011 wattage and 2012 wattage does let me see that i the fitness gains should translate to about a 1 mile per hour speed increase, which is pretty cool too.

So i'm convinced that training with wattage is the best way to go on the bike... but now i have to decide just how much money 'best' is worth... those power meters are pretty pricey!


  1. Wattage does seem to be the key metric to cycling fitness. You can get used wired setups on ebay for around $300. (rear wheel and sensors) A used wireless wheel would be the next best deal if you already have an ANT+ ready GPS unit.
    Still, don't ignore training specificity. The indoor bikes don't mimic your real bike enough to get all the benefit out of the (limited) time you're putting in on the stationary. You need to teach your muscles (not just legs, but lower back, neck, diaphragm, etc) to work in the position you're in on your real bike, especially if you're going to be in an aero position.
    Plus, if you're into data, there's no extrapolations, translations, or approximations to your performance when you're doing it for real!

  2. i agree that specificity is key. And your right - despite what the 'extrapolation' says - no way i'm sustaining 25 mph on a real bike, at least not the one i have, aero position or no. But a man can dream. Thanks for the tip to check Ebay... maybe i can give myself an early b-day present! Have you ever heard of a power meter on a mt. bike? so much of my racing is Adventure racing so ideally i'd get a set up that would allow me to train with power and have as much specificity as possible.....