Is a power meter for me?

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#1
We all know that they are expensive so I'm not going to ask if its worth it, and if your unsure then I suggest reading the ample reviews, tests, expert opinions etc. I'm not asking about pricing or whatever here, but I'd like to know if its appropriate for my goals.

Firstly, I currently use cadence/speed sensor and a heart rate sensor, and of these currently HR is what I best understand to gage my efforts, training intensity, improvement, and how long I can sustain a given effort.

My goals at present are to ride stronger and faster in group century rides and push the pace, and in the next few years I want to do the Tuesday night criterium races (cat4 or 3), but the main races I am interested in are the Granfondo series in Canada (perhaps 2-4 of these per year). After watching road races in Canada (online) I can say that I'm not hot 'n' horny about riding flat-land circuits for 30-60 minutes, and adding the entry fee's plus transportation times... No thanks. I'd rather spend a few hours or so on a weekend century.

I've got a training book from Chris Carmichael that I will try out for my first structured training program, and as with many others Chis talks a lot about the benefit of training and riding with power vs. heart rate. Summed up; HR is unpredictable, unreliable, and only measures half of the information required for accurate improvement (input but not output). PM is accurate, more reliable because it's not effected by all of the confounding variables that effect HR, and it measures what most impacts your riding - the power you put-down when peddling (as the book stated; not many people train to improve their heart rate, but most train to improve their ability to ride hard and fast and dole-out pain to those around them).

My main issue with the tools I use right now is that I feel as though I'm shooting in the dark, and this is because I can't tell from these tools how long I can sustain a particular effort and therefore I'm not sure how, why, or what I'm improving or de-proving (I don't think that's a word but there you have it). I've seen my HR do all sorts of odd things, and this book explained the issues with using HR as a measure of improvement etc. what I want to be able to do on a ride is say to myself "ok so I know I can ride at this __ for __" and when things pick-up or I want to dictate pace I want to say "alright now I'm going to take it up to __ which I know I can hold for __ ".

In the end I think that a power meter is an investment that can lead to better performance in the future, but Carmichael did mention that they train athletes who use only HR and they still meet or exceed their goals for racing or century rides.

The crux is, am I willing to put that money into a part that will enhance my training/knowledge and subsequently improve my performance, or would I rather have a new drivetrain.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
2,863
1,450
129
...
#2
I've been thinking about a power meter but the cost is fairly hard to justify for me. I know I am not ready to compete with fast guys, so I know I have a lot of time in the saddle required to get my body closer to the point of needing that kind of fine tuning.

That said, if I didn't have a family I would be all over it. The quark that is...

As a tool I would think that you need to be able to use the data live to make use of it. I have riden with a mate who will set power output goals as we go, and ride intervals with that as a goal. All of which you can do without a powermeter. It just makes it a little easier to get unbiased instant feedback on your efforts.

Basically go hard, go often, you will get better. With or without a powermeter.
 

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#3
Indeed the cost is a tough one even for guy with no family, and yes just having a training regime and working hard at it is a good way to get better.

Perhaps the "level of tuning" is what I should look at, do the training program for a year or so and see how it's going.

I just the kind of guy that likes to see all the details, and especially so when it comes to trying to understand improvement.

Thanks ;)
 

Gunjira

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2009
1,002
176
83
Tokyo
#4
I appreciate these long posts explaining your goals and reasoning, which sounds similar to some of the central questions for many riders. What am I riding for? How can I get faster?

As for the first question, once you accept that there is always someone faster than you, it becomes easier to prioritize training, so it is more than a just a chore. Sure, a power meter gives you some numbers to motivate you, but it is not the be all and end all to structured training. I'm not using one, nor do I understand training as well as other members, but from my perspective, if you love riding and pushing yourself, you eventually will get fast enough. Maybe not fast enough to win, but fast enough to finish granfondos in good time.

Although rare, these events exist in Japan and being signed up as well as group rides with stronger guys has always proven the biggest boost for my performance.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
2,863
1,450
129
...
#5
I'm the same, The more numbers I can look over the better!
My HR monitor died and I didn't bother replacing it. I think for me, if I had a sporadic riding pattern it would make a lot more sense, but I do a lot of riding on the same course at the same time. This course has no traffic lights or things that need to slow me down. Also ride with Ben (Mlac Peek) who is very strong, much stronger than me. So I have several factors of consistency to gauge my improvement (or as in the case lately) de-provement (thanks:D) and one big factor to motivate me to be faster, someone to try and beat (Or in this case, just stay on the wheel of -with the occasional pull into the LAT zone)
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#6
As a former racer in the dark ages (no pm, hrm, etc) and current 'observer' , it's interesting to see these discourses and also just see if riders are actually improving as a result. My my POV, which is often jaded, btw ---

1) Everyone will get to their 88% ability within a year of riding somewhat consistently. Genetics just works that way. Strong riders are strong before they even take a single pedal stroke. I've seen plenty of races where the lead guys had barely a few rides under their belts stomping on those who trained night and day for years.

2) A solid, consistent , training plan will improve what you got, regardless. Especially stamina, probably not alot on power. I was off the bike for more than 20yrs , have a nearly useless left leg and was / am still able to hump up hills pretty well. What training buys me more than anything is the ability to keep going.

3) I think PM are useful especially when you want to have benchmarks and to keep you 'honest' in your intervals. The human body is inherently lazy and will do the least it can under stressful situations. PM is a good bio feedback tool against the pain.

4) Training with or without PM is not likely to vastly improve your ability as much as just 'riding harder'. If you can't tolerate the increased pain associated with riding harder, then you're in the wrong sport - or at least from a competitive perspective.

So, if you're data hungry, got gear-itis, rich wife or an elite athlete who's paycheck depends on podium finishes against similarly prepared athletes, then ANYTHING more you can use as a training aid is probably going to help - or make you think it's helping. On race day, anything can and will happen ... your conditioning is just one part of the equation.

Optimally I'd say these advanced data devices are next to worthless without a structured regime and associated coaching staff to help interpret and define iterative goals and steps. Kinda like the lawyer who represents himself in the court. What good is a PM if you can't even pedal properly to begin with?
 

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#7
@ Gunjira and Tim,
While I do agree that simply "riding harder" is the only way to get stronger the whole idea for me is to maximize the time I can spend on training, so riding harder is just not objective enough for me. We can sit around all day discuss what "riding harder" means to each of us, and sure it will vary with each rider and depending on where they are in their cycling "career". I'm not saying that I don't see any benefit from just doing intervals as hard as I can, but the issue for me is where are those gains coming from? And this is probably my personal issue because I'm new to structured training. Perhaps some of my frustration comes from not having enough experience to know my abilities, but if the data I use to help make those determinations is spurious then how will I get better? Just dumb-luck or decide to ride full-time I guess. I won't ride full-time so that's out, and I believe there is medium-ground here.

I don't think that a power meter will improve my ability; the common thread that I see while I learn about training is that PM's measure what's important so it makes sense to focus on what gets you more speed, better climbs, stronger pull's, etc. I like the fact that they take the subjectivity and guess-work out of improvement.
 

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#8
I'm the same, The more numbers I can look over the better!
My HR monitor died and I didn't bother replacing it. I think for me, if I had a sporadic riding pattern it would make a lot more sense, but I do a lot of riding on the same course at the same time. This course has no traffic lights or things that need to slow me down. Also ride with Ben (Mlac Peek) who is very strong, much stronger than me. So I have several factors of consistency to gauge my improvement (or as in the case lately) de-provement (thanks:D) and one big factor to motivate me to be faster, someone to try and beat (Or in this case, just stay on the wheel of -with the occasional pull into the LAT zone)
Sounds nice to have a good training place, I have to put up with timing intervals around lights and times when it's not super busy.

Measuring you improvement or lack thereof is one of the things I like about power or being able to ride with others stronger than me ;)
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#9
Well, there's the other school of thought that if just follow a Training With Power program and get your power to the max , regardless of your skills and technique then you should be fine, right? I rode plenty with guys like that in Gran Fondo and weekend rides - and relish the ongoing opportunities to drive them into a pulp. Its really not that hard to structure a simple interval training program and rest assured if you really do push as 'hard as you can' , it will basically work. Where the PM really helps, I believe, is in giving you an honest data score of your recovery level and being able to use data input in feedback to structured training. But then, your times around a known course or hill are equally as valid for the most part. And if you really want good PM training then I'd be splitting for something like a leMond, where I can take everything else out of the equation. (Back in the day we used very expensive 'ergs' for this type of power training).

As related to that -- I've recently signed up for Trainer Road and looking forward to using this with my bike on rollers AND a PM. I get bored on rollers and tend to slack off. The bio-feedback of Trainer Road and the PM should help keep me somewhat more occupied and interested. Not to mention it would be fun to create some TR workouts mimicking a few HC like 'The Boobs' , 'Shiraishi' , etc.

I miss the PNW night crits, btw. But I don't really miss the old Gastown circuit where I busted up a few times badly across the bricks!! My favorite local series was the Volunteer Park series in Seattle... now, all the homeboys (and girls) have the PIR as their oyster!

I still highly suggest a few sessions with a real coach. Get your program and riding sorted out before you start making bad habits. That will probably be the best way to spend your first 100,000 yen or whatever a PM costs these days.
 

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#11
Well, there's the other school of thought that if just follow a Training With Power program and get your power to the max , regardless of your skills and technique then you should be fine, right? I rode plenty with guys like that in Gran Fondo and weekend rides - and relish the ongoing opportunities to drive them into a pulp. Its really not that hard to structure a simple interval training program and rest assured if you really do push as 'hard as you can' , it will basically work. Where the PM really helps, I believe, is in giving you an honest data score of your recovery level and being able to use data input in feedback to structured training. But then, your times around a known course or hill are equally as valid for the most part. And if you really want good PM training then I'd be splitting for something like a leMond, where I can take everything else out of the equation. (Back in the day we used very expensive 'ergs' for this type of power training).

As related to that -- I've recently signed up for Trainer Road and looking forward to using this with my bike on rollers AND a PM. I get bored on rollers and tend to slack off. The bio-feedback of Trainer Road and the PM should help keep me somewhat more occupied and interested. Not to mention it would be fun to create some TR workouts mimicking a few HC like 'The Boobs' , 'Shiraishi' , etc.

I miss the PNW night crits, btw. But I don't really miss the old Gastown circuit where I busted up a few times badly across the bricks!! My favorite local series was the Volunteer Park series in Seattle... now, all the homeboys (and girls) have the PIR as their oyster!

I still highly suggest a few sessions with a real coach. Get your program and riding sorted out before you start making bad habits. That will probably be the best way to spend your first 100,000 yen or whatever a PM costs these days.
Sound advice Tim.

Haha the bricks, I saw so many people eat it on those bad-boys ;) The gastown race has been canceled for the past few years, the last time I saw it Ryder demoralized the pack.

I rode by those Tuesday night races all the time too, and next time I'll be in the pack throwing all my 63 kilo's around ;)
 

j-sworks

Maximum Pace
Feb 5, 2012
1,199
48
68
Tokyo
#12
I don't know where you live but there are many rivers in Tokyo all of them have river roads that early In the morning are largely empty.
Although hills are a premium even little ones can be put to good use and provide you with something you can gauge your strength against.

Like this!! :)


http://app.strava.com/activities/28853191
I live out in Hino, so perhaps I could try Tamagawa by Y's. I've seen the path above the road where people ride, but I was just going by in the day times.
 

saibot

Maximum Pace
May 29, 2012
793
934
113
Taito
#13
The crux is, am I willing to put that money into a part that will enhance my training/knowledge and subsequently improve my performance, or would I rather have a new drivetrain.
Pay to add weight to the bike or remove weight, pretty simple choice.
Lightest bike aways wins ;-)
And you S-works deserves an new RED,DA or SRecord group right?
 
Jan 14, 2007
2,514
213
83
Noda
japanichiban.com
#15
I'd love a power meter...but if you find a decent STRAVA section with lots of riders on it with their wattage showing and you have a heart rate monitor at least you should be able to gauge your wattage by comparing your times with everybody else there.
Use that STRAVA section as your watt tester.
 
May 22, 2007
3,571
1,390
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#17
if you find a decent STRAVA section with lots of riders on it with their wattage showing and you have a heart rate monitor at least you should be able to gauge your wattage by comparing your times with everybody else there.
Only if everything else (bike, gears, body, road conditions) is equal. There are too many variables to get a reliable correlation on anything but time vs time, I think.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#19
Yes but the whole point of training with a power meter is getting realtime feed back as you ride so you can actually ride "In Zone" rather than getting back and seeing when and where you pushed - there is no real training benifits to seeing the data after you have ridden.

One thing you will notice when using a power meter is the amount of "Junk" time you spend on the bike - This is one of the reasons why riders that race do a lot of thier training indoors - you can do 30 - 40 -60 minute power sessions without Junk right there in your house then get out on the road for active recovery or long runs.

I would suggest reading up on training with power meters first - see if it fits with your lifestyle or requirements and that you know what its talking about. Many riders just use it as another set of numbers to brag about or try to beat.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,429
873
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#20
I'd love a power meter...but if you find a decent STRAVA section with lots of riders on it with their wattage showing and you have a heart rate monitor at least you should be able to gauge your wattage by comparing your times with everybody else there.
Use that STRAVA section as your watt tester.
As a word of caution, for shorter segments the Strava power data is only as good (or as awful) as the elevation data in the log, particularly without a barometric altimeter. Over longer stretches bogus data should average out again and be more usable, but still far from perfect.

For example, I share the same Strava position (and same average speed) on a flat 1 km segment near the Imperial palace with someone else, but Strava estimates my power at DOUBLE the other guy's, presumably because my non-barometric altitude data has more variation than his on the same stretch of road. I would say, ignore all power figures that don't come from a Garmin 500 or 800 or other known good data source.