Power meter considerations

I do not currently ride with a power meter but am curious if one could benefit me, and I’m interested in people’s thoughts.

My goal is to get a bit faster and improve my endurance, but I have no intentions of racing or anything like that. (There are a few 100+ mile rides on my bucket list and I’m not getting younger, so I better start working towards it!)

I do not currently follow a formal training plan or ride indoors and have no interest in either. I do shorter rides during the week (4 times ideally, about an hour each) and treat these as training rides by seeking out short and steep climbs, and rising as hard as I can. I use average speed as my metric but am well aware that wind and traffic add a lot of variation. I also mix in mountain biking and try to get a longer ride in on the weekends.

Would a power meter be a useful tool for me? If so, how would I make use of that information? I would like to keep doing the same kind of rides that I am currently doing.

Are there any good budget options for the power meter and display? I currently have Shimano 105 cranks and do not ride with a computer that can interface with a power meter.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts either way!

Yes, a power meter can help you get faster. Is it a magic bullet? No. It is a tool and you’ll need to learn how to use it and train with it.

Given that you have said you have no interest in a training program, I would say it wil be of limited benefit for you. To get the most out of a PM, you need to use it to train various effort levels (endurance, Tempo, sweet spot, etc).

Sure, you can use it in the manner you are currently riding and get some benefit from it, but it will be far below what it could do for you.

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I agree with @Henri_Desgrange . I suggest you to don’t get a PM. In my opinion it will be not useful for you.

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Thanks to both of you for the feedback. I think you’re right that I wouldn’t use it to the fullest effect.

I was thinking it could be useful as a preaching tool for longer rides, but really I need to get a better feel for my relative effort level so I don’t go to hard at the start of the longer rides.

I find it interesting to look at after the fact more than as a training tool–long story. Anyway, if you decide to get one, the 4iiii single sided pm is a great buy, especially if they have any of their reconditioned ones that match your groupset. The single-sided crank based work well enough for those of us with less extensive needs.

Don’t think you need PRM - except for the fun factor. Can only offer has worked for me. To boost endurance, ride until you bonk, recover, repeat - about once per month. Find ways to mix in high intensity. Exchange or supplement 1-2 of your mid-week rides for 30 mins weight training, especially dead lifts for power, core and flexibility. Get the form right to avoid injury and work up to about 1/2 to 3/4 body weight 10-20 repetitions, repeat to exhaustion. Rest and recover properly. It can be difficult to tell whether you have done too much or not enough. Diet is v important. Avoid vegetable seed oils and minimize carbs, take meat/dairy/animal fats. Do not snack. Keep daily eating window to <8hrs and try to eat only after work outs. You will drop weight and become lean quickly. All of the above + HRM >> PRM, ime. Keep it fun or you will eventually stop. You want good changes that become permanent.

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You mention that you don’t ride with a computer that can interface with a power meter and that you use average speed as a training metric… are you not currently monitoring output metrics, heart rate or anything?

Without going in to a ton of specific details… A power meter would absolutely be useful for structuring workouts to achieve specific goals, irrespecitve of whether you’re racing or just trying to get fitter and faster, but it’s ultimately just a better and more accurate way to measure your output compared to heart rate so, if you’re hesitant to dive into the full cost of a power meter I’d suggest starting with a heart rate monitor and good head unit and training based on the old school heart rate zones. The basic approach to categorizing efforts in “zones” and training specific zones for specific durations is the same between both and will help you begin structured workouts, but the cost of entry is much lower with HRM than a power meter.

If you already use a HRM, you can think of a power meter as a more accurate output measurement and one that’s isolated from how you “feel” for the day, which I find extremely helpful on days where I’m feeling particularly good or bad on the bike… A poor nights sleep can have a big effect on how you feel while putting out 300w but how long you can sustain those 300w doesn’t change as much as the perception of how you feel doing it does, so it helps you rein it in when you’re going good and helps you push through when you’re going poorly… or at least it does for me.

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I have to strongly disagree here…there is no physiological benefit to regularly bonking. If anything, it puts your body in a regular depleted state which can be increasingly difficult to recover from.

You should always fuel your rides properly…which means not just fueling to avoid bonking, but fueling to perform at an optimum level.

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Totally agree with that ^^^

Bonking means you ran out of energy, not that you had a good workout… bonking and getting a good workout are generally mutually exclusive conditions. Just because you feel exhausted doesn’t mean you had a productive session.

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Can only say it works well for me. Go to the limit, recover completely, do it again. The body remembers extremes, whether for endurance or intensity and adapts accordingly. I’ve gone 8+hrs rides w/o food, no pb.

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There’s something to be said for training to be competent and capable at the extremes of fatigue in terms of the psychological response… but in terms of physical response and increasing performance, you’ll get more out of your training time by being fully fueled because your muscles are able to sustain a higher output.

And I’ve gone out in the snow without a coat. Doesn’t make it a good idea.

Facetiousness aside, most coaches agree that riding under-fuelled is only useful in very specific situations. Pogacar’s coach (San Millan) has gone on record to say it largely blunts training response. There may be some value to a 90 minute steady ride fasted for those looking to maximise weight loss, but even that’s debated.

On topic, I’d suggest if the OP can face an ftp test, then riding with a power meter could help them. They will then have an idea of zones, and can look (gradually and informally) to extend time in zones or to increase power for the same time.

I’d say a well-designed training plan doesn’t have to be dull. Some examples from my current plan (current and past):

  1. Look to ride for about 4hrs. Pick a hilly route. Keep it very steady (low z2) on the flats but go hard up the hills (8/10, if 10/10 is going for a PB).
  2. Your challenge is to ride for 3 hours+ with less than 5 minutes where you’re not pedalling. Don’t worry about pace; go steady and very manageable. Try to keep as constant a pressure on the pedals as possible through the entire ride. Feel free to start the clock when you’re out of town. Pick a flat and quiet route for safety, and don’t take risks.
  3. Find a cafe that takes you about 2 hours to ride to at very steady, all day pace. Ride there and have a coffee (stop c.15 minutes). Ride back towards home at the same easy pace. After about an hour heading home, look to ride more or less flat out, probably for about 45 minutes - find a landmark to start from and go for a pb.
  4. With a riding partner. Great for a summer’s evening - takes about 2 hours. Ride socially for 20-30 mins. After that, stay on the front but spend the next 10 minutes trying to drop your riding partner. They only have to wheel-sit. Ride socially for the next 30mins or so. Then the roles are reversed. Ride easy for a while again, then (safely) team time trial the last c. 20 minutes home. Find a landmark to start from and go for a pb.
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“a man’s got to know his limitations” - lol

With your stated goals and desire to stick to your current riding/training practice of ad lib max efforts on kicker hills a power meter would just be a toy. The usefulness comes when you want to train around data, setting effort/length/duration for different training objectives off of baseline power data. Like others have said, it wouldn’t make a big deal of difference in context of how you prefer to do things.

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What you’re talking about sounds way old school. Like what was done to get the body fueling off fat reserves after the winter breaks of one-two months entirely off the bike. Going out on 100+ mile unfed rides staying in your 42x17, carrying no food. The start of training base miles/winter fat burn. But even when that was still a thing, it was just to get the base in. It wasn’t to get faster/stronger.

When it came to training/racing (a lot of training was racing) to get into race shape, back pockets would be stuffed with snacks and/or there’d be hand-ups of snacks, food bags… when they wanted to get faster, people were eating!

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wayyy old indeeed. think of it as accelerated fasting. don’t imagine the ancients were overly concerned abt going a day or two without eats - normal for k’s of generations. food has become unnaturally abundant and this is a pb. endurance comes from going long without.

That is simply not true……it is just bro science.

But I don’t think anyone is going to convince you otherwise, so have at it. But recommending it for others is bad advice.

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Interesting, that’s almost exactly opposite of how I’ve been eating for the last 10 years. Mostly vegan (some fish), lots of whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. That’s been working well for me, and I don’t plan on changing that for a variety of reasons.

Totally agree with the keeping it fun part. For me, a big part of that is being able to ride whatever and however I feel that day.

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Nope, just using a primitive wheelspeed sensor, like they used back in the stone age. I do like the idea of a heart rate monitor. Even if I don’t change my rides I could still make sure I’m pushing hard enough. Plus I can use that with whatever bike I’m riding that day.

I am interested to have some empirical measurements to compare with my “feel”. I’ve had rides where I felt sluggish staying out but ended up completing a longer ride at a decent speed. It probably does have to do with how well I pace myself at the start.

I like your suggestions! I think I do need to vary my effort level a bit. It’s hard to find time for the longer rides so I have to work with what I’ve got…

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