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Thread: Explain watts

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Explain watts

    I use this http://www.noping.net/english/ for my speed and average when I'm done riding and I was wondering what the Watts mean. This morning I got a reading of 414 watts, but I don't have any idea what it means. I know the higher it is, the more power you put out, but whats good or bad. What is a good target to shoot for. You wouldn't try and get the highest you can, every time you ride. I use there scale for calories used up and my time and average.
    I wish I could afford a power meter, but it's not in my plans at this time. I have read where the power meter really helps keep and eye on your performance, but what are you looking for, in terms of watts?
    George

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    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    George,

    Watch for Hermes to post - I am sure he will. He has been training with one for about a year now I think.
    Watts is real measure of performance and the only way to take out all the other variables. I had not seen that web site you listed but just like any off line estimator it is just an estimate - and a pretty poor one at that.

    I can't justify a watt meter yet - but I sure pine over them.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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    746 watts = 1 HP I think I may be able to achieve about 150 watts.

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    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Watts = power.

    400W is a lot.

    World class sprinters can generate 1600W for a brief period of time.

    Floyd Landis, when he ripped the legs off the competition during the mountain stage of his ill-fated TdF generated something like 750W over a sustained period of time. I don't care if it was drug-induced or not. That's a humongous effort.

    I wonder if the computer-derived values are accurate. Serious folk use a PowerTap or somesuch.

    My computer says I generated 250W on one of my climbs today. I thought my eyes were going to start bleeding at the time.

    But I'm not very good.

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    Senior Member SabreMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    Watts = power.

    ...
    Power tells you the rate at which you expend/use energy. A watt (W) is 1 joule/second (J/s), where a joule is a unit of energy -- and a joule is not very large. So your 100 W light bulb uses 100 J of energy every second. To show you that that is not a lot, consider the kilowatthour (kWh) the typical unit of energy on US electricity bills. In my area (Omaha) 1 kWh of energy costs about $0.10. But 1 kWh = 3.6 Million(!) joules of energy!! If you used your 100 W light bulb for 10 hours, then you have used 1 kWh of energy.

    Another way of looking at it is the conversion between a joule and a dietary calorie (Cal). 1 Cal = 4186 joules. If you burn 1 Cal/s, this is a power output of 4186 W. Just think about that the next time you stop for pie on your bike ride!

    Glenn in Omaha

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    The wind was blowing at 15 mph and I averaged 15 mph for 2 hours. That means I burned or used up 1/2 of a hp. I'm sorry I still don't understand. If I burned up 414 watts or used up 1/2 HP. What can I compare those figures with? Maybe a power meter would be the way to go. If they didn't cost so much. Thanks for the replies guys.
    Weak Link, do you have a power meter?
    George

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    Senior Member badrad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SabreMan View Post
    Power tells you the rate at which you expend/use energy. A watt (W) is 1 joule/second (J/s), where a joule is a unit of energy -- and a joule is not very large. So your 100 W light bulb uses 100 J of energy every second. To show you that that is not a lot, consider the kilowatthour (kWh) the typical unit of energy on US electricity bills. In my area (Omaha) 1 kWh of energy costs about $0.10. But 1 kWh = 3.6 Million(!) joules of energy!! If you used your 100 W light bulb for 10 hours, then you have used 1 kWh of energy.

    Another way of looking at it is the conversion between a joule and a dietary calorie (Cal). 1 Cal = 4186 joules. If you burn 1 Cal/s, this is a power output of 4186 W. Just think about that the next time you stop for pie on your bike ride!

    Glenn in Omaha
    be careful with the numbers... 1 cal = 4.186 joules. just a factor of 1000 off...
    1 joule is equal to 0.238902957619 calories.

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    Senior Member Kojak's Avatar
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    Any discrete wattage figure means virtually nothing. Generally what matters is the amount of watts that you can produce over time, and how your heart rate coincides with that number. The theory goes, as you get fitter, your average wattage numbers should improve at a given sustainable heart rate. Most racers become very familiar with these numbers. I no longer race, so the numbers don't mean much to me. If I started racing again, I'd figure out a way to afford a Power Tap system. SRM are better, but much much much more expensive. The marginal additional cost is hard to justify. If you have kaboodles of cash lying around, go for the SRM.
    Last edited by Kojak; 03-24-10 at 04:14 PM.
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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SabreMan View Post
    Power tells you the rate at which you expend/use energy. A watt (W) is 1 joule/second (J/s), where a joule is a unit of energy -- and a joule is not very large. So your 100 W light bulb uses 100 J of energy every second. To show you that that is not a lot, consider the kilowatthour (kWh) the typical unit of energy on US electricity bills. In my area (Omaha) 1 kWh of energy costs about $0.10. But 1 kWh = 3.6 Million(!) joules of energy!! If you used your 100 W light bulb for 10 hours, then you have used 1 kWh of energy.

    Another way of looking at it is the conversion between a joule and a dietary calorie (Cal). 1 Cal = 4186 joules. If you burn 1 Cal/s, this is a power output of 4186 W. Just think about that the next time you stop for pie on your bike ride!

    Glenn in Omaha
    I was typing my reply before I read your post. I'll have to chew on that for a while. About the pie, I dropped most sweets about 3 weeks ago and I've lost 5 pounds. I finally made it below 200#
    Thanks for the reply.
    George

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kojak View Post
    Any discrete wattage figure means virtually nothing. Generally it's the amount of watts that you can produce over time, and how your heart rate coincides with that number. The theory goes, as you get fitter, your average wattage numbers should improve at a given sustainable heart rate. Most racers become very familiar with these numbers. I no longer race, so the numbers don't mean much to me. If I started racing again, I'd figure out a way to afford a Power Tap system. SRM are better, but much much much more expensive. The marginal additional cost is hard to justify. If you have kaboodles of cash lying around, go for the SRM.
    I was thinking of taking up a collection on the forums here, but I think most of us a pretty tapped. Serious though, I'm just a recreational rider and I really don't need a power meter, but I like to see how I'm doing, or gaining, if any. I wonder if that Garmin 500 edge would help, after downloaded some of there programs.
    George

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    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    I was thinking of taking up a collection on the forums here, but I think most of us a pretty tapped. Serious though, I'm just a recreational rider and I really don't need a power meter, but I like to see how I'm doing, or gaining, if any. I wonder if that Garmin 500 edge would help, after downloaded some of there programs.
    George,
    The Garmin will help. I have an old forerunner and record my morning training rides. It's the same route two or three mornings/week during riding season. There are two good hills and the ride is about 17 miles long so it takes about 1hr +/-. There are several measures I make, the average speed for the ride not including the warm up and cool down, the speed up the hills and speed I am able to sustain on the intervals I do on the flats. During the early season I use an HRM so I don't get stuck in Z3 and push on to Z4 & Z5 at the right times.

    I'm not sure if this is the right thing to look at but I have years of data to compare these points to and can see the trend. I don't get too hung up on it but I do see if I am making progress.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    George,
    The Garmin will help. I have an old forerunner and record my morning training rides. It's the same route two or three mornings/week during riding season. There are two good hills and the ride is about 17 miles long so it takes about 1hr +/-. There are several measures I make, the average speed for the ride not including the warm up and cool down, the speed up the hills and speed I am able to sustain on the intervals I do on the flats. During the early season I use an HRM so I don't get stuck in Z3 and push on to Z4 & Z5 at the right times.

    I'm not sure if this is the right thing to look at but I have years of data to compare these points to and can see the trend. I don't get too hung up on it but I do see if I am making progress.
    That's basically what I'm doing, is keeping a record to see where I'm at. I was getting tired on staying in zone 3 and I wanted to start trying to get faster. I'm not trying to race or anything, but I'd like to average 18 when I want to.
    I see where I have to go well over 20 to average 18 though. When I average 15 or 16, I have to ride 18 to 20 mph. That's after warm up and traffic lights and a couple of stop signs, before I can get going.
    George

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    mosquito rancher adamrice's Avatar
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    Watts, like horsepower, measure your instantaneous power. They don't measure work over time. So you did not do 1/2 horsepower of work over 2 hours, you may have maintained 1/2 horsepower of output over 2 hours (which is a hell of a lot). That would be about 3000 kcal of work, which you can convert to watt-hours, which would be about 3500 w-h.

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    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    That's basically what I'm doing, is keeping a record to see where I'm at. I was getting tired on staying in zone 3 and I wanted to start trying to get faster. I'm not trying to race or anything, but I'd like to average 18 when I want to.
    I see where I have to go well over 20 to average 18 though. When I average 15 or 16, I have to ride 18 to 20 mph. That's after warm up and traffic lights and a couple of stop signs, before I can get going.
    Intervals into Z4 and Z5 and hill climbs help me build speed. Also riding with faster riders helps me to push myself. Like you I am not interested in being a hard core racer, I just don't want to be the last one in on a club ride, I want to be able to do my turn on the pulls and not feel like I'm going to explode just to keep up.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
    Watts, like horsepower, measure your instantaneous power. They don't measure work over time. So you did not do 1/2 horsepower of work over 2 hours, you may have maintained 1/2 horsepower of output over 2 hours (which is a hell of a lot). That would be about 3000 kcal of work, which you can convert to watt-hours, which would be about 3500 w-h.
    The program showed where I burned up 3132 calories and yes it was a hard workout. Tomorrow will be a spinning day I was trying to see if I could make my Look bicycle skip a link, but it didn't and I'm happy it didn't. That was in another post.
    George

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    When I load my Edge 705 data into Garmin Connect it always tells me I'm burning some ridiculous amount of calories - according to it my commute burns over 3,000 calories. If I actually ate what it says I should to make up the calories burned I would be big as a house by now.
    The more you drive the less intelligent you are. - Tracy Walter as Miller in Repo Man.

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    Watts........Watts are good. It is what I studied in college in a lot of different forms, from entry level to advanced. Watts is what has built my house, put my kids through school and hopefully will allow me to retire to generate my own watts. We have an exhibit at work for the general public to use that will give you a really good feel for how watts vary. We've put a hand cranked generator on a board with a switch that can connect a variety of loads from a 25 watt light bulb to a 1200 watt hair dryer. People almost break their arm when the switch is thrown over to the higher wattage devices.

    Watts is simply the work (or effort) being made. Energy is a measurement of work over a period of time. Watts is a great way to measure effort because it removes all the variables-wind, speed, cadence, heart rate etc. Assuming the device is legit, it provides you with the true effort you're making and is the best way to train. Most devices use algorithms that simply take the data and "estimate" the wattage based on the inputs from the device.

    Personally, I cannot generate that much wattage compared to a lot of folks because I have power to weight constraints, but I'm pretty good at expending a lot of energy on a ride because I can hold a particular wattage for a pretty long time.
    Ride your Ride!!

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    Watts........Watts are good. It is what I studied in college in a lot of different forms, from entry level to advanced. Watts is what has built my house, put my kids through school and hopefully will allow me to retire to generate my own watts. We have an exhibit at work for the general public to use that will give you a really good feel for how watts vary. We've put a hand cranked generator on a board with a switch that can connect a variety of loads from a 25 watt light bulb to a 1200 watt hair dryer. People almost break their arm when the switch is thrown over to the higher wattage devices.

    Watts is simply the work (or effort) being made. Energy is a measurement of work over a period of time. Watts is a great way to measure effort because it removes all the variables-wind, speed, cadence, heart rate etc. Assuming the device is legit, it provides you with the true effort you're making and is the best way to train. Most devices use algorithms that simply take the data and "estimate" the wattage based on the inputs from the device.

    Personally, I cannot generate that much wattage compared to a lot of folks because I have power to weight constraints, but I'm pretty good at expending a lot of energy on a ride because I can hold a particular wattage for a pretty long time.

    Now I can understand it, very well said jppe. I'm getting anxious to get that Garmin now. I still want to do more homework on it though. Thanks for the reply jppe.
    After my other post of averaging 18. If I did that, I could be on the top 3 for the senior games over here. I think they do that race near me in October. It's probably more than 1 race though, but I bet it would be fun.
    George

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    I'm in the gigawatt range, myself...


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    Senior Member SabreMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badrad View Post
    be careful with the numbers... 1 cal = 4.186 joules. just a factor of 1000 off...
    1 joule is equal to 0.238902957619 calories.
    Read again. I said a dietary calorie. 1 Cal = 1000 cal. So my statement was correct.

    Glenn in Omaha

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    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    BTW, I don't own a power meter. It would be extraneous for a recreational rider. If I had that kind of
    money I'd be better off looking into a new wheelset.

    Anyone know how accurate the derived wattage estimates from a program such as Ascent are?

  22. #22
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I believe it was a combination of racial unrest and an extremely hot summer.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    BTW, I don't own a power meter. It would be extraneous for a recreational rider. If I had that kind of
    money I'd be better off looking into a new wheelset.
    Can't say I agree there, WL. I've been riding power meters for 5 yrs now and I'm a HUGE fan of them. Not that one needs to be a racer to benefit. You do need to be a bit of a data geek though (engineers are welcome). Here's my thought: I'm getting to advanced years (well, 60) but I am a strong rider. Now because of power meter data, I KNOW that I am a stronger rider than I was 5 years ago. I have the data to prove it. And this info lets me know that I ain't over the hill just yet. That gives me untold satisfaction.

    If I was starting out riding, I would buy a cheaper bike with a power meter, rather than a top end machine, and I would be a much faster rider. (Of course, one has to do his homework!)

    And if you just want to ride and smell the roses, good on ya!

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    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    My next major cycling purchase will be a power tap. I sort of messed up last year when I purchased deep section carbon fiber tubular wheels. If I put the power tap on the tubular CF wheel that I only use for racing I would not be able to train with the power tap which is more important. I would like to use the PT for race information especially on TT's and training races. I don't want to ride the tubular tires on training, recovery and fun rides because dealing with flats on tubulars is a hassle. My wife has mentioned a couple projects she wants done around the house, maybe I'll do them all with out complaining.....
    oldschool areodynamic brick

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    on a recent ride I was wondering about the whole watts thing too. I only have a simple computer. I was wondering how my watts would change if my speed remained consistent but with different gearing.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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