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Question on power

Old 03-17-18, 01:06 PM
  #1  
Billy1111
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Question on power

if im doing 250 watts.......whether im doing up a hill, flats or into head wind it should feel all the same right??? 250 is 250?

so how come i feel like im getting a beatdown when doing that power into a heavy head/cross wind? I feel like its so much harder or is it my imaginantion?
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Old 03-17-18, 01:10 PM
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I think that the same power can feel drastically different depending upon cadence, for one, and then there's the mental anguish aspect of busting your ass yet moving slowly.
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Old 03-17-18, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
I think that the same power can feel drastically different depending upon cadence, for one, and then there's the mental anguish aspect of busting your ass yet moving slowly.
This, my friends, is why I hate riding on very windy days.
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Old 03-17-18, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Billy1111 View Post
if im doing 250 watts.......whether im doing up a hill, flats or into head wind it should feel all the same right???
Why would you think that?
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Old 03-17-18, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
Why would you think that?
Why wouldn't you? If I had to guess what 250 watts felt like, my first guess would be.....250 watts.
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Old 03-17-18, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
I think that the same power can feel drastically different depending upon cadence, for one, and then there's the mental anguish aspect of busting your ass yet moving slowly.
Right. It's not so much that it feels harder or easier to deliver 250w, but the ride is more or less punishing or rewarding given the same watts.
250w uphill into the wind: ugh, what a slog! - I'm such a weakling, and we'll never get there!
250w downhill: Yee-hah, what a blast! - I'm Superman, and nothing can stop me!
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Old 03-17-18, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
Why wouldn't you? If I had to guess what 250 watts felt like, my first guess would be.....250 watts.
Cuz I've been riding with a power meter since the last millenium, in all kinds of situations?
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Old 03-17-18, 04:57 PM
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Yeah we’re not computers, headwind uphill sucks and is hard, especially if it’s cold. Watts be damned.
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Old 03-17-18, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by kbarch View Post
Right. It's not so much that it feels harder or easier to deliver 250w, but the ride is more or less punishing or rewarding given the same watts.
250w uphill into the wind: ugh, what a slog! - I'm such a weakling, and we'll never get there!
250w downhill: Yee-hah, what a blast! - I'm Superman, and nothing can stop me!


I think the opposite.

250 watts uphill= doable (for a limited time),

250 watts on the flat= ragged effort,

250 watts downhill- maybe 5 or 10 seconds.
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Old 03-17-18, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I think the opposite.

250 watts uphill= doable (for a limited time),

250 watts on the flat= ragged effort,

250 watts downhill- maybe 5 or 10 seconds.
I get what you're saying about continuous efforts - it IS easier to work uphill than to work on descents. And you may well be right when it comes to actual watts. I wouldn't know, since I don't have a power meter. But I do know how lots of folks trudge up extended climbs in an easy gear, and the same energy maintained over the crest an on downhill portions of ensuing rollers will really make one feel like superman.
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Old 03-17-18, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by kbarch View Post
I get what you're saying about continuous efforts - it IS easier to work uphill than to work on descents. And you may well be right when it comes to actual watts. I wouldn't know, since I don't have a power meter. But I do know how lots of folks trudge up extended climbs in an easy gear, and the same energy maintained over the crest an on downhill portions of ensuing rollers will really make one feel like superman.

IME, after you crest the hill & are starting down, still pedaling hard, going through the gears-

~125 watts.
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Old 03-17-18, 09:02 PM
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Watts feel way different to me depending on how I generate them.

The same power output on a 10% uphill grade, a 2% uphill grade, rolling terrain, a 2% downhill grade- all different. As is riding on the tops, in the drops, in the aero bars... And so on.

So much so that I will actually get assigned making X power in various specific output situations by my coach- climbing ride or TT bike or “do these intervals in the drops”.

Is it your imagination: No.
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Old 03-17-18, 09:26 PM
  #13  
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Check out the Strava Wind Analysis site. You'll need to give it permission to access your Strava account. I did a year or so ago, no problems. And you may need to disable ad or script blockers to access the wind influence scoring explanation.

The developer posted here a year or so ago when it was still in raw form. It's more complete now. It factors in wind direction and speed, something most other apps don't do well or don't do at all.

I don't use a power meter. Strava's guesstimates for my efforts sometimes coincide with comparable cyclists who do use power meters -- we're comparable in age, size, weight, etc. In other instances Strava's power estimates seem exaggerated a bit compared with other riders, although it's hard to compare since they ride aero carbon bikes and I'm on a 1980s steel bike.

If I'm recalling correctly, negative numbers indicate tailwind assistance; positive numbers indicate headwind or wind resistance. So on a two mile roller coaster segment I ride a lot, my best time (this weekend, as it turns out) rates a -1.16 due to a rare tailwind from the east -- our prevailing wind is usually out of the south or north, rarely west or east. Another fellow who recorded the same time/speed scored a +2.18 due to less favorable wind. And another fellow who was very slightly slower scored a +4.17 due to unfavorable wind.

So adjusted for difficulty, the slightly slower rider should have a higher power output rating on Strava. But it didn't turn out that way. That's a consistent problem across the board with Strava estimates based on the data recorded by the app, and provided by riders about their weight, bike weight, etc.

For me, there's a huge difference in felt effort between flat terrain, downhills and climbs, in neutral wind, with headwind or tailwind. I'm far from a strong rider but, according to Strava's guesstimates, on a good day I can briefly generate 350-400 watts for 60-90 seconds on a few modest local downhill segments that average around -3% or so. Even if I downgrade that to a more conservative 250 watts, comparable to cyclists who rode those same segments at the same speeds on their aero carbon bikes, there's still no comparison with the subjective *felt* effort of generating 200 watts or more on a climb.

So let's say I'm generating 200-250 watts at best on any segment. On a downhill while sprinting -- I don't usually coast downhill -- I'll finish a little winded but otherwise okay. The same watts on a climb, per Strava estimates, will leave me feeling briefly exhausted, with burning legs and nearly nauseated from maximum effort.

And I suck on climbs. I'm a solid middle of the pack climber on every Strava segment. But on downhills I'm usually in the upper 25%, and top ten on a couple. On group ride downhills I'm often first to the bottom, although that's due in part to the other riders easing back while I enjoy the speed -- and I don't like riding the brakes in the middle of a group.

Even factoring in tailwind, headwind or neutral conditions, something just doesn't seem right about the discrepancies between power estimates and how it feels.

So I'm doubtful about whether watts tell the whole story.
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Old 03-17-18, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Check out the Strava Wind Analysis site. You'll need to give it permission to access your Strava account. I did a year or so ago, no problems. And you may need to disable ad or script blockers to access the wind influence scoring explanation.

The developer posted here a year or so ago when it was still in raw form. It's more complete now. It factors in wind direction and speed, something most other apps don't do well or don't do at all.

I don't use a power meter. Strava's guesstimates for my efforts sometimes coincide with comparable cyclists who do use power meters -- we're comparable in age, size, weight, etc. In other instances Strava's power estimates seem exaggerated a bit compared with other riders, although it's hard to compare since they ride aero carbon bikes and I'm on a 1980s steel bike.

If I'm recalling correctly, negative numbers indicate tailwind assistance; positive numbers indicate headwind or wind resistance. So on a two mile roller coaster segment I ride a lot, my best time (this weekend, as it turns out) rates a -1.16 due to a rare tailwind from the east -- our prevailing wind is usually out of the south or north, rarely west or east. Another fellow who recorded the same time/speed scored a +2.18 due to less favorable wind. And another fellow who was very slightly slower scored a +4.17 due to unfavorable wind.

So adjusted for difficulty, the slightly slower rider should have a higher power output rating on Strava. But it didn't turn out that way. That's a consistent problem across the board with Strava estimates based on the data recorded by the app, and provided by riders about their weight, bike weight, etc.

For me, there's a huge difference in felt effort between flat terrain, downhills and climbs, in neutral wind, with headwind or tailwind. I'm far from a strong rider but, according to Strava's guesstimates, on a good day I can briefly generate 350-400 watts for 60-90 seconds on a few modest local downhill segments that average around -3% or so. Even if I downgrade that to a more conservative 250 watts, comparable to cyclists who rode those same segments at the same speeds on their aero carbon bikes, there's still no comparison with the subjective *felt* effort of generating 200 watts or more on a climb.

So let's say I'm generating 200-250 watts at best on any segment. On a downhill while sprinting -- I don't usually coast downhill -- I'll finish a little winded but otherwise okay. The same watts on a climb, per Strava estimates, will leave me feeling briefly exhausted, with burning legs and nearly nauseated from maximum effort.

And I suck on climbs. I'm a solid middle of the pack climber on every Strava segment. But on downhills I'm usually in the upper 25%, and top ten on a couple. On group ride downhills I'm often first to the bottom, although that's due in part to the other riders easing back while I enjoy the speed -- and I don't like riding the brakes in the middle of a group.

Even factoring in tailwind, headwind or neutral conditions, something just doesn't seem right about the discrepancies between power estimates and how it feels.

So I'm doubtful about whether watts tell the whole story.


Again, I doubt you're putting out 250 watts on any downhill.

Last week I did a little time trial lap- a little over an hour, ~1800' climbing.

One downhill segment is a bit over a mile, drops 200', 21 mph- 98 watts.

The more substantial downhills are more like 30 watts at 26 mph,

and anything over 35 mph would be basically 0 watts.
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Old 03-17-18, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Again, I doubt you're putting out 250 watts on any downhill...
I doubt it too. Probably half that, based on comparable felt effort on flat terrain that usually gives me a guesstimate of 125-150 watts.

On the few occasions I've maintained over 200 watts on any climb, I feel every bit of that effort. It ain't much even compared with other guys my own age -- I usually get dropped even on the old dudes group rides. But over the past couple of years I've improved from dead last on most climbs to middle of the pack, per Strava. Problem is, the group I've joined for occasional brisk rides are better on climbs where the power really matters.

But if blasting recklessly downhill without regard to insurance deductibles counts for anything, I'm yer huckleberry.
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Old 03-17-18, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by kbarch View Post
It's not so much that it feels harder or easier to deliver 250w, but the ride is more or less punishing or rewarding given the same watts.
Originally Posted by kbarch View Post
... I wouldn't know, since I don't have a power meter.
If you don't have a power meter, how do you know when you're producing 250 W?
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Old 03-17-18, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I don't use a power meter. Strava's guesstimates for my efforts sometimes coincide with comparable cyclists who do use power meters -- we're comparable in age, size, weight, etc. In other instances Strava's power estimates seem exaggerated a bit compared with other riders, although it's hard to compare since they ride aero carbon bikes and I'm on a 1980s steel bike.

So I'm doubtful about whether watts tell the whole story.
It seems like the proper conclusion is "I'm doubtful Strava estimates tell the whole story."
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Old 03-17-18, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
It seems like the proper conclusion is "I'm doubtful Strava estimates tell the whole story."
Yup, fair point.
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Old 03-18-18, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
If you don't have a power meter, how do you know when you're producing 250 W?
I don't. But I do know the difference between expending a lot of energy and expending a little, gauged by heart and respiratory rates and perceived muscle strain. And I do know what it's like to expend a certain amount of energy and get rewarded or punished for it, depending on conditions. The difference is motivation.

It's easier to expend energy (however many watts) when you want to and you are confident in what you're doing. For most people it's easier to sprint when you have competitors and a finish line.

Last edited by kbarch; 03-18-18 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 03-18-18, 05:21 AM
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Now that I have a power meter, just about everything I thought about my efforts is turned upside-down. Those runs where you feel like superman are generally low wattage. Did you know that flat was actually a .5% downgrade? Now I know. That section where I'm flying? Must've had a tailwind. But that sprint to the state line? 300 watts. That climb at 8%? 500 watts, except I blew up halfway up. What surprised me the most is how much I put out on my usual laps of Prospect Park, except not in the places I thought. I go fastest where I'm putting out the least power, but I put out a lot of power through the sections I've always gone easy.

So back to the original question. Watts are watts. How you perceive the effort is what varies. 250 watts will feel easy at the start of a ride, and a lot harder at the end. It will feel easy when you start the climb and really hard by the end. And your FTP will determine how hard you can ride for how long in a sustained effort, or more correctly is the measure of it.
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Old 03-18-18, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by kbarch View Post
I don't. But I do know the difference between expending a lot of energy and expending a little, gauged by heart and respiratory rates and perceived muscle strain. And I do know what it's like to expend a certain amount of energy and get rewarded or punished for it, depending on conditions. The difference is motivation.

It's easier to expend energy (however many watts) when you want to and you are confident in what you're doing. For most people it's easier to sprint when you have competitors and a finish line.
It isn't any easier to expend energy, you are just more motivated. But really, 200 watts vs. 250 vs 300 you really can't gauge on your own. Yes, you know when you are pumping hard, and when it is easy.

And my reference to that 8% climb in my post above was for Alpine Hill by the police station. And that state line sprint was on 9W. I see you're from Tenafly, and you must know this hill.
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Old 03-18-18, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I think the opposite.

250 watts uphill= doable (for a limited time),

250 watts on the flat= ragged effort,

250 watts downhill- maybe 5 or 10 seconds.
+1
But really it is all the same power and with training and discipline they do all end up feeling like a similar effort.
Same can be seen with your heart rate. Doing a ride at constant HR what can seem like a solid effort on the flat turns into a bit of a holiday uphill and then you have to go crazy downhill.
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Old 03-18-18, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
So back to the original question. Watts are watts. How you perceive the effort is what varies.
Right. If our perceptions were better, there wouldn't be a need for power meters.

Session RPE actually isn't a terrible estimator of NP, though it will depend a bit on temperature and what my stress load was in the previous few days. Basically what I'm saying is that I can almost always make a more reliable guess about the TSS for an entire ride than I can for instantaneous power. When my expectation for the TSS is way off compared to what the power meter recorded, it's usually a hint that something else is going on.
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Old 03-18-18, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
It isn't any easier to expend energy, you are just more motivated. But really, 200 watts vs. 250 vs 300 you really can't gauge on your own. Yes, you know when you are pumping hard, and when it is easy.

And my reference to that 8% climb in my post above was for Alpine Hill by the police station. And that state line sprint was on 9W. I see you're from Tenafly, and you must know this hill.
Actually, I do - just today we did repeats of Alpine before heading to the Market, via the State Line sprint segment, naturally.
As for motivation, well, seems to me it is exactly the kind of thing that makes things easier, because...

Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
So I'm doubtful about whether watts tell the whole story.
Watts don't tell the whole story at all.
Ease or difficulty is not just a matter of energy, and the "beat up" feeling isn't just about being drained of it. A lot of other things come into play: simplicity, knowledge, practice, adaptation, flexibility, willingness, lack of distractions, foreseeable positive outcome (an easy choice), etc.. While some of these other things are more or less psychological, they are still quite real. After all, we struggle to do lots of things that require hardly any energy at all. For example, for some folks (like me), a 30 mph sprint is easier to accomplish than a track stand.

Last edited by kbarch; 03-18-18 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 03-18-18, 04:58 PM
  #25  
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It feels easiest to produce and maintain power up a slight gradient.

It's not psychologically as taxing as pushing up a steep climb, and you move along faster for the same power, and also don't decelerate as quickly when letting off.

Similar psychology is at play against a steep wind...plus wind also wants to nudge your bike off-line.

It's often recommended to do ftp tests against a slight incline
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