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A power meter, without structured training? Musings after a couple of years.

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Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

A power meter, without structured training? Musings after a couple of years.

Old 07-23-21, 07:48 AM
  #26  
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Originally Posted by jaxgtr View Post
This is the main reason I have not gotten a PM. While I am a data geek, I just don't have the surroundings to get good figures so I will just stick to the trainer to get power data.
Oh, don't misunderstand me - I'm not at all saying that I'm disappointed or that I don't find it valuable; if it were to break, I'd get another one pretty much immediately. The difficulty in maximizing a power PR over a given duration is a mild knock to my ego massaging, but not much else. I still find it quite useful to look at how my power figures compare over given segments.

How flat is it in your area, btw? I think that a steady, uninterrupted climb would be best, but I think that I could manage with pan-flat, too... with a long enough stretch of road. The challenge in my area is that, while there isn't a lot of elevation, it's undulating and it can be hard to stay on top of the pedals after cresting a slight incline and going in to a slight decline.
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Old 07-23-21, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
Oh, don't misunderstand me - I'm not at all saying that I'm disappointed or that I don't find it valuable; if it were to break, I'd get another one pretty much immediately. The difficulty in maximizing a power PR over a given duration is a mild knock to my ego massaging, but not much else. I still find it quite useful to look at how my power figures compare over given segments.

How flat is it in your area, btw? I think that a steady, uninterrupted climb would be best, but I think that I could manage with pan-flat, too... with a long enough stretch of road. The challenge in my area is that, while there isn't a lot of elevation, it's undulating and it can be hard to stay on top of the pedals after cresting a slight incline and going in to a slight decline.
Same here. It's pretty much impossible to do outdoor interval training on our undulating roads. But I find a power meter is still very useful in other ways. I use it a lot for pacing. The only bike I don't bother with a power meter on is my mountain bike. I'm riding forest techy singletrack on that bike and wouldn't find power very useful to know in that situation.
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Old 07-23-21, 08:26 AM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
. Since then, my power balance has been a steady 53/47, always with L>R. And this is even though itís my left leg that has the more serious injury.
Not saying you should do this, but, if you were only racing on Zwift, I bet I know a number of people who'd see this and unpair the right pedal and run them as if they were a left-only Uno for races. Again, not saying you should, but...
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Old 07-23-21, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
Not saying you should do this, but, if you were only racing on Zwift, I bet I know a number of people who'd see this and unpair the right pedal and run them as if they were a left-only Uno for races. Again, not saying you should, but...
Itís funny how the brain works, 😂
Best quote Iíve ever heard about Zwift is from Thomas De Gendt.

ďitís easier to break off the front of the pro peloton at 50 kph than it is to win a Zwift raceĒ
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Old 07-23-21, 09:20 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
Oh, don't misunderstand me - I'm not at all saying that I'm disappointed or that I don't find it valuable; if it were to break, I'd get another one pretty much immediately. The difficulty in maximizing a power PR over a given duration is a mild knock to my ego massaging, but not much else. I still find it quite useful to look at how my power figures compare over given segments.

How flat is it in your area, btw? I think that a steady, uninterrupted climb would be best, but I think that I could manage with pan-flat, too... with a long enough stretch of road. The challenge in my area is that, while there isn't a lot of elevation, it's undulating and it can be hard to stay on top of the pedals after cresting a slight incline and going in to a slight decline.
Flat would be an understatement....The only hills here are bridges and they max out between 75 and 100 ft.
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Old 07-23-21, 09:28 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
One of the best uses of a power meter is to improve positioning on the bike to lower aerodynamic drag.
Using a PM on the road has helped me determine that [on the Dedacciai] in the fast cruising range, Iím more efficiently positioned with my elbows in and grabbing the bar close to the stem than I am in my standard drops position. It takes more than just the PM to know that, though; one needs speed and should have HR as well, and I factor in comfort, too, because itís easier for me to sustain higher power for longer in the ďtops tuckĒ than in the drops.

Of course, there are almost endless permutations of the experiment if you start playing with stuff like bar height, stem length, and body positioning, but for a amateur like me, thatís largely beyond my level of involvement. Having some awareness, though, especially for my fast group rides, has been an aid to me in managing my energy expenditures so that I can ride faster and longer, and have more discretionary reserves for stuff like town limit sprints and whatnot.

But yeah, there are many great uses for a power meter. My own best use is for stationary training, which Iíve been doing coached for 10 years now. I rode the road without a PM for awhile, but after awhile, curiosity got to me and I just had to know how much power it actually took to haul my corpulent mass around, so I got one. That was about eight years ago, and my use for power readings on the road is largely the same as it for others here, namely to help with pacing and effort management. The power meter stationary bike is still where I do the bulk of my training, and the two or three days a week I actually get outside to ride are the reason I do the training, so I donít really have any power-guided goals on the road.

I like having the combo of Strava segments and a PM on the road, though, because I can really dial in when to strike the match, know how long itís gonna burn, and know to what effort level Iíll need to drop back to for recovery. I guess itís all about getting those micro-rewards like PRs and trophies! Well, itís also about staying in the A group and as close to the wheel of the fastest cats as possibleÖ
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Old 07-23-21, 10:02 AM
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For an endurance rider, FTP isn't the be all and end all. You want to be able to ride at a very high percentage of FTP for a long time. Without a PM or lactate meter, how would one optimize training to achieve that? Anaerobic and aerobic systems have to be balanced properly for the event. Sometimes one has to train slow to go faster in an event or other times, the anaerobic system isn't producing as much lactate as the aerobic system can burn. Measuring lactate even on a trainer is a PITA. PM makes it much easier. Otherwise, you are not even guessing. A pure stab in the dark.

You could work a whole year to gain 10 watts but gain twice that with effective aero testing. Need PM for that.
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Old 07-23-21, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by jaxgtr View Post
Flat would be an understatement....The only hills here are bridges and they max out between 75 and 100 ft.
If you've got long unbroken stretches, flat is great for being able to hold consistent power... well, if it's not gusty, which I suspect would be a frequent problem with flat terrain.
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Old 07-23-21, 10:34 AM
  #34  
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Re power cresting a hill and down the backside, a few years ago a poster here figured he was putting out 250w because he accelerated and said "wheee" to himself.

I countered that that output on a downhill is rare and I couldn't really find an example on Strava among many hammerheads and various local monster riders, and that 80-120w is the norm.


I have a local climb 1,500' at a very steady ~6% with no traffic that is a good FTP course. I could not come close to my (modest) wattage there on a flat FTP test.
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Old 07-23-21, 10:59 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Re power cresting a hill and down the backside, a few years ago a poster here figured he was putting out 250w because he accelerated and said "wheee" to himself.

I countered that that output on a downhill is rare and I couldn't really find an example on Strava among many hammerheads and various local monster riders, and that 80-120w is the norm.
Yes, but just to be clear, I wasn't talking about power on an extended downhill. I am concentrating on applying power over the crest, getting back up to speed as quickly as possible. After that it's different and depends on the grade, etc. It's not easy and I don't expect it's possible to maintain 300 W or whatever it is that I'm putting out on the hill as the pedal resistance falls, but with some concentration I can make sure to apply more power than 80-120 watts.
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Old 07-23-21, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Re power cresting a hill and down the backside, a few years ago a poster here figured he was putting out 250w because he accelerated and said "wheee" to himself.

I countered that that output on a downhill is rare and I couldn't really find an example on Strava among many hammerheads and various local monster riders, and that 80-120w is the norm.


I have a local climb 1,500' at a very steady ~6% with no traffic that is a good FTP course. I could not come close to my (modest) wattage there on a flat FTP test.
I agree and those downhill segments at sub 100W really drag your average power for the ride down compared to an equivalent Zwift ride. I think that's why a 2 hour Zwift session is equivalent to a much longer outdoor ride (unless the outdoor ride is a point to point climbing ride with few downhill segments). I've just come to accept that my outdoor average power is always going to be lower than I can achieve indoors. Normalized power is much closer, but still tends to be on the lower side outdoors on my local terrain.
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Old 07-23-21, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Yes, but just to be clear, I wasn't talking about power on an extended downhill. I am concentrating on applying power over the crest, getting back up to speed as quickly as possible. After that it's different and depends on the grade, etc. It's not easy and I don't expect it's possible to maintain 300 W or whatever it is that I'm putting out on the hill as the pedal resistance falls, but with some concentration I can make sure to apply more power than 80-120 watts.

I completely agree on the benefit of powering over the crest of a hill, the benefit of a PM in showing the issue, & the need to practice to overcome the tendency to to slack off too soon.

IMO this is one of the biggest low-hanging fruits for speed gain.
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Old 07-23-21, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I completely agree on the benefit of powering over the crest of a hill, the benefit of a PM in showing the issue, & the need to practice to overcome the tendency to to slack off too soon.

IMO this is one of the biggest low-hanging fruits for speed gain.
Yep, so easy to back off as you approach that crest and then get dropped going over the top. Better to surge over and then recover once up to speed on the downhill. Can't say I use my power meter for that though. It's more the steady state part of the climb where I'm checking on my power.
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Old 07-23-21, 11:41 AM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
If you've got long unbroken stretches, flat is great for being able to hold consistent power... well, if it's not gusty, which I suspect would be a frequent problem with flat terrain.
Flat is so much harder for me to put out the same power. On skis too.
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Old 07-23-21, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Flat is so much harder for me to put out the same power. On skis too.
I'm fine on the flats in and around that Threshold region; above that is more difficult than on an incline, though.
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Old 07-23-21, 02:01 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I also tend to use the PM as a governor to keep power below a certain level on certain type of rides.
A PM can be useful as a governor on any ride.

For example, if I'm doing a 20-minute climb, I keep my power at or below the level I can currently sustain for 20 minutes. If I go over that for more than a brief spurt, I know I will crack and be forced to slow down.

Before I had a power meter, I used heart rate to dose my efforts. But heart rate varies too much and responds too slowly to changes in effort.
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Old 07-23-21, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
A PM can be useful as a governor on any ride.

For example, if I'm doing a 20-minute climb, I keep my power at or below the level I can currently sustain for 20 minutes. If I go over that for more than a brief spurt, I know I will crack and be forced to slow down.

Before I had a power meter, I used heart rate to dose my efforts. But heart rate varies too much and responds too slowly to changes in effort.
True. Very true.

I was thinking of my stock 6 x 5 minute interval workout. I would rather not look at the meter, I am in too much pain and I seem to make more breakthrus when I don't look and just curse at my legs instead.

At the other extreme is a recovery ride.

Everything in between, I am more attuned to my power meter. Like today, I was doing 2 x 20 and could not believe my speed/power rate. It turns out my brake was dragging hard on the rim. Not sure why yet but it was entertaining during the workout.
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Old 07-23-21, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
If you've got long unbroken stretches, flat is great for being able to hold consistent power... well, if it's not gusty, which I suspect would be a frequent problem with flat terrain.
yep...that is a problem.
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Old 07-23-21, 06:57 PM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
A PM can be useful as a governor on any ride.

For example, if I'm doing a 20-minute climb, I keep my power at or below the level I can currently sustain for 20 minutes. If I go over that for more than a brief spurt, I know I will crack and be forced to slow down.

Before I had a power meter, I used heart rate to dose my efforts. But heart rate varies too much and responds too slowly to changes in effort.
I do this too, but only on very long rides where going above threshold early on is definitely going to cost more time later. On shorter rides I tend to trust my own instinct more and go over my power target when feeling good. Either way a power meter is useful to keep you informed of what you are taking on. For example I did a Zwift climbing race yesterday and smashed my way up the first climb way above threshold to stay with the front group. I knew I was going to have to back off at some point, but I pushed it quite a long way before easing off without totally cracking. The second climb was inevitably compromised from this effort, but again I could use my power meter to set a pace just far enough under threshold to make a partial recovery. Just guessing that level of effort would have been quite difficult as a little higher would risk cracking and lower would be just too easy.
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Old 07-23-21, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Flat is so much harder for me to put out the same power. On skis too.
That varies with the individual, and you sort of need a power meter to know if you're in that group or not. Some of that is because on the flat, power varies with the cube of speed, so small variations of speed (either increasing or decreasing) have a "large" effect on power while on a climb, speed and power vary close to linearly. For many riders on the flat, they use maybe one or two gears, so speed varies mostly with cadence: so the 1+% difference between a cadence of 90 and 91 rpm means about a 3% difference in power. So everything else equal, you tend to see slightly more variation in power on the flat than on climbs.

But not all things are equal. In addition, crank inertial load tends to differ between flats and climbs, and some riders are more sensitive to changes in crank inertial load than others, so their power can be steadier when CIL is low than when it's high.

So, taken together, some riders will have no difference, some difference, or a lot of difference in their ability to hold steady power on the flats and on climbs. And you won't really know unless you have a power meter so you can tell.
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Old 07-24-21, 04:58 AM
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I don't use a power meter but I can see how it can be useful for pacing and tracking progress regardless of being able to do 20minute tests.

I think if there were bigger hills around here and I did longer rides, a power meter would be useful. Most I've done on a 60 mile ride around here was 3K of elevation, so not much around here.
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Old 07-24-21, 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
You could work a whole year to gain 10 watts but gain twice that with effective aero testing. Need PM for that.
There's actually a way to do it without a power meter but it requires pristine conditions and really really careful experimental technique, and it takes longer. But it can be done.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:14 AM
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Like others I have recorded my highest power in Zwift races for a couple reasons in my mind at least. First, the draft in Zwift is much less than in real life and I am often hanging on for dear life almost like a TT with VO2 max intervals thrown in randomly. Second, I find myself often riding in a blob of racers, some of whom are at a level higher and it takes threshold efforts just to sit on their wheels. So, I find there is zero rest in a Zwift race. There is some weird modeling that Zwift does, you could have a 152 cm 60 kg rider making 180 watts TT against a 195 cm 100Kg rider making 300 watts. Both on same bike. Zwift might assign a speed of 40 km/h to one and 42 km/h to the other. But the model gets the math wrong. Short and chubby is better than tall and thin in Zwift. I never used to make more power indoors than outside but with Zwift, I do. I cannot imagine being able to race effectively in Zwift without knowing how to use your power. You must know your functional reserve capacity and know how to conserve and use it when needed in order to survive. I usually finish and have won or placed but they are always brutally hard efforts from the start to the finish seemingly nonstop unlike a race in real life where you get to sit on wheels and rest a bit. So, my power numbers are always high in Zwift.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:24 AM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Like others I have recorded my highest power in Zwift races for a couple reasons in my mind at least. First, the draft in Zwift is much less than in real life and I am often hanging on for dear life almost like a TT with VO2 max intervals thrown in randomly. Second, I find myself often riding in a blob of racers, some of whom are at a level higher and it takes threshold efforts just to sit on their wheels. So, I find there is zero rest in a Zwift race. There is some weird modeling that Zwift does, you could have a 152 cm 60 kg rider making 180 watts TT against a 195 cm 100Kg rider making 300 watts. Both on same bike. Zwift might assign a speed of 40 km/h to one and 42 km/h to the other. But the model gets the math wrong. Short and chubby is better than tall and thin in Zwift. I never used to make more power indoors than outside but with Zwift, I do. I cannot imagine being able to race effectively in Zwift without knowing how to use your power. You must know your functional reserve capacity and know how to conserve and use it when needed in order to survive. I usually finish and have won or placed but they are always brutally hard efforts from the start to the finish seemingly nonstop unlike a race in real life where you get to sit on wheels and rest a bit. So, my power numbers are always high in Zwift.
Yeah Zwift is tough! You also get guys on dumb trainers with wildly optimistic estimated power sitting on the front of a group hauling it into oblivion. If I donít see the smart trainer power icon I donít take the bait.

I believe they reduced the drafting effect to make breakaways a bit easier, which makes sense. Double draft was then introduced for group rides with a more realistic draft feel. So I look out for those rides.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:35 AM
  #50  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Yeah Zwift is tough! You also get guys on dumb trainers with wildly optimistic estimated power sitting on the front of a group hauling it into oblivion. If I donít see the smart trainer power icon I donít take the bait.

I believe they reduced the drafting effect to make breakaways a bit easier, which makes sense. Double draft was then introduced for group rides with a more realistic draft feel. So I look out for those rides.
The effect within the peloton is marginal but the draft effect of the whole peloton is silly high. If you go off the back, you are done.

What is estimated power?

Don't you need some sort of power meter? I use a Powertap G3 measured at the wheels. I wish I had pedal meters. No drivetrain loss. LOL
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