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What good is a power meter for a noob?

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What good is a power meter for a noob?

Old 04-22-24, 04:52 PM
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What good is a power meter for a noob?

I'm the noob -- in just the past few months I've started to go out longer and try harder, and I've gotten a lot faster (though I am still very slow). Power numbers are ubiquitous in training and biking discussion, so naturally I'm curious to see how I measure up. But even a used power meter would be more expensive than my bike by far.

I guess the question is: at what point does a power meter become useful? (Or a real head unit for that matter.) Who doesn't need a power meter?
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Old 04-22-24, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by penlu
Who doesn't need a power meter?
Anyone who isn't willing (or able) to modify their training based on the data a power meter provides.
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Old 04-22-24, 06:27 PM
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Nobody needs a power meter unless they're livelihood depend upon it. I have five bikes I don't need.

I expect it's a matter of increasing returns, as you get more fit. But it goes without saying I could be wrong
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Old 04-23-24, 02:57 AM
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I've been riding for three years now and still consider myself a noob. I have power on my indoor trainer but not on my outdoor bikes (8 total).

Cost is the only reason that I don't yet have power outdoors. Were I Elon Musk, I wouldn't bat an eye at putting power on all of my bikes. In fact, I'd have my personal assistant tend to that this morning.

Interval training is a powerful tool for getting stronger. And I find defined interval training easier to do with power data than without.

On rides that are not part of my regular routine, I find that power allows me to pace my efforts more carefully.(Zwift so far). I can do the same with heart rate but heart rate is a lagging indicator and, therefore, is less easily manipulated in real time .

My favourite thing about power data is that it motivates me by providing me a way to objectively measure small increments of progress. Combined with a heart rate monitor, I can work out my efficiency in heart beats per joule output and see that improving over time if my training regimen is effective. After my first year of riding, my rate of progress slowed so much that it became nearly imperceptible on a month to month basis without the power data.

I recently found out that Trainer Road has a machine learning algorithm that estimates the TSS for a ride based on heart rate data alone. Assuming that it works, I'm excited about that as it will somewhat obviate the "need" for me to have power data on my outdoor rides
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Old 04-23-24, 08:05 AM
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Power meters allow for accurate (structured) training. It sounds like you arent there yet - there are a lot of fitness gains to be made by just riding at the beginning. A quality heart rate monitor and head unit would be a lot more affordable and you will still want them after getting a power meter anyway.

I wouldnt spend more than a something like quarter of the value of a bike on a power meter - and then only if I intended to actually use it to train. Training, while rewarding in its way, isnt exactly the same sort of "fun" that regular riding is. When you are ready/able to upgrade your bike, maybe then it would be worth seeing if any used ones that fit your needs come with a PM.
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Old 04-23-24, 08:55 AM
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4iiii makes a good crank based PM. Single sided is all you need to get started training by power. If that is more expensive than your bike, then you probably need to wait till you can afford a better bike. You can still get good training with HR if you understand it. I recommend using your lactate threshold for setting your HR zones. And read up on training by LTHR numbers.


Welcome to BF.

Who doesn't need a PM? No one needs one if they aren't absolutely positively needing to be the very best that they can be in the shortest amount of time.

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Old 04-23-24, 09:06 AM
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I think a lot of people come to appreciate monitoring power when they do indoor training with a smart trainer and an app such as Zwift. In that environment, power is everything, and one learns what one's limits are. After that, having a power meter on an outdoor bike becomes more interesting.
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Old 04-23-24, 09:22 AM
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I use power for 2 reasons:
1. To keep track of my fitness, so I can tell if I'm improving or not,
2. To moderate my power so I don't blow up on hard efforts, such as pulling in front of a group or on long climbs.
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Old 04-23-24, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by hayden52
I use power for 2 reasons:
1. To keep track of my fitness, so I can tell if I'm improving or not,
2. To moderate my power so I don't blow up on hard efforts, such as pulling in front of a group or on long climbs.
Same here. I find power very useful for pacing, especially on long climbs. It's also more useful than speed for tracking fitness. But I don't bother with a PM on my mtb where I am more focused on my riding skills, or lack of LOL. On my road bike I consider a PM essential.
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Old 04-23-24, 12:43 PM
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Frankly, it's somewhat analagous to a speedometer. It's simply an "I want to know this quantity, so that I can..." Instead of miles/hour, it's effort. If you have a reason or desire to measure it, there's the tool. Most folks don't need or care.
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Old 04-23-24, 12:53 PM
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I am a newb, although I am returning newb, and I am looking at the Magene P505 Base. It's cost effective and a simple swap if you use Shimano. I have yet to find something comparable. However, since it's new(er), no one knows about longevity.
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Old 04-23-24, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by penlu
Power numbers are ubiquitous in training and biking discussion, so naturally I'm curious to see how I measure up.
You've kind of answered your own question. If you want to spend time discussing power, you will have more to say if you have a power meter. I would suggest that, as a noob, you focus on getting out riding and having fun - power will come - with or without a meter.
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Old 04-23-24, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by hayden52
I use power [to] keep track of my fitness, so I can tell if I'm improving or not,
I use power data to keep accurate and precise track of my decline.
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Old 04-23-24, 05:56 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the replies!!!

Originally Posted by Harold74
Combined with a heart rate monitor, I can work out my efficiency in heart beats per joule output
Heart beats per joule seems very fun to have! I'll need to find a gym machine with a power estimate again and try to estimate this.

I am wondering how much progress you're seeing (in this metric or other figures of merit) month over month at this point. It's been fun getting faster for the past few months but I imagine my rate of change will decrease in not too long. What does asymptotic progress look like?

Originally Posted by force10
Power meters allow for accurate (structured) training. It sounds like you arent there yet - there are a lot of fitness gains to be made by just riding at the beginning. A quality heart rate monitor and head unit would be a lot more affordable and you will still want them after getting a power meter anyway.

I wouldnt spend more than a something like quarter of the value of a bike on a power meter - and then only if I intended to actually use it to train. Training, while rewarding in its way, isnt exactly the same sort of "fun" that regular riding is. When you are ready/able to upgrade your bike, maybe then it would be worth seeing if any used ones that fit your needs come with a PM.


Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes
If you have a reason or desire to measure it, there's the tool. Most folks don't need or care.
Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I would suggest that, as a noob, you focus on getting out riding and having fun - power will come - with or without a meter.
I'll be recalling these reasons not to buy next time I'm looking at meters on eBay...! Overall it sounds like a power meter would indeed be more helpful for a more serious rider than I am. I guess I'll revisit the question once I start thinking about a bike upgrade and/or I stop getting faster. I do have a chest strap heart rate monitor already, which together with GPS makes it easy to see that I'm still improving considerably even week over week.
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Old 04-24-24, 04:08 AM
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Originally Posted by penlu

I'll be recalling these reasons not to buy next time I'm looking at meters on eBay...! Overall it sounds like a power meter would indeed be more helpful for a more serious rider than I am. I guess I'll revisit the question once I start thinking about a bike upgrade and/or I stop getting faster. I do have a chest strap heart rate monitor already, which together with GPS makes it easy to see that I'm still improving considerably even week over week.
Yeah at this point the money would be better saved toward a better bike. Monitoring your HR and average speeds over your regular routes should show obvious progress at this point. A PM is very useful if you get into srtructured training and/or for optimising pace strategies etc out on the road. But you can do a lot of this with just your HR too. A PM is really just putting an objective number to your subjective perceived effort. But there is an argument to say that being in tune with your perceived effort is more important than the power numbers in the moment. So learning to gauge your pace without a power meter is a useful skill to develop as a noob. Adding a power meter later will just make it more objective.
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Old 04-24-24, 06:15 AM
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Originally Posted by RChung
I use power data to keep accurate and precise track of my decline.
Too funny! I've opted to not get a power meter with this being one of those reasons. While I'm not disappointed with my riding capabilities at this time, I'm about to turn "the big five-oh" and I realize that my fastest years are behind me no matter what I do. No need to have a device provide me with data to prove I'm getting old. Enjoy the ride!
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Old 04-24-24, 06:23 AM
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I would say to the OP that if you like looking at data and have the money. Buy it. If you don't, you will always be wondering what your power is. There will always be "your money is better spent on tires, rims, etc......"
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Old 04-24-24, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield
Too funny! I've opted to not get a power meter with this being one of those reasons. While I'm not disappointed with my riding capabilities at this time, I'm about to turn "the big five-oh" and I realize that my fastest years are behind me no matter what I do. No need to have a device provide me with data to prove I'm getting old. Enjoy the ride!
To be fair, I was faster in my forties than in my thirties but by my late forties I saw the handwriting on the wall and bought a power meter to assess how much power I was hemorrhaging. The PM helped me stanch that flow; but, more importantly, I realized that speed on a bike is about both power and drag. Even as my power was eroding, I could offset some of that loss by drag reduction. The odd result is that I held my overall speed roughly constant through my fifties. So now I'm old, fat, and slow; but because of what I learned, there are days when all the stars align and I'm just old and fat.
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Old 04-24-24, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by RChung
To be fair, I was faster in my forties than in my thirties but by my late forties I saw the handwriting on the wall ...
I'm in a similar situation... Nearly 50 year old me is as fast as younger me, but that's largely due to my finally paying attention to proper nutrition, my position on the bike, off the bike cross-training, switching to a fast endurance bike, and the invention of the smart trainer. If younger me knew everything older me knew and had all the same technology, younger me would've been WAY faster!
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Old 04-24-24, 09:04 AM
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I do like the training aspect of the power meter...

I really like the meter on long rides. Knowing my endurance zones, not relying on speed as that can vary with wind and conditions - I can comfortably ride a century without worrying about blowing up.

I also typically end up pulling most of my riding buddies and I can moderate the pace so I don't blow them up.
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Old 04-24-24, 10:41 PM
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I think a lot of people get power meters, to some degree, because they like gadgets. This is a large part of why I use them. I like to play with data. As for an actual reason, I think it should follow your goals. If you want to start using training plans that rely on power data, you'll have a reason to get one.

But here is short list of reasons I have them.

1) I do follow training plans requiring power data.
2) I like playing with data and seeing my data
3) It is very helpful for pacing efforts, even if not using a training plan.
4) I have them on all my bikes (3 bikes) so I have consistency in data no matter what bike I ride
5) The data can be motivating ("I felt great on today's ride, and the data shows it")
6) It can help optimize things like eating in relation to riding.
7) I often focus on PRs for segments based on the power I did rather than the time, which can be very weather dependent.

If money is a significant consideration, and you have to make hard choices what you spend it on, only you can decide what is most important to you. I don't think too many would choose to spend say $1,000 on a power meter to put on a $500 bike. But if someone would enjoy a power meter over have a significantly better bike, there's nothing wrong with that either.

If you have a goal to get fitter on the bike and you've been riding long enough that you're starting to plateau in your gains. I.E., "just riding" isn't creating improvements anymore, then you likely need to do formal training and a power meter is almost a necessity for modern training. But obviously, power meters are a relatively new thing and pro cyclists trained without them or probably nothing more than a watch, for many years. So, necessity is a relative term.

I think the Favero Assioma power meter pedals are a great value. They are considered to be one of the best if not the best power meter but are also one of the least expensive options.
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Old 04-24-24, 10:45 PM
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Naw, no one really needs a power meter (PM). They are handy but hardly necessary. That said, it is a very good idea to be able to track your effort on the bike, which a heart rate monitor (HRM) does very well. In my experience a HRM is way more useful than a PM because a HRM tracks the effect of effort on your body, which a PM of course ignores, that is until you can't make whatever power anymore, which knowledge arrives a bit late.

That said, inexpensive high quality HRMs aren't as common as they used to be. However Garmin bike computers incorporate a HRM and a Garmin is really, really useful for everyone. So I'd get a Garmin years before I'd spring for a PM. I've bought all the Garmins I've had on ebay. Garmin keeps upgrading their devices and those who follow that upgrade path sell their old ones. BTW, I've seen riders with PMs and no HRM blow up on long climbing rides. If one holds a HR on a long climb, one's power gradually decreases, duh. OTOH, holding power, one's HR gradually increases. As it does so, one's energy sources change, from long term to short term and then . . . Doesn't much matter on rides of under 50 miles though. I have a PM and track both power and HR. They're both useful, especially used together.
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Old 04-25-24, 12:32 AM
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Power meters can be beneficial once you're consistently training and seeking performance improvements. They offer precise data for gauging progress and optimizing workouts. However, they're not essential for beginners. Focus on enjoying your rides and building endurance. A basic bike computer can suffice until you're ready to invest in more advanced gear.
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Old 04-25-24, 03:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy

That said, inexpensive high quality HRMs aren't as common as they used to be. However Garmin bike computers incorporate a HRM and a Garmin is really, really useful for everyone.
HRMs are relatively cheap. I recommend the Polar OH1+ or newer Polar Verity Sense. Garmin bike computers don’t incorporate an HRM unless you meant Garmin watches. They just link to your HRM for display. But pretty much any modern bike computer will do that.
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Old 04-25-24, 07:19 AM
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It’s important to remember it’s not an either/or situation; one cannot effectively train to power without an HRM. Both are needed. Similarly, one cannot train with an HRM without a computer (be that a head unit or watch) to log, display, and analyze the data.

So, if going all in at once isn’t a possibility, the first thing to get is a GPS head unit. With that you can track time, distance, speed, and elevation gain, all basic elements of performance which could be used for basic training. One has to know something about what they’re doing in order to train. The head unit is the essential building block needed before you can add heart rate and power.

After the head unit comes the heart rate monitor. Awareness of HR allows a deeper insight into the physical demands of your efforts. You can establish HR zones and train using established programs, tracking crucial elements like LTHR and fatigue.

Next, the cadence sensor to monitor pedaling speed. Seeing and understanding the relationship between cadence, efficiency, and effort level will make you a smarter cyclist. Adding it, you’ll see that pedaling faster at lighter load can enhance recovery after hard efforts and extend your endurance.

After that would come the power meter, expanding both the precision and effectiveness-over-time in training. A power meter can help you maximize your in-ride performance, too, for example by letting you know you’re slacking off or undershooting your abilities, perhaps due to distraction or just not feeling your best. Sometimes it can feel like we’re working hard even when we’re really not.

Lastly one goes all in with metabolic sensors, fully connecting work produced (i.e. power) to physical effort. That’s pro level stuff, but definitely available to amateurs should they wish to invest that deeply.
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