Power meter vs smart trainer. Best bang for the $$$?

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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alcatraz
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Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:19 am

by alcatraz

Hey WWs

I'm interested in power training (outdoor+indoor) like many others and was hoping someone that has tried many options could recommend me what I need to get. I'll probably not go the general zwift/trainerroad route however.

I have never done power training before. I'm not that interested in virtual worlds or riding with buddies virtually. I'd like to have an affordable simple way to jump on a trainer and have 30-60min of smart power training with a resistance that feels relatively close to reality. Later when riding outdoors it would be nice to have some kind of effective power training program in the bike computer (like garmin intervals or whatever is effective).

Because I don't have either of the three: bike computer / smart trainer / power meter I'm wondering what you can recommend for me that brings the best bang for the buck sort of speak. Most of the benefits of smart modern training but without virtual worlds and monthly payments. Wahoo kickr + garmin computer + left arm power meter? Big freewheel simple trainer + left arm power meter or expensive smart trainer with built in power meter?

I use strava and I like it but if the choice is between recording progress online and a better training program I'd choose the latter.

Does garmin provide some power training plans when hooked up to a power meter? What is the best option out there without monthly payments? Is there a simple general principle that can be applied to garmin training plans to make them similar to the paid popular trainerroad plans?

(I live in a place with very little rain/snow but I've found out I catch a cold way too easy so I need to stay indoor in winter, more than I like.)

Thanks for reading! /a

AJS914
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Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

Eventually you will need all of the above to do power training effectively. You could pick up a used dumb trainer for $50 and use it with a power meter on your crank. That is one way to go.

You are going to need a head unit/computer to record the power feed and track your rides.

You don't need to spend $1200 on a trainer. I picked up a Tacx Smart Vortex for $350. It does the job.

You might start with reading Joe Friel's book, The Cyclists Training Bible.

alcatraz
Posts: 922
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by alcatraz

Thank you very much. Is garmin computer the way to go to make normal outdoor rides more structured and beneficial?

It struck me that maybe all I need is a power meter + computer with a good training program. Then it doesn't really matter if I'm indoor or outdoor. The same program applies. Does that make any sense?

I'll check out the book. Thank you Ajs914.

/a

AJS914
Posts: 2004
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

Yes, you can definitely go with a computer + power meter. Then you could buy a smart trainer or just pick up any inexpensive standard trainer for use during the winter. With a standard trainer you'll need to change resistance manually in order to change wattage.

Some people are loving the Bolt. Many of us have found Garmin computers to be buggy. I have a Garmin 510. The first one I had was horrible. I crashed it and got a replacement from Garmin and the replacement has been much better though still has an occasional hiccup.

https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/07/bes ... wahoo.html


I have a Tacx Vortex smart trainer and one nice feature is that I can build workouts in their software and then just play them. It's great for interval workouts where you want 1 minute at a certain wattage, 1 minute rest, etc.

The other book to check out is the Coggan book. It's kind of the training with power bible. It's very technical:

https://www.amazon.com/Training-Racing- ... 1934030554

I see that Friel has a power meter book too. That might be a better introduction for a beginner:

https://www.amazon.com/Power-Meter-Hand ... 934030953/

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TonyM
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by TonyM

How much home trainer are you ready to do?
The more sessions you are ready to do, the more a smart trainer is useful. :smartass:

alcatraz
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by alcatraz

I like to ride every day.

Sometimes time is short or the air is bad here in China so I'd like to just hop on and go. :D

But training indoors is nothing about fun really. I know from while back when I used to run on a treadmill. I made it 1-2 years before it felt pointless. Especially compared to cycling outdoors.

/a

AJS914
Posts: 2004
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

I put my trainer in front of a big screen tv and put on a movie.

With that and doing structured training, the time goes by pretty fast.

You have to have a goal for the trainer time. If you just get on the trainer without a plan it will be boring in 15 minutes.

I was just off the road for six weeks because of snow on the ground. Between gym workouts, cross country skiing and 4-5 hours of trainer per week it felt like I didn't lose any fitness at all.

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jekyll man
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by jekyll man

Get a proper crankbased powermeter, eg Quarq etc, and a wheel-off dumb trainer (cycleops silencer/ jet black whisper).

Best of both worlds, and it means you won't have a very expensive dust gatherer if you decide being a slave to indoors isnt for you.
Official cafe stop tester

alcatraz
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by alcatraz

Sounds reasonable too jekyll man.

I just read that the garmin 520 and higher can control the resistance of a compatible indoor trainer via ant+. The tacx app and its training modes looks interesting too.

Is this a useful feature you think? I'm currently leaning towards yes but I'm not sure.

What would happen if training at different power levels (via power meter) while on a dumb trainer? Would I simply have to change gear and increase speed to raise the wattage? Manually adjust sounds a bit inconvenient.

What about these trainer numbers of 9% slope and 900w. Do they mean anything to us mere mortals?

I can get a vortex 2180 for just under 300usd second hand. Maybe not worth going lower. I hear it's fairly quiet at low power output. 73dB at 200w.

/a

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jekyll man
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by jekyll man

alcatraz wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 2:55 pm
Sounds reasonable too jekyll man.

I just read that the garmin 520 and higher can control the resistance of a compatible indoor trainer via ant+. The tacx app and its training modes looks interesting too.

Is this a useful feature you think? I'm currently leaning towards yes but I'm not sure.

What would happen if training at different power levels (via power meter) while on a dumb trainer? Would I simply have to change gear and increase speed to raise the wattage? Manually adjust sounds a bit inconvenient.

What about these trainer numbers of 9% slope and 900w. Do they mean anything to us mere mortals?

I can get a vortex 2180 for just under 300usd second hand. Maybe not worth going lower. I hear it's fairly quiet at low power output. 73dB at 200w.

/a
Its not quite as simple as that; When the 520 upwards etc were launched they could control smart trainers using fe-c protocols, but during the subsequent firmware updates its largely been removed. You can still control its resistance rather than control the power.

I've not really bothered with it tbh, so couldn't tell if you can still do a "virtual race", or follow a route etc.
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alcatraz
Posts: 922
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by alcatraz

Woops. Just ordered a garmin 520 and a tacx t2180. Lets hope I can get it to work.

Can the 520 read the tacx power meter data? I don't have a power meter on the bike yet. Work in progress.

/a

mr4fox
Posts: 258
Joined: Sat May 15, 2010 2:01 pm

by mr4fox

It struck me that maybe all I need is a power meter + computer with a good training program. Then it doesn't really matter if I'm indoor or outdoor. The same program applies. Does that make any sense?



/a
[/quote]

Exactly this!!!
Having a power meter will let you train, with the same power measurement(!!) Inside and outside. You’ll probably train loads more outside over a year anyway.

I’m still using a 10year old tacx bushido non smart trainer. It works fine. The power measurement sent to my garmin computer and to the laptop (Zwift trainer road etc) is from my power meter. I can set resistance on the bushido to what ever I want and then use gears to increase/decrease effort.

All a smart trainer does is automatically increase and decrease resistance according to the gradient on Zwift or according to how many watts you program it to for a given interval. Totally not needed. If you want to hold 350w just hold it. If you can’t hold it then a smart trainer won’t make it any easier.

A smart trainer might just be a little more fun. I’ve used kickers before and the work Motu isn’t any better than when I use the bushido so no point upgrading.

AJS914
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by AJS914

That's the trainer I have. It works pretty well. I control it with the Tacx Training app on my iphone or ipad. You can make an account with Tacx and then build workouts using their online software at:

https://cloud.tacx.com/

When you log into your Tacx account on the Tacx Training app, it will sync with any workouts you put into your account. There are also tons of pre-made workouts. You can put them into your account and modify them as you like.

When I'm doing longer aerobic intervals like 2x20s I manually change power using the Power section on the Tacx Training app. For shorter intervals, it's easier to build a workout and then let the trainer run it because if you were doing 20 seconds hard / 40 seconds rest x 10 it would be a PITA to have to change the power setting up and down so many times.

Also, I record the sessions on my Garmin 510 which then auto uploads to Garmin Connect and syncs with Strava.

You can also record the workouts with the Tacx software and have that sync with Strava.

https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/art ... -to-Strava

DurianGrey
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Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:57 pm

by DurianGrey

Sounds like you already made your decision, but I'd go with the powermeter and a dumb trainer, here's why: It's going to drive you nuts when one day you make a huge effort, win a race, or roast your buddies outside and can't compare that effort to what you do in front of the TV.

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IrrelevantD
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by IrrelevantD

As others have said, I'd say get the PM because you can use it both inside and out. Personally, when I'm inside, I start up Zwift and use that for tracking purposes only as it gives a pretty good estimate of road milage based on power output. I start it up, then I forget about it. Any training, intervals, etc, I do independent of Zwift.

Sometimes I'll start up Zwift and then just end up spinning at a constant tempo and watch Netflix. No distraction of "oh, I'm only doing 5mph up that climb" or "I want to hit 50mph down that hill". When you don't look at the screen it leaves you free to focus on other things.
* There is a 70% chance that what you have just read has a peppering of cynicism or sarcasm and generally should not be taken seriously.
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