Training with Power - useful or another way of spending £'s?

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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by roadiesean


I'm sure this has been asked a million times, but I'm looking at buying an SRM, but am I wasting my money ? I am a late 40's sportive rider, who does some races and loves riding his bike.

I want to get fitter and better at all aspects of my bike riding, especially in the mountains - the thing that would help the most would be getting skinny I'm sure.

I have an HRM, but really just use it to see how hard its banging when I'm working hard, I don't want another screen to look at just for the sake of looking at it, but if training with power is the business, then it make sense.

Any thoughts guys ?


by Weenie

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by drchull

A mantra from my life, it is always easier to spend money then lose weight.

I resisted a PM for years just because I was wanting to ride primarily for enjoyment and not for staring at a screen and thinking I need to satisfy the stupid machine's desire for 5 more watts. I just wanted to ride my bike.

Now I am focusing on racing then absolutely it is worth it. The power meter lets you define the amount of suffering you can take and forces you to hold it there. It will make you faster if you spend the time analyzing rides, structuring your training and your intervals. If you don't want to be a pain interval robot it probably won't help you. A power meter makes riding races and events more fun because you are stronger, it makes day to day riding much more calculated and increases the suffer factor, which I imagine some people actually enjoy.

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by LouisN




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by motorthings

the best advice I have seen (repeatedly) is to get the training and racing with a powermeter book, and reading it before making the decision. ... 1934030554

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by Rick

A little bit of both.
If you want to get fitter, make the easy days easier and the hard days harder.
IMO a big part of competitive cycling is learning how much harder "harder" really means.
It means "cutting your heart out with a chain saw" harder, and "getting tunnel vision and puking" harder.
And you can really do all that with no instrumentation. But the instrumentation does help take your mind off the suffering for a while. ;)

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by HillRPete

Lots of good advice already.
I would say, if you do very structured training already for the better part of the season, a PM could help you refine that.
That's also why I'm not using one. When life gets in the way I just enjoy riding, until I'm finding more time again.

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by claus

Are you willing to create and follow a structured training plan?

If so, buy a powermeter.

If not, it's just a cool thing to have (or a frustrating thing if the numbers are low...)

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by roadiesean

Thanks guys. When you say "structured training plan" what exactly do you mean ? Historically I have always ridden with others, so have been kind of stuck with what they are doing, more recently, that isn't the case and I've started riding more on my own (and it does get dull just plugging along, doesn't it) or even worse on the turbo (and anything helps there !!)

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by rockdude

A powermeter without a plan is just an expensive toy.

I am a firm believer in a structured periodzation plan in which all of your workout are planned with a set goal in mind. To get faster you must always put the body in a more stressful situation through intensity and/or duration. A powermeter helps you measure and calculate the stress you apply. I can tell you every workout I will do for the next 10 months. I may modify it accordingly do to sickness or other factors but I have a starting point and an ending point and I know how I will get for one point to the other. So to turn you Powermeter in to a tool and not a toy you need to hire a coach, purchase a power training plan or educate yourself on how to design a training plan.
2 Serotta's, 1 Spectrum, 1 Van Dessel, 1 Parlee & 1 Carl Strong, & 1 Titus.

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by eric

Without doing the analysis of the data (and incorporating that in your training plan as rockdude stated) the PM is just an expensive bike computer.

Get a copy of the Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Coggan and Allen (linked above by motorthings). It is the bible on PM use. If after reading the book it seems like too much bother, then you can save yourself $1500 and not buy the power meter. Not everyone is a data geek, or needs the data to train effectively. I have friends and former teamates who have done very well with no computer at all.

The other option is to pay a coach to look at the data and make a training plan.

Friel's Training Bible is the book on setting up a training plan.

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by Tinea Pedis

eric wrote:Get a copy of the Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Coggan and Allen (linked above by motorthings). \

And have a look through this forum, there are a lot of threads with a lot of great advice/training plans. Should help with the decision.

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by dvincere

A lot of the advantages guys are getting from power meters has to do with TSS scores and tracking long-term and short-term stresses to gauge training efforts, workouts, and improvements. If you want to save money and time you can harness almost all of the benefits from a Garmin with a HR strap and a trainer. Get Golden Cheetah for your computer (Free/Libre open source software available for Linux, Mac, and Windows) and remove all the power information and aero data crap customizing the interfaces. Set up the graphs to display TRIMP data -- the HR equivalent to TSS. Upload the Garmin files and every ride with be scored on TRIMP points. Then you have graphs immediately available. You'll learn what stress balance scores work best for you (long-term TRIMP stress subtracted from short-term TRIMP stress) and what the ceiling is (the most negative it can go before you absolutely need a rest). You track your fitness with long-term stress aiming to increase it every training block. Most people don't track these sort of metrics before they get a power meter and most people find the power meters greatest value in these performance metrics.

With that said the power meter also has some pacing advantages especially in short, hard efforts where HR lags behind the effort. This is mitigated through becoming an experience rider and listening to your legs, as well as the indoor trainer. It's a bit of the Graeme Obree method but use a consistent trainer (magnetic is the best really as fluids performance will change based on the temperature of the fluid) and make sure you are using the same tires at the same pressures. Anyways, time your efforts. For example, a good gauge of your VO2 max according to some is a 5 minute test. Now when you want to do intervals at 90% of your VO2 max of 5 on and 10 off, get back on the trainer and you can fairly easily estimate the proper pace. Eventually you learn what it feels like and can do 30 seconds on and 30 off 10 times at 120% of your VO2 max power based on feeling and be pretty spot on. Until then you can do it on your trainer and definitely be spot on.

Anyways this is long. Power meters are useful but I do not believe they are a) worth the price of entry and b) worth the time spent learning all the power meter stuff. Like toher's have said a structure training plan is an absolute necessity to garner value from a power meter. Using HR and TRIMPS will quickly show you if you're making gains or spinning your legs for hours on the bike. Neither TSS nor TRIMPS are an indication of what's happening -- they are scientific models attempting to allow predictions at a macroscopic level of microscopic forces: much like you can use Newton's laws without understanding or doing string theory math. In this case both get us close enough to know if we're doing the right thing or not.

A final word about power meters.... Coaches love them because they can coach without being there. They can charge a lot of money to sit down states away and crunch numbers through programs and provide little real coaching. Companies love them because it's another product to sell. There are a lot of people out there only interested in your money. Cheap coaching services are rarely worth it as you can do better often just reading Friel's Training Bible and designing your own plan.

tl;dr make a training plan and use your HR data to track TRIMP stresses before considering a power meter.

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by jasjas

roadiesean wrote:Thanks guys. When you say "structured training plan" what exactly do you mean ? Historically I have always ridden with others, so have been kind of stuck with what they are doing, more recently, that isn't the case and I've started riding more on my own (and it does get dull just plugging along, doesn't it) or even worse on the turbo (and anything helps there !!)

I think that you d be wasting your money at present - lose the weight and learn (on this forum) about structured training plans first.
You can progress loads without a SRM :)

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by mattydubs

I used to mock the powermeter crowd, so of course I joined them. I'm on target now to slip below twenty minute on a popular local mountain ride. This is how I've done it.

  • Garmin + HRM + Strap/sensor. Using the Garmin's calorie count, and counting everything I ate like a hawk. Lost 30 lbs over a year, back to being a stick. Tons of speed and if you want to race, you'll have to do this anyway.
  • Next, I started doing intervals outside. Mostly climbing at threshold, but this was all HR based.
  • Sufferfest videos, daily riding (intervals, then easy days) almost every day. Super hard efforts, I take a day off. I've been careful to recover. Four months of this regiment instead of the outdoor intervals made a huge difference.
  • Then I got some new books and ponyed up for a Quarq.

Before I got to the last point, I felt like I had hit a new level. Everything was still hard, but my hard was much harder than many of the folks I had been riding with. That's really what I'd stress. A powermeter really will make you stronger. Remember that your heart rate is slow to respond and can climb when you're holding a given load power wise.

But I made so much progress without one that I do feel like you should do all of that first. I will be honest, sticking with hard training videos and really pushing myself on the trainer has had a great effect. Maybe almost as much as just trimming back down. If you're diligent and willing to put yourself through the paces, you can really control your interval training very effectively on a turbo trainer.

Power is the next level. You realize exactly what your weaknesses are. Naturally, when I'm not drinking my way through weekends and gorging myself on pizza/burger/ice cream (I call it the hedonistic Jan diet... which is how I got fat) I'm actually a pretty tiny/light person. So I thought I was pushing pretty hard just because I could drop lots of folks on hard climbs, but after getting a power meter and doing FTP, LT, etc tests... I can do so much better. I would never have known that without a power meter.

Long story short: do all the stuff you know about first for 8-12 months. If you stick with it, then buy a powermeter. There's no point in getting one until you feel like you've really done all you can otherwise.

by Weenie

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by juanacity

This is totally my opinion, but...

It sounds like you do not need a powermeter to get better. However, it may very well help you improve significantly more than if you didn't get one at all. For all but the most elite, we are all just playing at something we like to do. I believe I have a pretty good understanding of what I need to do to get better, but that doesn't prevent me from upgrading little bits and pieces of my bike and kit that appeal to me even though I understand they probably have little to no absolute effect on my speed. This is my hobby and I enjoy it and sometimes even derive motivation (to train more) from my arbitrary purchases.

If you can afford it, and want it, I say go for it. Is it the absolute most cost effective and efficient means of improving? Probably not, but who cares.

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