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  1. #1
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    To Power Meter or not to Power Meter...

    Hello all,
    I've lurked on here for quite a Looong time, first time poster! Posting to settle an argument with a mate I ride with. He says I MUST get a Power Meter if I want to get faster. I'm a non-competitive rider however and not convinced, I ride roughly 60K each go, handful of times/week. What say you RBR? Anyone like me riding a Power Meter? Are you glad you got it? What Power Meter do you use?
    Cheers!

  2. #2
    Cycling Coach
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    Here are my thoughts:
    Alex's Cycle Blog: Do I need a power meter?

    In short, you'll get faster by training more, and by training more specifically to your development needs. A power meter can certainly help with that but it isn't necessary to execute sound basic training principles which for the most part can be executed reasonably well without one.

    What matters most is the quality and quantity of data stored in your legs, not your cycle-computer.

    I say this with a very long history of power meter training and advocacy. Using power meter data wisely is an important part of my professional coaching services.

  3. #3
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    I rode 9000 miles last year without a power meter. Just Riding Along (JRA). I didn't get faster, and my endurance didn't get better. I just rode a lot (which is fine if that's all you want to do).

    This year I decided I wanted to have some goals, and a more focused approach. Smart Trainer, a Power Meter and a Coach. With the focused training and the help of a coach, I've gotten a lot faster, and my endurance has improved dramatically. With a little nutritional guidance, I've also lost a little more weight (which in my case isn't a bad thing).

    You can get faster without a power meter, so you don't 'need' one. It's definitely a huge help to have one, but the key is, if you have one, you have to understand how to use it. Just having a power meter on your bike won't do anything to improve your speed or endurance if you don't understand how to use it, and how to train.

  4. #4
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    If you go back 10 years, before power meters were common outside competitive riders there were plenty of very fast riders who got there without them so obviously you don't need one to get fast. Get one if you are willing to invest time in analysis of data, use a coach and/or do very targeted structured workouts to improve. They are also great for pacing on long endurance events. You most certainly don't need one to get fast.

    I do use a power meter, no coach but considering getting one. I have 2 Powertap wheels and 2 crank based power meters - a Power 2 max and a Pioneer. There's pros and cons to each of them. Probably the least expensive way to get into a power meter if you choose that route is find a used Powertap wheel which can be found for a few hundred dollars in most medium to large cities.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    If you go back 10 years, before power meters were common outside competitive riders there were plenty of very fast riders who got there without them so obviously you don't need one to get fast.
    No need to go back in time. Lots of very fast riders don't have them now. And of the ones that do many just use them for curiosity after the fact.

    OP, your mate is a complete moron if he truly thinks someone MUST have one to get faster.
    If you want to use one as a tool to help you follow a plan or even if you're just a numbers person and would enjoy one for the curiosity, great, get one. But you most certainly don't 'need' one to get faster.

  6. #6
    Forever a Student
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    Your friend is wrong. Simple as that.

    If you get and use a power meter correctly without any specific training, you can go faster now with it, it is possible. It can pace you up a climb and therefore improve your climbing times right now. That's it's limit though.

    It's just a tool to measure, it can't do anything for you but to show you what you've already done. It's up to you what to do with that information.

    I promise you that you can get faster right now, faster overall speed for every ride, with zero or very little money. It's about your body position. If you're actually serious about riding faster, you will do what's necessary to train yourself to ride in the most aerodynamic position possible that's comfortable still. You will go get a bike fit focused around getting you as aerodynamic as possible. You will stay in this "pro" position at all times, it will be how you ride your bike. That will 100% make you faster immediately and consistently for the future.

    Everything else you're going to have to train hard for. No frame or wheels or power meter or anything is just going to make you faster immediately, not in any measurable quantity. Only your position can do that right now.
    use a torque wrench

  7. #7
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    For recreational riders, the primary benefit of a power meter (beyond helping pace yourself on long rides) is data that helps you understand the effects of training.

    As you age, there's an accepted and pervasive excuse for getting slower. When used with training software, the power meter helps provide you with convincing data that demonstrates that much of that slowing is related to getting lazier, not older.

    Even a simple program like Strava will provide you with comparative power curve that will allow you to provide the current years power curve with any previous year you choose. It will also provide distance, vertical, and time data that you can use to compare to previous years.

    In short, you'll see a much more direct correlation between that data and any reduction or improvement in power than with age. That data can become a serious motivator well into your seventies.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwiftSolo View Post
    For recreational riders, the primary benefit of a power meter (beyond helping pace yourself on long rides) is data that helps you understand the effects of training.

    As you age, there's an accepted and pervasive excuse for getting slower. When used with training software, the power meter helps provide you with convincing data that demonstrates that much of that slowing is related to getting lazier, not older.

    Even a simple program like Strava will provide you with comparative power curve that will allow you to provide the current years power curve with any previous year you choose. It will also provide distance, vertical, and time data that you can use to compare to previous years.

    In short, you'll see a much more direct correlation between that data and any reduction or improvement in power than with age. That data can become a serious motivator well into your seventies.
    That is a great post. I can definitely see the benefit of a power meter in that perspective. I don't have one and don't plan on getting one yet, but probably in a year or so once I get my fitness levels better.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OVRLOK View Post
    Hello all,
    I've lurked on here for quite a Looong time, first time poster! Posting to settle an argument with a mate I ride with. He says I MUST get a Power Meter if I want to get faster. I'm a non-competitive rider however and not convinced, I ride roughly 60K each go, handful of times/week. What say you RBR? Anyone like me riding a Power Meter? Are you glad you got it? What Power Meter do you use?
    Cheers!
    As someone else said, your friend is seriously misinformed. You don't say how much you ride, but if you want to get faster, it's all about intensity. Try the following:


    From Basic Training for Roadies (www.roadbikerider.com) by Fred Matheny: here's a 7 hours a week, weekly schedule that works for many riders:

    Monday: Rest day with 15 minutes of resistance training.
    Tuesday: Ride 1 hour with 3-8 sprints or other short, hard efforts.
    Wednesday: Ride 1 hour at a steady, moderate pace.
    Thursday: Ride 1 hour including about 20 minutes of any type of hard effort.
    Friday: Rest day with 15 minutes of resistance training.
    Saturday: Ride 1 hour at an easy pace.
    Sunday: Ride 3 hours at a varied pace. Group rides or hilly courses are good choices.

    Remember, intensity is one key to this program. If you could ride 200 to 400 miles per week, sheer volume would guarantee a high level of fitness. But you can't.

  10. #10
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    If your mate that you ride with is faster, just ride with him and hang on as long as you can. This is how many of us got faster.

    If your mate is not faster, it says a lot about the value of the power meter

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by OVRLOK View Post
    Hello all,
    I've lurked on here for quite a Looong time, first time poster! Posting to settle an argument with a mate I ride with. He says I MUST get a Power Meter if I want to get faster. I'm a non-competitive rider however and not convinced, I ride roughly 60K each go, handful of times/week. What say you RBR? Anyone like me riding a Power Meter? Are you glad you got it? What Power Meter do you use?
    Cheers!
    I agree with the other responses that you don'y need a power meter to get faster. I have one and to me the main benefits have been
    1. Keeps me motivated
    2. Keeps me understand my progress over the season
    3. It a fun gadget
    I certainly would not advocate that you must run out and get one, but I have not read many posts from folks that did and regretted it (other than the high cost part)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herbie View Post

    If your mate is not faster, it says a lot about the value of the power meter
    It doesn't say anything at all about the value of a power meter.
    It says that his mate is not faster than he is. Or his mate doesn't train well/hard enough/ Doesn't recover properly. Eat well. Sleep well. Maybe he doesn't understand how to train and use a power meter.

    It could say a lot of things.
    But to state that a tool is of no value because someone may be using it improperly or doing any other number of things improperly negates the value of said tool - that is foolish.

  13. #13
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    Yep. Nonsense. A PM is just a really exotic stopwatch but, it can clearly help define the boundaries of your efforts really well.

    I have been using one for a number of years and it's very helpful with riding better quality intervals...especially the shorter ones. Do you need one to do 30 second efforts? Of coarse not but, it can certainly help to maintain an effort to train the system you are targeting. It has also been super valuable for TT pacing. Again, not necessary but, I feel this is one area where a PM shines. Lastly, on longer less intense rides the PM can really help you to finish stronger as you have increasingly higher and higher perceived effort due to cardiac drift. For example, 200W feels infinitely harder at hour 5 than hour 1. Using RPE you may ease up and not really get the full benefit of that long ride. HR can be hard to use due to the drift and again you may finish a bit on the easy side.

    If you are in tune with your body you can do all of this without any electronic hardware. It's just another piece of information that can help you to ride smarter and train more efficiently. In learning how to use one, learning how to test and digest the data you may very well learn many incidental lessons or things you weren't expecting like Kj expenditure on longer rides. Nothing Earth shattering but, super useful. Now that I've learned I really don't need it much but, it taught me some valuable lessons.

  14. #14
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    Why can't he ride "200 to 400 miles per week"?

  15. #15
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    pedal harder at all times to go faster.

  16. #16
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    As a cheap thing to do, there is a book or two worth reading to gain some ideas around using a power meter to aid your training. For the cost of a few coffees and snacks it might be worthwhile reading up some more and perhaps you might be better informed.

    Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Allen and Coggan is the the standard reference guide.

  17. #17
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    I picked up a stages power meter on a great deal off eBay . People say it's an expensive toy but it's a lot cheaper than some garmins and wheel sets .


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  18. #18
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    I bought a powertap power meter because it was supposed to be broken and built in to a nice wheelset. I repaired it.

    The big benefit for me is i know what my threshold power feels like. I've gotten used to staring at the device and now i can snap right in to 'threshold power mode' and crank away without exceeding it and having to back down a couple times.

    I like seeing how my perceived sustained effort drops off on longer efforts. I've gotten a lot better at making the same power for a longer period by learning how much i wuss out over time.

    I don't think for my needs i could condition myself with the power meter as well as i can from doing regular interval training. Not even close. If you're not doing interval training i think the power meter is just a toy.

  19. #19
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    The question is "Is a power meter required to improve" is flawed.
    One can certainly improve without a power meter. The benefit of a power meter and training plan is that it provides reliable real time and post ride metrics to train with. Without a power meter one rider may be able to feel how hard they are riding and can gauge what to do on the ride another rider won't. So yes one can get stronger without a power meter, a power meter does make it easier (provided you use it properly).
    As Campy 11 chains don't follow the 12 1/16" rule, it's wise to change them at 132.60 mm max.
    Lights and road riding - it's not about what you need to see, it's what it takes to be seen.

  20. #20
    hfc
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    The most reliable way to improve you speed is ride with people faster than you. No power meter needed. There may be some value to one if the bulk of your rides are solo, but you can still succeed with a training plan that includes interval blocks +\- a HRM.

    I ride mostly solo and have one that I got mostly for the gadget fun. I find it most useful for gauging my effort on long climbs.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by hfc View Post
    The most reliable way to improve you speed is ride with people faster than you. No power meter needed. There may be some value to one if the bulk of your rides are solo, but you can still succeed with a training plan that includes interval blocks +\- a HRM.

    I ride mostly solo and have one that I got mostly for the gadget fun. I find it most useful for gauging my effort on long climbs.
    You can ride with fast people and never get faster simply by sitting in, there are plenty of guys that do this on a weekly basis.
    You don't mention using the power meter with a training plan, a power meter and no plan will not make you faster.
    While a HRM works it's not as reliable as a power meter, HR's change from day to day based on multiple factors. This has been beaten to death over and over.
    As Campy 11 chains don't follow the 12 1/16" rule, it's wise to change them at 132.60 mm max.
    Lights and road riding - it's not about what you need to see, it's what it takes to be seen.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikerp View Post
    You can ride with fast people and never get faster simply by sitting in, there are plenty of guys that do this on a weekly basis.
    True if the gap between fitness isn't that much, the group is organized and there aren't any hills to speak of, but I think everyone knows that in this context "faster riders" means riders you're challenged to keep up with.

    you're right though, there isn't necessarily a correlation between speed and ability to keep up. A ride full of strong cat 6 riders can be challenging due to all the surges and disorganization whereas a faster ride with more experienced riders can be easy because they tend to be steady and organized.

  23. #23
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    I use two $5 battery clocks, and the weather report to gauge my performance.
    One clock at the source, one at the destination.
    Last year my first ride out to my summer camp, after surgery, was 4 hours. 2 years ago I finished the last fall ride in 2:35
    This year after riding more all winter, my first ride out was 2:40. Back was 2:49. The weather report said wind was 13-16 mph unfavorable coming back, so I had an excuse for the slow return time. My posture on the MTB is aerodynamically dirty, but unlikely to cause a disk injury in my neck.
    Plus the clock can measure my rest pulse. 12 in 10 seconds is 72 bpm, 11 is 66. I'm down to 66 already this year after 2 hours watching TV. Rest pulse wasn't below 72 even when I was in the Army. When I quit working in 2008 rest pulse was 85. I had time to ride more without emplioyment.
    As a musician I can estimate high rate pulse without a watch, using metronome markings. I took the strenuous route first time out this year, peak pulse was about 144 which is certainly doable at age 67. I've been as high as 180 on Gum Tree Corner Rd the first rides in years when I rode less in the winter.
    And without a digital toy, I don't spend time watching the handlebar display. I watch the scenery and road for more enjoyment and safety.

  24. #24
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    A "digital toy"? For $&@* sake. We get it - some people like to live in the '70s. Neat.

    A power meter isn't necessary for any level of training. But, it can be useful for any level of training. Unlike HR (which can be impacted by lots of physiological factors, e.g. illness, overtraining, etc) and speed (impacted by wind, terrain, drafting, etc) power data is "pure" - if your number was higher, you rode harder. That data can tell you things - about training, cadence, etc. Additionally, power data can be a bit of an early warning - seeing reduced power numbers can be indicative of overtraining, the beginning of a cold, etc.

    And, like scenery, it's another aspect of riding that (if you like this sort of thing) is fun. I don't stare at my handlebar - these new fangled computer thingies have "apps" that let us review the ride later, when we're off the bike. We can look at power of sections, peak power, power over given periods, etc. ;-)

  25. #25
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    Hope I'm not too late to the party, and folks might comment for me. I'm mostly a mountain biker, not a road rider. When I ride the road I often am alone. Let's pretend I don't care about cost. Let's say I probably won't look at data post ride. Is a PM not helpful enough just for pacing? I'd like to know how hard I can push, but being able to keep it up for longer rides. Thoughts?

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