Should I buy a power meter?
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  1. #1
    Mr. Papagiorgio
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    Should I buy a power meter?

    I think that a power meter is a great training tool, and I am considering purchasing a crank-based product - probably a quarq. Financially, it would be a big deal to buy one. I have heard that they are only useful if you download your rides and preferably have a coach analyzing the power profile. I have limited time to ride and do not believe that I will be dowloading and analyzing my rides. Instead, I expect that I will do testing to establish training and interval zones and train to those until I re-test every 60-90 days. My main goal this season is a sub-one hour 40k TT. Do you think that the power meter makes sense given the limitations of the analysis above?

  2. #2
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    If it's worth the cost of the gear and coaching to meet that goal, then yeah.

    Just be aware that your goal is certainly attainable without a power meter; plenty of riders have been doing it for years on standard road bikes with nothing but a stopwatch to train with. Others do it with just an inexpensive HR meter.
    * not actually a Rock Star

  3. #3
    Impulse Athletic Coaching
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    If you are not downloading or analyzing the ride files, there is little point in owning one...even if you want to pace yourself for 40km TTs.

  4. #4
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    doesn't make sense to me unless you are going to geek out on the data.

  5. #5
    Don't Tread on Me
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    I'll be ordering a Quarq within the next 2-3 weeks ( after I get my fit ) , but made the decision after reading "Training and Racing With A Power Meter".

    Seems like if you plan on analyzing the data, and using it as described in the above book, yes, a PM will be a useful tool. If not, it might just become another computer to look at while you're riding.

    If money is not an issue, by all means, go for it and stimulate the economy.

    What cranks are you planning on going with OP? I'm still up in the air, as my frame doesn't have BB30, and my options are limited to FSA, SRAM and Rotor 3D cranks.

    Check out that book for sure.

  6. #6
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Papagiorgio
    Financially, it would be a big deal to buy one. I have heard that they are only useful if you download your rides and preferably have a coach analyzing the power profile. I have limited time to ride and do not believe that I will be dowloading and analyzing my rides.
    I gotta say-it's your $$, but if you're not going to analyze that data, then why not just use a stopwatch and intervals, or HRM, or a trainer and speedometer? Most indoor trainers convert from speed to watts by a formula, so you could probably figure out what your power output would be based on speed. Not that you'd want to be on the trainer more than once a week when it's nice out, but as a controlled environment to measure progress it seems a lot cheaper than buying a PM that you're not going to use the way it was intended. A combination of HRM, a trainer, and perceived effort may also do you pretty well for several thousand dollars less.

    But I don't race 'cept in triathalons (and then only slowly)https://forums.roadbikereview.com/im...es/biggrin.gif and am really new to the sport compared to all the other folks on this board. But that's how I would analyze that decision. For the cost of the quarq power meter you could buy another bike--a nice one.

  7. #7
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    I have a powermeter (powertap) but use a non-powertap disc wheel for TTs and a HRM. For pacing efforts, I find the HRM works well and provides good focus for a TT.

  8. #8
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    Perhaps try to rent or borrow a PowerTap for a day or a week first to see how much value you can get out of it? It certainly is an eye-opener the first time you ride with a PowerMeter and start watching the numbers. You soon learn a few lessons about managing your power output on the bike.

    This is a big investment, and like others I'm not convinced it is worth it if you are not going to download the data. If you want to spend more money on a more powerful head unit, you might like the Saris Joule since it maintains your ride history on the bike computer and gives more interesting metrics than just average power.
    Old La Honda in less than 20 minutes! Or you can watch race video from the low-key hill climb on Welch Creek. More at www.biketelemetry.com.

    "I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry.", Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.

  9. #9
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    A power meter is extremely useful for interval training - it shows your output RIGHT NOW instead of trailing like HR and it shows when you are cooked because you can't generate the same power as previous intervals.

    I have found that training with power is much more motivational than HR. With HR, I found myself saying "goal was 170bpm for 2 minutes, but 168bpm for 1:50 was close enough". With power, I'm almost always trying to meet or slightly exceed the goal. Not sure why, but it flipped my thinking.

    Power is much better for hill training - maintaining 400w up a hill is more meaningful than maintaining 170bpm, especially as fitness increases because HR is slow to ramp up.

    Downloading is trivial - it can be done as a background activity on your PC. Since you posted to an internet forum, it seems likely you have a PC.

    As stated above, many people have achieved their goals without a power meter. But I can honestly say my training has improved significantly since I began training with power and my race results back it up. I'm very happy to be training with power (SRM on road bike, iBike on TT bike).

  10. #10
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    How do you like the ibike? Which version is it?

  11. #11
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    I say go for it, but make sure you will get the value out of it. It's just a training tool. You can do the same work with a HRM; the information of a PM is what is so key and what guides your work intelligently. Make sure you're into that whole idea.

    I just took the plunge. SRM amateur for $675, barely used on eBay.

    I'd either do that or a used powertap, personally. No way I could justify $1000+. If I don't get my "money's worth" I can always resell it. Honestly, I'm just excited from finally having a reliable way to quantify progress and work; and be numerically honest with myself so I can't hide from my weaknesses in training/racing, or stealthily "cheat" myself in workouts. I'll let you guys know how it goes; just another guy having a blast racing, going self-coached with Coggan's PM book and Friel's Bible.

  12. #12
    Perpetual Three
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    I say go for it. I do download my data and its nice to be able to really tell where my fitness is and how hard my efforts really are for the first time ever.

    its also good for breakaways in road races. It helps me not get excited and ride at an output that will cause me to blow up.

    p.s. the quark is excellent.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by hrumpole
    How do you like the ibike? Which version is it?
    The short answer: I like it a lot. I find training with power to be VASTLY more motivating and effective for training than HR. I purchased the iBike for use on my road bike, added a mount for it to my cx bike, then got a TT bike and put a mount on there, too. Then I put a mount on my mtb. It's not as useful on a full-suspension mtb due to the effect of suspension on tilt and the varying trail conditions (rolling resistance). But it was never intended for mtb use. And it is an incredibly useful tool on the road bikes.

    There is a lot of discussion about the accuracy of iBikes. The iBike folks have a lot of data to back up their claims of high accuracy. Many people continue to disbelieve. Whatever. The main thing about a PM is that it needs to be consistent. If your PM says you're putting out 200w when you are actually putting out 190w or 210w, that doesn't really matter for training purposes as long as it registers the same number for the same force on the pedals. If your PM says 200w for a particular effort one day and 225w for the same effort the next day, that is a significant problem. I find the iBike to be extremely consistent with the sole exception of gusty winds, particularly from odd angles to the bike. Sometimes it feels like it is registering low in those situations. But it could be that I hate riding in gusty winds and that affects my perception of effort.

    The long answer is that I started with the first iBike in the summer of 2007. I used it and the Coggan Training With Power book to set up a training plan that fall/winter. My primary goal was to improve fitness for mountain bike racing. I had been training with an HRM and finishing mid-pack (10th-20th) in the Sport class in the Winter Park Mountain Bike Series. After one winter of using the iBike to train with power, I won 4 out of 5 races in the same class in the same mountain bike series against the same competitors that summer.

    Over time, I upgraded to the 2nd generation iBike, then to the iBike Pro Gen 3. The Gen 3 is a pretty significant improvement - easier to use, not affected by road conditions (original version did not like rough roads), more reliable pairing of wireless sensors, etc. The software that it comes with is wonderful - a joy to use! I prefer it to WKO. Anyway, if you get feedback from someone with Gen 1 or Gen 2, please know that Gen 3 is much better and resolves the issues with prior units.

    Satisfaction with the iBike typically boils down to whether you can stop wondering about its accuracy. People who can't stop wondering "is the rolling resistance of this road higher than other roads? I changed my hand position, did that change my aero?" and things like that won't be happy with it.

    After riding with an SRM for 9 months on the same routes as the iBike, I believe the iBike is very consistent, quite accurate, and a hugely effective training tool.

    I got the SRM because it came with a Cannondale SuperSix that I purchased. I got a slightly used SuperSix for $3100. Essentially, I feel like I either got a SuperSix with a free SRM or I got a SRM with a free SuperSix. I am EXTREMELY happy with the purchase of my SuperSix!

    Final thought -- the Footon-Serotta team is using the iBike on the Pro Tour such as the Giro d'Italia. That gives it some credibility!

  14. #14
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    Thanks. I've been thinking about a new, more-funciton computer, and was toying with Garmin 500 or 705 off of CList vs. an ibike. The SRMs and PTs are simply too much coin.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by hrumpole
    Thanks. I've been thinking about a new, more-funciton computer, and was toying with Garmin 500 or 705 off of CList vs. an ibike. The SRMs and PTs are simply too much coin.
    For me the only reason to go with the iBike would be cost. However, you can get wired PowerTap wheels off CL or ebay for less money, or for similar amounts of money new at Competitive Cyclist.

    There is, of course, the iBike Sport for $200 and that is the cheapest way to get into power. This was a non-starter for me because you can't download the data, but it would appear to meet the requirements of some, eg. the OP.

    In conclusion, I went with a wired PowerTap deal off CL, and have few regrets. If I had the money I'd upgrade to a wireless PowerTap with an Edge 500 head unit (assuming that Garmin can fix the bugs), or wait to see what happens with the MetriGear Vector.
    Old La Honda in less than 20 minutes! Or you can watch race video from the low-key hill climb on Welch Creek. More at www.biketelemetry.com.

    "I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry.", Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.

  16. #16
    Less Clyde-ey Every Day
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    Quote Originally Posted by hrumpole
    I've been thinking about a new, more-funciton computer, and was toying with Garmin 500 or 705 off of CList vs. an ibike.
    You can get the full Garmin 500 kit (HR and speed/cadence) from PBK for under $250 shipped. Seems like you're not going to do much better on CL, considering how new the unit is and the relatively small number that have been sold so far.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by drdiaboloco
    You can get the full Garmin 500 kit (HR and speed/cadence) from PBK for under $250 shipped. Seems like you're not going to do much better on CL, considering how new the unit is and the relatively small number that have been sold so far.
    Considering Garmin's warranty policy, and also the historical failure rate of their devices, I would definitely stay away from CL or ebay! Personally I would also steer towards a trusted US-based company with a good returns policy, like Performance or REI ...
    Old La Honda in less than 20 minutes! Or you can watch race video from the low-key hill climb on Welch Creek. More at www.biketelemetry.com.

    "I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry.", Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.

  18. #18
    Less Clyde-ey Every Day
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    Quote Originally Posted by ukbloke
    Considering Garmin's warranty policy, and also the historical failure rate of their devices, I would definitely stay away from CL or ebay!
    Well, backing this up was the 500 I just got and had to return due to a problem with the screen. PBK gladly set up the return and will allegedly pay for the return shipping when the refund is posted... Just sent it back this week so we'll see how good their return policy really is.

    Assuming no problems with the refund, I don't see how spending an additional $100 from a US-based purveyor is a better idea than PBK. Even if you get a bum unit and DID have to pay return shipping you still are $85 to the good.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by drdiaboloco
    Assuming no problems with the refund, I don't see how spending an additional $100 from a US-based purveyor is a better idea than PBK. Even if you get a bum unit and DID have to pay return shipping you still are $85 to the good.
    If it fails 6 months, 12 months, or 3 years down the line you can walk into REI and ask for a replacement or a refund, and you will get one. You can also do the same if you are unhappy with it and consider the device not fit for purpose - for example, if 3 years of Garmin 500 firmware releases still doesn't fix the device hang bug. With Performance there is also a satisfaction guarantee and you might get the same no-hassle returns treatment (or you might not).

    I'm sure that PBK will do the right thing for a DOA unit, but not clear to me what they would do after a few months have passed. Of course, Garmin have a very good returns and service policy themselves (as long as you bought it new and not off ebay), so in most cases you can return via Garmin and not have to return to the point of sale.

    I buy lots of stuff at PBK, some at the LBS, and occasionally CL and ebay. I try to balance the cost savings against whatever warranty/rights I'm trading away, and it is clearly a personal judgement call.
    Old La Honda in less than 20 minutes! Or you can watch race video from the low-key hill climb on Welch Creek. More at www.biketelemetry.com.

    "I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry.", Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.

  20. #20
    Less Clyde-ey Every Day
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    Perhaps I don't understand REI's sale terms, but you can walk into their store with a 3 y/o item that they sold you that doesn't work... One that is two years past the end of its warranty... and they will replace it?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by drdiaboloco
    Perhaps I don't understand REI's sale terms, but you can walk into their store with a 3 y/o item that they sold you that doesn't work... One that is two years past the end of its warranty... and they will replace it?
    Yes. Or refund at your discretion. I presume they have other policies in place to curb abuse. Someone on this forum had a ~3 year old Edge 305 with the common battery disconnect problem, and exchanged it at REI for an Edge 500.

    (Costco used to have similar policies for things like TVs but had to stop because of the abuse.)
    Old La Honda in less than 20 minutes! Or you can watch race video from the low-key hill climb on Welch Creek. More at www.biketelemetry.com.

    "I think," said Christopher Robin, "that we ought to eat all our Provisions now, so that we shan't have so much to carry.", Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.

  22. #22
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    Thanks for the tip, I was unaware of that policy. That does change the complexion of the purchase decision, to be sure. I think I'd still go for the savings up front, but with a cycle computer I can certainly see how the REI policy is very attractive.

    I know about the abuse of the similar Costco policy... They used to make an excellent rollaboard suitcase that was pretty cheap at $75 or so, and coworkers of mine would exchange for a new one every year until the pulled the plug on that one.

  23. #23
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    Yep. Cost is the controlling factor. I just ordered a new set of (nonPT) wheels built, so a new wheelset (or wheel) is out of the question. What I want is GPS plus power, but the only one that seems to do that is Garmin.

    There may be a couple of options in the future. For example, if the ibike transmitted in ANT+, it could work with products like pedalbrain or runkeeper in the future. For now, my options seem to be either heart rate plus GPS, or power without GPS. If the ibike had the edge's gps functionality it would be a no-brainer.

  24. #24
    So. Calif.
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    Too bad REI always excludes GPS and electronics from their 20% off sales, like the one now in progress.
    Still, you can get the members' 7-8% rebate at year end. That, plus REI's liberal policies, that would push me toward REI for potentially fragile electronics.

  25. #25
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    I am in the same boat as the OP in certain ways. Only thing is I am older, not in top form and just now really getting serious about cycling. I watched a crit a month ago and I am sold. I have been riding 2 years on and off and have about 10 more pounds I need to loose. I have a Garmin 305 that measures everything I really need at this point so I figured the upgrade that would help my riding the most would be some ZIPP 303s and training harder but still considering a PM in the future.
    While training and monitoring HR, inclines, mileage and times, I realized a power meter isn't going to help. I see by the Garmin that when my HR hits 180+ for any amount of time I am done. I can last about 40 minutes at 170 but in the 160s I can last a little more than an hour. My average route of 21 very hilly miles I average 16.4 mph and the 50 mile flatter ride I am averaging 14.8. That tells me I really need to work on everything: base miles, hill climbs and flats and the only way I am going ot get better is to ride. The greatest wheels (IMHO) wont help me too much and a power meter is definately not going to help me get faster... It is seat time.
    I am sure there are magical training routines in books that require a PM and will make you faster but you still need to train to get the results.
    In a nut shell the biggest improvement I can see in cycling is riding but if you have money put it towards making your bike lighter and more aero. I've asked on this board and with the advice the others I have been getting better faster than I ever have. I will consider a PM when I feel I have reached my max potential and then the next step up would be doping which would be training four the Tour de France... (That aint happening)
    My suggestion is find a good training routine, train, buy upgrades on your bike to help with weight/aero then if you feel you still need a PM then get it.
    When I get the cash I am going for better wheels (which would bring bike wgt to 15.3ish) then train more. I really can't say that I would get a PM because for how I ride I have all the info at my hands I really need. I can see where and how my heart rate reacts and I know where I need to keep it before I bonk. The only way to avoid the bonk in your training is to train for it and the folks here have many tips, some will work better than others but trying them all will make you better.
    I am a data geek and feel I dont need a PM. My HR and perceived intensity tell me enough to know I dont need a PM. From my data I know I have to improve all around. Heck, post your progress on here and the folks will tell you what you need to work on if you haven't figured it out. There is really no magic to it, you just have to train like Eddy Merckx, Bernrd Hinault, Miguel Indurain, Jacques Anquetil and others who didn't have PMs.
    Good luck
    Jimt

    Sorry so long, blame it on Bud light.....
    Last edited by JimT; 05-28-2010 at 08:35 PM.

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