This post presents our top 7 reasons to use a power meter on your bike. Right now, prices are dropping on power meters worldwide. That makes this a great time to get started with power meters. At the same time, they are still not cheap. So why would you get one? Well Joe Friel, elite cycling coach and author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible, calls the power meter the most effective tool for increasing speed on the bike. Friel highly recommends that if you are a cyclist who is looking to improve, you should use a power meter. In this post, we explain why.
Related Post: Review of Joe Friel’s Cyclist’s Training Bible
Reason #1 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Eliminate the Guesswork from Your Training
One way to get fitter on a bike is to just go outside and ride lots. Yes, that does work. But the problem is that if you are both time-crunched and keen to improve, the random approach is not efficient.
Instead, you need to know precisely how hard you are working. The power meter tells you this, measuring your effort in watts. You can set an intensity target, and make sure you are hitting it.
You can also use a heart rate monitor to get some insight. However, your heart rate varies with a large range of factors, so it is not an exact gauge.
Related Post: Average Joe Cyclist’s Beginner Cyclist’s Training Plan, Phase 1
Reason #2 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: It Gives You the Data You Need to Build an Effective, Structured Training Program
Basically, you use your power meter to ascertain your functional threshold power (FTP). FTP is the average number of watts that you can sustain for an hour. It acts as a current measure of fitness, giving you a baseline to build up from.
Based on that, you build your own personal structured training plan, with a foundation of power-based training zones.
This is the kind of cycling training plan that yields maximum return for your training investment.
Related Post: Which Garmin Edge Bike Computer is the Best?
Reason #3 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Get the Maximum Benefit from the Training Time you Invest
If you only have an hour a day to train, it is crucial to make the most of that hour. A power meter enables you to plan and perform laser-focused workouts on your bike.
For example, rather than just pedaling randomly for an hour, you can use your power meter to focus in on three 15-minute intervals at a power level that will build your fitness fast.
Reason #4 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Motivate Yourself
A power meter on your bike is extremely likely to motivate you because it gives you accurate assessments of your performance. That means that when you (inevitably) make progress, you can see it with your own eyes, reflected in the numbers.
One of the most motivating things in the world is to see how your efforts are paying dividends in the form of real progress in speed, fitness, and power on your bike.
Related Post: Garmin Edge 530 vs 830: What’s the Difference?
Reason #5 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Track Your Fitness Gains Accurately
Your power meter will give you accurate feedback on your fitness gains. For example, you can track your power averages over specific distances, your FTP, and your maximum power.
Plus, with the data from your power meter, you can use training software such as TrainingPeaks. Using their Performance Management Chart, you can track crucial metrics such as:
- Training Stress Score (TSS)
- Acute Training Load (ATL)
- Chronic Training Load (CTL)
- Training Stress Balance (TSB)
- Efficiency Factor (EF).
This is going to give you a treasure trove of data that you can use to assess your gains, and figure out how to maximize them.
Reason #6 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Pace Yourself
There are many situations in which it is crucial to pace yourself while cycling. An all-day tour, for example. Or a race, where you don’t want to hit the wall two miles from the finish line.
With a power meter, you can figure out how much power output you can sustain for a given length of time. This is dead easy with a power meter. Then, during a tour or a race, you can keep an eye on your power expenditure and make sure you are not putting out more power than you can hope to sustain.
This is such an advantage that it has been referred to as legal cheating!
Reason #7 to Use a Cycling Power Meter: Creative Experimentation
Your cycling power meter will give you immediate feedback on how various changes impact your power output. Can you put out more power at a slower cadence or a faster cadence? Will it make a difference if you change your riding position.
As you experiment, you will learn more. This will give you the data you need to constantly improve further.
Bottom Line on Reasons to Use a Power Meter on Your Bike
A power meter on your bike is very likely to be the best training tool you ever buy. Sure, it is expensive up front. But if that really pays off by taking your cycling to the next level, you are not going to regret it
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David Marshland says
A very useful article as I’ve been wondering about a power meter on the basis that it might help me to pace myself up hills/on longer rides. It’s saved me a load of money! I had reduced the options down to a few which were compatible with Shimano 105 r7000 and was wondering if it was worth the risk and delay of ordering from China to achieve even more savings, when i read this.
I was surprised to find that almost all the advantages listed are to do with setting/monitoring training objectives and not about actually monitoring your general performance. Only when you’ve established your limits have you then a chance of applying that to real world conditions, but they’re probably competitions, not bike touring.
Realistically I’m not going to go out to follow set routines. For me, it looks like checking how my heart rate is increasing on climbs will give a more useful indication of when/if I’ll need to step off and when I’ve recovered enough at the top to pick up the pace again. The cadence monitor enables me to set objectives for increasing my cadence generally, theoretically enabling me to ride hills with a better mechanical advantage in a lower gear and save my knees.
And most useful of all wiould be dropping the gearing of the bike.. There’s a big gap between road group sets and gravel/mountain sets. And my individual level appears to be somewhere between them!
Average Joe Cyclist says
Glad it helped David!