This post presents our top 7 reasons to use a power meter on your bike. They are 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. As he says, “training with power will definitely help you ride more powerfully – which means faster.” (Source: Friel, My New Power Meter.) And power meters can be such a help in races that they have been called legal cheating. In this post, we explain why.
Related Post: Complete Guide to Using Power Zones for Cycling Training
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 a lot. 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. It is definitely not the quickest way to improve your speed, power, and fitness.
It is much better 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. Or, you can use it to follow the professional cycling training plans offered by apps such as Strava, Zwift, TrainerRoad and TrainingPeaks – as explained in this post.
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. Of course, it is advisable to keep track of your heart rate, as it can alert you to problems such as over-training, or even sickness. However, for accuracy in power levels, nothing beats a power meter.
Our post on how to use power zones in cycling training shows the relationship between power zones and heart rate zones. It is important to know whether your heart rate correlates correctly with the amount of power you are expending. It is also motivating to see how this relationship improves over time, reflecting the improvement in your cardiovascular fitness.
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 do a test on your bike 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. This post explains the various kinds of FTP tests you can do with a power meter.
Based on that, you can build your own personal structured training plan, with a foundation of power-based training zones. Or, you can get an app such as Zwift to do it for you.
A training program based on your own personal FTP 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. Basically, it makes it much easier to pace yourself correctly.
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 when that really pays off by taking your cycling to the next level, you are not going to regret it.
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