A power meter is a training device fitted to a bike to measure the rider’s output in watts. In other words, it measures the force with which an individual pushes down and pulls up on the pedals. Typically, power meters are found on cranksets, pedals, or a wheel’s hub, but a variety of indoor trainers can also measure power effectively. Here’s why investing in a power meter can provide big dividends, not just for riders looking to improve their fitness, but also for competitive cycling:
· Precise Real Time Measurement
Through a computer, or watch display, a power meter gives instantaneous feedback on the amount of work being produced in watts. This allows athletes to change their performance and effort in real time. Unlike heart rate, which can be largely impacted by hydration, energy levels, muscle fatigue, sleep and temperature, watts are not affected by outside variables other than how hard a rider is pushing on the pedals.
· Improve Quality Training Sessions
A power meter allows an athlete to follow a precise training plan that has set watt goals for their sessions. Therefore, programs can be designed that target adequate training stimulus along with appropriate rest and active recovery sessions.
· Signifies Strength and Weaknesses
Many power meters measure pedaling dynamics. These include the power phase (provides details on where in the pedal stroke a rider starts and stops producing power), Platform Center Offset (identifies how power is being generated through the pedal platform) and Right/Left balance (shows the amount of work each leg is producing). These can be used to identify muscular imbalances and for bike fittings. Lab testing such as VO2 max and lactate threshold testing can be done in combination with a power meter to show physiological variables along with strengths and weaknesses.
· Shows Progression Over Time
With adequate training structure, data recording, and benchmark testing an individual can track and analyze their power data overtime to show progress or lack thereof. By using this data changes in training can be adjusted to support the athlete’s goals.
· Race Day Planning and Analysis
The power meter is a great pacing tool to utilize on race day. Specific wattage zones can be targeted which allow an athlete to optimize their performance on race day. Furthermore, the data can be analyzed after the race to make future adjustments in the training load and on race day.
These are the key factors that make a power meter worth the investment. Not only are they beneficial for the competitive rider, but also those looking to gain health benefits through cycling!