Power meters have been around for years now, but it is still an unknown technology for a lot of roadies and triathletes. They used to be very very expensive, but advanced production techniques and increased demand have lowered the costs significantly. More and more cyclists ask themselves: Is a power meter right for me?
That guy from your club has one. You know the one. He’s always the first to get the latest generation of electronic shifting. He was the first to use deep section wheels. He owns three bikes and they are all fitted with a power meter. He’s a true expert of riding at his threshold and he might even be a stronger cyclist than you (according to him). But that’s not really a valid reason for buying yourself a power meter, is it?
What is a power meter and what does it actually do? Well, power meters are (usually) made of strain gauges that measures torque and combines this with velocity to calculate power in watts. This gives an exact measurement of how hard you are working in the saddle. But again, is it right for you? Finding out if a power meter is right for you, depends on what kind of rider you are. We are all different and have different needs.
Cycling is all about having fun and enjoying the sunshine on a weekend ride. You’re probably not that interested in tracking your rides on the garmin and you don’t really care about measuring your heart rate. You don’t feel a particular need for structured training – you’re just enjoying the general health benefits of cycling.
If this is you, then you probably don’t need a power meter. Buying a power meter would be a waste of money, since you probably wouldn’t even look at the numbers anyway.
As a competitive rider you also enjoy casual rides on the road (most do), but you also have a little bit of competitive spirit. You have a nasty tendency to compare yourself with your fellow riders. You do a bit of Strava hunting, sprinting for road signs and KOMs. You are interested in improving your fitness and have some structure in your training.
If this is you, then you would be an ideal candidate for power training. Power meters are actually considered the biggest value-for-money upgrade you can make on a bike. Much better than deep section carbon wheels. Having a power meter means you can objectively understand your individual strengths and weaknesses as a rider. A power meter obviously doesn’t make you faster – but it usually shortens the time it takes to reach your training goals.
You’ve been in cycling or triathlon for a while and you are actively doing races. At this stage, you’ve probably been training for some years now and you structure your training. You already use a heart rate monitor to measure your effort-level. All über bikers wants to improve but for that to happen, you’ll need even more structure in training.
If this is you, then you should definitely buy a power meter. As you start doing more structured training and races, the accurate data that a power meter provides can guide you to reach your goals. A power meter can take the guesswork out of racing. You will know your exact power zones and can thus do some serious race day preparation. Joen from our office likes to use training tools like BestBikeSplit, when he is planning for his next triathlon.