As we roll into the second quarter of 2017 I thought it might be fun to make a few observations about training with power in 2017 and how far we have come in the last few years. Power Meter technology has been caught in the same rapid acceleration as every other tech device out there and has really become a mainstream device, not only reserved for professional riders or very serious amateurs. I coach lots of century riders and casual triathletes with meters now. With over 15 companies currently selling power meters and another five in some stage of development , the price points are dropping dramatically and the language of training with them is becoming common place. Hit any group ride and you’ll hear chatter about how many TSS points a ride is, average or max watts, Normalized Power, perhaps even Intensity Factor. Lots of data out there to chat about and a fantastic way to communicate with your coach.
Modeling a riders training load, peaks, tapers and annual training plan via TSS ( Training Stress Score) and CTL( Chronic Training Load )has been around for a while, but was kind of a balky way to get things accomplished. A new feature in Training Peaks is the ability to set up a annual season plan using CTL targets either to end at a optimal number for an event or to use a reasonable amount of TSS per week as a guide and periodize off of that. This is a huge improvement in delivering quantifiable load throughout a macrocycle to a rider.
As mentioned before, the communication with a coach is key and often where the “art of coaching” comes in. A good coach builds on that relationship and uses the data along with regular athlete feedback to direct and often make changes in a fluid ,dynamic,and nonlinear situation.
I asked a few questions of Josh Matthew from Powermeter City last week about topics that were of interest to me. Powermeter City is a partner of Performance Cycle Coaching that carries a very wide array of technology and meter types, making Josh a fantastic resource.
PCC coaches track riders worldwide and we love to see data!
What meters are appropriate for track use?
Track Specific Options
SRM makes perhaps the most popular and widely used track power meters. SRM track units can measure up to 4,000 watts, feature 1,900 hours of battery life and come in a 144 BCD. In addition, there is no need to recalibrate when changing chainring sizes. Note the larger 144 BCD here.
PowerTap manufactures a track-specific version of their popular G3 hub. Like all G3 hubs, the G3 Track Hub features +/- 1.5% accuracy, Bluetooth SMART technology, and transmits both speed and cadence data.
Stages Cycling makes a track version of their popular left-side crank arm units. It’s a Stages Shimano DURA-ACE Track FC-7710 Power Meter. It sells for $649.99 and like all Stages power meters, features +/-2.0% accuracy, 200 hours of battery life and is lightweight at only 20 grams of added weight.
Road Options That Will Work
A crank power meter for the road will work, but the largest BCD you could run is 130, vs. the ideal track size of 144. In addition, road units typically have a 43.5 mm chainline, whereas the optimal chainline for a track bike is 42 mm. (Note that you can attempt to address the chainline issue by moving the large chainring to the inner position.) If you are ok with these sacrifices, a crank-based road power meter should be fine.
Power meter pedals are perhaps the most popular power meter out (easy to install, dual-sided power,compatible with all bikes) – and you can definitely put one on a track bike. All power meter pedals(bePRO, PowerTap, Garmin) ship with Look Keo style cleats. You can run Shimano cleats with the Garmin Vector 2 pedals if you prefer.
Lastly, Velocomp’s PowerPod isn’t a track specific power meter, however since it simply mounts to the bars and uses opposing force technology to measure your power, it serves its purpose regardless of where it’s being used – track included.
How important is L/R Balance?
It depends who you ask. I don’t think it’s very important for the average rider. Say you’re a 55/45 rider.So what? Does this mean you should do some specific drills to bring your right leg up…probably not.
Rather, I would argue your time is better spent improving your fitness in general and let your
distribution be what it wants to be. I’m usually around 43/57 and I really don’t worry at all about it
(interestingly, I’m around 50/50 exactly when I’m out of the saddle).
Two counter points:
- I guess there are situations where a rider is recovering from injury. In which case, measuring L/R power might be more important.
- I know Hunter Allen does some specific L/R work with some of his athletes. While I have no idea what the results of those efforts are, he knows more about coaching than I do…and if he thinks focusing on L/R distribution is worthwhile…maybe there is something there…?
Coaches Note- I asked Hunter this specific question at the USA Cycling Coaches Summit in 2016. He was of the same mind as Josh in ranges that were fine and not really worth addressing. I like to give my athletes pedaling drills but while I monitor the L / R difference I find in most cases riding at a optimal cadence and riding lots improves the neuromuscular pathways overall and solves issues.
Can you help me decide on a head unit?
For the overwhelming majority of riders, I recommend the Garmin 520. Garmin head units are by far the most popular head unit and I think it’s for good reason. They have great functionality, features and aesthetics. Their 520 is their base model at $299. The next up is the 820 at $399. It’s great if you can afford it and comes with some cool extra features, but the 520 gets the job done for most athletes, pros included.
Which units are higher on a scale of weather resistance?
I would say the playing field is pretty level in this regard. All power meters are made to withstand just about anything you can throw at them, with the exception of direct, high pressure spray when cleaning (which should be avoided on all bike components). On any meter or head unit its very important to make sure the battery compartment or charging port cover is closed securely and the o ring or rubber cover has a touch of light grease on it as an additional seal.
For cyclocross, are racers using meters and if so which ones?
Absolutely. Crank based meters like the SRM are great if you can afford it. Pedal-based power meters work on everything as long as you don’t mind running the Look Keo style 3 bolt cleat (some CXers don’t like this cleat). Also, left-only crank arms (4iiii, Stages) can be used here as well.
I’d like to thank Josh for contributing his thoughts to this article, you can find him here
You can find me at email@example.com or at a few select races this summer mostly on a power meter equipped cross or mountain bike.