What is a power meter?
A power meter is a tool in which measures the amount of power you are putting into your pedals. It is a great tool in accurately measure your progress with power tests and then being able to know what your zones are to help plan your training.
How is power measured?
Power is measured in watts, we often calculate it by your watts per kilo. This is a calculation in which your current watts is divided by your current weight, in the understanding that the more weight you have to push the more power you need to reach a certain speed. But that's not the full picture, body composition is not everything we are all different types of cyclists and can also benefit from weather conditions.
What types of power meters are there?
Firstly, if you have a smart trainer you should be able to measure you power, so that means you can train with power indoors. Then there are power meters in which you can use on your bike for outdoors. The costs do vary from power meters on your crank from around €200 to the whole crankset and also in pedals. You can pay up to €1500 for a power meter, who claim to have the best accuracy and provide the most data. Also, you can have dual or single sided. Single sided will be more economical, where do dual sided you can see power in both sides to see if you have an imbalances. One big benefit of the pedals is that you can switch them from bike to bike easily in the case that you have more than one bike or you are hiring a bike for travel for example.
How is a training with a power meter different to training with HR?
You can also train with the more traditional method of HR, where you can perform a HR test to determine your zones. What is different is that your HR never really changes in terms of your performance. As with power, as you get stronger the power you can put in will increase. Therefore you will produce more power with the same effort. Also, your heart rate will perhaps be telling on how rested you are and can change dependant on how you are feeling. It's useful to have an overview on all 3 training tools, the 3rd being on your own perception of how you are actually feeling in that training session.
Who would benefit from a power meter?
If you are following a structured plan you could benefit from having a power meter. The training you do outside could feel a little more easy to follow if you are wanting to follow some structure from a coach. If you prefer to just get out and have a look at what you have done from your cycling, there would not be much benefit to justify the cost. What is needed is the conscious intend in having something to follow with purpose when you set out on your ride. Also, remember even then power meters were only introduced in the 1990's, so cyclists trained effectively for years without it.
You certainly don't need to rush out and invest in a power meter. You can train effectively with use of Heart Rate, or even Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE). What will be most value is it to invest in an indoor trainer first, especially if you want to continue training all year if weather becomes a problem. We can recommend Wahoo trainers, here you can still measure your progress when training indoors with power. If budget allows once starting a coaching program having a power meter outdoors could be useful, but certainly not essential for your progress.
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