The use of power meters is no longer just a matter for professional cyclists. More and more hobby riders have started using them mainly to improve their training. But their advantages don’t stop there.
Additionally, they are also not as expensive as you may think anymore. So, are power meters worth it?
In this article, you learn why to use a power meter, what type of riders can take the most advantage of them, and much more.
Let’s dive in.
6 Reasons Why Power Meters Are Worth It
The truth is most reasons to buy a power meter surround training and performance. That’s why they were invented.
Did you know that Ulrich Schoberer (SRM) designed and manufactured the first power meter ever in 1986? (Source)
However, there are also reasons to buy a power meter even if you are not hyper-focused on improving your fitness.
Power meters will:
1. Provide You with Quality and Accurate Data
Unlike heart rate monitors, power meters provide accurate, objective, and real-time data that eliminate the guesswork.
The problem with heart rate is that it just shows your body’s response to a given effort. It is delayed and doesn’t tell you precisely what work you are doing or your power.
It also varies depending on your fatigue, age, diet, and other conditions like temperature, etc.
A power meter can measure your power in real-time. The accuracy of today’s power meters varies between ±1% and ±3%. (Source)
The following table shows the power deviations of multiple accuracy rates and power outputs.
|Accuracy Rate / Power Output||250W||500W||1000W|
The accuracy of today’s power meters is sufficient for most riders. However, another important feature of power meters is data consistency, so keep that in mind (more about it in this guide).
For example, when you complete an FTP test with a power meter, you get power zones you can follow during training.
FTP = Functional Threshold Power – the maximum average power output you can sustain for one hour. (Source)
And as you probably guess, with data you can rely on and its correct interpretation, you improve your training effectiveness and time efficiency.
TIP: Learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of training with a power meter or heart rate monitor.
2. Reveal Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Cycling is a competitive sport. Therefore, it is no wonder that riders profile themselves based on their strength and weaknesses. Thus, there are climbers, sprinters, punchers, etc.
Do you know what type of rider you are?
If not, a power meter is a great tool to find out more about your capabilities.
For example, some cycling training apps take a different approach than just using your FTP for structured training.
You can calculate your FTP from a 20-minute FTP test by multiplying your max 20-minute power with 0.95 (95%). (Source)
If your 20-minute power is 210W, your FTP power is 199.5W (210×0.95).
Wahoo SYSTM uses 4-Dimensional Power (4DP) methodology for assessing your rider type. Once you complete their Full Frontal test, it spits out your:
- 5-second power
- 1-minute power
- 5-minute power
- 20-minute power
The app reveals your strengths and weaknesses and what type of rider you are based on your results. Without a power meter, this wouldn’t be possible.
When you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can effectively target them with your trainer.
3. Allow You to Track Your Progress Objectively
With reliable and consistent data comes another significant benefit – objective progress tracking.
If you perform an FTP test at the beginning of the season, for example, then train and repeat it at the end, you get two comparable numbers.
Naturally, you don’t have to leverage FTP tests only. For example, let’s say you have a favorite climb or another segment in your area.
Due to outside conditions like the wind, temperature, etc., tracking and comparing your best times may not be accurate.
But if you compare your power data from your efforts, you will know what you are up to.
4. Make Your Pacing Easier
Pacing in cycling is essential. Unfortunately, beginners often overestimate their capabilities, and when they hit a long climb, they blow up in half of it.
Using a power meter is a great way to avoid similar scenarios. In addition, if you know your FTP, you can easily pace yourself.
Let’s say your 20-minute power is 200W. When you hit a 20-minute climb, you know you can’t ride at 250W. Otherwise, you will blow up.
That’s why power meters are suitable for beginners and women. They help them distribute their strength across climbs or the entire ride.
However, the same applies to professional cyclists and advanced riders. By knowing their numbers, they can calculate how hard they can ride in a race or training.
5. Allow You to Get More Out of Indoor Cycling
Indoor cycling is becoming increasingly popular thanks to indoor cycling apps. Some apps can estimate your power based on cadence and speed sensors, but this approach is inaccurate.
If you only have a budget indoor trainer that can’t measure your power, I highly recommend using it with a power meter.
You can connect the power meter to the app and easily follow structured workouts thanks to accurate power data.
Naturally, an interactive smart trainer will take your indoor training to a whole new level. If you plan an upgrade, feel free to browse the best bike trainers.
6. Provide You with Info About Your L/R Power
There are two basic types of power meters:
The single-sided power meters usually measure only the left leg and then estimate the power output of your right leg.
The dual-sided power meters can either estimate the power of your right leg or measure it.
Regardless of the methodology, you get data like left/right leg balance, pedal smoothness, power phase, seated vs. standing time, etc. But, of course, it depends on the power meter and its features.
Yes, some of this information is ‘just’ cool but hard to leverage. However, some information can provide you with valuable insights.
For example, you may find out that your left/right balance is different before and after a leg injury.
This information will allow you to address any potential imbalance with a physiotherapist or a bike fitter to prevent further injuries.
You can learn more about which type to choose in my comparison of single and dual-sided power meters.
Power Meters FAQ
I can promise you that a power meter will be one of the best cycling upgrades you make.
Thanks to the data it provides, you can improve the effectiveness of your training and become a faster cyclist.
But even if you are a hobby rider who doesn’t care about his performance, a power meter will bring you benefits.
It will allow you to use your indoor trainer with cycling apps, so you will have more fun riding indoors.
Preview Picture Source: power2max