Posted by: Ian | July 6, 2010


At the weekend I had mislaid my heart rate strap and so decided to focus on my power reading while I was out on my Sunday ride. I bought my CycleOps power meter in February and have been casually monitoring it since but haven’t yet assimilated it into a training programme. I have the CycleOps installed on my Felt, which usually gets taken out for long, hilly rides and although I often go to the same places I rarely follow exactly the same route so comparisons and progress checks don’t come easily. Normally I find that at the end of a long ride I post a maximum power rating of 500-800W but an average of only about 200W. This is just laziness. My best power output is, I’m sure, on park loops but I do these on the Tempo so they’re not measured. Last week Stu joined Emily, Gav and me and kept up a very good pace. I achieved my goal of cycling every mile of our ten in under three minutes, which depends on luck with the lights (and horse hazards) as well as raw power.

These circuits around the Regents Park Outer Circle are far more consistent in their intensity than anything else I do. Last weekend I tried a similar exercise on the Felt. After Paula and I had cycled across Taunton in a relaxed way to get somewhere rather than for exercise I continued on with an eight mile loop round to Norton Fitzwarren and back. Though that ride is much less even than park loops because of traffic, I managed an average power output of 261W. I was aware, of course, that the Tour de France riders do very much better than this. For example, this site alleges that Lance covered all his big Tour hills at wattages in the 400’s. However, reading this article I find that self-confessed drug cheat Floyd Landis averaged “only” 238W over the Tour as a whole – measured using essentially the same CycleOps hub unit as I have. I suppose I have to accept that maintaining this average for over 2,000 miles is more impressive than my achievement over eight. Moreover, as the first article explains, what really matters isn’t so much power as power:weight ratio, and riders like Contador (60 kg) are hammering me (80 kg) on the denominator as well as the numerator.

I know that the best way to develop power consistency is to use the power meter in interval training. Instead, on Sunday I decided simply to use the power meter to keep my wattage over 200 on the 20 mile ride from Taunton to Hill Farm. I took a moderate route with some reasonable hills, and one that I had last cycled five months ago – unfortunately just before I got my power meter. I also gamed the meter a little – coasting the downhills so that the power would read zero and be taken out of the overall average. It was interesting. On the steep uphills I just do what I can anyway and usually lay down a pretty high power output simply to get up them. The real area for progress was the flat: here, cruising along at what to me seems like a reasonable rate equates to a rubbish power output, whereas a commitment to keep power over 200W moves you along a lot more briskly. It was fun, though right at the end, when I’d exited onto the A30 and was cruising up towards the top of St Raines hill (where, incidentally, we saw the Tour of Britain peloton last year), I experienced knee pain and had to ease back significantly. Other than on that final section the focus on power made my mile by mile average speed notably higher than when I did it before. My average power was 219W, which is better than I’ve posted before on a ride of that length, although I have only managed to record power on 23 rides so far despite having ridden getting on for 3,000 miles this year. For me, this is the way to go and I’ll be working on keeping the power level up on the flat in my training for future sportives. I foresee that it may be a less congenial approach for social rides.



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  2. […] is effectively unusable for protocols that require a semi-accurate HR reading, I decided to press my power meter into greater service. I use it on the turbo trainer but tend not to use it so much out of doors, if […]

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