Cycle Folsom Message Board Equipment and Tech Forum › How to improve performance? Power meter?

How to improve performance? Power meter?

user 6626795
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 20
I am looking for advice. Last year I rode my bike a pretty good amount (nearly 5,000 miles) b/c I was under-employed with a lot of time on my hands. This year, I wont have that kind of time and so I am looking to make my time on the bike more productive. In addition to riding, I do a little running, weight training, and spin classes.

My goals are: 1) to climb hills faster (I want more power and speed) 2) increase an average of 3 mph in the flats 3) maybe eventually race? I like endurance races not tt. My scheduled riding events this year include centuries and double centuries -- I want to ride more challenging terrain with better times than years past.

How will a power meter help me during training? What brands, features should I look for? I don't have a ton of cash so I am looking for entry or mid range. How much will that cost? Where do I find instructions on how to use/train? Can you recommend any books to get me on the right track?

I joined this group recently, and I am looking forward to attending some group rides. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 41
A power meter is going to cost you as much money as your bike. I've never ridden a bike with a power meter. I'm racing this year. If I were to continue racing into the future and I felt I was hitting a training plateau, and I had money burning a hole in my pocket, I may consider buying a power meter. However, I would probably start with a better set of wheels or something (this is for me personally). I train with a heart rate monitor and I'll be doing the performance testing next week with Athleticamps. The performance test will identify my heart rate zones (and specifically lactate threshold) which will help determine the zones I should be training in when out riding. [From earlier on the Meetup site: "Steve Ward is going back to Athleticamps on Friday Feb 4 for re-testing (Fitness Testing). If anyone in CF wants to test/re-test, the discounted rate will be available to groups of three or more. Steve has graciously offered to continue to coordinate this effort. If you're interested, contact Steve at There has been a healthy exchange on our "Nutrition and Fitness Forum" that might answer any questions you may have. The topic is "Performance Testing." Monday at 9:59 PM "]

I ride about 150-200 miles per week; sometimes 1,000 miles per month. My experience is that if you want to get stronger on the climbs and faster on the flats, you need to spend more time training in the hills and riding on the flats. At the same time there needs to be a balance with recovery days. I ride about 4 days/week with about 3 rest days. This is mixed up with active recovery rides, climbing rides, group rides, races, and commute rides to work. Because it is still winter and I'm working on my winter base building, I'm spending some time in the gym lifting weights to build core muscle strength and leg strength.

Before buying a power meter, you may want to check out a book like Joe Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible. Joe F also has a blog with free information to read, and has some free reading sources as well.

Going to a coaching service, like Athleticamps, and getting specific feedback about training may be helpful.

Hopefully Steve Ward will give his 2 cents on your questions.
Steve W.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 29

Brian's reply is chock full of good information; I have a few points that I'd can contribute to the conversation as well.

For cyclists serious about being competitive in todays events/races you almost have to be training with a heart rate monitor and power meter because your competition is doing it. 15 years ago, you could enter races with just about six hours of non-specialized training a week and get a descent result every once in a while. Today, not only are the most competitive riders using heart rate monitors and power meters, they also have a coach and a nutrionist - and this applies to atheletes at the amatuer level.

Want to climb better? It's all about your power-to-weight ratio; increase your wattage and find your ideal riding weight (usually, you begin with a fitness test, then start shedding pounds while monitoring your power output - you'll find a point where loosing more weight causes you to loose power - you want to be at the weight just above that point where those lines cross. If you're already at that point...I wanna be you!).

So how do you go about it?

Heart Rate Monitor:
It's vitally important to begin your training program with a heart rate monitor. To properly build your cardio base you need to get a fitness test so that you "know" your training zones, you can't guess, you have to know. Typically, you'll spend 3-4 months building a proper base in the Steady Endurance (SE), Long Endurance (LE) and Medium Endurance (ME) training zones. I'll be going over to AthletiCamps on Friday Feb 4th (along with a few other CF members) to get a fitness test. It's been 3 months since my last fitness test, so I'm going back to find out if my training program is producing measurable results.

I'll need this information to fine tune my training program, because over time, as your cardio engine improves, your training zones will change. If you're interested, we'd love to have you come along. The cost is $150 (a $25 savings).

For more information about Fitness Testing and what you'd be getting for your money, feel free to contact me at: or, visit the the AthletiCamps web site at this link:


Power Meter:
Expensive? Yep. Figure ~$1,500 for a crank mounted version such as Quarq Cinco, or ~$1,200 for a wireless hub mounted version from Saris (PowerTap), you'll have to have this unit laced into your rear wheel at an additional cost. These meters measure how many watts you're generating.

Training with a HR monitor allows you to keep a consistent effort on your cardio system regardless of how much power you are generating. If you ride long enough, you'll see that your power output (watts) begins to fall while your heart rate remains the same (or conversely, if you power stays the same, you heart rate will begin to climb; this is called heart rate drift).

When building your base, you don't really care about power, you just focus on HR. When in your Build Period, you use both HR and Power (sometimes together, sometimes just one or the other, depending on the system being trainined). You then continue using these tools as you progess through the balance of the training periods.

In addition to the resources Brian suggested, you might also consider this book: Training and Racing with a Power Meter, Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, Ph.D. It explains everything you could ever want to know on the subject. Also, as you might imagine, there's a Google Group devoted exclusively to training with power. You'll need to join the Google Group, but it's free. I've joined it, and it's a valuable resource:­

It's become my unofficial my role here at CF to help members transition from recreational to more advanced/competitive levels of cycling, so don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions.

user 6626795
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 21
You guys are amazing. Thank you for sharing all that information. I've read it. I'm checking out the links you posted and I'll read what you wrote again. I am considering the Athleticamps. In the meantime, I will continue training, riding, and working on the winter weight loss. I'm sure I'll have some more questions and will be in touch. Thanks, K
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 43
user 12712073
Folsom, CA
Post #: 12
Check this web video called 'Power Meter Training for Cyclists PART 1'
(­) produce by Graeme Street. He is using a Garmin 500. Good video for Power training primer.
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Founded Jun 30, 2010

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