The power meter market is getting ever more crowded and prices have tumbled over the past two or three years. No power meter is cheap, but there are several options out there that are affordable to many people. If you’re not using one already, this winter is the perfect time for you to start training by wattage. Here’s why you should consider it.
A power meter measures exactly how hard you’re working regardless of the terrain, the conditions, your fitness, or any other factor, and it’ll give you figures that you can meaningfully compare over time to gauge progress. Your speed over a set course might be affected by a headwind, for example, and give you false impression of your fitness, but measuring power tells you exactly what you’re putting out.
A power meter takes the guesswork out of your training effort, allowing you to train time efficiently. You can plan exactly what you need to do, then go out there and do it, taking your cues from the numbers on your bike computer.
You can use a power meter to pace an event too. If your training tells you that you can hold 250w for an hour, for example, you can work out a strategy for your next 25-mile time trial based on that.
A power meter helps you identify weaknesses in your fitness. If your anaerobic endurance lags behind other areas, there’s no hiding from the figures so you know exactly what you need to work on.
A power meter can tell you when you need to rest. For instance, if your heart rate is markedly higher than normal for a particular power output, it could be that you’ve not recovered sufficiently from last time and you need to take it easy.
You can use a power meter to test the aerodynamic effects of altering your ride position and/or equipment. Ride a given course at 20mph, say, and take your average wattage. Then make changes to your setup and ride it again at the same speed. If your average wattage is lower, you’ve found some extra efficiency.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.