Those of a certain age will remember He-Man (of Master of the Universe fame) issuing forth this cry when he metamorphosed from a normal cartoon geezer into to muscle bound man of bronze whilst his slightly crap pet cat changed in to a ridable ferocious battle beast.
‘All good’ I hear you say ‘but what the hell has this got to do with cycling?’ Fair question. Bear with me for a minute and I’ll contrive a link somewhere...
I’ll spare you too much of the history, but I first came across power meters in what is still one of my favourite cycling books, Chris Boardman’s Complete Book of Cycling back in 2000. Back then, an SRM power measurement unit would cost you £2500 and would only be of any use if you could fit, calibrate and maintain it whilst continuing your studies in particle physics to enable you to interpret the data. It worked pretty well for Chris and his influential coach Peter Keen though. He once knocked out a 10 mile TT on the Wrexham by-pass in 17.58 before even the best riders in this country were breaking 20 minutes.
Now, we all produce power when we ride. We push the pedals and, all being well, the bike moves forward but without a system of measurement we don’t know how much power we are generating. If we race, it’s important to understand how much power we produce so we can work on generating more of it to go faster. Power measurement has recently become more accessible to amateur riders although up until even a few years ago it was still very costly. More recently, more manufacturers entered the market and power measurement stopped being hard to access because of cost and became hard to access because it didn’t work. Well not accurately or reliably anyway.
Whilst it’s still not perfect, there are a number of real world workable and affordable power measurement solutions out there now. Stages, Garmin Vectors, SRM, Power Tap, Quark, the list goes on and continues to expand. I took the plunge at the beginning of last season and bought Stages cranks for my time trial and road race bike.
Why did I invest in power? Two reasons. First, as a rider I wanted to be sure I was using my limited time as effectively as possible. It is a (brutally) honest measurement of how strong you are. It removes the guess work from training and regular benchmark tests show if your hard work is paying off and you are getting faster.
Secondly, I needed to learn more using power measurement with the riders I coach. You can read about it (and the physics behind it) until you go blue in the face but personally I need to ‘feel’ it so I know what I’m asking my riders to do. Having said that, I did attend the British Cycling ‘Power: Understanding Cycling Performance’ course back in September. It was useful and gave me good theoretical knowledge to back up the practical application. They even gave me a certificate.
I’ll go in to some detail on the good, the bad and the indifferent on power and power measurement in future blogs (hey, it’s a long winter, right?) but as you put your Christmas lists together (it’s never too early) I would advise you start dropping ‘power meter’ related hints to the other half/parents/grandparents/guardians/Father Christmas/Bike shop as soon as possible.
Fundamentally – and I'm conscious you were promised a tenuous He-Man link – the rider who ‘has the power’ will be faster and training with power measurement is the most effective way to achieve this. Ouch, told you it was tenuous.
If you want to know more about training with power, how to go about getting it, what might suit you and, most importantly, how using it in conjunction with a coach can make you faster, drop me a line.
Thank you and, by the power of Greyskull, until next time, stay safe…