Powertap rear wheel

My first few outings were spent staring at the numbers on my computer as I slowly got used to what 100, 300, 500 watts felt like. After countless hours relying on heart rate and speed to judge my effort it was quite fascinating to see a direct measure of it displayed in front of me. I soon noticed that it is harder than you might think to hold a constant power level and cadence! Being able to ‘pace’ myself with these is important not only to improve efficiency but also to apply the specific training protocols that I will start to use.

This ‘playing around’ time can also be used to work out some key figures on which to base subsequent training. Your functional threshold is perhaps the most important thing to work out. There are lots of different names for this ‘threshold’ and even more ways to approximate it. Essentially it is the highest power output that you can produce sustainably. As such a good way of estimating it is to analyse a catalogue of power data from your rides. As long as you have done a series of well rounded rides (in terms of effort level) and they weren’t all dead easy or flat out you should see that there is a range of power values that you spent the majority of time cycling in. Your threshold will sit around the peak value in this range (the wattage at which you spent most time riding). As I mentioned there are many ways of approximating this and I will refer you to the recommended literature to read about the various tests and analyses in more detail.

At this stage though my top tips are:

  • Take speed and distance off your computer display, rely instead on power and time.
  • Just ride and learn to keep power output and cadence consistent.
  • Get an idea of your ‘threshold power’.
  • Don’t worry about whatever your training buddies power-meter reads.  Different systems will give slightly different readings.  The whole point of training with power is to make it specific to you and you should track your progress relative to your own data.

Read part 2 of the series here.

Recommended literature:

Training and racing with a power meter (Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan)

The Triathlete’s Guide To Training With Power (Dr. Philip Friere Skiba)