Best Indoor Cycling Bikes with Power Meters

What's Your Experiences With Power?

In a previous post we talked specifically about the reasons why “non-outdoor riders” would want to train with power.  There needs to be incentive for all populations, and thus our focus on those that don”™t ride outside was appropriate as a starting point.  However, we can”™t forget about how powerful (pun intended) this training is for those of us who do ride outside.

Whether it is mountain biking, road cycling, or even touring, power can be the gateway to a new experience on two wheels.  You”™ll be able to “hang with the faster group”, climb the hills you used to walk, or climb with speed where you used to get dropped, or just feel fresh throughout a touring ride while your companions are “suffering”.

Let”™s define power just a little more precisely.  It is not simply the amount of “work” you are doing.  That is a different measurement.  Sure many people say “I worked hard today in class”.  You are also admonished by instructors to “Work it!”.  In fact, the entire industry uses the term “work out” to refer to exercise.  However, when it comes to Power, in terms of work, it is the RATE of performing that work; how fast you do it.

The easiest example is walking up a set of steps.  If you walk up the steps, or run up the steps, it”™s the same amount of work.  However, running will require a different amount of power.  To perform the same work faster, requires more Power.  Hence, to make a bike go faster, you need more power.  The same concept applies to climbing.  The same hill will require the same “work” for a given individual, but if they climb it faster, it will require more power.

There is however, an additional “wrinkle” for power.  The steeper the hill, the more work required to move the bike up that hill and essentially overcome the forces of gravity (which while constant, seems stronger as you climb steeper hills).  Thus, the amount of power required for climbing will also change as the pitch of the hill changes.

So if you haven”™t already drawn a rather obvious conclusion, let me draw it for you.  If you just ride Rails to Trails, or only on flat terrain, with no concern for speed, then you really don”™t need to train with power for your outdoor riding.  You may be interested in training with power for all the reasons mentioned earlier for “non-cyclists” - leg strength, toning, fitness, etc.  But as it relates to cycling - this is a technique for improving your speed or ability to climb better, or both; plain and simple.

The following are reasons an outdoor rider would want to focus on power in their training:

1.    Power Training will improve climbing, possibly more than any other method for improving this critical aspect of cycling.
The ability to climb, and climb with speed, is one of the easiest ways to separate riders; cometitively and recreationally.  While your VO2 and Threshold Heart Rate will limit the upper limits of your power (a subject for later blog), it is not something one can easily monitor.  Yes, heart rate can be monitored, and you could do periodic field tests to see if your Threshold has increased, but you would still not have such an easy task of measuring VO2.  Thus, you have limiters that can”™t be regularly monitored, meaning you will find improving these a bit ellusive.

Enter the Power meter.  Now you can see if you are able to generate more power one class after another.  From short timed interval tests, to entire workouts, your power numbers will be a great predictor for how well you will be able to face the steeper climbs once you begin your outdoor riding.

2.    Power Training will help you target very specific types of riding; climbing, sprinting, time trialing, etc.
First and foremost, there is a training principal that we will speak about from time to time, and which has been written about extensively in other books and training resources, and that is regarding the power of training specificity.  If you want to get better, stronger, faster at something, you need to practice, or train that something.  Of course you need a solid fitness base beneath this sort of specific training, but given that as a foundation, each rider should be able to indentify their weaknesses or objectives, and train specifically for their improvement.

As an example for power, if you are constantly getting dropped on a specific hill, or if you routinely need to get off your bike on a given hill, you can train indoors on a Keiser M3 or other power bike to be able to overcome that.  You can get the grade of the road from a variety of online sources, or your own altimiter, look up the Watts per Pound required on Cycling Fusion”™s Power & Speed for Climbing chart, and you will then know your requirements to either get up the hill without having to stop, or getting up the hill with greater velocity.

Similarly, if you are a time trial specialist, you know that maintaining a given wattage throughout your time trial is key to improving your times.  Knowing what watts you”™ve generated in past races will allow you to set specific power goals for improvement.

Sprinters also require a different type of power, utilizing predominantly fast muscle twitch fibers, and power in much higher ranges for much shorter periods of time.  Keeping good records of where you start, and setting higher goals is the key to training specificity.

3.    Power Training will allow you to make comparisons between riders, and to evaluate your relative strength within a given field.
There is such a thing as a “rider”™s profile”.  It is a way to look at the different types of power an individual can generate, and predict what types of riding events or even races they are best suited for.  Power is measured over a duration of time (otherwise there would be no way to determine the “rate” of work accomplished).  These times are indicative to specific riding situations.

For example, a ride (or race) with a lot of short steep climbs will require good power, but for short periods of time.  If you know what your 3 minute power is, you can predict the type of performance you might have in that event.  Similarly, a 30 minute time trial on a mostly flat course would allow you to just about predict the speed you can maintain on that course, and thus train for something higher depending on what kind of speed is competitive for that event.  You might have terrific numbers for sprinting and climbing, but only so-so numbers for the longer events.  That not only points out some relative weaknesses in your overall riding abiity, but also helps you see what events you might want to challenge yourself with.

4.    Power Training will help you add leg strength throughout the entire season.
Given you are able to train with power indication indoors, you can now set power goals all year long, not just when your riding your outdoor bike that has the power meter.  While I believe some cyclists take this to extremes, and only do power workouts, leaving heart rate training behind like it”™s “old fashioned”, I do not advocate that.  Both training methods are important for different purposes, and one should never negate the other.  All that being said, having power indication on your indoor bike will allow you to continue to increase leg strength and the improvements in power that should follow.  It is much more than strength, but with the feedback from the bike computer or console, you can make sure your RPMs or cadence also stays up to create those additional watts.

So there you have it, plenty of reasons to train with power for both the indoor and outdoor rider.  Review these well enough that you can get owner, managers or influential members thinking about why this is attractive to all the members.  The easiest way for this to be dismissed out of hand is to let people get intimidated by it, or think it is only for an elite group.  While there are many blogs and other resoures on the internet that do fit that profile, good indoor Power Training does not have to be that way.  I say let”™s bring Power Training to everyone!

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