"There must be something wrong with this bike... my wattage doesn't match what I normally see on my road bike with a PowerTap. 🙁
A common complaint that many of us are hearing, now that our clubs are offering power meters.
The answer could be as simple as; "it's because our Indoor Cycles have a different saddle than your road bike."
Now I'm not saying that that's the only reason for the discrepancy. There are multiple factors that affect how you produce power and what ultimately gets displayed by the console. A few months ago I wouldn't have believed you, if you tried to convince me that (beyond the level of comfort you feel) a bike's saddle design could add or subtract to the power I could create.
I believe it now.
Back in March I had a professional bike fitting on my new VeloVie with none other than the Bike Fit Guru Chris Balser. I figured that I had a few dollars left because of the incredible deal I got and, with one kid graduating for college this Friday, why the heck not?
I was a bit naive about what all was entailed in a 2 hour fitting. I thought Chris would be super focused on getting my seat height exactly right, maybe futz with the tilt of the handlebars. Stuff like that. Nope. For close to an hour we tried out different saddles, 11 in total. That's right, Chris had me ride on a trainer, trying 11 different saddles, to find the perfect saddle that (his words) your ass can find easily. Here's what we finally decided on... a Fizik Kurve.
What we were looking for was more than a comfortable place to sit my butt. Actually comfortability was third on Chris' list of criteria for a saddle. The first was; "can your ass find it?" and second was; "how much power do you make with it?"
Both the "find it" and "power" go hand in hand. I've forgotten which number (of the 11 saddles) this Fizik was, but I knew the instant I sat on it... or better said, my butt knew the second it sat down. It just felt right and I wasn't sitting on it, I was kind of in it. That's when I understood what Chris was talking about when he kept saying find it. There wasn't any question where on the saddle I was supposed to sit, I just sat down and I was right where I was supposed to be. No working my way a little forward or backwards. I just sat down.
Once my butt found its home I made more power! The trainer I was riding was connected to a power meter that displayed both my left and right leg's power, on a flat screen hanging in front of me. I was pedaling an easy gear at 90 rpm and making around 40 watts. Each saddle change I road in the same gear/cadence. Chris was watching me to see how stable I was and the balance of power between each of my legs.
The differences we saw were considerable, as much as a 20% or more variance left to right. Once I was sitting on the correct saddle for me I was able to maintain a nice even flow of power with my butt happy that it found its place.
Everything that can be changed or adjusted on my bicycle affected my power. Stem length, handle bar height, saddle tilt, height & fore/aft and cleat settings all made a difference that could be observed. Some were positive and some negative. Chris explained how our bodies adapt to the settings on our bikes. Some changes, that could be ultimately be helpful, often require time as our muscles and the nerves that control them adjust to the new settings. During this adjustment period you could/will appear less powerful.
So it stands to reason that hopping off the bicycle you're ridden for thousands of miles and on to any of the Indoor Cycles with power, you'll see a difference in wattage. The tendency is to blame the accuracy of the power meter - now I understand that there are mutiple other reasons.
A fitting with the Bike Fit Guru is actually split between two days, with a couple of hundred miles in between. Getting those miles has been a challenge with the miserable weather we've had this spring. Part two of my fitting is set for June 10th and I'll be doing a full report on everything I've learned about the correlation between bike fit and power production.
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