No Spinning bike power meter

It”™s time to start thinking about developing our power, but what do we do if we don”™t have a power meter?

First, you will want to build on that good cardiovascular foundation that you now have underneath you from base building this winter.  What”™s that? You mean you didn”™t do any base building during the heart of the winter season? Oh well, this may hurt a bit, but, you”™ll get over it. Most riders don”™t do base building and figure that the “Man, am I outa”™ shape” feeling is an annual ritual all cyclists must endure.  So you won”™t be alone.

As we north easterners are joined by the other snow and cold winter states across the continent, it”™s time to start developing our climbing legs. If you live in a flat state, consider this work applicable to time trials and power that will become useful for spitting people “out-the-back.”

The first question I get whenever I begin addressing a mixed crowd (not men & women, but power bike & non-power bike users) is “How do we do this if we don”™t have Watts on our bikes?”

Developing power without a Power meter is not as hard as you might think.  But we will require the other training tool; the Heart Monitor.  This should not be a surprise since our cardiovascular system (especially our VO2 max) is our biggest limiter to power generation. Even the most zealot non-heart rate monitor cardiovascular atheist will tell you that.  Look at their power workouts and you will find a lot of their power improvement drills are aimed at boosting VO2.

But enough side-bar fun, let”™s get to the nitty gritty.  Ideally, even if your main class or health club does not use Power bikes, you will want to find out where your power now stands, as a baseline.  This will help you validate the upcoming training afterwards so that you can learn what works for you, what doesn”™t and how your unique physiology reacts to training.  Since we are talking about power, let”™s  do before and after tests on a power bike.  You may just have to call around and locate a health club or studio that has them.  This will give you the most accurate analysis of your results.  However, barring that, we will use your speed and heart rate while riding outside to analyze your results.  If you only ride inside, and you don”™t have access to a Power bike at all… well,… you will have to look for some other manifestation of your power increases - longer hair on your chest?  I guess that wouldn”™t work for everyone :-0

Step 1: Establish T2 or “High Threshold”

Get a heart rate monitor and determine your high threshold.  If you can”™t get a metabolic / VO2 type test, here is a quick link to the standard field test that we use at Cycling Fusion compliments of Sally Edwards founder of Heart Zones® - its”™s the complete protocol as well a Threshold chart.

Step 2: Sustainable Power Test

Ride for 20 minutes at the highest power you are able to hold steady or fairly steady for the entire 20 minutes, keeping your cadence between 75 and 90. Note when your heart rate hits T2 and does not come back (continues increasing or staying steady above threshold). Also record your approximate HR Average for the final 5 minutes of the test.

Step 3: Recovery

Recover for 5 minutes - Zone 1 at 85-100 RPM, just spinning the legs out.

Step 4: Repeat Test At A Lower Cadence (Climbing Power)

Maintain no more than 75 RPM (say 60 to 75), hold the same watts, and yes, that means you will be using a higher/heavier gear.  Note when your heart rate hit T2 and once again doesn”™t retreat.  Also record your approximate HR Average for the final 5 minutes of the test.

Step 5a: Recreate The Power Requirements Outdoors

Label the 1st test Long Seated Climbs and the second one Standing Climbs (which you can do either seated or standing - the position is your call).  Take these notes with you on an outside ride and when you are presented with a mild grade of a hill (say 5 to 7 percent), stay in the saddle find a speed that gets your heart rate to the  average of your last 5 minutes of test 1.  On this hill, do not let your cadence drop below 75.  Try to hold that speed for at least 5 minutes or more (unless you run out of hill). You will likely need to stay in the big ring.  You will need a bike computer that will tell you how fast you are going, or you will have to do the math based on how far you traveled in a given time period (meaning you will also need to make note of the exact time you started, and the exact time you finished) to derive your speed mathematically.  This will establish your seated climbing speed for that specific hill.

While you will not be able to determine speed on an indoor bike (no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary) when you go to your next indoor class, you will have to do your best to simulate the relative resistance of a rolling or mild grade of a hill.

Step 5b: Recreate The Power Requirements Indoors

Regardless if you ride exclusively indoors or out, it is assumed that you will be still taking indoor classes from time to time.   When  your instructor calls for a seated climb, execute the Sustainable power numbers; HR of final 5 min of your Sustainability test, within the 75-90 RPM.  Similarly, you can extrapolate this procedure for standing climbs when the instructor calls for a Standing Climb.

These type of workouts (indoors or out) should have you producing at least 4 to 8 climbs in or out of the saddle during each workout.

Getting Results

You are using cadence and heart rate to work on your power indoors and you are adding speed to the equation outside.  After a couple of weeks of recreating these power requirements for your workouts (at least twice per week) some riders may begin to see speed increases, but this will vary greatly by individual.  More likely the results will come after 4 to 6 weeks.  This will be an easy indicator that your power is increasing. However, make sure you don”™t work at holding the initial speed when you repeat the same route outside.  Your focus must be on managing the heart rate and cadence, and let the speed be what it is, even if it is less on a given day.  These drills call for a focus on cadence and resistance, and not speed per se.  Speed will be a by-product; a hopeful bit of evidence that you put in the time, and did the hard work.

If you are an indoors-only rider, the only way you will know for sure that you have increased your power, is to go back to the power bike you did your initial test on, and repeat the effort.  Make sure to do the test on the same exact bike by bike ID, and not just any bike of that brand - power can vary bike to bike in older models of some manufacturers.  This time you should be able to hold a higher number of watts for each test.  The results will speak for themselves.

Why It Works

The repeated physiological stress at and above T2 will eventually produce an adaptation in your cardiovascular system, and the cadence guidelines are meant to guide you to gears that will help develop the muscular endurance as well.

However, it your watts are not higher or if you hold only the same power numbers, you should note the time you hit T2 or higher in the test.  The Threshold should now be encountered later (during the 20 minute re-test) than the first test, and the average heart rate should also be lower both overall, and especially in the last 5 minutes.

I”™d be very interested in specific feedback from riders who give this training a try, and how they went about assessing their changes without an actual power meter.  After all, there were many a year that the pros themselves never trained with a power meter, and somehow they were able to get stronger and more powerful along their data-less journey.


Originally posted 2011-04-17 05:28:58.


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