So I recently took delivery of my custom steel bike, which has been super cool. It has definitely put some pep back in my step for riding, the past two years have been a bit of a slog with life and motivation, so a welcome bump.
I did not put much thought into accessories leading up to this as I kind of checked out on cycling a bit. I still rode 2 or 3 days a week the past year or so, because I do love riding, but it was almost all casual. Now that I have the bike in hand, I have to make some decisions. The simplicity of just getting out with nothing but my senses have been pretty fun. I did buy a computer mount simply to have something to tell time and stuff, but no cadence, no power.
In terms of background, I have been training for a very long time, and have a pretty good sense of my body at this point. My training style is very much a lot of Z2, with low tempo as the vast majority of my season. VO2 workouts a few times a year to touch it up. I’m struggling to justify putting a power meter on. The one thing I feel I would miss is the calorie burn data. Pacing climbs isn’t something I need a PM for.
So I would like to hear anyones experience if they have gotten rid of the power meter after years and years of use. The good, bad and indifferent. I plan on asking this in a couple different forums to gauge different crowds, but though the TR user base would skew towards being more in favor of PMs for obvious reasons.
On the one hand - not having a PM doesn’t seem to be a problem for you - and you could probably guestimate with some level of consistency what your burn rate is for your typical rides. Even if you don’t do any structured training, and if cost wasn’t an issue - then seeing the number can be pretty fun.
I’m sorry I don’t have experience riding without a PM for any extended period amount of time, but a lot of my rides are endurance rides and it’s always fun to see what “work” I did and all the other metrics.
Whichever way you go it seems you will enjoy the most important part which is getting out and riding.
I don’t think you need a PM. If you have a rough idea of your FTP, you could get a decent idea of your burn on your rides (700 kJ/hr is 195 W average). If your $500 is better spent getting two new nice pairs of bibs, I’d do that.
I have PMs on my road bike and gravel bike. Occasionally I’ll flip my power pedals to my MTB, but rarely.
As long as you have a PM, you can use or ignore the data it provides as you wish. If you have no Pm, power data is simply unavailable.
FWIW, even if you aren’t competitive, power data is the most accurate way to measure how many calories you are burning on the bike, objectively compare how hard you were riding, etc. These measures can prove useful for recovery, weight maintenance, etc.
But again, just because you have it doesn’t mean you HAVE to study the data. Its just there is you want it.
I own two bikes, my road bike does have a power meter and my mountain bike does not. (It did buy one from The Pro’s Closet as I got a great deal, but that broke about a month after delivery and getting a new one is too expensive.)
When I ride my road bike, I can train a lot better than on my mountain bike. I use the latter for all of my commutes, outdoor endurance rides in the winter and when I feel like going offroad
What I do not do it any sort of training in power zones other than endurance. My experience mirrors yours: yes, I can pace easy Z2 rides very easily, you can use VT1 (ventilatory threshold 1) or heart rate. It gets harder for hard Z2 rides in my experience (I pace those by heart rate). Also VO2max intervals can be done without a power meter, but in my experience, they still work better than without one. Before getting a power meter, I would do 4ish-minute hill climb repeats until exhaustion. With a power meter I can scale back my efforts in the beginning and spend much longer durations at VO2max.
What you are missing are all the power zones in between. I only learnt what riding exactly at, slightly below and slightly above threshold once I got a power meter.
RP and heart rate are not good replacements for power either. I often have days where only 2 out of 3 agree. My RPE might be very high, but both, heart rate and power tell me I am fresh and I can finish the workout as prescribed.
Now to your question: do you need a power meter? Would it help your cycling? Depends on your goals. I know a guy who is into long-distance cycling. He has a >10 year streak of at least one century ride per month. He is in his 70s. Does he need a power meter? Nope.
Me, on the other hand, I enjoy the process of structured training. It soothes my brain and is a form of therapy for me. I need a power meter for my riding.
What motivates you to get on the bike? If you want to get faster, then yes, a power meter is highly desirable. I’d forgo fancier wheels, a carbon frame, etc. if it meant I could buy a power meter. If the most important thing for you is to spend time outdoors and you don’t really care too much whether you get faster, you probably don’t need one.
I would like to challenge you on that. I’ve paced climbs by feel for literal decades (I’m almost 43), and I thought I was good at it. Getting my first power meter in my late 30s completely changed the game. I’m much better at gauging efforts now, especially in the sweet spot and threshold range.
I’d be happy to be challenged on it, but I honestly can’t think of how you would. It would have to be against myself, on the same climb, with the same freshness in the same conditions. What metrics would you even use? But all that said, I think you misunderstand me. I can pace on a climb without a PM specifically because I’ve ridden with a PM for 20 years. I know my body sensations intimately.
But to your other points, getting faster from where I am at definitely doesn’t require a PM, mainly because firstly I’m out of shape in relative terms so I just need to ride, and secondly, I improved for ages without one. I understand training and stimulus, it’s not rocket science. It’s easy for people to get to precious about minutiae, but in reality, as long as you are vaguely in the places you should be, you are fine. VO2 Max, do efforts that you can manage for 4 or 5 minutes, 6 or so times. Sorted.
The flip slide of my choice is like you I do enjoy some of the granularity and the analysis, so I totally get that. My conflict is I feel like it’s just the fear of loss that I’m wrestling with, a PM is like a security blanket that I’ve held onto.
I appreciate everyone sharing their perspectives, makes it better than trying to decide in a vacuum for sure.
My stages pm died this past year, so i found myself for the first time riding outdoors without a pm. Although i miss looking at the data post ride, i have found it’s not so crucial for me to have power data during the ride. As someone else already mentioned, indoor TR rides with my kickr power meter serve as a good reference point. Sure, ill buy another pm at some point this year or next, but its not a priority right now and i dont miss it terribly.
I don’t think a power meter is a safety blanket. But like you wrote, it does shift your focus in the sport from enjoying the scenery to hitting your numbers. If that discourages you from riding, it isn’t worth it. If your power numbers depress you (“Why can’t I reach x W/kg?!!”) or structured training saps motivation out of you, then maybe you are better off without one.
But if your goal is to be as fast as possible, I think it is hard to argue that you won’t benefit from a power meter even (especially) if you have a long training history.
You posted here and asked
I gave you feedback from my riding as someone who trained with and without a power meter, and has one bike with and another without a power meter. YMMV, obviously.
Yes, but our internal power meter drifts with time and has no zero offset. Calibrating it with an actual power meter makes pacing better in my experience. RPE can vary wildly, sometimes 95 % FTP feels super easy, other days it feels hard. Concretely, the first hard workout after a leg day at the gym feels different than my hard Monday (= Tuesday by default) workout.
I use power, heart rate and RPE in combination. If I missed power, my training would suffer. Whether my training is appropriate is usually a “majority decision”: if two indicators say go/green, I usually continue. If two are red/stop, I usually stop. (My two heart rate metrics are heart rate at a given power level and heart rate recovery in recovery intervals, i. e. how quickly my heart rate drops below 130 bpm. Everything below 90 seconds is very good. 2 minutes is alright, I can continue.)
Power is also very helpful to determine whether my limiter that I run into on a particular day is psychological or physiological. Sometimes I have a hard time slogging through long threshold intervals, but the barrier is entirely psychological (“19 more minutes of this?”).
With two indicators (RPE and heart rate), I would not be able to e. g. gauge my efforts properly. RPE by itself is not reliable. Even the combination of heart rate and RPE is often problematic: heart rate is a good relative baseline, but it depends on a whole host of factors (sleep quality and quantity, what efforts you did just prior to the one you are doing now, etc.).
If your aim is to train, IMHO you should have a power meter on your bike (and you solicited outside opinions).
Yes, and we also got by with fewer gears, worse clothing, etc. But look at how much faster pro athletes have gotten over time. Why do you think that is?
IMHO apart from nutrition and better gear, advances in structured training are a major piece of the puzzle.
Here, I disagree: you cannot target threshold workouts with the same precision as you can with a power meter. And there it matters. It really makes a difference that your over-unders are really over-unders, and not under-unders. Alternating between 90 % FTP and 100 % FTP is vastly different than 98 % and 105 %. Being in the ballpark means very, very different things.
Even for VO2max workouts, doing e. g. hill climb repeats to failure (what I did before getting a power meter) is very different. Fatigue was higher and I could not hold VO2max for as long. With precise power targets and not training to exhaustion I can manage my fatigue better long-term. I went from 277 W (first ramp test after > 1 year of structured outdoor training) to 348 W a bit more than a year ago. (This year I did not peak as high, because I moved between continents and my trainer was on some container for 2.5ish months or so.)
The only thing that I can easily pace with e. g. just heart rate are Z2 rides. But that’s mainly because for easy Z2 rides it is, well, easy since you only have to hit a very broad power target. Heart rate usually just acts as a way to enforce training discipline.
I was referring to what metrics would you use for the theoretical pacing climbs challenge. For training, yes that’s what you would use.
One thing I think you are missing, or maybe I didn’t mention, I still have a Tacx Neo that I ride multiple days a week. I probably didn’t extrapolate but my riding is vary much based on Z2, Tempo and VO2Max, and outside is almost wholly that. Inside I will do tempo and long (60 -90 minute) sweet spot. I ride almost zero threshold, maybe 4 workouts a year for a specific block.
But at any rate, I do appreciate the thoughtful reply, gives me plenty to gnaw on!
I ditched the PM on my road bike for most of this year. In part it was because I switched to Campy, and with 165mm cranks, there are no crank-based options (Stages or 4iiii might install a left only PM, tbh).
I went and got a pair of Faveros because I like data and they were on sale. That said, I was able to use RPE and HR to pace my efforts. I can’t honestly say that I need power outdoors. It’s nice to have. I’m slightly sore about not using my SPD-SLs too.
One metric would be elapsed time for the same average power, but there are others. Same climb, so same climb profile, so there are calculations that one can make to determine “optimal” pacing strategies. Climb without a power meter, pacing as best you can, and afterward use that average power or total work as a constraint to calculate the optimal pacing strategy. Then climb with a power meter following that strategy. The difference in elapsed time would tell you how good you are at “intuitive” pacing.