Ditch Power Meter, Yea or Nay

These threads pop up all the time on various forums…

Always followed by a bunch of hand-wringing on how to get as close to your performance using a PM…without actually using one…

…when you could just use one. :slight_smile:

tl;dr, unless you’re entering some cosplay gran fondo that only lets you use old timey era-specific equipment, why not use it? They’re cheap as chips nowadays, less than some pairs of tires even.

No one has ever said they performed worse b/c of a PM, but quite the opposite for having one. Choose to ignore it if you want to just log junk miles, or don’t. Options are better than no options.


That depends. When I race, I might have power numbers in mind to gauge my efforts. My last race was a hill climb TT and keeping a lid on things was important. For crit races, power numbers are more important in post race analysis. (My experience at least.) If I just want to relax while riding, then I might go as hard as I want in any moment. Throwing watt bombs on a good day is fun, just like drinking slightly too much once or twice per year can be.

I did not miss that, I assumed you owned a smart trainer. But also here, I don’t think that suffices. Day-to-day variations are in my experience large, and my Elite Suito’s power numbers drifted apart from those my Quarq produces even though initially they were within the margin of error.

A riding buddy refuses to get a power meter, or a HR monitor. Says he “went down that ‘doo-dad’ rabbit hole with running decades ago.” Whatever. But, after we complete our rides, I can see that he always looks at my RidewithGPS. Why? No other reason other than he’s looking to see what my “doo-dads” reported for our ride, lol!

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No, I am asking how you are going to measure pacing with PM vs without. I don’t see how you can measure it. Time isn’t relevant because its not under controlled conditions.

Exactly lol. This is my concern.

The advantage of my approach is that we can either do statistical controls, or we can tell when the statistical controls were inadequate. This turns out to be key: it’s best to get the right answer but in those cases where you don’t, it’s important to know that you didn’t.

How are you controlling for freshness? Plus wind changes, humidity, etc…

My thought is that we will learn the controls were inadequate, and I don’t think we need a test to tell us that. I agree with your last sentence fully, but I’m not sure we need an exercise to find out.

Freshness doesn’t matter because in the experiment I proposed above, you’re controlling the “paced with power” total to the “paced without power” total. That is, we know how to control for either different speeds or different powers, so in this case we’re controlling power and letting speed be the metric for the difference. Humidity and temperature affect air density, but we know how to adjust for that–just look up the temperature, humidity, and get the barometric pressure from a weather station. Wind can be a problem if you don’t have an anemometer (I do, but not everyone does), but my approach tells you that the wind affected the estimates, and roughly by how much. (Alternatively, if the hill is steep enough, aero drag has less importance, so the air density and wind have less effect on the difference).

I fail to see how, unless you are proposing just an indeterminate power level we would pick to ride to. That however isn’t what I was talking about, which was max sustainable power climbing. You do one, the second will not be as fast without external inputs.

But at any rate, we are deviating a lot from what I was asking about. I appreciate the contributions though.

Pacing with the help of power is quite normal, no? E. g. athletes who attempt an hour record do know very well what power they need to do in what body position to reach the splits they need. The splits they get every lap are a proxy of power. Even they can’t just “pace by feel” even though the conditions are as constant as they can be. Their RPE drifts and the lap times keep them on target.

For my (short, 10 km) hill climb TT, I knew it would take me about 25ish minutes, so I estimated the average power would be 103–105 % of FTP. I tried to stay in that band on average with a slight upwards trend (= negative split). It was a mass start with >170 athletes, so I had to burn a few matches to get out of the blob safely.

Of course, I was not slavishly following numbers, I used RPE, heart rate and power. When my heart rate is above 180 bpm, I know I don’t have much headroom to push harder :slight_smile: Earlier in the race my heart rate was about 10 bpm lower for the same power, so not going too hard in the beginning is key. With adrenaline rushing through your veins, in the beginning of a race, VO2max power can feel easy … but power is a valuable data point to keep you grounded.

Edit: I simplified my post and rewrote it.

Yes, probably not needed at all.

Many times it feels like a chain and ball.

It doesn’t get you fitter, fact, no matter those invested in the game, marketing power meters or power related training apps.

As @OreoCookie said, very usefull to calibration yourself to threshold and various efforts. Once you’ve done that you know how those efforts feel, forever, just like riding a bike, you dont forget how.

It might be useful to check in occasionally but definitely not needed. Don’t let those in marketing or no self awareness tell you otherwise. You decide if you need it.

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You ride the first time without using the power meter for pacing but you record the data – you pace according to your intuition. The recorded power gives you a total amount of work you expended, and a total amount of time you spent. Optimal pacing answers the question, “for the same total amount of work expended, can we pace in a way that produces the lowest total amount of time?” So then you do the ride a second time, following the optimal pacing plan (and taking into account differences in air density and potentially wind) to see whether it was faster at the same total overall work.

This is a pretty standard optimization problem. I’ve looked at a few data files from pros doing TTs. Some pros are amazing at pacing, some aren’t. Unsurprisingly, guys known for their TT’ing were able to pace intuitively almost perfectly across variable terrain. A simpler version of these optimal pacing strategies is available in products like Best Bike Split.


Again, I don’t think we are discussing the same thing. You are describing a race or ride power plan, which I’m intimately familiar with, but that’s not what I was talking about.

Regardless, as I said we are getting way off my question here.

I vote to ditch power. When I sold my nicer road bike and moved back to my Allez, I opted to not install a meter. It’s nice just getting out and going by feel (and heart rate…).

My XC race bike has a power meter, but I don’t view power-based metrics when I race or ride (just time and distance on the screen and HR on the LED bar)… it’s strictly used for post-ride analysis. I honestly could go without a PM.

Lastly, I’ve found that Strava overestimates calories by about 30% or so when not using power.


As cheap as they are, it’s worth having for a post mortem analysis after the ride as you say. I do this with my MTB rides, as I never really look at it while riding. I do like to use it on my road bike for training, but never pay attention during a race. On race day you either can do the watts needed to win or not. The race is against other cyclists, on the road, not on your garmin.

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I think a huge reason people use power is to quantify their progress/status. Everyone talks about getting faster but what does power have to do with speed? It’s a proxy only. Obviously cycling power and speed are not disconnected altogether, but if you want to go faster then measuring speed would be a better use of your time - just ask the TT guys. In the end, it is just a way to try and put a number on whether you are stronger this year than last year or week over week. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad goal or a worthless endeavor, but it is also not the end-all be-all of cycling that some make it out to be. Also as pointed out by DC Rainmaker recently, your power meter just isn’t accurate enough to draw any real conclusions except broadly that could be drawn from speed or HR alone.

I personally quit training with power because it got to be a distraction. After a few years your power numbers and FTP become curiosities only. It’s hard news to hear, but your FTP ain’t gonna go up indefinitely.

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So you don’t need a power meter… Nice to have but not necessary.

I actually tend to use power more indoors than outdoors. Outdoors, power just is what it needs to be. Indoors I might do longer tempo/ss/threshold intervals and control them looking at average power. VO2 is just max and can be done without power.

Another Campy rider. I got a Stages so it’s been okay though not stellar. I just couldn’t pony up $,$$$ for a Campy power2max or an SRM. BTW, I read on another forum that Stages will factory install on your Campagnolo left arm for way cheaper (normal cost of the module) than the $900-1000 it costs for a Campy Stages.

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I prefer having a power meter, even if I don’t reference it during the ride on most spins outside (I train inside and my weekend spins are more social, or races where I either have the legs or I don’t!).

No power meter on my commuter though. fwiw Garmin’s “active calories” for those heart rate spins seems to be fairly close to what I’d expect and have got when I have had a power meter. Close enough for me to long finger any upgrade anyway.

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For the last few months I’ve been using my commuter/winter bike which doesn’t have a PM and tbh I’m missing the post ride stats.


Well, since I’m sure everyone has been waiting with bated breath on this, I figured I should tell those kind enough to chip in that I went halfway and got some Assiomas. So I can chuck them on and off at will. Plus there were not any great options for Campy. Stages seems like going out of business, 4iii doesn’t have SR 12 on the shelf, and spiders are right out because of aesthetics.

I did break out a bike with a PM this week to just see how I felt, and I actually was kinda annoyed by having power, so I think my next experiment is riding with power not on the screen. I do love some post ride data, so this may be the go.

Sincere thanks to those that took time to respond

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