Any cyclist that has been at it for longer than 4 weeks can stop reading now. You know everything that will follow. This article is for the rest of the cycling fraternity that thinks “power meters” tell how strong Marvel superheroes are.
The first thing any budding athlete buys is a sports watch with a heart rate monitor. The idea is that it should measure your fitness and speed. In truth, heart rate measurement only indicates the level of effort during any given activity, and not the actual force or power you applied. In cycling, you exert force to turn your pedals. If you are fatigued, your heart rate will be higher for the same activity, than on a day you were well rested. Power meters compare apples with apples: the exact power you delivered, irrespective of you heart rate.
Power meters calculate the actual force you are applying, and have applied during your ride. They tell you, in terms of watts, exactly how much power you would have added to South Africa’s ailing power grid. More than that, a pair of pedals like the Garmin Vector 2 system tells you the power of each leg, your average power, peak power, whether you were seated or standing and other cycling dynamics. Garmin sports watches like the Fenix 3 and the 920XT also have built in algorithms that, in conjunction with power meters, calculate your VO2 max. That is a story for another day, but in short, it indicates how efficiently your blood cells carry oxygen to your muscles.
Athletes that train or race with power meters can see the power they are applying in real time, and control their power expenditure accordingly. Over time they come to know how many candles they can burn. Factors like distance, speed, hills, wind, surges and other elements all have a different drain on energy and their effect can be monitored in a way no other tech gadget can. In simple terms, power pedals tell athletes how many candles they have left before there would be no more to burn. Cyclists and triathletes use it to great effect. For ultra distance events power meters are superb in assisting athletes to perform optimally.
In a perfect world, we all would be riding with power meters. The cost factor put them slightly south of an impulse buy, but once you own it, you would not want to train without it. Power meters tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
For now I am off to Freewheel Cycology, a bike shop known for their expertise regarding installing Garmin Vector 2 power meter pedals. The next review will reveal how smooth, or not, this installation happens. Till next time!