Riding Without Power

Meters, that is.

Longtime readers may recall that I’m running a powermeter on the Madone.  I ran it on the Ridley, as well.  For a period of time after the install, I was fervently monitoring wattage, both when training and when on group rides.  I would fret over the numbers incessantly.  On group rides, I would start to pull back when I hit power output numbers that were “excessive”, so that I wouldn’t “burn out.”

I was doing interval training, based on power numbers, trying to hit some pretty aggressive goals.  And I was shredding myself.  Objectively and subjectively, I was actually physically harming myself.  I felt like crap, and my blood tests reflected it.  Of note, I’ve never trained with a “coach”, but rather was basing my efforts off of popular instructions on the web, and things like The Time Crunched Cyclist.

I’ve gone quite a while without really looking at the power numbers.  My power meter has been relegated to two basic uses: 1) monitoring wattage when on a trainer, to make sure I’m challenged; and, 2) the occasional glance after a big sprint, just to satisfy my curiosity about peak wattage.  I rode, and trained, a lot this winter and spring.  A majority of that riding was on bikes other than the Madone–bikes without power meters.  I’ve come into this spring and early summer stronger than I’ve ever been on a bike.  I’m not dominating my group rides or anything–I still struggle to hold on to a strong group–but for me, I’m doing well.

This leads back to today’s subject.  When I got a power meter, I thought it would be an amazing, life-changing tool to use.  For me, it hasn’t been.  When I train “by the meter”, I find myself frustrated and depleted.  Maybe it’s training too hard, maybe it’s disease, maybe it’s just weakness.  Who knows.  But it isn’t helpful.  When I ride “by the meter” on group rides, I psych myself out.  When I don’t know what my wattage is, I ride harder on challenging rides.  It reminds me of when I started riding and wore a heartrate monitor.  I’d do a really hard part of the ride and my heart would be racing…and I’d start freaking out about MHR and THR, and not enjoy the ride.  Too much data.

At the end of the day, the power meter has not been a useful tool for me.  Truth be told, I’d rather have a regular, non-‘power’ crank on the Madone.  On solo rides, I’ve found that riding based on rate of perceived exertion is more effective for me (while maintaining a challenge).  On group rides, it’s a matter of holding the group’s pace, and dropping in a little sprint now and then.  For the riding I do, wattage is irrelevant.  On rides like Almanzo, I’m not riding to win–wattage doesn’t matter.  I was riding to do my best.  On the group rides, similarly, you’re riding to stay with the group (and hopefully to lead every once in a while).  For some, power meters may be helpful.  For me, it has not proven to be, thus far.

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One thought on “Riding Without Power

  1. I’ve never gone as far as using a power meter, but I’ve made a drastic move back towards simple and no longer use even a heart rate monitor OR a speedometer on my mountain bikes (my primary riding weapon). I do use Strava to keep record of my routes and output, but I manage my effort by feel alone. So far I’m faster this year and enjoying my riding a ton. I think there’s a lot to be said for training much simpler, technologically.

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