Do you really need a power meter?

If you are riding without a power meter, then you are going to have a hard time doing zone work. It’s like wandering around in the dark trying to get ready for the work day while your wife is still asleep in bed. You know you don’t want to wake the she-bear, so you fumble around as quietly as possible while making a complete mess of yourself. You end up with toothpaste all over the place and notice when you get to work that you are wearing two different shoes.

So YES, you need a power meter. Once you get it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Not to mention how fun it is to sit around for hours after your ride and obsess over all the metrics you collected. You compare to your previous rides, then you check your Strava segments, and then you compare your Strava segments to everyone else you know who rode that day. It’s just a wonderful thing.

The most important reason for having a power meter is so that you can accurately train in different zones. You might think that your heart rate monitor is good enough, but really, your heart rate is affected by much more than your pedaling. Environmental factors like heat can cause your heart rate to go up. You end up thinking you are working harder than you actually are. Another thing I don’t like about using heart rate zones is that it takes a long time for your heart to respond. If you are trying to do VO2 Max intervals, it will take a few minutes for your heart to get to the estimated zone. With power, you know instantly if you are pressing hard enough. Then you just have to maintain that power output throughout the duration of the interval.

In my opinion, riding is more fun with a power meter, and it will help you train for success on the bike.

When you decide to take the plunge and buy your power meter, you are going to need to take a few steps to learn what to do with it. Here they are:

  1. Perform a FTP (Functional Threshold Power) Test. There are lots of good videos on YouTube that can teach you how to do this.
  2. Calculate your training zones. Once you know your FTP, when you enter that number into your bike computer or into Strava, it will automatically calculate your training zones.
  3. Follow a periodized training program that will lead you up to the event you are training for. Periodization is the term for a progressive training plan that will change and advance over time as you get closer to your goal.

Finally, a power meter can be kind of expensive, especially if you need to buy a bike computer along with it. So start thinking how to bring it up to your wife. I recommend asking permission. Then get training.