Training Efficiently and Effectively With a Cycling Power

With the increasing popularity of cycling as a participation sport more and more cyclists are turning to structured training FFPOWER or hiring a cycling coach to improve their fitness, speed, and to maximise their chances of success in chosen events.

Key elements of a structured programme include:

  • Benchmarking – How fast am I now?
  • Goal Setting – How fast do I need to be?
  • Gap Analysis – What is the gap between my current abilities and the required level?
  • Rider Profiling – What aspects of my fitness are causing the gap?
  • Realism – Are my goals achievable?
  • Training Prescription – The training programme you plan and execute.
  • Monitoring – Is the training working? Is it pitched at the right level of difficulty in terms of quantity, frequency and intensity?
  • Event Research – Ultimately you want to make the best of your abilities in terms of a particular event or discipline.

The better a rider or his coach can think and act in terms of these elements; the more likely he is to benefit from efficient and effective training.  

Traditionally cycling goals have been defined in terms of event time, average speeds, or race placings, while cycle training has been designed and executed in terms of perceived effort (“what is my mental assessment of how hard I am riding?”) or heart rate zones. A majority of committed cyclists now own and use heart rate monitors and know how to calculate their heart rate training zones as a percentage of their maximum heart rate. Detractors of such scientific training methods have long since been silenced.

Cycling power and cycling power meters, in conjunction with judicious use of a cycling power calculator, are emerging as a more accurate way to define and measure event demands and training efforts. From humble beginnings the technology required to measure and record a cyclists power output is now widely available and increasingly affordable. Riders looking for a cycling power meter can now choose a device such as an SRM, PowerTap, Quarg CinQo, Ergomo, or Polar. Any cyclist can now see and assess power output, in real time, and be very motivated to improve it, thus training with power. But many cyclists and even coaches have some way to go in terms of understanding and best leveraging cycling power technologies.

Cyclists choosing to adopt power should be asking themselves or their coaches some or all of the following questions:

  • What are the power demands of my event and how can I use a cycling power calculator to estimate them?
  • What is the right power meter for my needs? SRM, PowerTap, Quarg CinQo, Polar?
  • What is the best cycling power software to store and monitor my cycling power data?
  • How can I improve cycling power to ride faster?
  • How does my fitness relate to my power output?
  • How does my weight and aerodynamic drag limit my speed?
  • How can I measure and review my aerodynamic drag (CdA)?
  • How can I train with power efficiently and effectively?
  • How are my speed and endurance related?
  • How does the environment such as air pressure or altitude affect my performance?
  • How can I model my event (whether it be a time trial, cyclo sportive, or bike leg of a triathlon) in a scientific manner?
  • How can I define an optimal pacing strategy to best leverage my ability?

Developed to help cyclists and coaches think and work in terms of cycling power. As a resource for cyclists new to power and cycling power meters it aims to answer some of the above questions. And as a resource for seasoned users of power meters and cycling coaches it provides a number of power based performance models and cycling power calculators that can be used to assess a cyclist or define his training.

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