Should I buy a Powertap?

Discussion in 'Power Training' started by sward, Sep 28, 2009.

  1. sward

    sward New Member

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    This might seem like a bizzarre place to ask this question butI'd really appreciate some feedback please from riders who have bought a powermeter.

    I currently do my indoor training on a Cateye Cyclosimulator which measures power, and am seriously thinking about buying a Powertap Pro+ to be able to use power as a means of improving the efficiency of my training outdoors. I've read lots of posts on various forums from people who swear by power training but I'm concerned about a couple of things:

    1. How easy is it to train with power without spending hours downloading and analysing every training session. I simply want to be able to work out my training zones according to Allen/Coggan's method and perform intervals/rides at the correct intensity rather than going on perceived exertion as I do now. I'm not sure I've got the time or desire to calculate my TSS, CTL, etc...as I don't get many hours to train as it is.

    2. Given the fact that power output fluctuates quite a bit even when riding on flat terrain, how easy is it to ride within a fairly narrow power band to ensure that you are working in the correct zones. I've seen the phrase that you should train 'with' power rather than 'by' power, but wondered how easy it is do do in practice. The Powertaps display average power but normalised power seems to be more useful according to the reading I've done so far, which I believe can only be calculated after downloading the data.


    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    If you plan to go out and stay in a very narrow power zone then you'll probably be frustrated. Power as you've said is pretty jumpy and doesn't have the built in averaging of heart rate or even RPE. So it takes most folks some time to adjust to using the PM in the field.

    But you can still trap and review intervals while out on rides using the interval function on most power computers. So you could do a sprint, 5 minute or say 20 minute effort by launching an interval just before you start and ending the interval by tapping a button as you complete the effort. That let's you review your efforts as you finish them, in the case of PT CPUs you can review your 9 previous intervals as you ride (really 4 or 5 efforts since the rest intervals aren't very informative) and still have the rest recorded if you decide to download data when you get home.

    You can also do longer intervals while displaying average power or bump up the display smoothing to get 10 to 30 seconds of real time averaging which cuts down on the jumpiness of the display which can be useful for pacing TTs and long interval efforts but pretty worthless for sprints and such. But that leads you down the 'training by power' path of watching the display which typically isn't the best approach.

    Sure a lot of us find motivation in reviewing power data all kinds of different ways and find the metrics interesting and useful. But you don't really need to spend hours at your computer reviewing the data to get value and a few minutes of ride review when you get home can be awfully informative. A lot of the motivation I've gotten from training with power came from even quick data review sessions like seeing how much time I spent in L4, seeing how well I paced an interval or TT, seeing how my CTL curve climbs or falls during different training phases and so on. These metrics are pretty much automatic once you load and save your power files and you don't need to dive deeper unless you have the time and find the effort useful.

    Anyway, it's hard to say whether you'll find a power meter worth your hard earned money, but as much as it's helped me understand my training and racing I don't think I'd invest in one just for the on-bike data. It's the accumulation and at least cursory review of that accumulated data that really provides insight.

    Good luck,
    -Dave
     
  3. VadarStrikesBack

    VadarStrikesBack Well-Known Member

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    Your thinking too much. And stupidly. Training with power helps you listen to your body in a far more efficient manner. For example after training with power for a period of time it becomes significantly easier to achieve focused PE sessions (relative to equivalent sessions prior to using a powermeter). There are some absolute benefits to training with power - whether powermeters are 'value for money' for hack club cyclists is another discussion entirely.
     
  4. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    I think Vadar has finally gone over to the real dark side. :D
     
  5. sward

    sward New Member

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    Thanks for your reply (I think?). I didn't realise that I was being stupid or that I was a hack club cyclist; it's amazing what you manage to decipher about me from a single post. Are you referring to perceived exertion when talking about PE? If so, I was under the impression that perceived exertion is not always a reliable indicator or exertion as it can be affected by fatigue, i.e. that it is sometimes possible to complete back to back interval workouts at matching, or even higher power outputs, than in the previous workout despite elevated ratings of perceived exertion and suppressed heart rates.

    Going back to my original concern, given the fact that training zones can be as narrow as 5% of one's FTP, which might only equate to around 15 watts, I did not think it was unreasonable to ask how easy it is to remain in and around that zone without unwittingly completing an interval at the wrong intensity, particularly when riding outdoors.

    Any offers of help to correct my stupidity will be greatly received.

    Thanks
     
  6. JonnyW

    JonnyW New Member

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    I have been training with a powertap now for a few months and I found that initially it was quite hard to figure out where you were with the power as it jumped around everywhere but it didn't take long to get used to the reading on the CPU. By smoothing out the visible data by setting it to average every 3 seconds (using a 705 with 2.9 firmware) and watching the average lap power it is easy to keep within your zones.
     
  7. VadarStrikesBack

    VadarStrikesBack Well-Known Member

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    Like I said before you're thinking too much or slightly paranoid or have too high opinion of your own ability. Possibly all of the above.

    Let me get this straight - you are worried that by spending a few seconds above or below a structured power range for any given session may render the session somehow void and/or incomplete?

    Get a grip.

    Oh and if you think learning to listen to your body - above, beyond and independent to what your powermeter tells you - is a waste of time then you can add 'potential idiot' to the above list.
     
  8. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    you are over thinking it too much... when you're riding especially outside it's not going to make a lick of difference if you power wanders up and down a little bit.. let it wander... you just want the ave power to come out in zone. and only look at your power meter from time to time to make sure you are approx. in zone and on average where you want it to be... like when going up or down a hill you want to make sure your power doesn't rise too high or dip too low respectively.. fluctuations like that for short periods of time (30sec or so) just are not going to make a difference in the effectiveness of your workout.. in face it is probably a better workout in a sense because this is how you are going to ride in the real world so you might as well get used to it..

    zones are not are rigid as it seems you think they are. training effect is along a continuum. you don't suddenly reach a certain power value and then the training effect for that zone suddenly drops to zero. the zone is just a guide that tells you in and around this power most people will maximize benefit for these physiological adaptations that will help me with this aspect of my cycling fitness. it's not even that your aren't getting the training effect as it is training below the prescribe power for the zone will be an inefficient use of your time and above will result in you likely not being able to complete the interval for the prescribed or a reasonable length of time... which again will end with you not using your time efficiently (if you are unable to complete the interval).

    the other thing is that the zones are just guidelines for some average joe racer guy.. they might not strictly apply to you given your abilities... e.g. if you have very good anaerobic capacity the standard powers for 5 and 6 might be too low for you. what you want to do is use the standard zones as a guide initially and then figure out what kind of power you can do for x amount of time... e.g. a threshold interval is normally 20-30mins long.. after a few workouts you will know what kind of power you can do for say two intervals with x amount of recovery for that length of time... an anerobic capacity interval is say 1min long what kind of power can i do for that length of time with 4 rep.. how ever many sets... if your particular abilities are above or below what the standard set in a guidline then again you will be above or below what YOU can actually do and you will again not be using your time efficiently. and just as a note of caution.. you don't have to be going out every workout working the max you can do for a zone.. you'll just burn yourself out mentally and physically.. and the thing is that the benefit of just going a little easier is not that much less than going for a record every time out of the blocks and hurts WAY less too...

    anyway back to your specific question... it just doesn't matter if your power wanders.. it's going to wander a bit... as long as the ave power is in the zone...
     
  9. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    addressed 2. below...

    1. so buy Cycling Peaks then and all that is done for you automatically.. then you don't have to calculate anything.. you download your file.. boom all that stuff just falls out of your file. your workout is graphed you can see how you did... if it's a race or a group ride it may be difficult to tell what kind of numbers you were doing on the road for say 20min ave power 2, 5mins etc.. what did i do on that hill for ave power? you can see all these things. these are all presented automatically. you pre-set up your various graphs to show progress over time and boom as you download new workouts all these graphs get updated automatically.. you take a quick look at your graphs and you are gone... Cycling Peaks gives you a wealth of information, has a journal function and really saves you time... the real power of collecting data like this is in being able to see what is happening over time not just for a workout.. the performance manage as well lets you manage training load over time.. kinda like a replacement for a coach i find. i've been riding for a while though... but it basically helps you moderate your training load over time.. Cycling Peaks is $100 and it lets you effectively use your power meter... increases your power meter's utility immensely. i tell anyone who buys a power meter don't even think about it.. just buy Cycling Peaks. it's a no-brainer..
     
  10. sward

    sward New Member

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    No, I don't think that you have it straight, you knobjockey, and FFS lighten up!

    I don't recall suggesting that listening to your body was a waste of time, but that perceived exertion did not always correlate with ability to complete a specific training session at the required intensity. One of my reasons for buying a PM is to use PE and power readings, along with HR to monitor fatigue with greater objectivity and maximise the returns from each training session.
     
  11. Bike N Ski

    Bike N Ski New Member

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    Kind of confused as to what your asking. If you want to minimize the "stochastic" nature of riding outdoors use your PM on a trainer. The concept isn't that different from trying to stay dry while riding in the rain - YOU CAN'T DO IT. It seems like you need to do a little more soul searching. After a little research, the majority of people can see the enormous benefit of a PM if used properly. Nothing in this world is perfect but there are things in this world that perform their function very well for us. A power meter is one of these things.
     
  12. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    just a tip... i know you likely won't listen to it, i know i didn't either right away, but if you get a power meter... just throw your HR monitor in the garbage.. it's a waste of time.. just use power, it's all you need.. in fact PE is preferable to HR to judge intensity... after you use a PM for about a year - year and a half this will become obvious.. so maybe you just have to find this out for yourself.. but just putting that out there..
     
  13. bubsy

    bubsy New Member

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    Agree with this 100%
    Power and P/E
    Only other thing l use 100% of the time is a cadence sensor, the difference in h/r and breathing between 87rpm and say 93rpm at 100 - 105% of FTP is huge to me!
    I would glance at readings 3/1 in favour of cad as l am used to how much leg tennsion/stress l can tollerate for the duration. When l see cad starting to creep up I'll grab another gear because if I don't h/r and breathing will eventually get so bad that I have to end the session or back WAY!!! off for too long and not get the work done I was intending to, and by that time I have usually burnt too many matches to start an entirely new interval so salvaging the existing one with 30's on/off sometimes happens but we live and learn eh?

    Of course if one is using a trainer that sets the power at desired level and lets the user pedal at what ever cad they like than this is not an issue.
    Oh man l would love a trainer for this when doing V02/AWC work, they can really suck when terrain keeps changing :(
     
  14. szbert

    szbert New Member

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    Wow. Judgemental much? Even "hack club cyclists" can be interested in improving their fitness and performance. So powermeters can be very helpful.
     
  15. SolarEnergy

    SolarEnergy New Member

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    I use a Powertap (SL). I use the smoothing function that greatly stabilizes the power output returned in real time by the onbike computer.

    I sometimes train with power and sometimes by power. Like Dave previously mentioned, if you want to be thorough, you have the ability to record your intervals using Powertap's interval function. When entering in this mode, you isolate the avg power (as well as all other variables) per interval.

    I am not rich, and my original power meter purchase was put on a credit card and it took a while to clear this up. But if it was only for training by power, only to get the real time watt number that I am generating outdoor, I think it was worth it.

    Still, it is a costly gadget. Therefore I understand your concern but I believe that you're going to enjoy this high tech toy a lot.
     
  16. sward

    sward New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. I've recently found out that you can extend the display interval so this should alleviate my concern. I am going to go ahead and get one in the coming weeks.
     
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