Questions and Answers: Power meters

In the first of our Q&As, Coach, and RST Technical Director, Alex Simmons answers questions from Cpt Kernow about power meters.

CptKernow wrote:
Just got myself a Favero Assioma power meter. First ride yesterday was interesting. Firstly, was quite surprised how accurate Strava's power estimates have been, at least for the overall ride average.

However, what was the biggest surprise was how it felt easier than expected to knock out higher watts as soon as the road turned up, but on the other hand it felt incredibly difficult to keep the watts up on the flat. 
On the hills I would regularly be hitting 5w/kg without thinking about it. On the flats maintaining 3w/kg took serious concentration.

I read a bit about what the causes this discrepancy, and apparently I'm not alone. Seems strange though as I never had problems knocking out this kind of power on the turbo.

So, would this be something to target, i.e. sustained flat power?*

This is a pretty normal revelation for those seeing their actual power output for the first time. Most don't realise how much they crystal crank the minor descents nor how hard they punch a rise.

It's why when we talk about good pacing in time trials often the immediate perceived sensation of intensity is misleading when riding on variable gradient terrain.

That said, other than for purposes of learning to pace effort for optimising speed (e.g. in a TT, or managing yourself in a lone breakaway), there is no specific need to be concerned with evening out the effort a great deal. Races don't work that way in any case, and neither does any group ride on the planet.

That said, some days you may want to even out the effort a bit more, while on other days you may want to attack them more. Depends on what it is you are looking to achieve for that day.

***CptKernow wrote:
Also, any other suggestions for training with a power meter outdoors would be appreciated. Thanks

As to suggestions, firstly just ride and collect data. Don't change what you are doing right away - it's helpful to gather data on what you've been doing, Then you can review and begin to make some assessment as to whether or not some changes are in order.

Avoid the temptation to stare at the numbers lest you might crash or injury someone else.

Learn the features of your meter and learn how to use it correctly, learn about calibration and torque zero and whatever else may be required to ensure your data is as good a quality as it can be.

Eventually you might look to do some specific test efforts to get a sense of your capabilities: short duration sprint efforts, hard maximal aerobic efforts of a few minutes, longer hard aerobic efforts of 20+ minutes.

Perhaps get your hands on the book "Training and racing with a Power Meter" by Allen & Coggan. Full of all sorts of useful information, advice and ideas about how to get much more out of your power data.

Ask questions.

Richard Stern