The power meter will have to be calibrated before use. You need to get it right the first time. There are two ways of doing this: 1) A professional calibrates your power meter 2) You can do it yourself using the free software available online (like Stages).
Calibration is critical if you want to make sure that your power meter is working properly. If it isn’t, then you’ll have problems with your data.
A professional calibration costs money and can take some time. It’s not something you can do at home or even while training hard in the gym!
So don’t wait until the last minute to get it done!
There are many different types of power meters out there. Some work better than others.
Which one works best for me?
I’ve tried several brands and models over the years. Here’s what worked well for me…
PowerTap P1 – For my purposes, it was perfect! I used it on all my rides up until recently when I switched to the new Power2Max units from Stages.
Power2Max – The new kid on the block. My understanding of this unit is that it’s a lot like the Power Tap.
It uses the same type of technology. The units are designed in such a way that they can easily be mounted to most any bikes. My understanding is that it’s a lot more affordable than other power meters in its class.
Quarq – This unit is also very good. I have several friends who have used this unit with great success.
I don’t have much personal experience with this particular model.
NOTE: I’ve heard that the Garmin Vector power meter is pretty good as well. I don’t have any experience with it though so I can’t really say anything about it.
I’m currently using a Stages power meter. I’ve had great success with it and would highly recommend it!
NOTE: There are many different types of power meters on the market, so it’s important that you do your research before investing your money in something that may or may not work for you. I can’t say much about other models because I haven’t used them, but you can find information about many different models by searching online.
The Power2Max units are sold in pairs, so you’ll need to buy two of them. And since they’re relatively new, you may have a hard time finding someone else who has them.
But if you can find someone, then it’ll be easy to swap information with them about how the units are working for you. If not, then it might take a little more time to gather information from other riders online.
The Stages units come in single, dual, and triple configurations. So if you’re a Cat 4, then you’ll probably want to get the single.
But if you’re a Cat 1 or 2, then go with the triple! You can find these cheaper online than you can at your local bike shop.
When trying to decide which one is best for you, the best thing to do is contact other riders who are using these power meters right now. They’ll be able to tell you which one they think works best.
Chances are they may have dealt with the same problems that you will be experiencing. Ask them what they did to correct it.
I’ve Had Enough Data!
So now you’re probably saying to yourself, “I don’t need any more power meter data!
Why can’t I just rely on TrainingPeaks or Sport Tracks to give me my averages and other useful information?”
And you’d be right! Sort of…
If all you’re after is averages and other useful information for comparing your rides or rides from other people, then by all means go with one of the two power meter analysis programs above. They both do a great job at collecting the information they display in an easy to understand format.
But what if you want to take your training to the next level? What if you want to gain a better understanding of how power, heart rate, and speed affect your performance in different types of races and situations? What if you want to be able to look at two power files and compare them to see exactly where you’re losing/gaining time or even better, be able to look at two files and know exactly why you’re losing/gaining time?
If that sounds interesting to you, then you need to start analyzing your data using TrainingPeaks’ software and then correlate that data with information on how your body was feeling at the time of each ride.
Sources & references used in this article:
The validity of power output recorded during exercise performance tests using a Kingcycle air-braked cycle ergometer when compared with an SRM powermeter by J Balmer, RCR Davison, DA Coleman… – International journal of …, 2000 – thieme-connect.com
Variable versus constant power strategies during cycling time-trials: prediction of time savings using an up-to-date mathematical model by H Allen, AR Coggan, S McGregor – 2019 – VeloPress
Effects of lowering body temperature via hyperhydration, with and without glycerol ingestion and practical precooling on cycling time trial performance in hot … by G Atkinson, O Peacock, L Passfield – Journal of sports sciences, 2007 – Taylor & Francis
Ketone diester ingestion impairs time-trial performance in professional cyclists by MLR Ross, NA Jeacocke, PB Laursen… – Journal of the …, 2012 – Springer
Novel precooling strategy enhances time trial cycling in the heat by JJ Leckey, ML Ross, M Quod, JA Hawley… – Frontiers in …, 2017 – frontiersin.org
Pattern of energy expenditure during simulated competition by ML Ross, LA Garvican, NA Jeacocke… – Med Sci Sports …, 2011 – academia.edu