Cycling to Power – New to it? Still learning about it? Not yet an expert in this area! If so, then read on….
This is a report written by one of my clients Sarah Heward (F 50-54) training for 70.3 and IM distance triathlons, setting out details of her first 18 months experience of Cycling to Power.
After almost 10 years’ absence from triathlon I started working with
Kevin Henderson in 2016 who introduced me to the concept of ‘cycling to power’.
Kevin makes this a pre-requisite for all of his athletes. The way I see
it, is that there are three main elements to this approach:
- Gathering reliable power data on a regular basis (Garmin Vectors)
- Converting this data into meaningful information and presenting it simply and clearly, to help you understand the key elements of your cycling performance: TRAINING PEAKS. This platform allows you to analyse power, cadence and efficiency as well as ‘heart-rate’ and speed etc.
- Monitoring, reviewing and making adjustments, to improve performance: weekly and sometime DAILY/REGULAR REVIEW with your coach.
I am very ‘goal focused’. I think that this is important if you’re
going to invest the time and money required to fully utilise power-pedals.
There is no doubt in my mind that training in this way has made me a faster,
stronger and more confident cyclist.
There are a number of power meters and systems on the market. I’d recommend doing some research to find the ones that best suit your goals and budget. I invested in a pair of Garmin Vector 2S power pedals and the Training Peaks web-based system. It’s worth noting that I had to return 2 faulty sets to Garmin before I found a set that worked. Although this was frustrating and time-consuming, the pedals were exchanged with little fuss. To be honest, I am a bit of a techno-luddite, so if I can get to grips with this system then most people can.
The main challenges are:
- getting to grips with using the pedals, which includes transferring them from bike to bike (with a bit of help from my lovely husband),
- linking them to my (Garmin) watch and
- uploading to Training Peaks.
Now that I have the hang of this, I use each element confidently. By
consistently using power-pedals, my coach and I closely monitor all key areas
of performance and identify areas for adjustments, however small. This approach
has been the basis for a substantial improvement in my performance over the
I now find the information presented on the my ‘Training Peaks’ system
easy to understand and helpful.
I enjoy measuring progress reliably: day-to-day, week-to-week and
month-to-month. Measurable improvements in performance include:
- Functional Threshold Power (FTP) has risen from 195 to 237 Watts in 12 months (FTP is a reliable indicator or ‘snapshot’ of my ‘base’ performance capacity at any point in time)
- average cadence has risen from around low 70’s to 85 (the start point is an estimate)
- cycling efficiency has improved. There are two elements here:
- balance between power driving through right and left pedals and
- amount of the rotation where power is being applied
- It’s a quantum leap forward from only reviewing heart-rate and speed.
- It allows you to plan training and racing in more detail and with greater accuracy, thus allowing you to push yourself to the limit or save something in reserve when it counts.
- It makes indoor winter training more interesting as you have up to the second power and cadence targets to ride against, and you can track your improvement.
- It’s a great ‘pacemaker’ for racing.
- Having a coach helps massively to analyse results and plan training. Trying to do this without this kind of support would be very time-consuming.
- It’s expensive to get set up.
- It’s not a quick fix – you need to be prepared to take a long term view, persevere and be patient.
- It was a frustrating experience to begin with – it takes time to get used to using it, once it’s actually all set up.
- You need to establish your initial statistics and get used to interpreting them.
- Be aware that if you choose to closely follow a plan, you can become fixated with hitting the targets and risk losing what you love about cycling.
- It’s not sociable unless your cycling buddies are willing and able to follow your plan.
- In some cases there are physical differences in set up as the power peddle cleats can be different.
- Be careful as these cleats may not suit your cycling style and could cause injury. This actually happened to a friend of mine.