Power Meters, a crash course in terminology
Power meters are the latest gadget in a cyclists armory and many riders are using power data to gain some insight into their own riding capacity and improve the efficiency of their training. Many riders have power meters without really understanding the full suite of information provided by their new riding companion. So here is a basic guide to some of the new power language that currently dominates the chatter in riding bunches all around the world:
Normalised Power. This is the power output of the rider AFTER the numbers have been "smoothed out" and most of the junk data (really high and really low numbers) has been taken out. Strava uses "average weighted power" to show the same information. A true reflection of your ride's average power.
Power Balance. The relative contribution of each leg to the overall power output. Ideal is of course 50/50 but anything from 47-53 to 53/47 is considered normal and most cycling trainers do not work hard to correct balance unless it is outside of this range.
Watts / KG. This one is often considered the "holy grail" of power assessment, particularly when looking at climbing capacity. It is the riders power output divided by body weight in KGs (some trainers divide by the combined weight of rider + bike). Usually this is measured when a rider is at threshold and pros will have a number somewhere around 6 - 6.5, NRS racers around 5.5 - 6 and so on down the line.
Pedalling Smoothness. This is a fairly new addition to most power meters and the significance of the data to riding performance is really yet to be tested. Pedal smoothness shows how evenly you generate power on each leg. A high % (30 - 40) means that your average power production is high compared to your peak power production, or in other words, you "spread your power out" rather than dosing it in a concentrated part of the pedal stroke. You will never see 100% and are not meant to, Garmin says that 40% is about as high as they ever saw in testing. It is worth noting that the PS % will be higher when climbing for most and riding flat roads with higher cadences will usually show lower %s.
Torque Efficiency. Another of the new data sets available on most power meters (usually requires a firmware update unless your PM is pretty new) and shows how much a poor or lazy upstroke (or poor cycling motor pattern) is negatively effecting the downstroke. Almost all cyclists exert some downward force on the pedal when it is moving upwards (the upstroke when we are meant to be "pulling up") and this of course works against the down force being produced by the opposite leg. A higher % in TE means that the negative impact of the non-drive leg is being minimised and a lower % of course means that a lazy upstroke is detracting from the work that your drive leg is doing. TEs of between 70-90% show a high level of down / upstroke efficiency and if the numbers are much lower than this, some time in the program should be devoted to technique improvement.
Hopefully that has helped in some small way.
Stay safe out there
Train Smart & Race Hard
An opportunity to take your cycling to a whole new level
Training camps are all the rage! Team Sky and all of the other pro outfits desperately trying to keep up, are heading each year to Tenerife to train (and sleep) at altitude on the famous slopes of mount tiede. The results are speaking for themselves but the concept of the pre-season training camp is by no means a new one. Professional teams have been at it for years, it's just that Sky have brought a scientific edge and a whole new approach to how and when "altitude" is used as a tool for race preparation.
Enough of the pros. Training camps are of course available to every cyclist these days and represent a fantastic opportunity to both train hard (with some mates) and learn a lot about the science and art of cycling. There really is nothing quite like spending 4-8 days pushing your personal limits in the morning, recovering like a pro during the afternoon and talking shit into the evening. For lovers of cycling it really is the ultimate fantasy escape.
But more than a virtual Tour de France, training camps have benefits that will stretch long beyond the return journey home. In fact you will learn things that will continue to enhance your riding experiences for years to come. Once you have lived the almost spiritual mantra of "ride - die - recover......ride - die - recover", your cycling limits and capacity to suffer burst through the glass ceiling and never again will your local climbs seem as daunting.
Most (but not all) training camps are held in the mountains as it is here that a cyclist's true limits can be found. The mountains are, always have been and always will be the playground of cyclists, they are Wimbledon, Wembley, Lords and Augusta all rolled into one. It is why cyclists flock to the great passes of Europe every summer and the reason cycle-tourism is one of the fastest growing industries on earth. In Australia we have few opportunities to experience the spell of cycling in the high mountains, hills we have in large supply, but real mountains can only be found in the "snowies" either side of the NSW/Victorian border. This is why training camps are booming in towns like Bright (Victoria) and Jindabyne (NSW) as long climbs into the high mountains can be easily accessed from both.
If you have not yet experienced the cycle training camp phenomenon, then I strongly recommend you get on it. We have a training camp scheduled for November in Bright (link below) or you may already know a group heading to the mountains later this year. However you manage to do it, commit now, you will be very happy you did.
Stay safe out there, train smart & race hard
Italy & France Cycling Tours: I choose to ride!
Back in 1989 I made my first very tentative trip to France to ride my bike. I was in the company of my two best mates, all in the world was good and a life-defining adventure lay ahead. In 1989 there were very few aussies (we saw not one) riding their bikes in the French alps and there was not a tour group to be seen. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of cyclists taking on the mighty peaks made famous by great Tour de France battles, but most seemed to be on solo journeys.
Our trip had it's genesis in the grainy old Tour de France broadcasts (with a 2-4 week delay) on channel nine. What if we, three green lads from Mosman, could ride the great cols of France? Maybe even the mythical l'Alpe d'Huez may be possible? Our trip was planned using Michelin maps and a piece of string to assist in estimating course distances. Maps were then cut up covered in clear contact and stuffed in our cycling jerseys, kind of "paper Garmins" for the trip. Long story but suffice to say that our 1989 odyssey is the reason I fell in love with cycling and to this day there is not a single road or vista that I cannot recall in all it's glory.
I have since returned to France (and Italy) many times, on occasions I have followed the TDF in the mountains whilst other trips have been all about riding, rather than watching. So which is better? Well many may disagree but for me a cycling trip to Europe is all about the riding. Granted, if you have a spare 6 weeks, then there are options to do both in equal quantity. But if you are limited to 2 weeks of ground time, I recommend you spend it in the saddle and here's why:
To ensure that your European riding experience ticks all the essential boxes, here are a few tips:
Stay safe out there!
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.