TRAINING TIPS

5 REASONS TO RIDE WITH POWER #1

REASON #1: IT'S NOT COMPLICATED

Although it is possible to disappear down a rabbit hole of power data, if your main reason for using a power meter is to enable you to pace your rides better, there’s actually very little number crunching necessary.

Find your FTP

Your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the one metric that you do have to know. FTP was traditionally thought of as the maximum power that you could hold for 60 minutes. However it’s better viewed as your sustainable power so, for an untrained cyclist, it could be what they could manage for 30 minutes or, for a top pro, maybe 75 minutes. Another way of thinking about it is your cycling “red-line” that, if you push above it for too long, you’ll run out of gas. Knowing your FTP is important as it allows you to set accurate and personalised training zones.

The LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France Jersey comp

To find your FTP, the easiest way is to perform a simple test. There are test protocols on both RGT and Zwift or you can use the British Cycling protocol outlined in the following link either on your turbo or on the road: www.britishcycling.org.uk

In general most tests follow a similar structure with the key section being a 20-minute effort and FTP is calculated as being 95% of the average power you maintained for this effort.

If you’ve had a power meter for while, haven’t really got your head round using it but have been uploading rides to Strava, TrainingPeaks, intervals.icu or other platforms, then they will estimate an FTP for you based on the rides and efforts you’ve done. If you don’t fancy a test or are unsure how to pace one, using an estimated FTP is a good starting point.

CALCULATE YOUR ZONES


Once you know your FTP, you can then calculate your Zones:

Zone

Low end (% of FTP)

High end (% of FTP)

1

n/a

55%

2

56%

75%

3

75%

90%

4

91%

105%

5

106%

120%

6

121%

150%


Again, platforms such as TrainingPeaks can calculate your zones for you. There are a number of different protocols but British Cycling, USA Cycling and Andrew Coggan are all six zones and pretty close to each other – a few watts difference here or there won’t make a difference. 

SET-UP YOUR HEAD UNIT

One guaranteed way to suffer from paralysis by analysis is to have a vast number of data fields on your computer. Keep it simple and stick to these on your main screen:

3s average power

This is your go-to metric for your current output and should be your biggest and most visible data field. 3-second average power will be more stable than Power, which will fluctuate so much as to almost be unusable. 3s will still fluctuate a fair amount but you’ll soon get a feel for it and, for longer consistent efforts, such as a big Alpine climb, you could switch to 5-second average. 

Power Zone

To save you having to memorise all of your zones, just custom input them into your head unit. 

Cadence

250w at 110rpm can have a very different impact on your legs than 250w at 60rpm so keeping an eye on cadence along with power is a good idea. 

Heart Rate

Combining power with heart rate lets you know the impact the power you’re putting out is having on your body. Also, if your power meter battery fails or you have any technical issues with it, you’ll have a back-up pacing option. 

Heart Rate Zone

For longer efforts, such as a big climb, your heart rate and power zones should tally fairly closely. You can find you FTHR (Functional Threshold Heart Rate) during the same test as your FTP and calculate zones from this. 

Ride time

It’s not only important to know how long you’ve been going for if you’re targeting riding for a specific amount of time but many riders also like to fuel and hydrate by the clock.

Distance

Not essential but we all like to see the kilometres click by and how many we’ve left to go.

RIDE

Now get out on your bike!

For a typical weekend longer ride or a sportive, just follow these simple power pacing guidelines:

Flat: Zone 2 (unless you’re looking to save energy and can suck a wheel and sit in Zone 1).

Descents: Zone 1 or freewheeling.

On climbs: If the gradient allows, stick to Zone 3. You may be forced into Zone 4 or even Zone 5 but try to limit the amount of time in these Zones.

Avoid: Sudden spikes of power. It can be tempting to punch up short ramps or even put in some sprints, especially when fresh at the start of a ride, but each time you do this, you’re burning a limited supply of “above threshold matches” and adding unnecessary and fatiguing load. 

In the next instalment we bust the myth that single-sided power meters are just power estimators. 

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