Speedometer, GPS, heart rate monitor, etc.: there are several electronic devices that cyclists can use to create their own training program and monitor their performance during a race. But what makes a power meter different from the others?
In this article we'll see the 10 main advantages that cyclists and triathletes can get from a power meter especially when it comes to a pedal-based one.
10 Reasons to use a power meter
Watts don't lie!
Power meters measure the mechanical power you release at the level of the pedals; all the real-time data (measured in watts) is sent to your bike computer or sportswatch and serves as an objective reference for your performance. The underlying concept is really easy: the more power you are releasing (that is, the higher the number of the watts), the better your performance is. The most important is that this is a one-to-one ratio that can't be distorted by external factors. Unlike the most commonly used heart rate data, the ratio power-performance can't be altered by other factors such as high temperature, psychological stress, caffeine, bad digestion, etc.
The power data output can be checked on your bike computer from the very first pedal stroke without latency times or "assessment" periods, which typically occur with the heart rate data. This means that you'll be able to evaluate your performance also on very short time-frames (i.e. a set of sprints) or on efforts above your threshold.
Analysis after a training session or race
Most bike computers can automatically log the data measured by a power meter and save it in FIT or GPX format. In so doing, you can get a real journey of your cycling session, accessible whenever you want through some dedicated apps and software (i.e. GoldenCheetah, StriveMax, TraningPeaks, TrainerRoad, etc.). You'll also be able to share this data with your trainer so that he/she can check, also remotely, how you are reacting to a specific training program or how you performed during a specific race.
Pedal stroke analysis
The Assioma power meters, thanks to their strategic position on the pedals, do not only provide data concerning the total power, but allow you also to deeply and completely analyse your pedal stroke, thanks to the IAV Cycling Dynamics and on the basis of two other values: the Torque Effectiveness (TE) and the Pedal Smoothness (PS). To learn more, read also “Data measured by the Assioma Power Meter”.
L/R Power Balance
The dual-sided pedal-based power meters like Assioma DUO measure the power generated individually on both the left and the right leg, thus providing complete data on the Power Balance. Consequently, you'll be able to see how the ratio between your dominant and non-dominant-leg changes according to both the different riding and physical conditions. In addition, the L/R Power Balance data is particularly useful for the correction of an eventual imbalance in your legs: also for post-trauma rehabilitation programs. Unlike other power meters, Assioma DUO really measures power from both legs.
Excellent energy management during a race
Riding according to your sensations can be misleading: you can "feel like a lion" at the beginning of a race and push yourself too much in the first kilometers, thus paying the price later down the ride. Or you can feel a little off, so you pedal at a lower pace than usual. By checking your power data you'll be able to easily verify if your sensations match your real performance.
Correct training periodization
In order to objectively and precisely measure your performance you need to set goals suited to your real capacity and recovery time. With a power meter you can create and follow personalized training programs that will allow you to make the most of your time and to avoid overtraining.
Heart rate response evaluation
A power meter can be useful also to leverage the use of a heart rate monitor, as the heart rate measurement can give you valuable information on your physical condition and the state of fatigue of your cardiovascular system. To set a real example: a low heart rate frequency related to a high power applied to the pedal, can be a synonym to fatigue or even overtraining.
Feedback on otherwise invisible improvements
A racing action that apparently seems not to have given distinctive results when analyzed only by checking the heart rate or the average speed, actually can hide interesting improvements in terms of power management and production. These small but important improvements, otherwise not detectable, can be a true motivation for the athlete.
Evaluation of your riding position
By observing and comparing both the power and the speed output data, it is possible to understand if a change of position during a ride has been efficient or not. If under the same external conditions the new position will make you ride faster by applying the same power, it means that it's better than the previous one. The same logic can be applied also for the evaluation of new bike components (i.e. oval chainrings, a new frame, etc.): if under the same external conditions you will ride faster by applying the same power, it means that the new material is more efficient than the previous one.
These popular advantages, widely used among professional road cyclists for decades now, are becoming more and more accessible also to amateurs as well, thanks to a new generation of power meters easy to install and to use.
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