So you’ve made the commitment and purchased a power meter. Congratulations! Now it’s time to suit up for the weather and head out for your first ride.
During your first ride with your power meter, and even your first several rides, try not to look at the head unit at all. Your power meter is much more responsive to changes in input than your heart rate monitor or your speedometer, so just ride. Besides, until you know what you are looking at, the watts readout on your head unit will be almost meaningless. Power is not like speed. Your watts will fluctuate much more than you expect, and this is normal.
Take a couple days or a week to go on several rides that target different levels of perceived effort, otherwise known as rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Ride a long endurance ride. Find a hill that takes you 5-8 minutes to ride and hit it as hard as you can, or do a few hard sprints to the mailbox at the end of the road.
Then find a long stretch of uninterrupted road to do a hard 20-minute effort. This 20-minute effort is the standard effort to determine your functional threshold power (FTP). Make sure you get a good warm-up, then crank out twenty minutes as hard as you can go. Calculate 95% of the average power for this effort: this is a reliable estimate of your FTP. Click here for a more complete description of functional threshold power and the testing process.
Hint: Make sure you hit the lap function on your head unit so you can easily find your efforts when you look at your data in an analysis software package. WKO+ and its online companion, TrainingPeaks, are two good options for analysis tools.
The next step is to determine your power zones, which will add structure and efficiency to your training. You can use the chart below to establish your zones.
Now you’ve got the basics to start riding with power. But this is only the beginning! You’ll enjoy ride analysis, targeted training data for you and your coach, event planning, and immediate feedback from your head unit. You’ll soon understand why training with a power meter is far superior to working with any other training tool.
Want to get even more out of your power meter? Request information about our coaching packages or schedule a consulting session with one of our expert coaches. With power training, we get powerful results.
Photo: PCG Elite/Master Coach Brig Brandt rides at a PCG cycling camp in Mallorca, Spain
Photo credit: Kathy Watts