How Do I Measure My Cycling Power Output
When cycling, youll want to know how much power you produce. Power is measured in watts, or the amount of energy you exert on your bike. This can give you useful information about your performance, health, and body state. Whether youre trying to achieve a personal best or simply improve your cycling endurance, power is an important component of cycling training. By knowing your wattage, youll know when to train harder and improve your power output.
While heart rate monitors can provide a general idea of how hard youre working, power can measure the amount of work done in detail. Compared to heart rate, power is more precise and fast-responding, allowing you to determine exactly how hard youre working. Heart rate can also give you important insights into your performance and effort, but its not as objective as power.
The average power you produce is the average power produced during your ride, including coasting. However, this is only a fraction of your total power output. Tour de France riders average between 220 and 320 watts per hour on average, and most recreational cyclists can maintain that level of output for an hour.
Which Power Meters Work With Garmin And Other Cycle Computer Connectivity
Everything rated here and the vast majority of power meters transmit via ANT+, allowing them to connect to most bike computer systems, including Garmin.
Most power meters also offer Bluetooth Smart connectivity – a handy tool for connecting to indoor training apps such a Zwift and Trainer Road, or smartphones, as well as for practicalities such as updating power meter software. Most cycling computers also now have Bluetooth connectivity built in.
Our guide on the indoor training apps for cycling compares the best on the market and helps you identify what one you are most suited to. If you are wondering about power meters and turbo trainer compatibility, our page on best smart turbo trainers includes the latest models.
If the current climate means slim pickings on indoor trainers, or finances mean having to choose one or other, you can always bypass the smart trainer altogether and just use a power meter and simple turbo trainer. You’ll need a couple of other sensors but can still work out as a much cheaper Zwift set up and you have the bonus of outside use once warmer weather arrives.
How Many Watts Can An Average Person Produce On A Bike
Normal human metabolism produces heat at a basal metabolic rate of around 80 watts. During a bicycle race, an elite cyclist can produce close to 400 watts of mechanical power over an hour and in short bursts over double that1000 to 1100 watts modern racing bicycles have greater than 95% mechanical efficiency.
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How Many Watts Should I Do On Bike
When you are riding a bike, you need to know how much power youre putting out. The power to weight ratio can help you determine how much power youre producing in relation to the weight of your body. This ratio can be helpful for determining your power output during a race, as well as your overall cycling fitness.
Power to weight ratio is one of the simplest ways to measure cycling performance. It represents the power you exert per kilogram of your body weight. By using a power meter, you can find out how much power youre putting out in comparison to your weight. You can also find out your average power during a 60 minute all-out effort.
Power to weight ratio is an important factor when choosing a bike. A road bike with eight kilograms is likely to have a lower power output than a mountain bike with a 70-kilogram weight. In addition, youll need to consider the type of handlebar youre using, whether its an aerobar or a triathlon extension. Aerobars have the lowest aerodynamic drag, while drops and hoods have the highest.
Is 300 Watts Good Cycling
The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, its possible to sustain a cycling effort of 300 watts for up to four hours. This is the wattage that professional cyclists pedal at for four-hour stages. However, a recreational rider may only be able to sustain this amount for 45 minutes in a spin class. The watts you generate while cycling can help you gauge your performance. The average peloton produces around 150-250 watts. However, for an average rider at 25 mph, that number is closer to 300 watts.
The article also notes that the average fit cyclist can sustain about 250-300 watts during a 20-minute FTP test. In comparison, the pros can average around 400 watts. Its important to note that these results dont take into account the weight of the cyclists. However, you can use Data Cranker to get an idea of how much watts per kilogram youre capable of producing.
Power factoring plays an important role in cycling. You need to have an adequate amount of power to get a smooth ride. This ratio is called power-to-weight, and it is calculated by dividing the maximum power output by the bodys weight. By increasing the power output of your cycling workouts, you can boost your performance by riding faster and harder.
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Use Power Alongside A Heart Rate Monitor
Power meters can only be most effectively used in conjunction with a heart rate monitor, Roy believes.
One mistake riders make when they start using a power meter is that they forget to continue using a heart rate monitor.
Heart rate should be seen as your input to the process. Your body needs to provide the necessary energy for fuelling an effort and your heart is responsible for providing that to your muscles through the bloodstream.
Then you are measuring the outputs that your muscles can produce with the power meter.
They both have their very specific purposes, and theyre very useful and important metrics to have. I would never favour one above the other.
One of the easiest metrics to measure and compare is how much power you can produce for any given heart rate, says Roy.
If youre riding along and your heart rate is 150bpm and you produce 200 watts for 20 minutes at that level, after you train for a month two possibilities could happen.
You could produce 200 watts at a lower heart rate, which would mean youre now fitter. Youre riding a little more efficiently because you dont need as much input to produce the same output. Or for the same inputthats the same heart rateyou can produce more power.
Tracking how your output and input compare is a good way of gauging progress.
Workout No: Managing Power Output
This is a balanced but challenging workout. Warm up for 10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace to a moderate power output of 80 to 120 watts. At the end of the 10 minutes you should be at a cadence of 70 to 90 revolutions per minute, or RPM. Your power output at this point will be your Baseline Watts, or BW. Over the next 10 minutes, increase your power output by 10 to 20 watts each minute. Decrease your power output incrementally by the same amount each minute for the next nine minutes, returning to your BW. End the workout with a 5- to 10-minute cool-down period.
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How To Calculate Cycling Power
A power meter can provide an extremely accurate measure for gauging the intensity of your workout, but it’s also an extremely expensive gadget. Unless you are training hard and seriously for a cycling race, triathlon or other event, this tool is really more of a luxury than a necessary workout aid. Still, it’s nice to know how cycling power works.
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Measuring Power On The Bicycle
When our engineers were first contracted to build a dynamic calibration rig for a Sports Institute, they were very surprised to find that the so called Gold Standard of then current power meters had some serious flaws.
Most people at the time thought that the main problem with power meters at the time was the sheer expense of getting the information, but the dynamic calibration showed that this was only part of the issue.
At the same time, the average cyclist was moving to cheaper alternatives, mainly because the industry mantra was that all devices were accurate to +-2%. Over the last decade, this oft repeated accuracy idea became an accepted truth.
Now the market is being flooded by cheap power devices, each one more brilliant than the last apparently and of course much cheaper. All of them apparently accurate to +-2% except for two outliers. The ex-Gold Standard and the original usurper both claim higher accuracy.
The problems with the +-2% or better assertion are many but in a nutshell revolve around some simple concepts
- +-2% of what when and how often?
- If they are not measuring crank torque surely at best they are mathematically constrained estimators ,
- All of them are measuring something that is NOT the tangential force the force that drives the bike forward as a result of the energy employed by the cyclist.
What were the results?
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What Is A Good Watt For Cycling
The watt is a measure of power. It represents how much power an object can produce. For example, a car can produce 318 watts of power when the engine is running. In contrast, a cyclist can produce 305 watts of power when pedaling for 30 minutes. In this way, cycling enthusiasts can determine how much power they should aim to produce during a race.
Cycling power varies depending on a cyclists body weight. Those who are bigger can generate more power than smaller riders, but may not be able to do so faster. In order to calculate the amount of power that a cyclist needs to pedal, they need to divide their weight by their power output. A cyclist who weighs 250 kilograms will generate 3.57 W/kg.
The power a cyclist needs depends on several factors, including the weight of their bike and their body weight. For example, a road bike will produce more power than a triathlon bike. Cycling power is a useful indicator of fitness and performance.
How To Measure Cycling Power And Why
Power meters measure how much work a cyclist is doing on the bike and express it in watts. The ability to measure an athletes power is something unique to cycling. Other endurance sports like running and swimming are limited to using heart rate, RPE , and time to measure work. You may already be familiar with heart rate monitoring. Perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 is easy for anyone to understand, and anyone who’s run a mile can grasp the concept of pacing for a mile or another fixed distance. But those are imperfect tools.
Heart rate can be affected by a lot of factors caffeine, sleep, and stress, says Nate Keck, product manager at Quarq. Its also an indirect measurement of what is actually happening. Heart rate has lag while power is instantaneous. If you go into a sprint at a power of 1,000 watts, you see that number instantly. But your heart rate may take 30 seconds, a minute, or even more to respond.
RPE can measure effort, but when talking about someones perceived effort on a scale of 1-10, my 10 is probably different than your 10. People have different pain thresholds. With perception, theres always some inherent error.
Riding a bike equipped with a Quarq power meter | Photographer: Chris Milliman
Its always possible to train without a power meter. Many riders still do. But anyone seeking serious improvement in their performance will benefit from using a power meter for structured training and data-driven riding.
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Indoor Trainer With Built In Power Meter
Talking of snazzy direct drive indoor trainers, most of these have built in power meters.
With the high end models, accuracy purports to be higher that on-bike power meters.
When everyones not being all obsessed about power meters, theyre being all obsessed about smart trainers.
Interestingly , the bit that makes them smart is the fact that such trainers can be controlled by a third party app . Its not the fact that they broadcast power data.
That said, most of these expensive smart trainers do have proper power meters in them.
Now, I dont own a smart trainer. Thatll come when I finally have a dedicated pain cave and service course .
How Can You Measure Watts
Using a bike power meter will allow you to measure your pedal power and improve your cycling performance. Compared to other measures of effort, power in watts is a more accurate measure of how hard you work. Unlike heart rate, which reacts to changes in effort slowly, wattage gives you an instantaneous measure of effort.
It is important to note that power output is proportional to speed. This means that if youre pedaling at 20kmh, you need to use 75 watts of power to cover 12.5 miles. If you are pedaling at 22.5 kmh, that is equivalent to 14 mph.
Using this method allows you to calculate your power in watts per kilogram. In other words, a 75kg rider can produce 300 watts per kilogram while a 55kg rider can generate 220 watts per kilogram. This means that both riders are producing roughly the same amount of power, but their effort will be different. Likewise, your power numbers will reflect the difference in your fitness levels.
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How Accurate Are Bike Power Meters
They are quite accurate, but the real test is usually how responsive they are to tracking your power as you increase or decrease. Once you are stable, todays power meters tend to track quite well.
Most of the meters above are shown to track to within 1.5% of actual power. Compare that with the big-flywheel Saris H3 smart trainer at 2% or the Tacx Flux 2 at 2.5%. In most respects, a power meter is considered the best way for a non-professional bike rider to track power. unless you happen to own a laboratory.
Spin Bikes And Possible Cautions
Indoor cycling is a kind of cycling that involves riding a stationary bike. These spin bikes feature handlebars and weighted flywheels for riding. Wattage and cadence are both critical components of indoor cycling.
Counting watts may be more critical for indoor cyclists to develop their strength and endurance. Moreover, increasing the cadence will help you improve the acceleration and speed of your spin bike.
Indoor cycling is a high-intensity cardiovascular workout that can surely help you improve your fitness, endurance, and stamina, but it is also essential to carry out these exercises safely.
Consult your physician to ensure that you are healthy and fit enough to use these spin bikes. Moreover, staying hydrated while cycling is critical to avoid fainting or dehydrating. You should also cycle in a sufficiently cool and ventilated room.
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Best Entry Bike Power Meter: Garmin Rally 200
Garmin Vector pedal-based power meter
Here. We hesitate to choose a single power meter model as best, because every type of power meter has its own merits and it can be hard to compare one to the other. We describe how various power meters work below, but if you want the simplest possible design this is it. Garmin makes a pedal-based power meter that measures our watt output based purely on the force exerted on the pedals. Yeah that is pretty incredible. While you might miss just a bit of the accuracy of a full-on power-measuring system, we have found that pedal-based power meters give you everything you need on performance, and some pretty incredible data as well. It is a high-tech product and our experience is that the readouts are going to be accurate.
We did a full Garmin Rally 200 pedal review.
Note that Garmin suggests this power measurement is accurate for riders up to 240 lbs. Above that, we are not exactly sure what happens, but they suggest it might not work as well.
An important factor to consider with the Rally 200 is the cleat type. This pedal is currently made in two pedal styles the RS is the SDP-SL model, and the XC is the SPD model. You can get one-sided or dual-sided . There is not reason to not go with the dual, other than the higher price.
How To Use Watts To Plan An Indoor Cycling Workout
Watts are a way of measuring a rider’s power output while turning the pedals during a stationary bike workout. Most modern bikes have an option on their digital display to show the number of watts you are producing. The workout you choose will depend on your specific goals for your exercise session and will drive the number of watts you generate.
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Predicting Cycling Power Without A Power Meter
AI Endurance learns to predict power from your past activities that have power, heart rate and/or cadence and a1. These include rides outdoors with a power meter or indoor rides on a smart trainer while wearing a heart rate monitor. For outdoor rides, gradient can provide an additional data input to improve the prediction accuracy. From these inputs, we train a machine learning model that predicts power from heart rate, gradient, cadence and a1. Especially heart rate is highly individual, hence every user gets their personalized model . Finally, the power to heart rate relationship may vary significantly over the months and years as fitness varies. Hence, time is another variable we take into account. For example, a year ago, a typical power output for 140 bpm may have been 180 W, while now being in a fitter state, the output may be 200 W.
To infer the power values in an activity without power data, we automatically use the model that has the lowest prediction error for every user. The model options are:
- heart rate + gradient
- heart rate + gradient + cadence
- heart rate + gradient + a1
- heart rate + gradient + cadence + a1
Generally speaking, the more data inputs there are, the more accurate the estimated power values. Let’s discuss a few examples: