In the blog of 22nd October, we touched on the use of power meters. I stated that I do not use one, and that I would investigate them. A couple of days later, nobody less than Michel Prud’homme was lamenting their use. He called for the UCI to ban them at the tour. Fighting talk. So, after some research, I am going to say what I think. And also,Strava. So, let´s discuss these two big subjects, and ask. Strava and watts, are they spoiling the fun.
When I discuss this with friends, it becomes a bit like Brexit, or religion. Everybody has a very firm view. You love Watts and Strava or you don’t. Polarised is too strong a word, but it isn´t far off. So, who is in favour of these two additions to modern cycling? It seems to me to be those who compete at the highest levels. Not exclusively, but in my small census, there is a leaning towards top end cyclists. For training purposes, there is a huge advantage using Watt meters. I have seen this first hand. The ability to control your effort, in short intensive training is clear. Also, what you thought was your absolute threshold, is indeed a lot higher. The watts don’t lie, so you keep pushing to new levels.
Can it become like a Drug?
This is what worries me about the use of these meters. We have all seen Chris Froome staring for hours at his display. Riding like a computerised human. Agreed, it hasn’t done him too badly, but there is only one Chris Froome. Yes, we can learn from him, but we ride our bikes for the enjoyment. And this is the paradox of power meters. Once you start using them, you become addicted to Strava and watts. Speed, distance travelled, the scenery. It all becomes irrelevant. Those three numbers before the W are all that matters. And that isn’t why we ride a bike. Certainly, for me it isn’t. So, yes, they can improve your training. Yes, they can improve you as a rider. And, undoubtedly they are a great weapon in your armoury as a cyclist. Will you enjoy riding more with one? I didn’t.
Strava is a bit more difficult to argue against. However, I am going to try. And why? Simply because I enjoy riding a bike. I am not competing against anybody, just myself. When I ride in a group, of course I like to test myself. Equally I like to speak to my fellow riders, take in the scenery, and much more. I have found over the last few years that this is more difficult. And the reason is Strava. Go out now in a big group, and it is “eyeballs out” all day. Particularly if there is a strong wind in favour on a particular “”. Everybody wants to get up the league. It has become an obsession. I realise that many ride bikes for the competitive side. Comparing times with friends. Pushing to the limit. It is escapism, and that is why we love the sport so much. Strava helps those who like to ride, and like to boast a little.
Many will argue that there aren’t any at all. I am simply going to say that I do not have Strava. I have Garmin, and when I get home, I download my ride. It is good to see how many kms, how many metres climbed, cadence etc. That helps me know where I am physically. However, I do not have any interest in who is the KOM on my local mountain, nor their time. Cycling for me is a hobby, and for 99.9% of cyclists it should be that. Only the top 0.01% are pros. If cycling paid my wages, I would use every available tool to improve. I ride a bike because I love it. Cycling has turned into a business for me. We try to make our cycling holidays in Spain as interesting as possible. I love riding, and even more with people that I have never met before. However, if my obsession is just the numbers, then I won’t love it.
So Strava and watts, are they spoiling the fun? The answer to that is yes if you just ride for the enjoyment of it. The answer is no if you really want to improve and compete. For somebody in the middle like me? Those who can ride a bit, but don’t want to sacrifice enjoyment. For now, I will stick to the old ways. Perhaps I just need a bit more research. This means more rides, which is always good news.