Power Meters. Watt is the Story Behind Them?

Power meters. I don´t have one. I love riding my bike. Primarily to keep fit. Also for the sheer pleasure it gives me. The pain that shoots through my legs when I am climbing. I relish the shortage of breath as the lactic kicks in. That is why I ride a bike. Its a psychological thing for me. I think personally that it keep me young. Mentally and physically. I know it is different for all of us. So let me recount a couple of recent experiences I had with two very differing views on cycling.

Power Meters. Watt is the story behind them?

On Saturday I rode up a beautiful climb, MonteCastrove with a decent group of riders. About twenty of us, and I was somewhere in the middle ability wise. When we reached the top, I “stumbled” upon a conversation regarding performance on the climb. The best guys were all comparing their Strava times on the climb, examining segments. Like me, not all had the Strava app on their phones. However, I was the only one of the ten not to have a power meter. They were all comparing their watts, and examining where they could make improvements. The “winner” was a pure climber. 55kg of sinew and muscle. His average watts were very low compared to the second. He was 72kg but a beast on a bike. The difference in their wattage output was about 33% in purely mathematical terms. I have to admit I was lost totally, so moved away from the conversation.

Where has the Fun Gone?

I will touch on the value of power meters in another blog, as now I am intrigued by their use. Thus, as somebody who has a science degree, albeit form another era in time, I am always fascinated by numbers. However, my initial thoughts on the conversation were these. Nobody spoke about how much they enjoyed the climb. No one seemed that fussed on the fact that we were 450m above the Ria de Pontevedra, with stunning views. It was only me who  mentioned that there was a golf course at the summit. As an ex top level golfer, perhaps I only had an interest in that. Nobody spoke about anything, apart from watts. So, are power meters and Strava spoiling our sport, or are they fundamental.

An Alternative View from a Pro

Ten days ago, I had the pleasure to spend three hours riding with Luis Mendonça. Luis is one of Portugal’s top professional cyclists. I have known Luis for about six years. Without a doubt the nicest guy you could meet. We rode together, at a brisk pace , as I looked for new climbs near his home in northern Portugal. At the top of one rather agonising summit, I asked him about the climb. I was in pieces, he wasn´t even sweating. My question was how do his numbers compare to when he is racing to riding with me. His answer was simple. ” We averaged 14 km/h, in a race it would be 22km/h on that climb at least”. My reply was simple. “What about your watts and heart rate”. His reply was a surprise. ” I don´t have a power meter, and I don´t monitor my heart rate. I ride by sensastions, always have”.

Brief Conclusions

I need to study all this more before I give an opinion. My initial thoughts as a scientist, in the loosest sense of the word? Numbers always help, how can they not? When I trained for a half ironman in 2015 I was numbers driven. However, this was because I hadn´t swam for 32 years, or ran more than 5km. I had to use some sort of yardstick. However, with cycling surely obsession with numbers takes away the pure enjoyment. Or does it? Those obsessed with Strava and power meters at the top of the mountain seemed as happy as I was. Perhaps they ride for different reasons to me. I need to do more research before reaching my own conclusions, which I will share on this blog. That will include more kms on my bike, and all of them in cycling in  Galicia,  so I will enjoy my studies. I will keep you posted.