Powermeters have become associated with training seriously in cycling and with the market now awash with the excellent value it's important we use these precision instruments as best we can. We have put together a list of five common mistakes we see, and the good news is they are all simple to cure.
Changing your pace constantly in an effort to hit accurate wattage
Everyone remembers that first day they fired up their powermeter, with the anticipation of it transforming us into Fabian Cancellera in an instant. Screen fires, and watts go something like this...
120w - 270w - 100w - 365w - 200w Arrrrrrrgh!!!
You find yourself riding up the road wondering why the power won't sit in one place. Reason being you are not in the power averaging field, you are in real-time instant measurement.
Hopefully, you quickly realised you need to set watts to 3 second or 10 second averaging to recover a modicum of sanity and avoid the bikes visit to the hedge, Bjarn Riis style.
This is also the principal reason I see riders getting frustrated in training efforts, when the accuracy of zonal-training fights the machine, and you slow or speed up chasing the zone.
Use the basic principle that the longer the effort ridden (ie 20-minute), the longer the power averaging you want to use for control (ie 10 second average). And the shorter the effort undertaken (ie 30 second) the shorter the power averaging used (ie 3 second average). The more you can do to remove thinking about your powermeter, the more you will enjoy your ride.
Not noticing your powermeter is under or over reading.
As satisfying as it is seeing your power shoot up by 20% overnight there should be alarm bells starting to go off in your head. Similarly if you are spilling huge amounts of gravy and coming home with low power readings, barely making their way out of Zone 1 you may need to send the powermeter back for calibration. As long as it wasn't damaged on it's visit over the hedge of course!
Outside of these extremes, it is possible for your powermeter to have become inaccurate and require calibration. You risk over or under feeding through inaccurate energy measurement, becoming over or under confident in your level and training outside of measured parameters if you don't pay attention to inaccuracies. Your coach will recognise these inaccuracies early but you can also keep an eye out for the signs.
Look for large disparities of time spent in heart rate and power zones.
Look for large peaks or power dropouts (to zero) which indicate an erratic file.
If you have a slight doubt, try running two powermeters simultaneously for a reference.
Get on Strava and compare to riders who were close to you. Body mass is a factor so you will need a rough estimation of the weight of the rider.
Poor pacing and control in efforts
Something we see in training sessions where efforts are to be carried out with a recovery intervals is the exact zone of the working interval are not hit. In all honesty, this is normally from above as most people who sign up for coaching are passionate about improvement. The assumption is that more is better but that is not always the case in a metered plan. Riding outside the set zone leads to different stresses which might not be appropriate. It also leads to the boom and bust approach to intervals where a rider will overachieve early and fail to hit the numbers in the later intervals.
Trust in the session: what may seem easy to achieve on the first interval of ten, will certainly on the ninth
Use your 'Average lap' alongside your 'Power averaging' to get even intervals
Try using Garmin IQ as a reminder of the exact zone you need to ride in
Only riding hard efforts uphill
This mistake is the one which could cause you the most issues in a racing environment, unless you live and race in the Alps!
It is true that most riders will produce more power for 20 minutes up a climb than if they did it on a pan flat road. The same applies across the spectrum of power.
All races, however aren't uphill and neither are most hard sections of road. Riding only hard intervals on climbs will develop the muscles which are more applicable to climbing. A disparity of performance between climbing and flat riding will soon develop however.
Introduce mixed terrain efforts gradually if you have a disparity. Start sessions by riding flat efforts, that way you will be fresher. Then use elevation on the later session to carry out intervals. A mix across all terrain is what you desire, and will lead to a more rounded fitness level.
Insisting your ride buddies slow down to accommodate your 'endurance' pace
At Elevation Coaching, we love that riders engage in their plans, with dedication and enthusiasm, but we hope we still reinforce that cycling is a sociable sport. Tread carefully if you take your designated 'zone 2' to a group ride and half-wheel the life out of those around you to achieve your goal.
A morale-boosting social ride can be built into any training programme. Call your coach and find a way together to make it a valued training day.
If you would like our help at Elevation Coaching to formulate a progressive training plan to smash your goals get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer bespoke plans ranging from £75.