People make a lot of excuses when they dont want to pay for something. It's a waste of money. I dont need it. What would I want with one of those? We've heard all of these procrastinations from cyclists and triathletes on the verge of buying a power meter. Another objection that we hear a lot is "it's too complicated". The purpose of this article is to highlight why power is in fact simplifying, not complicating, cycling.
"The amateur wants the gimmick but the expert sees the beauty in simplicity"
There are a lot of gimmicks in cycling. Go-faster wheels, frames, and components, for example. Some of them are worth your money, but some of them aren't. And sometimes you can only take that decision when you know what magnitude of improvements you are looking at. At CPL we use performance modelling to evaluate potential gimmicks in the simplest possible language. We use science to reduce cycling to a set of energy demands (climbing, aerodynamic resistance, etc), a set of scenarios relevant to you, and then the simplicity of the answer - speed effects and time savings.
At CPL our guiding principles and objectives correlate well with the idea of "performance questions", a term we first heard from the E.I.S.
- What data do we have or can we get?
- What questions do we have?
- What really matters? And the answer is almost always "speed!"
There is one phrase of which we all should be aware when discussing the merits of equipment, strategies, or riding scenarios and that phrase is "it depends". Too often "it depends" means "I dont know", even when it's coming from a supposed expert. One of the reasons we created CPL was a chronic tiredness with "it depends" and a need to properly answer performance questions.
Seek clarity, not fuzziness
A lot has been written about the finer aspects of the coaching process, in cycling, in triathlon, and wider. But for sports which are supposedly so advanced some really important parts of the process are still in the dark ages. Only power gives riders a concrete evaluation of current ability and concrete assessments of progress. But accurate goal setting requires power based predictive performance modelling of the type that we've developed. Fuzzy goals lead to fuzzy preparation and fuzzy performances. Fuzziness is hard to understand, whereas things that are clearly defined promote simplicity.
Mind your ifs and buts
On the quest to become, or train, a better bike rider there are a lot of if's and but's. "If we drop 5 kilos, what's the benefit?". "If we find 20 watts, what's the effect?" Too many if's and buts make life complicated. At CPL we prefer simple answers which is why we apply performance modelling for scenario analysis. We coin the term "Mass Delta" to provide a simple metric of how much faster a given rider will go, on a given course, with a reduction in weight. "Power Delta" is the equivalent, when the "if" is increased power. These sorts of capabilities, rooted in power, undoubtedly simplify cycling.
The new language of cycling
Power has not just changed the language of cycling, it has created it. Coaches and riders can now communicate with an accuracy and expressiveness that was never before possible. We now have names for training patterns, like "2x20" and "FTP", that convey the same details to us as "suspension" or "cantilever" might convey between engineers. Sensations of form or lack of form can be communicated in terms of ability to hold a certain power for a certain duration. And injuries can be described in terms of the power output or torque that causes the problem. Many of us have have come to take this language for granted, but how often do we stop to reflect on just how much power has in fact simplified our lives?
Put a number on it
The things that win races - times and speeds - are measured in numbers, as are finishing positions. If these criticial aspects of success can be defined with numbers then why not the things that make them possible? Form, fitness, weight, endurance, explosiveness, etc. Plan your race or your season, dont't speculate. Power and all of the numbers that follow are there to simplify life, not complicate it.