POWER – Over the centuries men have craved it and chicks have dug dudes who have it… Its provides the core of dysfunction in modern corporate organisations and people will go to great lengths to obtain it. Yes, power is corrupting it seems, sure, thats a sweeping statement – but if you google around enough you’ll see it can cause its fair share of problems (coups, wars, purges etc etc). After all, it was power that turned this delightful wee chap:
Into this all dominating force of evil:
And, of course, POWER has made its way into cycling, in a big way. No, I’m not talking about the voting for the presidency of the UCI, which no one really cares about or understands, I am referring to the growing tsunami and proliferation of Power Meters. Yes, it used to be the PRO only piece of equipment, with amateurs staying away due to price, weird German set up faffing and no one being able to understand the data coming out of them. But times have been changing…
So… If Power Meters have been around for a while, why bother talking about them now? Well, by my estimation, 2013 saw not only the feverish rise of ENDURO and the insidious 27.5 inch wheel in Mountain Biking, but it also happened to be the year that Power Meters have gone almost main stream on the road scene. And its all thanks to these fuckers here:
Yip – the Vectors. This has solved a lot of the problems we all mulled over as amateur cyclists… Cranks were too cunty, unreliable and a problem if you had multiple bikes, the Power Tap wheel is ugly and no good if you want to use your fancy fuck my face expensive Carbon race wheels, so having POWER pedals has hit a sweet spot. And fuck me with a squirrel if these things haven’t been flying out the doors… I even know of people getting them for Christmas!
Yes, Power is going main stream and as such, I am interested in the social impact of these things spreading faster than an STD in a Uni hall of residence. The social impact? Yes… Power changes the way people ride, but also, it changes their whole mentality and, if he individual is not careful, the power may become all corrupting. As you have probably seen me reference before – There are usually two types of POWER cyclist:
- The power ranger – The Ranger is still excited about riding, but they are also excited about their power numbers and they will actively try and recruit you into the power scene on most rides you do with them. Luckily, they can still cross back and forth between the two worlds of power and non-power and only occasionally does it feel awkward hanging out with them if they get too excited about wattage and blurt out something like “Fuck, I was doing 800 watts on that last effort, full on man! How about you bro?!”. You then look at each other and there is a silence as it dawns on the ranger that you don’t have such equipment on your bike… Everyone shuffles their cycling shoes, stirs their coffee and hopes that someone talks about doping, which is less awkward. Rangers need to be vigilant however, as its easy for them to fall into being;
- The power cunt – The PC doesn’t need to go riding with you, or anyone else, as he has his power meter, his cookie cutter plan from an overpriced internet coach (I.e. some dude in his undies living in his moms basement playing dungeons & dragons on-line) and a very clear work out to be executed to the exact watt that day. Anyone without a power meter is a loser to the PC and they will avoid like the plague anyone taking their focus away from their exact wattage during the ‘session’. Important to note, rides are now ‘sessions’ and they may even do away with their Garmin as GPS data is for gimps compared with power data. You may say to them “Wow, that was a great ride, I loved that 2nd climb and the view as we crested was sweet bro”, to which they may reply “I was satisfied that I sustained 450 watts during the second elevation in the session, I can’t wait to match that output to the previous session on my Power Peaks software package”. Righto… Its also likely they will announce at the start of the ride what power they will be riding to, e.g. “I’m riding to 200 watts max in today session”, meaning you have to adhere, or fuck right off.
Not for a second do I question the training benefit of the Power set up… HR is ok, but power has absolute benefits if you want to train for a race. If I was training properly, I suspect I would be fevering for a set of vectors as well. BUT – Like Strava, its a social experiment to see how these things will ultimately change the way we all ride and interact with each other on the bike and in our riding groups.
But, ‘don’t be a cock about it until you’ve tried it’ (that doesn’t apply to everything of course) some say, so DN has decided to run a trial on the Power front. My sense of intrigue was fuelled further when Das Wolf offered for me to stop by his Wonder Wheel Emporium and test out his PowerTap wheel to see if I liked the taste of POWER. Quicker than you can say “what wattage are we riding to today?”, the wheel was installed on the EVO:
And who better to unleash my power experiment on at 5.30am in the the morning than these usual suspects, The Goat (extremely Pro-Power), the Alley Cat (ambivalent to Technology to the point of being Amish) and the SPY (Appreciates power, but is a man that pedals to his own tune). The boys more than happy to pose in the ‘hump your top tube’ style that I requested:
Off we went! Straight away I was glued to my Garmin screen looking at my power numbers… New numbers! I had never seen this data before!!! After a few minutes and nearly rear ending Roberto several times, I became slightly perplexed. When I had set out, I expected to see a smooth and stable power number before me, reflecting my sweet velvet pedalling style and PRO like application of muscle strength to pedal. However, I was presented with a Wattage number that went up and down with more violence than an Asian stock exchange.
What the fuck was this? It should be a constant number! The Goat advised me it was because I rode like a dick head and not to worry, after 12,000km’s on power it would smooth out (that’s my translation of his feedback). I then switched to 10 second average power and whilst this helped, I was stunned to the point of annoyance as to how inconsistent my power output was. More annoying was people were trying to have a conversation with me whilst I was obsessing about my numbers… Fuck, how RUDE, couldn’t they see I was trying to focus on important data?!
The next shock? How shit my wattage numbers were… If the Gorilla is winning sprints in Tour Down Under at 1800 watts, I would be smashing out some golden numbers:
Alas, it was not to be the case. I frowned away as I tried to hold what seemed like pathetic numbers, only to find it was harder than expected. Throw in the inconsistency of data and people trying to talk to me, and eventually I gave up and did a Luke, turning off my computer, to go back to riding by feel. Later on in the ride when on the front, I did go back to the Power numbers again to see if I could ride to a specific number, but annoyance soon followed and I reverted to my old school ways, further perplexed as I am not a technophobe… So, I did what I usually do, take photos:
Ok, so I will confess that doing a 140km ride the day after a 100km ride in 33 deg heat was not the best experiment parameters, but I was surprised that I got as annoyed as I did with the numbers and vibe of the whole thing. My main conclusion was therefore that I would love a Power Meter for individual training sessions where there was a focused goal or plan to follow over a period of weeks or months. Would I group ride with one with mates or take one overseas on a DN trip to a cool location? No… Strava is more than enough for that action.
I will try a few more individual sessions on Power after the next leg of the DNST, to see if I can actually hold a power number worthy of discussion (I have a newfound respect for your 400 watt sessions AT), but at the moment the coolest thing I got out of the day was this new graph in Strava… Choice:
Power meters are coming on like a drunken CEO… 2014 will see them achieve ubiquity along with the Bastard that is the 27.5 inch wheel. They’re getting cheaper, more reliable and if they aren’t already in your peloton, they will be in force by the time the Festy 500 rolls around at the end of the year. Like electronic gruppos and disc brakes, you can’t stop them or hide from their march towards uniformity. BUT, what you can do is look out for your home boys and girls and make sure that they don’t surrender to the inner PC that may be lurking around the corner, ably egged on by the machine staring up at them from their handlebar: