Robot’s Useless Reviews – Your Power Meter

What I’m about to tell you is based on a careful examination of statistics pertaining to the full range of human power output per kilogram. The news is both good and not as good, but if there’s one thing I (sometimes imagine I can) do here at the Useless Review desk, it’s deliver you the truth.

Here it is. Oh gosh, I hate to be the one to tell you. Let’s beat around the bush together for a minute. I mean, we’re friends, and it’s my responsibility to be straight with you, but at the same time I’m not a monster (questionable). I have a heart (not really). And I’m devoted to giving you the straight dope in as diplomatic and sensitive a way as possible (not at all).

Let’s start with the idea that you need to measure your performance on the bicycle. I get it. You pedal and pedal and can’t figure out why you’re not fast(er). A little bit of data (or way too much) might help you pinpoint the ways your various approaches to training are contributing to more or less power coming out of your legs, entering your bicycle, and turning into speed via your wheels. This all seems like a straightforward enterprise so far.

Like all the other people devoted to the proposition that data can set you free, you did the research to determine which power meter will give you the most accurate data (at the lowest possible price). You data types are diligent. Organized. A little annoying (if I’m honest).

Here’s the good news. Virtually all the meters on the market are sufficiently accurate to deliver the information I’m going to give you eventually. Of course, some meters are better than others, and most of the time, as with all technology, the more you spend, the better and more accurate your information will be.

But here’s the thing.

You don’t need your power meter to tell you when you feel like wheezing garbage at the end of a ride. The sound of your breath, something like an accordion being beaten with a cricket bat, and the feeling in your guts, akin to the palpable, dark blossoming of organic rot, will be the key indicators, your wattage notwithstanding. Putting a number on what you’re doing is the cycling equivalent of the infamous-for-a-minute web phenomenon (Spoiler Alert: Nope).

Your power meter is like an abusive significant other, only there to put you down, to make you feel less than. You want to feel fast? Ride with slower people. Stop quantifying just how slow you are, how not powerful.

You’re slow. You’re weak. There. I said it.

And don’t think I enjoyed saying it (I totally did). But the deep truth of this whole thing is that your power meter is a very fine piece of finely (enough) calibrated technology that can help you understand in minute detail what’s happening when you try to pedal your bike. What I’m saying, again, as a friend, is that this is information you don’t need.

It’s like the calorie counts on the menu at Burger King. They’re accurate enough for you to know that you don’t really want to know.

Ya know?

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    If you are eating at Burger King, you already know that you are trading Burger Lust for a higher Personal Lard Factor.

    As far as a power meter, I have a simpler, albeit indirect solution. I start my bike computer on leaving the house and do the identical loop periodically and see how fast I am. If the time sucks, I know I suck and that my training plan is half-fast. I don’t need to pitch a thousand pictures of George Washington at an accessory company to get a theoretically more accurate result. Its like my old advisor once said, just because you can measure something doesn’t mean its the right thing to measure.

  2. TominAlbany says

    Under the category of, “Hurtful Truths.”

    Every now and then, though, you need to crack that book. Reality bites but the pain fades…

  3. DaveinME says

    I’ve found power to be useless in helping me train. I’ve ridden on bikes with it and it splurts all kinds of data at you, and I’m sure you could make useful adjustments from it, but unless you are on the Pro Tour, there is no need for it. You can make those same adjustments without power data. Listen to your body, rest hard, go hard, and pile on the miles. That will make you fast, not looking at a bunch of data about your ride/race.

    Oh, and a million times this: “just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to measure.”

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