Monday, July 20, 2015

Power Meters and the Weaker Sex

We listened to some good advice from two Everglades Bicycle Club friends when we were buying our current road bikes. They said, "Get a power meter." We did.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. Wow, now you can see what a wimp you are in numbers every time you go out for a ride. (There is that.) Power meters measure the force you use to move your bike down the road. Pro cyclists can generate jaw-dropping, huge numbers. Me? Not so huge.

The power meter, none the less, has changed my life. I'm not talking about using it to train to get stronger. I like to ride, but I loathe training. Because I ride a lot, I have decent endurance. What "training" I do for cycling consists of chasing Al. It is great fun, but I sometimes push it too hard for too long. Then kaboom!, and red warning lights flash in front of my eyes as I slide into the red zone. One thing is sure, once that happens, I pedal home slowly, the fun over for the day. Going into the red zone is a bummer.

I'd tried the heart rate monitor thing. It was nice, but it just didn't work for me. It requires a level of discipline I just do not possess. But a heart rate monitor paired with a power meter? We have a winner!

Once I had a power meter on my bike, I started gathering data. Watching the power meter and my heart rate, I figured out the power meter reading where my heart rate spiked. And I figured out the place where I could ride hard but maintain a steady, not insane, heart rate. I figured this out on long rides, fast rides, hot rides, climbs when I was dead tired, climbs when I was feeling rested and frisky, riding into a headwind, and any other situation I could think of. (You get the idea.) Once I knew my numbers, riding efficiently was much easier. I learned to shift gears more to keep the power number under control. It lets me accentuate my endurance, without going into the red zone by pushing too hard. In fact, I haven't gone into the red zone since I started doing this power meter/heart rate monitor approach.

We went to an out-of-state bicycle event where we rode up and down hills all day, day after day. On the back of our bikes was our rider ID which showed we were from Miami. At every rest stop (if Al stepped away) I'd have women asking me how someone from Miami could do hills. I told them how I was using the power meter. I explained how it let me know when to shift gears to keep my cadence high and effort even. A number of them had never heard of a power meter. Others had. One said, "My husband has one of those! Hey, I'm getting one, too!"

The power meter. Who knew it could be such a handy cycling gadget for "the weaker sex"?