It’s funny how our cycling computing needs change as we become more serious about the sport. First we’re happy just riding a bike. Then we get our first computer, and it’s mildly thrilling to see how fast and how far we’ve gone. Eventually we start delving a little deeper, focusing on average and max speeds. Then we get a heart-rate monitor, and suddenly everything revolves around zones. Zones eventually pave the way for counting watts, which we do with any number of power meters.
It’s something of a slippery slope, really. As you’re introduced to one metric, it suddenly begets another. And another. And another, to the point where you’re obsessively assessing your training rides and races based on any number of factors. The best way to avoid caring about wattage is to simply not care about speed. Just stick to perceived exertion and you’ll save yourself tons of time and mounds of money. But I’m already half way down the slope, hurtling towards what has become a must-have tool for many of my teammates and companions on the road — a CycleOps PowerTap.
Tons of guys in the Mid-Atlantic racing scene have these. It’s hard not to get into a conversation after a race in which wattage isn’t mentioned. (If someone is throwing out watts, don’t respond with your heart-rate. It sounds dorky.) Anyone who has one and also has a blog is bound to post their training and racing files for all of us to see and judge. But given the cost of a good wireless PowerTap, those alone are hardly good reasons to get one.
I’ve trained over the last two seasons according to feel and heart-rate, and things have gone relatively well. But the more that I train and race (and the older I get), the more I realize the value in fine-tuning my regimen to best exploit my strengths and target my weaknesses. Just having a PowerTap alone won’t do this, but having a PowerTap and really understanding how to use it will. I’ve seen teammates delve into the science of power like medical students dive into their studies, and the results have been obvious. I’m not fooled into thinking that a PowerTap alone will make me a faster rider, but it will at least make the path to becoming a faster rider that much more clear.
I’m not yet sure when I’m going to invest in one of these. They’re expensive and I don’t know that getting one in the middle of the season will do much for me in coming races. But I’ll eventually be rolling with one. Speaking of, anyone have one they’d like to part ways with? Cheaply, or better yet, free? Hit me up.