I am to disciplined training what politicians are to humor. My intersections with it at this stage of my life are almost entirely accidental. I ride as much as I’m able, but unless I’m on a Wahoo Kickr doing a Zwift workout, I don’t do timed intervals. That’s just not why I ride.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, I think we can all acknowledge that makes me either the best possible or worst possible advocate for using a power meter. I’m certainly not the ideal power user (pun definitely intended). You will, no doubt, get more out of the device if you’re doing periodic FTP (functional threshold power) tests and disciplined intervals. You also risk becoming a humorless obsessive (he says from vast personal experience).
Most riders I know are neither humorless nor obsessive, unless you count their love of riding as obsessive, and I think we can give that part a bye. And that’s why I might be the very best advocate for using a power meter there is. Even though I don’t do FTP tests or structured workouts, I still go plenty hard at certain times, but I’ll let the terrain dictate the length of that interval, or I’ll let me strength dictate it, because when I blow, I blow.
What I can say is that having a power meter is a fantastic education into what “hard” is. There have been so many times I thought I was going hard while working with a group only to realize that the only real training I was getting was when my nose was in the wind, and while that may seem beyond obvious, in the moment it can feel like you’re going plenty hard inside the group.
I’ve been using a Stages power meter for a while now and have become rather devoted to it. Indeed, I prefer riding a bike with one than without one. The model I’ve been using is the Stages Carbon SRAM Road GXP. At this point Stages offers a variety for every crankset I can think of. There must be a hole in there somewhere (oh! square taper, ha ha ha), but for people riding up-to-date bikes you can likely find whatever you need.
The Stages Carbon SRAM crank weighed in at a bantam 147 grams. The actual power meter only comprises 20g of the total weight. That’s an utterly irrelevant penalty. It comes in four lengths: 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm. In the early days of carbon fiber cranks some were pretty twisty; you can feel flex at the pedals. Those days are long gone.
Only recently have bike computers enjoyed enough connectivity that you could purchase a Bluetooth-enabled power meter and simply pair it with your computer. With a device like the Wahoo Elemnt it’s easier than remembering the password for your Wifi router (no names mentioned). The import of this is that you can have power without dropping more than $1k on a system.
The unit I have retails for $629.99. They offer a variety of spindles, depending on your needs, for $70. Other units go for as little as $579.99 and there are some closeouts and cosmetic blems available for as little as $349.99.
Setup for Bluetooth use was as easy as with a heart rate monitor chest strap. Battery replacement is just as easy.
Stages has competitors that will decry their +/- 2 percent accuracy. If you’re a pro and need to target your FTP down to the last watt, sure, that could be a problem. After all, +/- 2 percent at 500 watts is a 20-watt range. My point is that having a wattage meter will fundamentally change your understanding of what hard is. The simple fact is if you spend more of your ride going hard, you’ll wind up more fit, and we can slice fitness in a bunch of ways: stronger, more efficient, lighter or greater endurance all among them. I’m not seeing any downsides.
Final thought: The difference between a compass and looking at your shadow.