Power, not just a pro thing

Posted by Verve Cycling on December 18, 2013 in
InfoCrank data analysis, Training tools

Measuring power can help anybody get better on the bike. Paul Winchcombe’s story shows how he was converted by InfoCrank.

Of course, anybody who rides a road bike knows about power meters. They are really expensive and used by pros and sponsored riders. Nothing there for the typical amateur who just wants to get better on the bike, right?

Right…and wrong!

Right, they are costly now, and yes it’s ideal if your sponsor’s picking up the tab.

But if you think it will be that way forever…wrong! Every rider with even a modest intention to be better can profit by training with power. And sooner than perhaps you think, you will be to afford it too.

InfoCrank rider Paul Winchcombe is a case in point.

Already in his middle years when he took up cycling seriously in 2008, he was in the midst of a proper, grown-up career as a senior procurement officer in the Royal Logistic Corps of the British Army.

He was posted to Afghanistan and it was there he got back into cycling: “It was my operational tour payment that allowed me to purchase a Specialized Roubaix S-Works. After that, it was all downhill!” he says.

Come 2010, he was bitten with the time-trial bug and soon found himself chasing the numbers. At first, like most who start to ride competitively, he used a heart-rate monitor to assess his progress. But he found it didn’t work well for him. The results just varied too much to be reliable. ChippPwinch508

“I had completed a VO2 max test to find my Functional Threshold Power. As an engineer, I understood the mechanics. But I was lacking the means,” he says.

Paul’s inability to gauge exactly where his threshold lay resulted typically in his riding too hard at the beginning of an event:

“An expert can ride by ‘perceived effort’ – but I was not an expert,” he recalls. “By the time I know I’m going to blow a gasket, I’ve done it!”

Now back in the UK and riding with the Chippenham District Wheelers club, Paul was put in touch with Verve Cycling by clubmate and British Cycling luminary, Andy Cook.

Paul fitted an early Verve InfoCrank to his S-Works bike and soon started to find out the facts about power – specifically, his own.

The terrain in the English county of Wiltshire is what they call ‘lumpy’ – there are no Alpine mountains, but TT courses are sporting, featuring lots of hills, some quite steep, but seldom long.

Paul is not your racing greyhound like Tour de France winner Chris Froome: his physique is typical of a strong active man in middle years, weighing in at 92 kg (just over 200 pounds).

On such courses, it’s tempting to try to muscle your way up the climbs. Equipped with the InfoCrank, Paul was able to find the right level of exertion: if he exceeded 350 W, he found, he was likely to blow up, and that would be the end of his race.

Back in civilian life in the UK, Paul had more opportunity to ride. Using the InfoCrank with a Garmin 705, he consistently recorded his numbers, analyzing them using Golden Cheetah open-source apps for analysis. (This software lets you analyze your numbers from any device.)

By the end of the 2013 season, he found he had improved his times on 20/30-mile hilly TTs by an average of 2 minutes over previous years, typically aiming to put out a steady 290 W over first 20 minutes.

This held in check his tendency to go fast from the off and fade – “That’s OK for a 10, but not for 25–50–100 mile tests, where you need discipline,” he comments.

On his first 100 mile TT using InfoCrank, Paul did 4:06:59, achieved by aiming to stay at 85% of maximum output, that is 280 W.

The technical numbers show the effect of a disciplined approach: from the start of the season (February) to its end (September), Paul was able to improve his VO2 max/power output by 25%.

PaulWinchcombe-1612As an engineer, used to using instruments, Paul found it pleasing that the InfoCrank numbers he was getting out on the road matched exactly those he was getting from his British Cycling-developed ‘Wattbike’ static trainer – a factory-calibrated indoor bike that experience shows to deliver accurate, consistent performance data.

And when the weather’s bad, and indoors on the Wattbike is the only training option, Paul confesses to enjoying Sufferfest’s Long Scream video, which provoked him to push up from 12 to 13.5 miles for the half-hour session.

In no way does Paul Winchcombe regard himself as the finished article. He describes himself as a 75 rpm ‘masher’ and is trying to improve his performance with ‘cadence drills’.

“My aim is to hit the target cadence in my normal gear, 53 x 11, for a 25, and get all the 5-mile splits within 15 seconds.”

That’s the sort of training you can only do with a reliable and accurate power meter like InfoCrank. But even if your aims are less structured, with even casual use of InfoCrank you are likely to be able to get better, just as Paul did.

In fact you probably share his training aims: to lose weight, improve cadence, and get more power!

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