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Training for Consistent Power Output

Last updated 2014-04-13 - Send Feedback
Related: bicycle power meter, training

The most egregious error I see cyclists make is erratic power output. I see this almost every day on my rides. Meaning I can measure it by watching my own constant power output against how I gain (or not) on a cyclist ahead of me.

A cyclist with a sustainable power of ~250 watts will typically ride like this for gently rolling terrain:

  1. Over-effort up short inclines by ~100 to ~150 watts (e.g., 350 or 400 vs sustainable level of ~250 watts). Often dropping way back (too hard an effort!) just before the crest (where one should instead accelerate).
  2. Under-effort on the corresponding decline by 100 or even 150 watts (dropping as low as 150 or 100 watts, e.g., 1/2 or 1/3 the power just used going up).

The riding style is self defeating:

  • Premature fatigue by demanding high anaerobic power output repeatedly.
  • The low power output on flat/downhill is well below even easy aerobic potential. It adds seconds with each such under-effort.

The effect on terrain with undulating “rollers” is dramatic: I close the gap on these types of riders with no extra effort at all; they simply give up 5-10 seconds with each cycle, and I close the gap while exerting no more and no less power—just what I can comfortably sustain. And it’s not just in training; this is how I pick off rider after rider in races or events.

The most striking thing of all is that cyclists riding this way have absolutely no idea they are so erratic in their power output.

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