8 Mistakes Cyclists Make When Using Power Meters

Jan Poshenko
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1. Power Meters Don’t Make You A Better Rider

A power meter does not make a bad rider into a good rider- it does not correct bad techniques. If you are practicing poor pedaling technique, the power meter is going to prove that you are practicing poor pedaling technique. It will not hide your shortcomings or habits. It will simply show you how much power you are wasting as you float, drag, and spin. Power meters will give you an accurate measurement of how much effort you are putting into the pedal stroke. Pedals are not the only limiting factor in your performance, however, they are the easiest to see the differences and understand how you are wasting energy.

We all know this, we are all aware that we perform our best on the bike. But sometimes we can get stuck in a cycle of bad habits that we know need to be improved, yet we continue to do them. This can cause poor results for the racing, or just cause a general lack of enjoyment from the sport.

A power meter is going to reveal the bad habits that you have adopted and developed throughout your riding career and will help you work on improving them.

2. Getting Overwhelmed with Data

A lot of riders will load up the power meter and almost instantly get overwhelmed with the amount of data that the power meter provides.

Rather than starting in such a manner, it would be recommended to slowly start to implement the power meter, whereas you attempt to determine whether power is making a difference in your training and performance.

By slowly implementing your power meter, after a few weeks to a few months, you will have a better appreciation for being able to use this tool, and you will be more likely to stick with it, which is the key to success with this item.

Using a power meter is a plus for your training and it will enhance your cycling training, it’s how you approach it that might get in the way of getting the most out of it and not being as successful as you’d hoped. And remember this device is there to motivate you to work harder.

3. Getting Obsessed with Power Numbers

We’d like to think that most cyclists have a realistic, healthy relationship with power meters. But for some reason, I think there’s a small percentage of cyclists out there that treat power as something mystical and magical.

Yeah, power data can be fun to look at. You can look at it and come up with cool performance data across different periods, and you can get a good understanding of how your body responds to different types of workouts.

But at the end of the day, you’re not an engine. You don’t need to know how much torque you can apply in a sprint. You don’t need to know how much power you can apply to gear at a certain cadence. You don’t need to know how much power you can apply to a certain speed at certain weight. All you need to know is how hard to push on the pedals. Focus on this. You can learn the rest later.

4. Not Knowing Your FTP

One of the biggest mistakes that cyclists make when using a power meter to gauge their training and competition performance is not knowing their Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is the highest level of power that a cyclist can generate in an all-out effort over a full 60-minute time trial. Since FTP is a determining factor of your other power levels and your ability to achieve power outputs above FTP, cyclists must know their FTP before they can use a power meter to its full potential.

Most cyclists are unable to use a power meter because they did not take the time to find out what their FTP level was before they committed to purchasing a power meter.

Therefore, the most important step for a cyclist to take if they want to obtain the best performance from a power meter is to visit a health and fitness expert who can administer tests to determine FTP.

This step is essential for a cyclist to know where they stand in relation to other cyclists in their category and age group.

Cyclists can also find their FTP through internal testing and training because they can learn how to pace themselves among other cyclists and steadily increase their power levels.

Climbing hills outside or pedaling to exhaustion on a stationary bike provides good indications of a cyclist’s FTP.

Road cyclists should begin by pacing themselves with riders who are of similar ability in competition.

5. Not Sticking to Training Plans

A power meter combined with a smart training plan can help you achieve so much as a cyclist- keep in mind that a power meter tells you how hard you are working and the training plan tells you what you should be doing hard.

By ignoring the power meter, you miss out on the insights, and the plan can’t help you.

You’re More Likely to Leave Your Power Meter at Home than Extra Clothes

A lot of cyclists will happily cycle in cold, wet, and unpleasant conditions if it means they have an excuse to leave their power meter behind. By avoiding recording data, they avoid knowing what their weaknesses are.

If you faithfully recorded data when conditions are worst, then you would be able to pick the optimal time to record when conditions are at their best.

Recording Power Data Doesn’t Count as Recording Data

Many cyclists consistently get themselves out of the saddle to get that heart rate down so they can record a low number. If you’re going to do this, then at least record power data as well. Otherwise, you’re missing out on one of the main advantages of a power meter.

6. Not Tracking Your Progress

A power meter doesn’t track your information, record your sessions, or track your results, so you’ll need to do that part yourself but that’s no reason not to use a power meter. As long as you keep a detailed spreadsheet or log of your workout information – including power meter readings along with your normal biking details – you'll be able to track your fitness levels and maintain your goals.

7. Not Getting Enough Rest

Cyclists have a reputation for being stoic. Say the words “my legs are dead” and you’ll probably receive a wry smile and nod. The reality is many cyclists don’t understand how to train with a power meter. They go on hard training rides on tired legs, or just don’t recover enough between hard workouts. A power meter can help fix this. You can check your power immediately after a hard workout to figure out if you’ve recovered enough, or in the morning before a ride to see if your legs are still in shape.

8. Comparing Power Numbers

One of the biggest mistakes that cyclists make is that they compare their power numbers with people who have been riding for far longer than they have. Often, the person who is new to using their power meter will have more motivation and be very serious about getting fit. Because of that, they will produce power numbers that are at the top of their ability compared to the numbers that have been produced by someone who rides their bike casually.

Comparing your power numbers with someone who has been riding for years one who rides casually is a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on yourself and what your goals are. If your goal is not to be the fastest but rather for improving endurance, there is no point in comparing your power numbers with someone fast.

The Bottom Line

Power meters are measuring tools that allow cyclists to measure and analyze their performance in real-time. Don't overlook the fact that there’s a lot to learn, and it’s easy to make mistakes, even when using it for the first time.