How do you know if you’re getting faster on the bike? You might have a strava segment that you test against from time to time. You might get faster and faster on it but then you have a slow time. Are you tired or worn out? Is there a wind in your face today? Is your tire pressure lower/higher and causing more draft? Is your weight lower, or higher? Do you have two water bottles instead of one now? Or, maybe you dropped your stem, changed your riding position?
The point is that if you measure speed or time on a segment this could be wildly inaccurate when determining whether or not you’re progressing as a cyclist because of the vast amount of variables that could come into play. The single best way to determine physical performance on the bike is Power.
Power is the amount of work going into the bike by you applying force to the pedals. In cycling, power output is measured by watts. Watts are then divided by weight in kg to arrive a number which can be used as a comparison tool for yourself.
I train with Stages Power which is crank based solution out of a company that has roots in Portland, Oregon. People can debate all day about which power solution is better but the primary thing anybody should be worried about is precision – that is 350W today is 350W tomorrow and the day after, forever Amen. If the precision of Stages is good enough for Team Sky then it is for me too. My primary reason for going with Stages after having a powertap hub for 2 years was the cost.
I had several goals for 2017 but a guy named Phil Gaimon recently posted a flowchart which shows that posting any sort of power data online basically makes you look like a douchebag because nobody really cares and there is always someone that can do more power. However, my motivation here is not really to boast because I know my numbers suck compared to the vast majority of competitive cyclists.
My reason is really to try and help people understand how power is useful for training (based on my experiences) and what power output you can expect to see at the amateur levels. Hopefully, I’m helping.