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More P-O-W-E-R! How Much Do You Need for Speed

How much power do you need to average 16-mph? How about 20-mph? What about going big time… 23-mph? How about for a 30-mph+ mile with a bit of a tailwind? Oooh, I’ve got one for you. How’s about a 35-mph sprint finish?

I’ve got the answers, but you’re going to have to adjust for weight… I’m 6′ tall and 172 pounds. I’m not a climber… too fat. 146 watts average. 182 watts average. 254 watts average. 459 watts average. 900-ish peak watts.

So the question becomes how long can you hold that average wattage? The 900 watts, for one of us weekend warriors hurts but not as bad as the 459 watt mile… I puked in my mouth after that. Twice. The rest were all in a pack over 29-ish miles and took 1h:13m to 1h:50m. All verified as “close enough for government work” through friends who do use power meters, and by Strava which manages to guesstimate power pretty accurately.

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A few of the serious cyclists I know train with a power meter, but only a few. Power meters add quite a bit of cost to an already expensive sport and the question I like to ask about the practice, is how necessary is it or would the benefit be worth the money?

I have never felt the need to run out and pick up a power meter for my bike. I’ve been tempted, usually after a tough ride, but I’ve never gone as far as pricing them out or looking at reviews to determine the best. I also don’t race. All of the riding I do is experience related – I ride for the fun of riding, with a bunch of friends.

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I’ve managed to train blind to a point I can contribute in a 23-mph average ride on open roads, the only piece of equipment needed, other than the bike and a couple bottles of water, is a simple cycling computer that shows current speed. The most important thing I needed to bring to the dance was a lot of want to. Speed is all about will. You either have the will to get used to riding fast or you don’t – and most don’t because you have to put up with a lot of self-inflicted pain. Given enough time and mileage, though, the body comes around so the speed isn’t quite so painful.

While that sounds good, there’s a problematic hook to it – eventually I ran out of want to. I can manage 23 just fine – and spend a little more than my fair amount of time up front. I can’t hang with the 25-mph group for more than 20 miles. I simply run out of gas – and the “want to” required to train hard enough to keep up for that extra 2-mph just isn’t there.

Then the question comes down to whether or not a power meter would help. The obvious answer is sure, but do I need to go that far? I don’t think so. I’m fast enough to put a smile on my face, and that’s good enough for government work. In the end, that’s really what is important.

When I stash the Venge in the bike room after another great ride, knowing how hard I pushed on the pedals doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience and the memories I’ll take from cycling.

A power meter won’t improve those… and it appears Strava can do the rest, anyway.

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