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Watts Next?

Graphic courtesy of outsideonline.com

When you buy a complete road bicycle, including pedals, it is ready to ride. Sort of. To ride safely, you need front and rear lights and a bell. To ride for more than thirty minutes, you need bottle cages and some bottles. If you don’t want to fill your jersey pockets, you need a saddle bag to carry a spare inner tube, a multi-tool, etc. And if you want to keep track of how far and how fast you rode, you need a cycling computer.

Thus equipped, you are ready to tackle most rides. You will be tempted to upgrade various components, but you don’t need to add anything else to your bike. But when did “need” get in the way of “want?”

You may want a power meter. A valid reason to add a power meter to your bike is you are a competitive cyclist who wants to train using power. Most of us want to add power meters because they are cool pieces of technology. And we like cool technology.

Power meters came into being in 1989 when Ulrich Schoberer started selling crank spider-based power meters. At the time Schoberer Rad Messtechnik (SRM) was the only power meter game in town. And the prices were eye-wateringly high.

Since then the power meter market has grown to include hub-based, crank arm-based, bottom-bracket based and pedal-based power meters.

Graphic courtesy of dcrainmaker.com

Examples of the various types of power meter are pictured below.

Prices have come down. SRM is still the price leader at about USD2,350 for the SRM Origin. Alternatively, a Quark DZero spider-based power meter costs USD399. At this price, you need to supply the chainrings and crank arms.

One downside of hub, spider, crank arm and bottom bracket-based power meters is that they cannot easily be switched between bicycles.

Pedal-based power meters are increasingly popular because they can be swapped from one bike to another with minimum fuss. However, power meter pedals are not available for all pedal interfaces. The Assioma Favero Duo, Garmin Vector, and SRM Look Exakt are Look pedal compatible only.

Lately, there has been a buzz around pedal-based power meters. In February, SRAM announced that it acquired Time, a French pedal manufacturer. SRAM owns Quark and Powertap. They have announced that the Powertap P2 power meter pedal will no longer be available. Will a Powertap P3 power meter pedal come soon, or even a Time pedal-based power meter?

Favero has hinted that it will launch a version of its Assioma Duo that will be compatible with Shimano SPD-SL pedal bodies.

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

Also, on the compatibility front, it seems Garmin is about to expand its range of power meter pedals to encompass the three most popular systems: Shimano SPD-SL road, Look Keo road, and Shimano SPD mountain bike interfaces. With a new name – Rally, instead of Vector.

Photograph courtesy of cyclingtips.com

Finally, Wahoo just announced the launch of its Speedplay pedal range. Wahoo acquired Speedplay two years ago, and there has been much speculation about the platform’s future. Along with four updated pedals, Wahoo announced the Powrlink Zero. Few details are available, apart from a Summer 2021 launch and the photograph below.

Graphic courtesy of dcrainmaker.com

If a SRAM Time-compatible power meter pedal hits the market, users of almost all pedal interface types – Shimano SPD-SL, Look Keo, SpeedPlay, and Time – will have a power meter pedal option.

Price remains a barrier to entry to the world of power meter pedals. A set of SRM Exakts cost USD1,699. Garmin Vector 3s go for USD1,000. There is no word yet on the pricing for the various Garmin Rally power meter pedals. A set of Favero Assioma Duo pedals costs about USD650. The expected retail price for the Wahoo Powrlink Zero is USD1,000.

Despite being a life-long SpeedPlay user, I don’t think a set of Wahoo Powrlink Zeros will be on my Watts Next list.

Hmmmm. That Seems High.

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Heart Rate Line

I usually ride with a heart rate monitor.  I have a screen on my Garmin that shows, among other things, my heart rate.

I know the disadvantages of using a heart rate monitor.  Such as heart rate being affected by ambient temperature, your emotional state, whether you are tired, or whether you are over-trained.  The monitor itself can generate spurious data.

Nevertheless, my heart rate monitor gives me some data to quantify my level of effort, and more importantly, it tells me when I need to back off, or run the risk of blowing up.  Over time I have learnt that 160bpm is when I need to back off.

I could use a power meter instead.  Power output is a more precise way to gauge performance than heart rate is.  However a power meter is too expensive, despite where prices have fallen to, given the non-competitive riding that I do.

Heart Rate Maximum chiro-doctor com

Graphic courtesy of chiro-doctor.com

I got to 157bpm last weekend, for the first time in ages.  It was at the end of a 500 meter, 7.1% average gradient climb.  That climb came after 110km / 68mi of riding at about 32kph / 20mph.  Faster than I normally ride, so cardiac drift had already pushed my average heart rate to about 140bpm.

The highest I got to the the six weeks prior was 155bpm, during the 141km / 88mi CIMB Cycle @ Seri Menanti event.  That ride had 1,100 meters / 3,600 feet of climbing.

Soon after the CIMB ride I went on holiday for a fortnight or so.  I ate a lot, and did minimal exercise.  It was a holiday after all.  But I was still very surprised when my Garmin showed 160bpm on my first ride after that holiday.

Heart Rate High medlicker com

Graphic courtesy of medlicker.com

Six days later I did another ride, and I hit 164bpm.  My maximum heart rate during those two rides was about 20bpm higher than is usual for me.  What was going on?

For better or for worse, I went to Google for answers.  Google didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Fatigue, overreaching, overtraining, too much caffeine, or a hot day could all be reasons why my heart rate rose above what I normally see.

I didn’t have any of the symptoms which would set off alarm bells, such as lightheadedness, nausea, or pressure, pain or discomfort in my chest, arm, neck or jaw.  Still, I wondered.

Heart Rate Good to Go wglt org

Graphic courtesy of wglt.org

I needn’t have worried.  I went on a 70km / 43.5mi ride the next day, and my maximum heart rate was 125bpm.  Since then I have maxed out at an average of 147bpm, including last weekend’s outlier.

So what caused that two ride blip?  I’m not sure.  Probably a combination of jet lag and low blood sugar.

It is time for my annual physical exam.  Just to be on the safe side.