Serious cyclists are increasingly using power to gauge their training efforts, especially as power meters become not only more technically-capable but also more affordable. Learning the terminology that comes along with training with power can seem intimidating at first, but the glossary of common terms below will help speed your trip up the learning curve.
A device that measures the power you produce while riding.
How they work: A majority of available power meters use strain gauges to quantify how much your bottom bracket, crankset, freehub or pedal axles deform under the force of pedalling. Strain gauges output electrical resistance relative to the amount of mechanical deformation of the component to which they are mounted. The amount of mechanical deformation corresponds to how much torque you are applying to the pedals, and torque and pedalling cadence are used to calculate power.
A product of how much torque you are applying to the pedals and how fast you are pedalling. It is also defined as the rate of energy used or the amount of work done per unit of time. Power is expressed in watts (W).
For those who prefer to think in equations: Power = Work / Time = Force * Displacement / Time = Force * Velocity = Torque * Angular Velocity
The amount of power produced at any given moment.
The average amount of power produced over a given period of time, such as during any given workout or race.
The maximum amount of power produced during any given period of time, such as during any given workout or race.
A measure of power calculated using an algorithm that factors in the high and low power outputs that naturally occur when a rider is sprinting, doing intervals, climbing, descending, coasting, etc. It estimates total effort over a given period of time and is considered more accurate than average power by many experts because it better accounts for the actual physiological demands of a given ride.
The amount of power a rider can sustain for one hour. It is often calculated from the average power output measured during a 20-minute timed effort. Threshold Power is used to calculate training zones, and is sometimes called Functional Threshold Power.
The amount of force applied to the pedals. It is typically expressed in Newton meters (Nm).
How fast you are pedalling. Cadence is usually measured in revolutions per minute or RPMs and can be converted into Angular Velocity, which is usually expressed in radians/second.
The process of setting or correcting a measuring device such as a power meter so that it accurately outputs actual measurements.
Power to Weight Ratio
The amount of power you can produce divided by your weight, often measured in kilograms/watt or pounds/watt. Generally speaking, the higher the power-to-weight ratio, the better the cyclist.
Rotor INpower Powermeter
Cyclists pay attention to many different numbers as they evaluate their performance in real time. Among them are distance pedalled, speed, heart rate and power output. Another parameter – one that is often a mystery to newbie cyclists – is pedalling cadence.
What is cadence?
Cadence is defined as the number of revolutions of the crank per minute (rpm). Typical pedalling cadences for trained cyclists range from 85 to 100 rpm. An untrained, recreational cyclist is more likely to pedal at a slower cadence, such as 60 to 70 rpm.
How do I figure out my cadence?
Many bike computers come with sensors that count how many times the cranks go round and display a rider’s cadence. Such sensors are typically mounted on or near the cranks.
But even without a bike computer, you can get a quick estimate of your cadence. Simply pick an interval, such as 30 seconds, and count how many times your legs go around during that period. Then double the number to calculate your cadence.
Why is cadence important?
Power is the product of the force applied to the pedals and cadence. Thus to increase power, you can apply more force to the pedals, pedal faster or do both at the same time. This means that it’s also possible to produce the same amount of power at different cadences – you just have to apply different amounts of force. For example, you can produce a given amount of power by pedalling slowly in a bigger gear or by pedalling faster in a smaller gear.
When you pedal fast in a lower gear, you tend to need less force so it fosters more slow twitch muscle fiber recruitment. The opposite is also true: when you pedal more slowly in a higher gear, you need more force so have to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Generally speaking, pedalling at lower cadences requires relatively more effort from your muscles whereas pedalling at higher cadences requires relatively more effort from your cardiovascular system.
Every cyclists has different strengths and weaknesses; thus some tend to prefer higher cadences while others prefer lower cadences.
A bit of history
Many cyclists began caring about cadence at the end of the 1990s when Lance Armstrong became famous by winning the Tour de France while pedalling at a conspicuously higher cadence than many of his peers in the pro peloton.
Pros like Armstrong found that pedalling at higher cadences like 100-110 rpm felt more efficient, often helping them with muscular recovery and endurance as well as smoothing out any dead spots in their pedal stroke.
But not every pro goes for super high cadences. Another former Tour de France winner, Jan Ullrich, was famous for his slightly slower pedalling cadence, often in the 80-90 rpm range. When racing side by side with Armstrong, Ullrich appeared to be mashing gears and pedalling slowly.
In the past two decades with the advent of drivetrains including many gear combinations spanning a much larger range, it’s now possible for cyclists to be able to almost always pick the perfect gear to enable them to pedal at their preferred personal cadence, whether they are riding at relatively slower or faster speeds.
Look around on your next mountain bike group ride, and you’ll probably see a mix of drivetrain setups. Some riders will be using single chainring setups while others will be pedalling double chainrings. In this article, we look at the advantages of each setup to help you determine which is better for you.
Wait, haven’t we be through this before?
Yes! The debate about the optimal number of front chainrings is not new. Mountain bikes used to come standard with a triple drivetrain setup including three front chainrings and a rear cassette.
However, as rear cassettes gradually picked up gears over time, growing from six to 11 in number, cyclists eventually figured out that they were pedalling around many duplicate gears and that they could still cover a similar gearing range with just two front chainrings – hence, the widespread adoption of the double front chainring setup.
Leading drivetrain manufacturers now offer as many as 12-speed cassettes as well as higher tech derailleurs that incorporate clutch mechanisms to reduce chain slap. Thus riders are again in a similar position of debating the pros and cons of eliminating one more chainring.
Advantages of a Single Ring Setup
It’s lighter. One less chainring and cable and no front derailleur mean your bike weighs less.
Shifting is simpler. You no longer have to worry about possibly dropping your chain when shifting between front rings. This is a big advantage, especially for racers shifting under pressure and for less experienced riders who lack confidence and skill to reliably use their front shifter with success.
It requires less maintenance. You’ll have fewer chainrings to replace when they wear out, and you’ll never need to adjust your front derailleur again during installation or as your cable would have inevitably stretched over time.
Cleaner cockpit. With one less shifter, your cockpit is less cluttered, and you free up one hand which can instead be devoted to operating your dropper post control.
Advantages of a Double Ring Setup
You have a larger range of gears. Because there are twice as many gears, it’s easier to spec them to cover a larger range. Having more gears at the low end makes it easier to tackle longer and steeper climbs. Having more gears at the high end means you can pedal down fast descents without spinning out.
Your pedalling may be more efficient. With twice as many gears, spacing between gears is typically smaller. If you are the kind of rider who is always shifting one gear up or down to maintain your optimal cadence, you will be more likely to always find the perfect gear at any moment.
You are more likely to have a better chainline. With two chainrings, you have more gear choices and can avoid poor chainlines, which means pedalling is quieter, requires less effort and causes less wear on your drivetrain.
Chainrings will not have to be replaced as often. Unless you always ride in just one of your two rings, normal wear and tear will be distributed over two chainrings, so you’ll have to replace them less often than if you were running one ring.
Do the Math
Still undecided? There is no substitute for sitting down with a gear calculator (such as http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html) and running the numbers on potential single and double chainring setups. Take the time to figure out your gear ratios or rollouts for your current and proposed setup. Then you’ll have a much better idea of how that potential new drivetrain will actually feel out on the trail before you invest the time and money to switch it.
Love it or hate it, all cyclists eventually end up riding in the rain. Fortunately, there are lots of tricks to making the experience of wet weather cycling more enjoyable and safer. Here we offer pro tips about what you should do before, during and after your next rainy ride.
Before your ride
Start with a warm, wicking base layer such as a wool jersey, add intermediate insulating layers if needed and top it all off with a rain jacket. When it comes to jackets and tights, know the difference between water resistant and waterproof. Water resistant clothing tends eventually soak through but is more breathable while less permeable waterproof garments are typically better at keeping the wet out at the cost of not breathing as well.
To keep your extremities dry, don waterproof gloves and cycling socks or shoe covers. For added warmth on the cold, wet days, add chemical hand and toe warmers inside your gloves and shoes. Or use a pair of rechargeable electric heated insoles in your shoes.
Last but not least, something as simple as a pair of the light, but highly portable Rainlegs will help your upper legs stay dry.
See and Be Seen
Poor visibility comes along with wet conditions, so it’s important to do what you can to improve your chances of being seen by passing motorists and other road or trail users. Wear reflective or high visibility clothing, and add lights and reflectors to your bike. You’ll also see better if you use clear or rose tinted lenses in your glasses instead of the dark lenses typical of sunglasses.
Avoid road spray and trail muck coming up and off your wheels by adding front and rear fenders to your bike. Many modern fenders feature clever attachments for easy mounting and removal, which is ideal if you don’t want to permanently install them.
Road Cycling Rain
During your ride
Adjust Your Braking Behavior
Wet conditions mean less traction so you’ll need to allow greater stopping distances and take your corners more slowly. Start to brake sooner and modulate your braking to reduce the chance that your wheels will lock up and subsequently slip out due to broken traction. Also scrub speed before corners rather than braking in them. Finally, don’t brake on slippery surfaces like painted lines on roads and on metal grate and wooden bridges. These become like ice when wet.
When you get wet, you’re more susceptible to getting cold. Hypothermia can quickly become a real issue in cold, wet conditions. So keep moving and avoid prolonged stops because your body naturally produces heat while you exercise.
Avoid Slick Spots and Puddles
Puddles can hide potholes or other road debris that can cause flats and crashes. Pedal around puddles if possible. Likewise, avoid visibly slick spots such as where you see residues of oil or gas on the road.
After your ride
Change into dry clothes as soon as possible after you stop riding. You’ll not only stay warmer but also healthier by eliminating conditions favorable to skin infections. Once changed, don’t let your wet clothes linger; instead rinse them outside using a hose to remove grime then put them directly in the laundry for a more thorough cleaning.
Clean and Lube Your Bike
It’s much easier to get dirt and road grime off your bike before it dries on. Use a hose, soap and a brush, sponge or cloth for best results. Once you’ve cleaned your bike, don’t just put it away. Be sure first to lube all moving parts like your chain, pedals and any accessible cables. Your bike will then be much more likely to work well for your next ride.
Dry Your Gear
Don’t forget to dry out your small bits such as the contents of your jersey pockets, saddle bags and backpacks. Your helmets and shoes will also hold up better over time if you leave them out to air dry. Removing insoles and stuffing your shoes with old newspaper is a time tested trick for speeding up the drying process.
Having a great ride or race on a bike isn’t just about your body performing optimally; it also requires your mind to be healthy and work well. Recent studies attribute 80% of success in sports to physical factors like fitness and skill and 20% to psychological factors.
Read on for tips about what you can do to boost your own performance through psychology.
Build Strong Support
The best riders draw upon a strong support network. Think parents, significant others, coaches, friends, teachers and teammates. A good support crew is always there for you – whether you are doing well or struggling. They are there for you when things are good and when things are bad.
Let’s consider the example of a supportive parent. Your mom or dad is going to love you, no matter whether you win that Olympic gold medal or finish last in your local championship race. Yes, he or she will celebrate with you if you do make the podium, but they’ll also take care of you when you are sick, injured or just feeling down. And it’s their enduring support that is so important – because they are with you through your tough times, they best appreciate and help you celebrate your good times.
If you really want to accomplish something, set a goal. Write it down and be explicit. Plot your path toward achieving that goal. Break the effort up into small, attainable steps and work on them one by one. There’s nothing like a well-defined goal to give you the motivation needed to accomplish it.
Let’s say, for example, that you struggle to push yourself to train throughout the winter months when it’s cold, dark and often precipitating. Set a goal to do well at a spring or early summer event, and then plan your training to build up for that event. It will be easier to go to the gym or head outside and ride if you have a purpose.
Visualize Your Success
Top pros don’t want until race day to mentally get themselves on the podium. In the months, weeks and days leading up to a big event, they visualize themselves performing well in their target event. They mentally practice what they will think and feel and visualize in their mind what they will do ahead of the big day so that when that day comes, it’s familiar.
For example, imagine you are training for a 20km time trial. Set aside time during training to sit quietly with your eyes closed and mentally run through what you will experience the day of the race. Visualize what you do before, during and after the time trial. What will you eat for breakfast? What will you wear? How will you warm up? What will you think and feel in the race? How will you look and feel on the podium afterward? Imagine yourself preparing well and then pushing through the difficulties of the time trial to get that personal best or to make that podium.
Believe in yourself and what you can do on a bike. Confidence inevitably arises when you work on the factors mentioned above. When you have a good support network, when you’ve set reasonable goals and trained accordingly and when you’ve visualized yourself meeting those goals ahead of time, you’ll feel good about yourself and be much more likely to actually achieve your goals.
Road riding in the winter comes with extra challenges, especially with colder weather and shorter days. But if you can find the motivation to get outside, and can figure out how to stay warm, it can be incredibly rewarding. Check out these tips to make your next winter ride better.
Choosing the right clothing to wear for the conditions makes the difference between a fun winter ride and a miserable one. Check the forecast for where you will be riding. What temperatures are expected throughout your ride? Will it be dry or will it be wet due to rain or snow? Will it be calm or windy?
Then dress in layers for those conditions. First, don a highly breathable synthetic or wool base layer. Then add one or more layers for insulation. Finally, top it off with a wind and/or waterproof jacket. Note that most waterproof jackets aren’t very breathable, despite any marketing to the contrary, so go with just a wind-blocking layer if conditions will be dry.
If you expect to ride frequently in cold weather, it’s worth investing in proper winter riding clothing and accessories.
When riding in extreme cold, always bring a spare layer or two. If something happens – like a mechanical or crash – you may have to stop riding for a period of time during which your core temperature will drop quickly due to the lack of movement. If there is a threat of precipitation, make sure you have a spare waterproof layer like a rain jacket.
Take the time to stop and adjust which layers you’re wearing as needed. Remove layers on climbs to keep from overheating and add layers ahead of descents to stay warm. When you wear too many layers, your sweat will quickly drench your clothes, which puts you at risk for feeling much colder the rest of the ride.
Get extra motivation by making riding dates with friends.
Keep your extremities warm
When your hands, feet and head stay warm, you will feel warmer overall. Buy yourself some truly effective gloves and winter cycling shoes. If you notice your hands and feet getting tingly and going numb during rides, your gloves and shoes are not warm enough. Avoid getting frostbite so you don’t permanently damage the circulation in your extremities.
You lose a lot of heat through your head so simply putting on ear covers, a hat or a balaclava can help you keep more heat to yourself.
Be seen and be safe
Winter means shorter days and lower levels of light. That means drivers are less likely to see you. Wear brightly colored and reflective outer layers for better visibility and consider adding a flashing rear blinking light and/or a headlight to your bike.
If it’s darker out, ride with glasses that have lenses that are lightly tinted or clear. You’ll be able to see better.
If you ride where it’s cold and wet enough for ice and snow, always be on the lookout, especially around blind corners or in the shade where ice may take more time to melt even as ambient temperatures rise above freezing.
Be flexible with your riding plans
Give your body extra time to warm up before pedalling hard on winter rides. If it’s very cold, consider doing a shorter ride or riding at a higher intensity so you produce more heat to keep yourself warm.
Adjust your route to pick roads with less wind exposure or stay at lower elevations. Or time your ride so you’re out at the warmest part of the day.
Bring a friend
Sometimes the hardest part of winter riding is finding the motivation to get out the door. Get extra motivation by making riding dates with friends. Knowing you have to meet your riding buddy at a certain location and time will make you less likely to bail. And you can even reward yourselves for getting out there together by stopping for a cup of warm coffee or tea at the end of your ride.