At times it is road bikes that inherit technology from mountain biking and at other the opposite. Power meters have revolutionised the way professional road racers train, they have been offering their full potential for years in mountain biking too. At the end of the day, it does not matter what bike you own, you have to pedal, right? We explain why power meters are useful in mountain biking below.
Power meters are what heart rate monitor used to be a few years ago, and have revolutionized training methods, prioritizing the constant measurement of watts over heart rates. Power meters measure amongst other things, the amount of force applied to the cranks quantified in watts per pedal stroke. This measurement allows you to identify your maximum power output in watts, of which you can then calculate your percentage increases for your training and for competitions. The positives of using a power meter is being able to establish with precision what your maximum power output is. This number will give you your maximum power output and allow you to divide the training by the number of watts maintained during one pedal stroke. The output will also allow you to know in every moment whether you are working within the desired power parameters or if they are below expected. In this aspect, there is no reason why power meters should not be used in training for mountain biking.
The main difference between using a power meter on a mountain bike and a road bike is the cadence and the continual change of pedaling rhythm, gear ratio and incline. The pedal stroke of a road bike is usually continual and has a much more stable cadence and power output. It is quite common to have long periods of continuous cadence/power output. Due to this, it is much easier to obtain the optimal power output percentage during training and competition. In mountain biking however, cadences are usually much higher (bigger cassette sprockets are generally used) and the climbing gradients are also much steeper and unpredictable, making the force applied to the pedals much more varied and of shorter periods.
Nonetheless, the theory of using a power meter for training purposes, be it in mountain biking or road riding, is the same: Based on our 100% power output applied to the pedals, we can then calculate the percentages we want to train and compete with. In competition, we will have all the data values from the whole race so we can check whether we have reached our optimum outputs or not.
THE POWER METER INTEGRATED INTO THE AXLE
Taking into account that the chainrings or chainring on a MTB are much smaller in diameter than those of a road bike, the integration of the power meter is fundamental if we want to use it with guarantees. In this respect, the 2INpower / INpower models made by ROTOR, that are integrated into the axle, allow us to use them in conjunction with any chainring size and crank length. By being situated inside the axle, it is completely isolated from possible damage and dirt, something quite common in mountain biking. This type of system will not only measure the maximum power output at the maximum cadence, but also measure it at any point of the pedal stroke (360 degrees). On top of this, this system is compatible with older versions of ROTOR cranks using the UBB 30mm system.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Using with a mountain bike with a power meter can allow us to train with more precision, much more so than using traditional methods such as heart rate monitors, and it will also provide us with detailed data captured during competition. Power meters are also compatible with most cycle computers using Bluetooth or ANT+, as well as other sensors you have incorporated into your training. The power output will also allow you to know in every moment whether you are working within the desired power parameters or if they are below expected.
It is very important to verify the compatibility of the system you purchase with the crankset / BB you have fitted to your bike before purchasing, and look for the system that is will offer the most protection from water, dirt, sand and other external elements that could potentially damage the unit.