The end of January has rolled by and ‘base’ training is well under way. Last year I spent most of my time on the bike ‘riding’ and very little time consciously training. This year with ever more challenging targets and the urge to get faster and fitter I have spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to get more serious about training (and fitting that around a full time job, a house that always needs work and a social life).
I’ve been using Trainer Road for a little while now but up until a few weeks ago using ‘virtual power’. Whilst better than training with no power metrics it still left a lot to be desired in that it was quite inconsistent (tyre pressure influenced for one) and also quite inaccurate (whilst only now being able to prove this, I knew the numbers being spat out were improbable).
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a Powertap G3 second hand but recently serviced. Ideally I wanted something crank based but didn’t want to spend much and pedals were out of the question as I use SPD shoes (2 hole mountain bike/touring). The downside of a hub based power meter obviously is that I can only use the one wheelset and will have to switch tyres for turbo vs. outside if I want power on every ride. The wheel it has been built into is a fairly heavy non aero alloy wheel (with 32 spokes, way overbuilt for my weight). I’ll probably keep this up until my Big Trip ™ and then when I get back switch to a more preferable crank based PM (Power2max do a lovely Campagnolo crank). The upside is that Powertap is considered very reliable and (minus drivetrain losses) very accurate. Some of the similarly priced crank or pedal based options only measure one side and approximate total power for example.
Anyway, after some brief testing (not yet been able to re do an FTP test) it looks to be reading about 200watts for my FTP which meant that virtual power was over stating by about 15% (though bearing in mind a hub based PM measures power after drive train losses). With my current weight at 66kg this puts my FTP/kg at 3w/kg. Going by Coggan’s power profiles chart this would be at the ‘fair’ / Cat 5 mark – I.e. nothing special!
My aim by mid May is to hit 3.5 through losing 2-3kg and getting my FTP to c220. I’m a lot more confident about achieving the former..
I’ve now mid way through the second week of Trainer Road’s Sweet Spot Base plan which I am hoping will greatly improve my base fitness. I’ve felt that in particular over longer periods of time my performance really starts to fall apart and I imagine the lack of this fundamental base training must be a major factor. This plan has two six-week sections which I am aiming to complete in their entirety (not withstanding a week in Tenerife in March) before moving on to one of their ‘Build’ plans.
I can highly recommend Trainer Road to anyone who is looking at getting into structured training. Their podcast is also really interesting and has answered most of the questions I’ve had. Their software doesn’t yet have all the features you might want in tracking your training over time in the way something like Training Peaks does but I am led to believe that some of those features will be added such as adding in outdoor rides so you can see your full TSS.
I guess the whole point of training is to get faster and in turn have more fun however maybe I am just dreaming and per Greg Lemond’s infamous quote, ‘it never gets easier, you just go faster’…