We see power meters used fairly commonly now on road bikes and by road riders. However, a MTB power meter seems to be reserved for elite-level athletes and those at the very top of the sport.
Ironically, they can benefit the enthusiast/amateur looking to improve arguably more than the pros though.
- Elite/Pro level riders have usually been training for years and know how to pace their workouts intuitively.
- These top athletes also know how to manage fitness and fatigue very well, knowing their bodies inside out.
So why would I encourage everyone who is a performance-orientated mountain biker to use a MTB power meter? There are 3 key reasons.
1. RACE DATA
The first reason is that a MTB power meter can be used during racing to record your performance. This provides a unique window into the demands of the sport and what you’re able to put out in an all-out race environment.
This data can then be analysed post-race to glean a number of important pieces of information:
- What your average and normalised power was for the race
- What your total TSS or Training Stress Score was for the race
- How many times you exceeded your Threshold Power
- What the typical durations of your efforts were
- At what point you lost a group/cramped up etc
This is extremely useful data that can then be used to inform your training going forward, allowing you to identify and work on your weaknesses, and on specific elements that relate to your racing.
2. INTERVAL PACING
Mountain bike racing is characterised by lots and lots of repeated short, highly intensive efforts, typically ranging for 5 seconds to 2 minutes for courses with longer climbs.
When it comes to replicating these demands with specific intervals, nothing is better to pace these short intervals than a power meter. This is because power readings are almost instantaneous.
Heart rate simply can’t be used to pace a workout like repeated 30 second surges for instance.
In order to be properly prepared for an xc race, you really have to perform these types of efforts in training, and ideally make the sessions as high quality as possible.
Using just your intuition will often result in the first few intervals being too intense and the later ones being far from the power needed to stimulate the correct adaption.
3. FITNESS & FATIGUE TRACKING
Power and heart rate data are both made more useful when they’re paired with each other.
This is because one qualifies the other. For instance, if you feel your average heart rate is reducing for a given effort, power can tell you objectively whether this is true.
Similarly, if you train at a given power output during certain intervals, you can use heart rate to qualify whether you’re getting fitter by seeing if it reduces.
What power can also do is give you a more accurate TSS or Training Stress Score from each workout, which is essentially a measure of how stressful a particular workout was.
As you train with a MTB power meter over time, you’ll be able to get a good sense of when you are peaking in form or when you’re getting overly fatigued, especially if you’re using a software like TrainingPeaks or Strava.
These programs will put all of this data into a handy graph that tracks these metrics very accurately, meaning you can far better plan a top performance for your biggest goal races.
DO YOU USE A MTB POWER METER?
If you do, I’d love to hear your experience and if you have any questions about training with power, drop them below in the comments.