Tag Archives: power meter

Coming back down to earth

Saturday I am planning to undertake my third power test since starting the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. The first one was to set a baseline. The second one was to confirm whether the baseline was accurate and to recalibrate my power zones for more effective training. This third one has only one purpose — to report here on Low Cadence if the TCCP made any measurable difference. Right now I’m just hoping that my power meter allows me to find that out.

Please support the 2012 Ride for Mike

Please support me in the Stars and Stripes Challenge on May 28, 2012. It is part of the 2012 Ride for Mike. Click the logo above and designate your donation in support of Jonathan Pait.

Back when I did the first 2012 Greenville Spinners Summer Time Trial Series attempt, I had the mechanic take a look at my bike. He looked at me in shock as he examined the chain rings. He pointed out to me the gap that was showing between the chain and the teeth. The chain was stretched and the teeth had been turned into shallow depressions. It was time to replace the rings.

I made the change and then went out to ride. At first it didn’t stand out to me, but then I went out to do some SteadyState and ClimbingRepeat work. Immediately I sensed something was wrong. I was producing 380 watts breathing through my nose. Still, when I got home I found that I was landing PRs right and left. Now my climbs up Paris Mountain were consistently 15 – 20 seconds less than they were before the chain ring change.

So, was I putting out more power and getting the faster times? Obviously I was, but the question was more was I producing that much MORE power? I was convinced after climbing Paris Mountain in 12:18 at 436 watts average that my meter was off. My best estimate is that it should have taken no more than a 350 watts average to get that time.

Well, today, I hope to have an answer. I’m taking the power meter to get calibrated. It would appear that several things could be in play here. First, the slack chain and shallow teeth could have affected the force I was able to apply. Second, the rings themselves may have began flexing. The new rings are now stiffer and the force is better applied with the new teeth and chain.

My guess is that the power meter was off from its original settings because of the wear on the rings. I’d be willing to bet that I was producing better watt averages than the meter was telling me. Now, the meter is thrown for a loop and with the ring changes is showing elevated averages. The truth I believe is probably somewhere in the middle — closer to the old ring averages.

All this means is that my FTP is going to have an asterisk beside it. A very important component of the measurement has altered. Still, I think it will be close enough to compare.

One thing I know for sure. It isn’t a question of whether the TCCP has helped. Just riding my bike convinces me of that! It is just a matter of measuring how much it has helped.

Another thing has come out of this. I believe the power meter lying to me actually has helped me ride faster. How could that be?

Whenever I see 350 watts or so on my meter while climbing warning bells go off in my head. I know I can only hold that for so long. However, I want the best time I can get, so I ride to the edge of that number. It gets me all worked up and I psyche myself out.

Well, when I look down at the computer and see 350 watts and I am feeling like I’m on top of the gears, I relax a bit more. Plus, at times when I would have been pushing myself and wearing myself down, I’m going slower (than I think I am) and have more left in the tank when it really matters. Before my power meter issues, I was consistently getting times in the 12:45 range up Paris Mountain. With my power meter issues, I am getting time consistently around 12:20. The meter might lie, but the clock doesn’t.

Thursday I took a different approach. I noticed on some of my recent better times that my cadence was around 85 rpm. Normally, my average cadence is in the mid-seventies. So, I decided not to pay attention at all to power and focus on holding 80+ rpm regardless of the slope. What do you know? I got a new 2012 Personal Record with a time of 12:18.

So, while it would be nice if my Strava.com 10 minute power was truly 433 watts. I have to tell you that is a lie. Knowing my power meter is off has certainly brought me back down to earth. However, I see a sub-twelve minute climb up Paris in my very near future… I’ll take that 370 watt average!

No stopping now

Recently I’ve mentioned my woes trying to get my power meter situation ironed out. Most every time I do I get an email, blog comment, or someone says “Get rid of that stuff and just ride your bike!” Believe me, I feel that temptation, but it isn’t time… yet.

Now, I haven’t always had power meter issues. When I was riding only with the Quarq CinQo on my White Giant, there was no problem with the power files. I went out there did the workout my coach wanted me to do and sent him the info to evaluate.

Then I got my Black Giant fixed and I got the opportunity to try out the iBike iAero power meter. A few hiccups to get started, but for the most part I was now able to take out either bike on my workouts and have the information needed to send back to my coach. Things were going pretty smoothly.

The problems started when I introduced the time trial bike to my training. I just never could feel comfortable that the iBike was working correctly. Part of it was because it was hard for me to read the screen as I had to mount it in a weird spot on the bike.

Finally, yesterday I was able to take the TT bike out for the first time with the Quarq CinQo installed on it. Ahhhhh, a little bit of the fun of suffering through 12 minutes intervals returned. I was able to clearly see on the Garmin readout what my power was. As I uploaded my file to TrainingPeaks.com last night, I felt confident that the coach would like what he sees.

Of course, that means that I’ll be racing the Black Giant in the race tomorrow. I’ll be using the iBike then as well. The White Giant is currently hanging up with no crank. I’ve just got to make sure that I have the sensors securely fastened on old black before taking to the course!

So, why put up with all of this? I have put a good amount of a time investment into my training. I’ve also signed up for year of coaching. The system I am on is “Training with Power.” The only way you can train with power is to be able to ride your bike and know how much power you are producing. Each workout requires you to be able to see your power output.

Bottom line is that you can’t train with power without a power meter.

Yes, yes, yes! I would love to just ride my bike and forget about the power meter and all the stuff it causes me to have stuck on my bike. However, I look back over the last six months and see how much I have improved and I must give much of the credit to the fact that I am using this system to train. I still have six months to go… there is no stopping now!

Besides, all of these power meter issues give me something to gripe about in the blog! I don’t think my griping will be able to continue too much longer. I’m starting to get a better understanding of the capabilities of the iBike. There are somethings I can do to alleviate some of my frustrations. I just need to find the time to sort it out.

Power meters do not lie

After Tuesday night’s ride, I was curious to see what my coach would say about my power file. How would the data match up with the way I felt? The first comment he made was, “Power meters never lie.” Well, that may be true, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Turns out the data says that I did quite well. At least the numbers did not reveal what my mind was telling me. I was able to override the feelings and still put out the power.

It is encouraging to know that. When your mind is telling you you are not performing well, it is possible for you to start questioning and wondering what is wrong. Then you start to spiral into this doubt.

When it comes to training, a rider with experience knows that these types of feelings come and go. For the least experienced with a fragile confidence, it is more of an issue. The latter does not have a past to know when he is “just not feeling it.” The data from the power meter helps to prove that not having the feeling doesn’t mean you aren’t producing.

It is also something that helps come race day. It gives you an assurance that while you are out there feeling like crud, it doesn’t mean that your body isn’t matching its potential. You simply don’t feel like it is. Knowing this gives you a little more fortitude to attempt to ride through your feelings.

I worked at a camp for several summers. It was a camp where the counselors were with the campers 24/7. I learned a lot during those years! One of the things that we were taught was to be Command Oriented – Not Feeling Oriented. In other words, know what is right and act accordingly. Do not act according to your feelings. I know that flies in the face of the Disney idea of “following your heart,” but it certainly is a more realistic way to approach life!

It came in handy living in a small cabin with 6 junior high boys! There were times when had I acted according to the impulses my mind was sending me, they would have all been abandoned in the deep woods of the Smokey Mountains. Instead, I knew what my responsibilities were toward those guys and I did it. Amazing how often the feeling followed the action.

In a race you do reach those times when your mind is telling you to give up. How easy it would be to just stop pedaling. Your brain is telling you your body can’t produce enough to stay up. What you have to know is that your brain is lying to you. You may feel like crud, but here you are in the group. You may not feel like it, but obviously your body is giving enough. Then how often is it that the feeling passes and you are on the front!

Having said all that… you can’t completely discount your feelings. It is true that the power meter showed that I was riding as well as normal. However, during yesterday’s rest day I was suffering the effects of the effort. When I flexed my leg muscles, every square inch of them reacted with soreness. I was pretty fatigued. Your body is sending you those messages for a reason. It pays to listen.

Like most everything in life, it comes down to balance. When training, it is wise to be attuned to the messages your body is sending you. Running yourself into the ground for no reason is not wise. Just make sure that the decisions you are making based on how you feel are done critically. It is so easy to use how we feel as an excuse. On the other hand, don’t ignore warnings that you might be over-training or causing a repetitive stress injury.

The power meter does not lie… but it does not always tell the whole story.

Figuring out my WKO+ Power Profile

Once I started using my Quarq CinQo power meter, I ended up with a lot of data.  How was I going to collect it all?  Once I had it collected, what did it all mean?  These are questions to which I’m still finding the answer.

I have two applications I use most often.  There is Ascent – which I use primarily because of the really cool integration of the data from my Garmin and CinQo with mapping software.  I have found I do not use it as much as I once did.  The down side of the program is that it is not as useful as a training tool.

Enter my TrainingPeaks WKO+.  This is my program of choice for analyzing my ride data.  It has taken me a while to learn – and I’m still picking up on how to apply some of the graphs.

Today, I’ll just point out the one that is the most frustrating one – if you take it literally.  It is the Power Profile graph.  At first glance, it appears to be a graph that tells you where you fall in your ability as a racer.  The little vertical bars will show you how you would fare against the competition in the various racing categories.

My power profile... for now.

My power profile... for now.

I have competed in a number of category 4 races since moving up from my category 5 season last year.  If I might say so, I have done pretty well.  So, when I was looking at the Power Profile earlier this season and seeing myself in the “Untrained” section of the graph, I was a little upset.

What exactly is the graph telling me? Basically it is telling me how I compare to myself and others at my peak power outputs.  It graphs my best 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, and 1 hour peak power numbers from the last 28 days.  Using my best output, it then tells me how I would do in a race with racers in the various categories – putting technique and strategy aside.

Now, this confused me at first because for several months I was showing up as an untrained racer.  I knew that wasn’t true.  I was at least a category 5 racer!

Of course, the data doesn’t lie, so what is happening here?  Well, when I was showing up as untrained it was because I was riding for base miles.  I didn’t have any high peak periods.

In the last 28 days that has begun to change.  You can see that my 5 minute graph is moving into the category 3 range.  All the other graphs are finally moving into the category 4 range.

So, wouldn’t I know this anyway?  How is this helpful?  What can I learn from it?

According to what I have been able to read about this type of method, I can consider myself to be an “All Rounder” with a little lean toward “Time Trialist.”  This basically means I probably should avoid trying to make my way in the racing world by sprinting! The advantage of this graph is that it helps you determine you strengths and weaknesses in the various aspects of racing. You can then tailor you training to hone your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

I’m pretty certain that by the time the next 28 days have cycled through, I will be in category 4 level in all of the areas.  It will be interesting to see what TrainingPeaks’ Power Profile will say about me then.  That is where the system helps — it gives me motivation to improve.

My final word on the Quarq CinQo & Garmin 705

I’ve had several different contacts recently concerning my Quarq CinQo and Garmin 705 combination.  It finally drove me down to the basement to do some testing to see if there is a lag in the processing of the data.  I also had to ask myself that if there is a lag… do I really care?

Quarq CinQo Saturn

My SRAM S900 Quarq CinQo Saturn

Some information about me so you understand where I am coming from as I write this.  I am a Category 4 racer.  I do not have a training plan or a coach.  I have a power meter because I love playing around with data.  I am also interested in building a power profile for future training.

Why this power meter?  I was drawn to the Quarq CinQo because of the price, Quarq’s innovative approach to application development, and the fact it would work with my Garmin 705.  Since I already owned my Garmin, it made the price point on the CinQo very attractive.

I do not regret getting my Garmin 705.  I know that there are people who down it as a power collection computer because of some of the algorithms used.  However, as a cycling computer it is pretty stout.  I’m not just talking about the GPS portions.  If I were to buy another cycling computer, it would be another Garmin.

So, what about the two of them together?  What about this lag that people are complaining about?  I went to discover what was up.

First, I have been riding with my new CinQo power meter and Garmin 705 computer with updated firmware for several rides now.  Second, I have gone into my “lab” to test and see if I could isolate a consistent delay in data making its way to my Garmin.  I’m now ready to give my opinion.

In real life, I have to admit that I just don’t notice it.  My approach to data is to go out and ride.  When I’m done, I move the data to my laptop and then analyze what I’ve collected.  I notice no lag at all in that case.

Yes, there have been times when I will bottom out at the end of a downhill and then kick up a new incline.  I will look down at the computer and then start pedaling.  I came to notice that I would not see the data appear on the screen until I had completed one full revolution with each crank arm.

So, I moved it into the lab.  I put the bike on my stand, held the Garmin in one hand, and then started turning the crank with the other.  Let’s see what happens.

I started the crank at dead top center.  On the Garmin I saw a blank line where the power would be displayed. I turned one revolution.  The Garmin registered a zero, but no number.  Hmmmm.  I tried it again and this time did two revolutions.  After the first revolution the zero appeared and after the second the power reading came up.

Wow.  That was a delay.  Now, that didn’t seem to be consistent with what I was seeing out on the road.  Then I stumbled on something.

After bringing the crank to a stop, I started the revolution more quickly.  This time the Garmin was registering a zero before I started to turn the crank.  No sooner had I finished one revolution than I saw the power data appear on the Garmin.  I repeated this several times and could not even time the delay with my stop watch.

What appeared to be happening is that the Garmin would “go to sleep” after a time of inactivity from the CinQo.  When this happened, there was a more substantial delay (we’re talking around 1.5 seconds).  However, when the Garmin was “awake” I couldn’t get the watch started and stopped fast enough.

Quarq tells me that the CinQo starts sending the data at the conclusion of the first revolution.  This will always be the case as long as they are using the ANT+ protocol.  So, if you want power data collection as soon as you move your foot a fraction, I guess the CinQo isn’t for you.

The Garmin 705 appears to take about a half second to display the data (when it is awake – as it would be in most cases when on a ride).  If you take that half second and a quarter second for the CinQo to calculate and transmit, you will be looking at the potential of three-fourths of a second delay.

So, what is my opinion?  If I were to go out to buy a power meter, I would do the same thing again.  The cost of the CinQo is a big factor to me, but so is the fact that they are building their system for growth.  If I don’t like the Garmin, there are other computers I can connect it with — even the iBike.  There will be even more to come.

I ride with friends who have Powertaps.  One particular riding buddy is a very similar rider to me (a much more experienced rider, but very close in build and riding style).  It is very interesting to see how similar our data is in WKO+ following a ride.  I am confident my system is doing as good of a job as the Powertap system.

What about the SRM?  Well, they aren’t letting me test their meter and I can’t afford it.  I do like the SRM for one of the same reasons I like the CinQo over the Powertap – it is crank mounted and not part of the rear hub.  However, I cannot say that I have compared the two in any way.

Here is the bottom line for me.  I have had absolutely zero problems with the construction or capabilities of my CinQo.  The Garmin is a known item that might do so many things well it isn’t necessarily the best for collecting data.  To me, its other positives outweigh that negative.  I have been given no reason not to be happy with my Quarq CinQo.

The apparent lag?  I know it might be important to some people, but I just don’t care.  Perhaps if I were a professional it might be a bigger deal to me.  However, for an amateur like me, I highly recommend this system.

The Quarq CinQo has given me consistent data for multiple months. I can say that the data I’ve analyzed has told me a lot about myself.  I have adjusted my riding to strengthen my weak points and been encouraged by the gains I’ve seen.

They say that ignorance is bliss.  Perhaps I am just ignorant of some major flaw in the product.  I have not experienced anything close to being what I could call a flaw or failure.  I am a very happy Quarq – and Garmin – customer.  Someone is going to have to have a pretty strong argument to make me otherwise.

CinQo and Garmin 705 data transfer update

Nothing much to write about today.  Even if I did have my crank back from South Dakota, I still wouldn’t be able to ride.  It has been a very busy week for me, but the end is in sight.

I do have an update about the apparent Quarq CinQo lag.  It appears that it could be an issue with the interaction with the Garmin 705.  It was not a CinQo issues as much as it was a problem with the way the Garmin filters the data.  It appears this has been an issue with other wireless power meters as well.  The Garmin firmware 2.6 should resolve the issue.

I’m currently using release 2.4.  I’m going to update my Garmin and then once I get my power meter back I’ll test it out and report back to you.  If the blizzard hasn’t gotten the UPS man stuck, the crank should arrive in Spearfish today.  So, it shouldn’t be too long.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the CinQo measures your power with each revolution.  So, let’s say you are coasting down a hill and then as you bottom out before another climb you push your right foot down without completing a full revolution.  That half revolution is not going to register.

Well, off into the rain for another busy day!

Sending my crank into a blizzard

Word is that South Dakota recently had a spring blizzard.  I sure hope it doesn’t slow down the UPS delivery man.  He has my crank on his truck.

Yesterday I packaged up my crank and sent it via UPS to Spearfish, South Dakota.  That is the home of Quarq Technology, Inc. maker of the CinQo power meter.  I was returning my power meter in order to receive an upgrade.

It isn’t that I was unhappy with my current system.  It is simply that the opportunity came up for me to get a second generation system and I am happy enough with the old one that I assume things will only get better.  They sure do look cooler!

I’ve written about the CinQo before.  My impressions have really remained unchanged.  It is a solid, less expensive option for measuring power on your bicycle.

The positives:

It is versatile.  Because it is crank mounted, I am able to switch our wheels with ease.  True, if I wanted to switch it between bikes, it becomes more of an issue.  For me, that isn’t a problem anymore as I have moved toward using just one bike, but different wheelsets.

It is wireless.  This is part of the versatile part.  Not only is it wireless, but it uses the ANT+ protocol.  This allows it to talk to different cycling computers.  I use the Garmin 705, but could use a number of different systems out there — with more to come, I’m sure.

It is simple.  I turn on my Garmin, spin my crank backward a few times, and then head out on my ride.  During the ride, I will spin backward at various times just to recalibrate the power meter.  It has gotten to the point where I don’t even think about it.  The Garmin is recording the power data and I simply pull it onto my computer when I get home.

The negatives:

As I mentioned, if you have multiple bikes that you want to use it on, you have to switch out the crank.  This would also be an issue for you if you chose to got the SRM route.  Really, it isn’t so much a negative as it is a personal preference.

Also, for right now you have to send your crank (or purchase a new crank) to Quarq to have it installed.  They are working to expand their network of cycle shops for the installations, but for now my crank is bound for Spearfish.

There is some lag.  I do not see the power numbers immediately when I put the hammer down.  My guess is that it is between one and two seconds between the application of power until it appears on my screen.  I’m sure this would be an issue for some people, but it has never been something I am concerned about.  As long and the data is consistent when I evaluate it after my ride, I’m happy.

How much of the lag is due to the CinQo, the fact that it is wireless, or the computer you are connecting to… I don’t know.  It could be a combination.  I’ll be interested to see if the second generation CinQo addresses this in anyway.

Looking at the power meters out there, would I buy the CinQo again.  Yes.  The price (for a power meter) is very competitive.  The design is rock solid.  I have had NO problems with the device in the months I have ridden with it.

I’m sure there are some who will delve into algorithms and power measuring philosophies and have some issue with the CinQo.  I expect everyone has their own preferences.  However, the CinQo consistently gives me the numbers to compare between my rides and I am building up a very helpful history of my power fitness.

Snow, snow, go away.  Jonathan wants his new second generation CinQo!