I’m sure you’ve friends who ride with a power meter, and you probably have contemplated getting one for yourself.
The question is, do you actually need a power meter?
To begin with, power meters do offer huge benefits for structured training and for accurately measuring and quantifying your efforts.
But, they are not for everyone.
For many, a power meter is more of a want than a need. This isn’t an anti-power meter rant. Not in the least.
This is an objective look at why a power meter is not suitable for all cyclists. If they work for you, then great, but they can be a waste of money if they don’t.
Here are 5 reasons why a power meter might not be for you.
1. You're An Old School Cyclist
I don’t mean old school in a derogatory manner here. I mean old school in you know how you feel on any given day or prefer the barebones approach to cycling.
You, your bike, a water bottle, and the great outdoors. There is nothing at all wrong with that, and if it works for you, then a power meter isn’t going to make your rides any better.
Power meters are either a boon or a bane to cycling, depending on who you talk to.
Grand Tours are definitely the worse for them. Chris Froome may be a multiple Tour de France winner, but nobody can say watching him pedal at 110rpm with his eyes always looking at his stem is entertaining.
There’s even a dedicated page for it.
Data is clinical by its very nature. Suppose that’s your thing, then great. If you’re more about the experience of riding a bike, then it isn’t so great.
2. You're A Weekend Warrior
If you’re a casual cyclist or a weekend warrior who does 2 to 3 rides a week, then a power meter may not be for you either.
Casual cyclists don’t need to train to a level where a power meter offers value.
There may be too long a break between rides, and riding to numbers may take out all of the joy that getting out on your bike over a weekend brings. It’s difficult to unwind and forget about life for a while when staring at a screen at wattage numbers!
Riding with a club or your local bunch is not the place for power meters either unless you’re training. A club ride will typically include different abilities, relaxed attitudes, and riding at a pace that suits all riders, all roads, and all conditions and not your desired wattage.
When you only have a couple of hours a week for your favorite hobby, the last thing you want to be doing is staring at your bike computer instead of being in the moment!
Even if you’re more serious about your cycling but can only ride on weekends, a power meter will not deliver the gains you’re looking for. Too much time between rides, not enough time to dedicate to intervals, to recovery rides, to base miles, and all those other things structured training requires.
That’s no bad thing, just the way our lives are unless you’re lucky enough to get paid to ride bikes for a living.
3. You Just Want to Enjoy the Ride
Unless you’re following a structured training plan or riding for a purpose, a power meter is going to get in the way of the enjoyment of a ride.
We all ride for different reasons, but I love to ride to leave the world behind, not have to check emails or answer text messages and enjoy some me-time on the bike.
I don’t want to have my head down staring at my bike computer like a pro on a Tour stage. I don’t enjoy to be riding to numbers.
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My life is full of words, numbers, technology, and rules. A bike ride is my time to leave all that behind and spend time in the great outdoors.
I live in a very scenic part of the world, and I love taking time to slow down and enjoy that scenery.
A power meter is the antithesis of that. It demands my attention, like emails and text messages take my eye away from my surroundings and force my mind to concentrate instead of relaxing.
4. You're on A Budget
Power meters maybe half the price they used to be, but they are still quite an investment.
For the same price as the SRM power meter, you could buy a decent set of training wheels, several jerseys, cycling shoes, or enough inner tubes to last a few years.
It isn’t just about the power meter either.
To get the most out of it, you will need a bike computer able to display and download all the data, a coach with the expertise to interpret all that data into something useful, and then convert it into a structured training plan and the software to log and track your progress.
By the time you have paid for all of that, you may have little left for anything else!
Cycling is an expensive business even if you count the cost of the bike tires, tubes, nutrition, and the basics.
Add expensive accessories like power meters into the equation, and that cost can quickly become prohibitive. Especially as you then need a coach, Strava, or other training tool subscriptions and everything else that goes with structured training.
5. You're not A Data Driven Cyclist
Some cyclists cannot get enough of data and thrive on it.
Others, not so much.
A power meter requires an element of spreadsheet management to make sense of the data, build it into a structured training plan, interpret gains and losses and create training rides around all that data. This is usually done through online cycling analytics software these days.
If that’s not you, then a power meter isn’t either.
If you don’t go all in and accept the data and numbers, the requirement for a coach, Strava, and all that good stuff, then you’re not maximizing the potential that power meters offer.
If you don’t use them properly, why use them at all?
Statistics and data surround our lives. Isn’t it nice to sometimes switch off from it all and ride for the love of riding?
The Bottom Line
If you’re a serious cyclist, are training for an event, preparing to turn professional, or have the time and money to dedicate to using a power meter, then they are the perfect training tool.
Power meters are more accurate now than ever before and can record as much data as you could ever need.
If you’re anything other than serious about structured training, they are much less useful and perhaps even a waste of money. If you prefer cycling for the love of cycling, use your bike as a means of escape, or like to switch off and embrace the physical activity, a power meter may not be for you.
Only you can decide whether a power meter is right for you or not but don’t be taken in by the marketing or the hype. They are excellent tools for a specific job, but if you’re not in that job, your money could be better spent elsewhere!