HomeBikeBest Bike Power Meters Breakdown: Power, FTP, and Types

Best Bike Power Meters Breakdown: Power, FTP, and Types

In recent years, triathlon cycling has witnessed a technological revolution that has transformed the way triathletes train and perform. The advent of the power meter has empowered triathletes and cyclists with unprecedented insights into their physical abilities, enabling them to train more efficiently and achieve remarkable results.

Before we get started, here are our top picks for bike power meters.

Our Top Picks

1. Best Crank Based Power Meter, Magene P325CS Crankset at Amazon.com (No products found.)

2. Best Pedal Based Power Meter, FAVERO Assioma Duo Side Pedal Based Power Meter at Amazon.com ($759.00)

3. Best Spider Power Meter, Quarq DFour AXS DUB Power Meter Spider at Amazon.com ()

4. Best Crank ArmPower Meter, 4iiii Precision 3 Power Meter at Amazon.com (Price not available)

5. Best Best Aero Capturing Power Meter, Velocomp Cycling PowerPod Power Meter V5 at Amazon.com ($299.00)

In this article, we delve into the world of bicycle power meters, exploring what power is, the concept of Functional Threshold Power (FTP), and why it is such a valuable metric for triathletes. Additionally, we examine the various types of power meters available, outlining their advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding Bicycle Power

Bicycle power is a measure of the work a cyclist produces while riding. It quantifies the amount of force applied to the pedals and is measured in watts.

Power is a more accurate and reliable metric compared to speed or heart rate because it directly reflects the physical effort exerted, regardless of external factors like terrain or weather conditions.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is a critical parameter in power-based training. It represents the highest power output a cyclist can sustain for approximately one hour without fatigue setting in.

FTP is a reliable indicator of a triathlete’s current fitness level and serves as a reference point for setting training zones and intensity levels. By regularly assessing and tracking FTP, triathletes and cyclists can monitor their progress, tailor training plans to their capabilities, and optimize their performance.

FTP Testing

Testing your FTP at home is possible and can provide valuable information for your training. One common method is the FTP test, which typically involves a challenging workout done on your bike with a power meter.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a basic FTP test:

Warm-up

Begin with a 10-15 minute warm-up to gradually increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the effort ahead. Start with easy pedaling and gradually build up to a moderate intensity.

Test Effort

Once warmed up, find a stretch of road or a suitable indoor setup where you can sustain a consistent effort without interruptions. Set your bike computer or training app to record your power output.

Time Trial

Begin a sustained effort, aiming to maintain the highest power output you can sustain for approximately 20 minutes. Pace yourself evenly, avoiding going too hard early on and risking burnout.

Record Data

After completing the 20-minute effort, note your average power output for that duration. This average power will serve as an initial estimate of your FTP.

FTP Calculation

To estimate your FTP, multiply your average power from the 20-minute effort by 0.95. This correction factor accounts for the fact that sustaining the effort for a full hour is more challenging than a 20-minute segment. You can use the handy calculator here to work out your training zones once you have an FTP figure.

Recovery

Once the test is complete, allow yourself some time to cool down and recover. Hydrate, stretch, and take it easy for the remainder of the day to aid in your body’s recovery process.

Remember, this basic FTP test is just one approach among several available. There are more advanced and precise protocols designed by professionals, but for beginners or those testing at home, this method can provide a good starting point.

Testing your FTP periodically (every 4-6 weeks) is beneficial as it allows you to track your progress and adjust your training zones accordingly. As your fitness improves, you may notice an increase in your FTP, which indicates that you’re becoming stronger and more efficient on the bike.

By understanding your FTP, you can tailor your training zones and workouts to specific intensity levels, ensuring that your training matches your current abilities and goals. This knowledge empowers you to train more effectively, improve your fitness, and ultimately enhance your performance as a cyclist.

Other ways to Test FTP

There are various methods and platforms available for testing FTP, catering to different preferences and equipment availability. Here are a few popular options:

Traditional FTP Test

As described earlier, this method involves performing a sustained effort at maximum intensity for approximately 20 minutes, either outdoors or on an indoor trainer with a power meter. You can use a bike computer or training app to record your data and calculate your FTP.

Zwift FTP Test

Zwift is an interactive online platform for indoor cycling that offers its own FTP testing protocol. It provides a structured workout where you follow specific instructions and ride at prescribed intensities. Zwift automatically calculates your FTP based on the data from the test.

TrainerRoad FTP Test

TrainerRoad is a training software and app that offers comprehensive training plans and workouts for cyclists. They have their own FTP testing protocol, guiding you through a structured workout on an indoor trainer. TrainerRoad analyzes your data to determine your FTP.

Ramp Test

The Ramp Test is a time-efficient alternative to the traditional 20-minute test. It involves starting with a relatively easy effort and then increasing the intensity incrementally every minute until you reach your maximum effort. The software or app you’re using, such as TrainerRoad or Wahoo SYSTM, detects your FTP based on the point where you can no longer sustain the effort.

Outdoor Time Trial

If you prefer testing your FTP outdoors, you can conduct a time trial on a flat or hilly course. Ride at your maximum sustainable effort for approximately one hour, ideally with a power meter, and record your average power for that duration. This method closely simulates a real-world race effort.

The Wahoo Sufferfest 4DP (Four-Dimensional Power)

The Wahoo Sufferfest 4DP (Four-Dimensional Power) test is a unique and comprehensive testing protocol offered by the training platform Sufferfest, which was acquired by Wahoo Fitness.

The 4DP test aims to provide a more comprehensive assessment of your power profile beyond just FTP. It measures four key physiological metrics:

Neuromuscular Power (NM)

Measures your ability to produce short bursts of power, typically lasting a few seconds, such as during sprinting or attacking.

Anaerobic Capacity (AC)

Evaluates your ability to sustain high-intensity efforts for a few minutes, such as during breakaways or challenging climbs.

Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP)

Assesses your peak power output sustained over a relatively short period, typically lasting around 5 minutes.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

Like the traditional FTP concept, it measures the highest average power you can sustain for approximately one hour.

The 4DP test is typically performed indoors on a smart trainer, with specific workout segments designed to target each of the four-power metrics. During the test, you’ll go through a series of structured efforts at different intensities, with recovery periods in between. The test is challenging but provides a more comprehensive analysis of your power capabilities compared to a traditional FTP test.

Upon completion of the 4DP test, the Sufferfest software analyzes your power data and calculates your personalized power profile. It provides you with your FTP, as well as your NM, AC, and MAP values. This information enables you to train across a range of intensities, tailoring your workouts to address your strengths and weaknesses in different power zones.

The Sufferfest platform also offers training plans and workouts specifically designed to improve each of the four-power metrics. This approach allows for more targeted training and helps cyclists develop a well-rounded and balanced power profile for optimal performance.

The Wahoo Sufferfest 4DP test is a popular choice among cyclists looking for a comprehensive assessment of their power capabilities and a training program that focuses on multiple physiological aspects. It’s a valuable tool for those seeking a detailed understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement to maximize their cycling performance.

FTP Testing Summary

It’s worth noting that each testing method has its advantages and considerations. Factors such as equipment availability, personal preference, and specific training goals can influence the choice of testing protocol. Some platforms, like Zwift, Wahoo and TrainerRoad, also provide structured training plans and workouts based on your FTP results, making them popular among cyclists.

Ultimately, the key is to choose a testing method that aligns with your needs, offers accurate data collection, and allows you to track your progress over time. Regular testing and monitoring of your FTP will help you optimize your training and achieve your cycling goals more effectively.

Types of Bicycle Power Meters

The types are:

  • Crank power meters (measuring device is located in the left or in both crankarms)
  • Pedal power meters (measuring device is located in the left, in the right or in both pedals)
  • Spider /Chainring power meters (measuring device is located between the right crankarm and the chainrings
  • Crank Arm power meters (measuring device is located in the crank-axle and one or both crank arms)
  • Aero-Capturing power meters (measuring device is located at the handle-bar)
  • Indoor Smart Turbo Trainer (measuring device is in the trainer and not on the bike)
  • Hub power meters (measuring device is located in the rear hub)

Let’s look at each in turn and discuss their relative pros and cons. I will also include an example of each should you want more information.

Crank-based Power Meters

A crank-based power meter is a type of power meter that measures and calculates a cyclist’s power output by integrating sensors into the crankset of the bicycle. It is one of the most widely used and popular power meter options available in the market.

In a crank-based power meter, strain gauges are strategically placed within the crankarms or crank spider. These strain gauges measure the deformation or flex in the crankarms or spider caused by the applied force during pedaling. By analyzing these measurements along with the rotational speed of the crank, the power meter calculates and provides the rider with real-time power output data in watts.

Crank-based power meters offer several advantages:

  • Accuracy: Crank-based power meters are known for their high level of accuracy in power measurement. The strain gauges are located close to the source of power generation (the rider’s legs), resulting in accurate readings that are less affected by external factors such as wind or terrain conditions.
  • Compatibility: Crank-based power meters are compatible with various bike frames, as they can be installed on different cranksets. This allows cyclists to use the power meter across multiple bikes, as long as the crankset specifications are compatible.
  • Transferability: Crank-based power meters can be easily transferred between different bikes with compatible cranksets. This versatility is advantageous for cyclists who own multiple bikes or frequently switch between bikes for different training or racing purposes.
  • Consistency: Once properly installed and calibrated, crank-based power meters provide consistent and reliable power measurements over time. They require minimal maintenance and are generally durable.

However, there are a few considerations regarding crank-based power meters:

  • Installation: Installing a crank-based power meter may require some technical expertise, and in some cases, professional assistance may be needed. The installation process typically involves removing and replacing the crankset, which requires specific tools and knowledge.
  • Cost: Crank-based power meters are available in a wide range of prices, depending on the brand, features, and compatibility. They can be relatively expensive compared to other power meter options, particularly if you opt for higher-end models.
  • Pedal Compatibility: Compatibility with different pedal systems can vary among crank-based power meters. It’s important to ensure that your chosen power meter is compatible with your preferred pedal type.

Crank-based power meters are a popular choice for cyclists who prioritize accuracy, compatibility, and transferability. They provide reliable power measurements and enable cyclists to track their performance, set training zones, and optimize their training regimens to achieve their cycling goals.

Pros: Provides accurate and consistent measurements, compatible with various bike frames, transferable between bikes.

Cons: Higher cost, installation may require professional assistance.

Best Crank Based Power Meter: Magene P325CS Crankset

No products found.

The Magene P325CS features a 3-Hollow Crank Structure which makes it’s rigid with higher stability than solid cranks. It uses left and right independent module detection to calculate, providing the power data as accurately as possible. When using your Magene P325 CS power meter outdoors, its accuracy rate of +/-1.5% essentially means that any vibrations caused by a bumpy ride, local environmental conditions such as higher or lower level of humidity or temperature barely affect the data collected by Magene P325 CS. 

It provides torque efficiency pedal smoothness, pedal balance alongside with multiple high-order power and cadence data which enable riders to have a better grasp of their cycling data and improve cycling performance at the same time.

The Magene is rechargeable, waterproof and has a long battery life or 200 hours per charge.

Technical Details:

Accuracy: +/- 1.5%

Weight: 730g

Battery life: 200 hours

Wireless communications: Bluetooth and ANT+

Rating: IPX7

Data: Power, Cadence, Left-Right Balance, Torque Effectiveness, Pedaling Smoothness.

Pedal-based Power Meters

Pedal-based power meters are a type of power meter that measure and calculate a cyclist’s power output by integrating sensors directly into the pedals. They are a convenient and versatile option as they can be easily transferred between different bikes, regardless of the crankset or wheelset being used.

In pedal-based power meters, the strain gauges and sensors are built into the pedal spindle or pedal body, depending on the specific design of the power meter. These sensors measure the forces applied to the pedals during each pedal stroke and combined with the rotational speed, provide accurate power measurements in real-time.

There are two main variations of pedal-based power meters:

  • Single-Sided Pedal Power Meters: Single-sided pedal power meters measure power from one side of the bike, typically the left pedal. The power data collected from the left pedal is then doubled to estimate total power output. These power meters are often more affordable compared to their dual-sided counterparts.
  • Dual-Sided Pedal Power Meters: Dual-sided pedal power meters measure power independently from both the left and right pedals. This provides separate power data for each leg, allowing for a more accurate assessment of power balance and pedaling efficiency. Dual-sided power meters are often considered more precise and suitable for those seeking detailed insights into their pedaling dynamics.

Here are some key differences between single and double pedal power meters:

  • Power Balance: Dual-sided pedal power meters can provide information on left-right power balance. This data helps identify any imbalances or asymmetries in power output between the legs, allowing for targeted corrections and improved pedaling efficiency. Single-sided pedal power meters cannot provide individual leg power data or power balance metrics.
  • Accuracy: Dual-sided pedal power meters tend to offer higher accuracy due to their ability to measure power independently from each leg. Single-sided power meters rely on doubling the power from one side, which can introduce some estimation errors. However, both single and double pedal power meters are generally accurate and reliable.
  • Cost: Single-sided pedal power meters are typically more affordable compared to dual-sided options. The single-sided design requires fewer sensors and components, making them a budget-friendly choice for many cyclists.
  • Installation: Both single and dual-sided pedal power meters are relatively easy to install. They require replacing the existing pedals on the bike with the power meter pedals. The installation process generally involves basic tools and can be done by most cyclists.

Choosing between single and dual-sided pedal power meters depends on individual preferences, budget, and specific training goals. Single-sided power meters are suitable for most cyclists who want to measure and track their overall power output accurately. Dual-sided power meters are beneficial for those who want more detailed insights into power balance and pedal stroke efficiency, particularly for competitive cyclists or individuals working on pedaling symmetry.

It’s worth noting that different brands and models of pedal-based power meters may offer additional features such as cadence measurement, Bluetooth/ANT+ compatibility, and integration with training apps or cycling computers. It’s advisable to research and compare different options to find the pedal-based power meter that best suits your needs and cycling requirements.

Pros: Easy to install and swap between bikes, compatible with different pedal systems, provides left-right power balance.

Cons: Relatively expensive, some models may have durability concerns.

Best Pedal Based Power Meter: FAVERO Assioma Duo Side Pedal Based Power Meter

FAVERO Assioma Duo Side Pedal Based Power Meter

Assioma Pedal Based Cycling Power Mete are easy to install and rechargeable. With Cutting-edge cycling technology to make the most of each pedal stroke, the Assioma is extremely accurate with precise watt measurement thanks to years of careful research and development. Experience impressive ease of use, precision and reliability with no protruding elements or interference while you’re out on the road. Integrated and rechargeable, get at least 50 hours of battery life with a single charge. Available in two versions: Assioma UNO (with power sensor on the left pedal) and Assioma DUO (with power sensors on both pedals).

Favero has its own dedicated smartphone app that enables you to update the pedal firmware, check battery levels and access product support.

Favero provides its own cleat system with these pedals, which is similar to Look. Unfortunately, the cleats don’t offer a huge amount of adjustability and are slightly slippery to walk on.

Technical details:

Weight: 0.29 kilograms

Dimensions: 11.81″L x 6.3″W

Power: Rechargeable batteries ensure 50 hours of use

Wireless communication: Bluetooth and ANT+ 

Spider/Chainring-based Power Meters

Spider/chainring-based power meters, also known as crankset-based power meters, are a type of power meter that measures and calculates a cyclist’s power output by integrating sensors into the crankset’s spider or chainrings. They provide power measurement capabilities by directly sensing the forces applied during pedaling.

In spider/chainring-based power meters, strain gauges are strategically placed within the spider or integrated into the chainrings. These strain gauges measure the deformation or flex in the spider or chainrings caused by the applied force during pedaling. By analyzing these measurements along with the rotational speed of the crank, the power meter calculates and provides the rider with real-time power output data in watts.

Here are some key features and considerations related to spider/chainring-based power meters:

  • Accuracy: Spider/chainring-based power meters are generally known for their high level of accuracy. The strain gauges located within the crankset directly measure the forces generated by the rider, resulting in accurate power readings. They are less influenced by external factors such as wind or terrain conditions.
  • Compatibility: Spider/chainring-based power meters require specific cranksets or chainring combinations for compatibility. It’s essential to ensure that the power meter is designed to fit your particular crankset or chainring specifications. Some power meter models offer compatibility with a range of cranksets or chainring brands, while others are designed for specific models.
  • Transferability: While spider/chainring-based power meters are not as easily transferable between bikes compared to pedal-based power meters, they can be moved between compatible cranksets. If you have multiple bikes with compatible cranksets, you can transfer the power meter among them. However, it typically involves some disassembly and adjustment.
  • Installation: Installing a spider/chainring-based power meter can be a bit more involved compared to other types of power meters. It requires removing and replacing the crankset or chainrings, which may require specific tools and technical know-how. Some riders prefer professional assistance for the installation process.
  • Weight: Adding a spider/chainring-based power meter to the crankset can increase the weight slightly. However, the weight difference is usually minimal and unlikely to significantly impact most riders’ performance or riding experience.

Spider/chainring-based power meters are popular among cyclists who want accurate power measurement directly from the crankset. They provide consistent and reliable power data, enabling riders to track their progress, set training zones, and optimize their workouts for improved performance.

When considering a spider/chainring-based power meter, it’s important to ensure compatibility with your crankset or chainrings, consider the installation process, and compare features such as data transmission, compatibility with cycling computers or apps, and additional metrics offered. This allows you to choose a power meter that suits your specific needs, training goals, and budget.

Pros: Easy to install, accurate power measurement, compatibility with different cranksets and chainring sizes.

Cons: Limited compatibility with specific cranksets, may require professional installation, higher cost.

Best Spider Power Meter: Quarq DFour AXS DUB Power Meter Spider

QUARQ DFOUR AXS DUB SPIDER POWER METER 110 BCD 8-BOLT BLACK

The Quarq DFour DUB spider power meter incorporates five strain gauges strategically placed throughout the spider, and it’s got an accuracy of +/- 1. 5%, so its numbers are 0. 5% more accurate than some meters. DFour’s accuracy is further boosted by the return of Quarq’s 10k dynamic temperature compensation technology, which alleviates the need for constant, mid-race zeroings in variable conditions.

Technical Details

Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 9 x 3 inches

Weight: 0.75 Pounds

Protection Rating: IP54

Wireless communication: Bluetooth and ANT+

Battery: CR2032, 200-hour battery life, change without tools

Accuracy: within 1.5%, measuring on both sides

Crank Arm-based Power Meters

Crank arm-based power meters are a type of power meter that measures and calculates a cyclist’s power output by integrating sensors into the crank arms of the bicycle. They provide power measurement capabilities by directly sensing the forces applied during pedaling.

In crank arm-based power meters, strain gauges are strategically placed within one or both crank arms. These strain gauges measure the deformation or flex in the crank arms caused by the applied force during pedaling. By analyzing these measurements along with the rotational speed of the crank, the power meter calculates and provides the rider with real-time power output data in watts.

Here are some key features and considerations related to crank arm-based power meters:

  • Accuracy: Crank arm-based power meters are known for their high level of accuracy in power measurement. The strain gauges located within the crank arms directly measure the forces generated by the rider, resulting in accurate power readings. They are less influenced by external factors such as wind or terrain conditions.
  • Compatibility: Crank arm-based power meters are typically compatible with a wide range of cranksets, making them a versatile option. They can be installed on various crankset models and brands, as long as the crank arm dimensions and specifications match.
  • Transferability: Crank arm-based power meters offer good transferability between bikes. Since the power meter is integrated into the crank arm, it can be easily moved from one bike to another as long as the crankset compatibility is maintained. This makes them a suitable choice for riders who use multiple bikes and want to use the power meter across all of them.
  • Installation: Installing a crank arm-based power meter is generally straightforward and can be done by most cyclists. It involves removing the existing crank arms and replacing them with the power meter crank arms. The installation process usually requires basic tools and following manufacturer instructions.
  • Weight: Crank arm-based power meters add a bit of weight to the crank arms due to the integration of sensors and electronics. However, the weight increase is usually minimal and has negligible impact on most riders’ performance.

Crank arm-based power meters are popular among cyclists who want accurate power measurement combined with flexibility and ease of installation. They provide consistent and reliable power data, allowing riders to monitor their performance, set training zones, and optimize their workouts for improved cycling efficiency and performance.

When considering a crank arm-based power meter, it’s important to ensure compatibility with your crankset, compare features such as data transmission, battery life, and additional metrics provided. Additionally, it’s worth noting that some crank arm-based power meters offer single-sided measurement, providing power data from one crank arm and doubling it to estimate total power, while others offer dual-sided measurement for more accurate power balance and pedaling efficiency analysis. Choosing the right power meter depends on your specific needs, budget, and training objectives.

Pros: Easy to install, affordable compared to other options, compatibility with various crankset models.

Cons: Limited compatibility with specific cranksets, potential for slight accuracy variations between models.

Best Crank ArmPower Meter: 4iiii Precision 3 Power Meter

Whether it’s fighting for a starting spot at the Ironman in Kona, striving for a personal best, or simply spending countless hours on the exercise bike this crank power meter will provide you with accurate power stats during training and racing. With a battery life of up to 800 hours and an accuracy of +/-1 %, the Precision 3 power meter represents a high-quality and reliable training tool for many years to come.

The rugged yet lightweight design has been inherited by the power meter from its predecessor. New features are the significantly increased operating time and the even more compact dimensions, which also benefit an extended frame compatibility (5.5 instead of 7.5 mm installation height). In addition, the Precision 3 model has been equipped with an LED indicator that directly informs about operating status, battery status or a successful zero shift.

Ride Ready. The delivery of the 4iiii powermeter sensor is already pre-mounted on the selected Shimano crank arm for Hollowtech II bottom brackets. After installation at the bike* and connecting to the control unit or computer, you can immediately start recording power.

Technical details:

Accuracy: +/- 1 %

Power measurement range: 0 – 4000 W

Cadence range: 30 – 170 rpm

Battery life: up to 800 h (manufacturer’s specification), CR2032 (coin cell)

Wireless communication: ANT+ / Bluetooth

App compatibility: Zwift, TrainerRoad, Wahoo SYSTM, etc.

Rating: IPX7 certified

Dimensions: 63.79 x 26.42 x 5.5 mm

Weight: approx. 9 g (power meter without crank arm; manufacturer’s specification)

Aero-capturing power meters (measuring device is located at the handle-bar)

Aero capturing power meters are bolted to your handlebars and measure wind resistance. To my knowledge there is only one type which is the Velocomp PowerPod.

Pros:

  • Very easy to set up you don’t swap-out wheels, cranks or pedals.
  • Installation is easy very easy – simply attach to your handlebars and ride.
  • Works with any road, mountain, time trial, gravel, and cross bike. Other bikes too: tandem, recumbent, folding etc
  • High accuracy, +/- 2%, both leg measurement

Cons:

  • Can only be used outside and not inside on a stationary bike.
  • Accuracy is good but not as good as other types of power meter.

Best Aero Capturing Power Meter: Velocomp Cycling PowerPod Power Meter V5

Velocomp High Accuracy Black Cycling PowerPod V5 Power Meter (for Road, Mountain, Time Trial, Gravel, Cross Bikes) (PPV5)

This version of the PowerPod is V5 and features new sensors, more accurate data recording, and simpler setup; A new 24 bit wind sensor, designed and manufactured exclusively for Velocomp, provides better and higher resolution wind measurements.

With PowerPod V5 you don’t swap-out wheels, cranks or pedals. Installation is easy you just simply attach the PowerPod mount to your handlebars, pair the PowerPod V5 to your bike computer’s ANT+ speed or speed/cadence sensor, pair your bike computer or smartphone app to PowerPod V5 and then ride!

It works with any road, mountain, time trial, gravel, and cross bike. Other bikes too: tandem, recumbent, folding, well any bike!

Technical Details:

Accuracy: +/- 2%

Wireless communication: ANT+

Weight: 0.24 Kilograms

Dimensions: 7.87 x 7.6 x 2.44 inches

Smart Indoor Turbo Trainers

You can use a smart indoor wind or turbo trainer to test and ride with power. Smart trainers are designed to provide a power measurement output, allowing you to accurately track and analyze your power output while riding indoors.

Smart trainers use various technologies to measure power, such as strain gauges, electromagnetic resistance, or optical sensors. These sensors detect and measure the forces applied to the trainer and convert them into power data. This data is then transmitted wirelessly to a compatible device, such as a cycling computer, smartphone, or training app, where you can view and record your power metrics.

To test your power using a smart indoor wind or turbo trainer, you can perform a functional threshold power (FTP) test. The FTP test is a common method used to determine your sustainable power output over an extended period. It helps establish your training zones and provides a baseline for your training programs.

To conduct an FTP test, you typically warm up for around 10-20 minutes, ensuring your muscles are ready for the effort. Then, you perform a sustained, all-out effort for a specified duration, usually ranging from 20 to 60 minutes. The trainer measures your power output throughout the test, and you can record the average power achieved during the test as your FTP.

Many smart trainers and training apps have built-in FTP test protocols that guide you through the test and automatically calculate your FTP based on the recorded power data. These tests often involve structured intervals, providing instructions on when to increase or maintain effort levels.

Once you have determined your FTP, you can use it as a reference point for your training. It helps you set training zones for different intensities, enabling you to optimize your workouts and track your progress over time.

Smart trainers provide a valuable tool for power-based training indoors. They offer a realistic and immersive riding experience, along with the ability to accurately measure and monitor your power output. This allows you to structure your training sessions effectively, simulate outdoor riding conditions, and improve your overall cycling performance.

Pros: If you are already training indoors this is a convenient way to assess your FTP and train with power.

Cons: Only indoor power training and not on the open road.

Best Smart Indoor Trainer: Wahoo KICKR CORE Direct Drive Bike Resistance Trainer for Cycling/Spinning Indoors

Wahoo KICKR CORE Direct Drive Bike Resistance Trainer for Cycling/Spinning Indoors

When connected to your smartphone, tablet, computer, or GPS bike computer, KICKR CORE indoor smart bike trainer automatically controls resistance according to the software or route.

Experience the a realistic ride feel and responsive resistance whether doing structured workouts, riding virtual worlds like Wahoo RGT and Zwift, or re-riding routes recorded on your GPS bike computer.

The 12 LB flywheel provides riders with the precise inertia needed to recreate an outdoor ride feel while riding indoors.

It has 8, 9, 10 and 11 speed options give you the flexibility of adding your preferred cassette to the trainer, so that you can fully mimic your outdoor group set. But note that it does not include cassette or wheel block.

Technical Details

Dimensions: ‎27.56 x 20.47 x 11.42 inches

Weight: 19 Kilograms

Accuracy: +/- 3%

Wireless communication: ANT+, Bluetooth, ANT+ FE-C

Hub-based Power Meters

A hub-based power meter is a type of power meter that measures and calculates a cyclist’s power output by integrating sensors directly into the rear hub of a bicycle wheel. It is considered one of the earliest and most traditional forms of power measurement technology for cycling.

In a hub-based power meter, strain gauges are strategically placed within the hub assembly to measure the torque applied to the rear wheel. By combining this torque measurement with the rotational speed of the wheel, the power meter calculates the power output in watts. The data is typically transmitted wirelessly to a cycling computer or smartphone for real-time monitoring and analysis.

Hub-based power meters offer several advantages:

  • Accuracy: Hub-based power meters are known for their high level of accuracy. Since the power measurement is taken directly at the wheel hub, it is less affected by external factors such as wind resistance, temperature changes, or road conditions. This makes them reliable and consistent in various riding scenarios.
  • Durability: Hub-based power meters are generally more robust and durable compared to other types of power meters. They are well protected within the hub, making them less prone to damage from crashes, debris, or water exposure.
  • Compatibility: Hub-based power meters are compatible with a wide range of bikes and wheelsets. As long as the hub dimensions and specifications match, they can be easily installed and used on different bikes without requiring significant adjustments.

However, hub-based power meters also have some limitations:

  • Limited Compatibility: Hub-based power meters typically require specific hub types or wheelsets to be compatible. This can restrict their usability and require wheel rebuilding or purchasing a separate wheel with the power meter integrated.
  • Cost: Hub-based power meters tend to be relatively more expensive compared to other types of power meters. The technology involved in manufacturing the power meter and the need for hub integration contribute to the higher cost.
  • Weight: The additional components and sensors integrated into the hub can increase the weight of the wheel slightly. While this might not be a significant concern for most riders, weight-conscious cyclists may prefer other power meter options.

With SRAM discontinuing the PowerTap range of products the Hub type of power meter is hard to purchase. You may be able to get one second hand if you feel this type is for you.

Pros: Accurate, durable, and unaffected by environmental conditions (e.g., wind).

Cons: Limited compatibility with specific hub types, requires wheel rebuilding, higher cost. Limited availability.

Power Meter Types Pros and Cons Summary

Crank-based

Accurate, versatile, transferable, higher cost, professional installation.

Pedal-based

Easy installation, compatibility, left-right power balance, cost, durability concerns.

Spider/Chainring-based

Easy installation, accuracy, compatibility, limited crankset compatibility, professional installation.

Crank Arm-based

Easy installation, affordability, compatibility, limited crankset compatibility, slight accuracy variations.

Aero Capturing

Extremely easy to install, accurate and data for both legs and cost effective. Can only be used outside.

Smart Indoor Trainer

You may already have this to train inside so convenient to complete FTP tests and train with power. Can only be used inside.

Hub-based

Accurate, durable, limited compatibility, higher cost. Limited availability now SRAM has discontinued the PowerTap range.

Conclusion

In the realm of cycling and triathlon, knowledge is power, and a power meter provides triathletes and cyclists with invaluable insights into their performance. With the ability to accurately measure power output and track FTP, you can optimize your training, set appropriate goals, and monitor progress effectively.

Power changes as you train in real time whereas your heart rate changes gradually up and down. So, if you want to train accurately in the right zones then a power meter will give you this data.

While the choice of power meter ultimately depends on personal preferences, budget, and bike compatibility, the benefits of training with power are undeniable.

Embracing this technology can unlock your hidden cycling potential, leading to improved performance and a deeper understanding of your own capabilities on the bike. Afterall as a triathlete the bike leg is the longest part so getting this right could mean the difference between getting on the podium or not or getting a race PB.

Rating: 5.00/5. From 1 vote.
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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com

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