Training Tools and Equipment

What training tools and equipment do you need besides your bike, the power meter and your GPS Bike computer?

There are some very useful accessories for power based training. Not a must, but they are a great added help.

Note: This post is part 2 of 5 of a series on how to start training with a power meter. If you came here as a result of a web search, make sure to go the starting post  to take full advantage of the series. If you have not done so yet, please read the section About Training with Power, where we explain our approach to sharing the Training information in this website.

GARMIN EDGE 530 GPS BIKE COMPUTER

The Garmin Edge 530 bike computer is fully featured to follow and analyze a training program.

It has connectivity to the power, heart rate, cadence and speed sensors I use for training. It has a very decent 20 hour battery that can be used for several rides before needing a recharge. Battery drainage during a ride is not something to worry about.

Various profiles can be created so that depending on the type of riding you are doing; specific screens and data fields can be programmed on each.

I created 2 of them specifically for training with power, one for MTB and one for Road training (I do not have a road bike but cannot go to the mountains every day, so I often train on pavement on my mountain bike and classify that as road).

They have basically the same screens and fields with very few variations, such as removing the MTB dynamic metrics in the Road profile

They include the following data screens:

Upon finishing a ride, I get a summary of the ride as well as added information such as the training effect, aerobic load and recovery time, among others .

Finally, as the ride data is uploaded to the Garmin Connect app, details of the ride can be seen I various screens as shown below

 

GARMIN CONNECT APPS

Garmin has the Connect IQ app store that allows 3rd party developers to create applications that expand Garmin devices capabilities. The availability is huge and there are 2 apps that I have installed in the Edge 530:

What’s my FTP-Xert APP

Continuously measures your performance during normal rides and if it detects a change in FTP, it will let you know and decide whether you want to use the new value as the reference.

If so, training zones are recalculated automatically.

Power Wind Pro APP

This is a virtual power application that intends to replace a physical power meter with a 10% accuracy, per the developer description. It requires a speed and a cadence sensor to properly work.

I have yet to fully test it and compare to a real power meter, but it is an option for cases when I am riding a bike without the power meter.

The data obtained from this app may not be as accurate as a real power meter, but it is better than not having any power data at all.

Currently it does displays current power, 30 seconds average power and colored bar for the training zones but, at the time of issuing this post, does not show important data fields such as IF and TSS so it has limitations to properly monitor a training session.

Stay tuned for more on this app as we progress in the testing.

 

4iii POWER METER

When I started looking for a power meter, there were very specific features I needed it to have:

  • Be mountain bike compatible
  • No rechargeable batteries
  • Connectivity with all potential head units: Blue Tooth and Ant+
  • Reliability history
  • Dual sided was desirable but not a most
  • Within my budget.

After searching, reading and getting feedback I finally settled on a 4iiii (yes, four “I”s) model PRECISION Power Meter For Shimano XT M8000 – 170 mm (link https://4iiii.com/usa/products/pdp/left-side-precision-powermeter-ride-ready/).

This is a left side crank arm type Power Meter with a model compatible with my Shimano drive train that met what I was looking for. Though dual sided would have been a nice feature, it was out of the budget I had in mind.

This power meter has been flawless. Connecting it to the Edge 530 (as well as the Wahoo Elemnt I originally used it with) was fast and simple. With 100 hours battery life rating (CR2032 coin cell), it lasts long enough not to worry. And when the battery is low, the Edge 530 prompts a timely low battery message with enough time to spare for battery replacement, which is very easy without the need of tools.

It is good to calibrate your power meter before every ride to assure accuracy. I set up the Edge 530 to send a calibration request upon turning it on and detecting the power meter. Is a 15 to 20 second process.

The data has been very accurate and the only issue I have seen are sporadic erroneous cadence readings which I think are due to sudden movements of the crank, like when hitting a rock or taking air, that activate the accelerometer with a burst resulting on those readings (which may be corrected in the analysis software if desired).

There is also a cell phone app from 4iii that is used for several functions such as register your power meter, check battery status, calibrate it, get firmware updates and so forth.

 

HEART RATE SENSOR

Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters do not fight each other, as a fact they complement each other. There is even a metric known as Aerobic Decoupling that measures this relationship.

Per Golden Cheetah: “Aerobic Decoupling is a measure of how much heart rate rises or how much power/pace falls of during the course of a long ride/run”

If the decoupling is out of certain parameters, something in your training has to be investigated.

I have also found that having both of them helps to better control a training session, and as you saw in the Activity Profile screens shown above, a heart rate zone data field is there.

Also, as a complement to power, Garmin Connect showsPr a performance chart known as Training Load, a long term performance metric that is highly based on heart rate.

So, I use a Polar H10 heart rate monitor. Why Polar? Because when I was doing Heart Rate based training, I used Polar devices. The H10 is Blue Tooth and Ant+ compatible, so it can be connected to other devices.

This is another highly reliable device. It is chest strapped to provide high accuracy with a very decent battery life.

Firmware updates are done through the Polar Flow app.

 

 

CADENCE AND SPEED SENSORS

I have Wahoo cadence and speed sensors from the time when I was training with heart rate only. Cadence is a very powerful metric to control a training session. As a fact I have been consistently increasing my average cadence from 75 rpm to 85 rpm currently, thanks to this sensor.

A power meter measures cadence as well, so I removed it from my training bike but, as you read on the virtual power app Power Wind Pro, it needs a cadence and speed sensor, so I am using it in a secondary bike to test it.

The speed sensor is used to have better accuracy in speed and distance than what the GPS data may provide.

Both sensors have been reliable and sturdy. Battery life is long and connectivity has been stable, very easy to link to the Edge 530.

 

STATIONARY TRAINER

Indoor cycling has not a good reputation but may be a very good option to train aspects of fitness that are hard to control outdoors. For example, if your plan calls for a 20 minute interval at Zone 3, unless you have access to very long roads, with no traffic or stop signs, doing it indoors might be the only option.

Weather is another reason. You might one to go out on your training ride and turns out there is a downpour not allowing you to go riding. The trainer may save your training session for that day.

Indoor training has become very popular with smart trainers and platforms such as TrainerRoad or Swift, in which you can have virtual competitions with others all around the world.

I have an old, “dumb” trainer that I might use in case there are weather issues or in cases where the outdoors training plan is not providing the results I want and indoor training may be the answer.

 

GOLDEN CHEETAH APP

I have already mentioned Golden Cheetah in other posts. I will use it as the main tool to monitor progress and performance improvements.

Some other apps will complement Golden Cheetah but when conflicting information or data calculations show up, Golden Cheetah will have prevalence.

 

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