Friday, February 13, 2015

I Got The Power!

It seems like all the best cyclists & triathletes train with power meters on the bike.  It makes sense to use power as a tool for structuring workouts and a metric for measuring performance improvements because it's constant.  What I mean is, while speed, heart rate, and RPE are all subject to variables like wind, hills, heat, and residual fatigue, power is always power.  Therefore it's presumably a much more consistent and reliable way to configure interval workouts, maintain a steady effort during a race, and monitor gains.

I've never trained with power and have been wanting to purchase a power meter for quite a few years now.  But unfortunately, I've never been able to fit one into my budget.  Given that I just purchased a Felt IA, I still can't fit one into my budget!  However, TrySports Charlie clued me into another option; a poor man's power meter... let me explain...

It's called the Kurt Kinetic inRide and the MSRP is $170.  The inRide is compatible with Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainers and, lucky me, I just happen to have one of those!!!  Actually I have to put in a quick plug for Kurt Kinetic trainers right now.  I bought this thing back in 2004 and it still works perfectly and quietly!  It's got a lifetime warranty and I have had to submit two warranty claims for pieces that wore out, but it was as simple as filling out a form and the part showing up at my doorstep.  So I'm a BIG fan of Kurt Kinetic trainers and wouldn't hesistate to buy another one, except that I don't forsee ever having to buy another one ;)

Here's a little Q & A with myself about the inRide:

How does the inRide work?  
Ok, so it's actually not a power meter in that it doesn't directly measure watts.  It measures speed and cadence at the tire and uses an esablished fluid trainer power curve to translate that data into wattage.  All of the following data is displayed on your phone in real time as you ride:  power in watts, heart rate, cadence, speed, calories burned, and distance.  You can use the app to do a general ride, intervals, or an FTP test.  It saves your workouts and you can view your history in the app, or you can upload the workouts to other platforms like Training Peaks or Garmin Connect.

How accurate is it?
I don't have the means to personally compare the data output from my inRide to other power meters.  Thankfully, DC Rainmaker as already done that for me.  He compared the inRide vs. CycleOps PowerTap G3 vs. Power2Max.  His conclusion was that after completing the 10 minute warm up calibration period, "the power accuracy is pretty spot on" and "within a couple percent in most cases."  Here is a link to his blog with an in-depth review on the inRide & the analysis he did on the 3 different power meters.  From other reading, I think it's definitely safe to conclude that the inRide is reliable - that is, as long as you pump your tires to the same psi every time and tighten the resistance wheel the same amount every time you will get reproducible results.  This is great because it means that you can do an FTP, determine your power zones, and do power-based interval workouts on the trainer.  I've started doing this and I'm pretty excited because it gives me a real way to measure my effort during trainer rides and to track progress!!!

Can you use it outside?  
The only way you could use the inRide outside is if you set your trainer up in your back yard.  Since the sensor is connected to the trainer itself, I'm still not using power for my outdoor rides.  BUT, I don't have a huge problem with this b/c 1) I enjoy riding outside because I think riding bikes is fun.  If I was staring at a watt number the entire time I think it would start to suck some of the joy out of riding.  Chances are you know people like this.  2) If you wanted to determine zones for outside all you would have to do is note your heart rate on the trainer at different power outputs and base your outdoor rides on heart rate.  3) I like the approach of using this power meter as a tool for dialed in specific workouts a couple times per week; kind of like a session at the track.

How difficult is it to set up?  
It's really easy.  Here are the steps:

1.  Plug magnetic sensor into flywheel of Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainer.

2.  Adhere the inRide sensor to the base of the flywheel.

3.  Put on the inRide heart rate monitor (included in package).

4.  Download Kinetic inRide app (available for iphone 4s, 5, & 6, as well as the ipad 3 & 4, ipad mini, and ipod touch 5).

5.  Put your bike in the trainer & start riding.  Open the app and pair the HRM and sensors to the app.

6.  Enjoy the ride and pedal along to the snazzy beat this excellent 90's song while thinking "Oh Snap!  I got The Power!"