Power Meter For Spin Bikes

What Is A Power Meter For Spin Bikes?

by

Billy Hughes
August 18, 2021
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If you want to get accurate measurements of your workout progress and know when you should relax instead, you should definitely invest in a power meter for your spin bike.

There are various power meters that you can attach to different areas of your bike, depending on what’s most convenient for you.

What are some types of power meters? Pedal, hub, and crank power meters are some of the most common meters. As you can probably guess, these meters are named according to where on the spin bike you’ll attach them.

With the above in mind, let’s explore everything you need to know about power meters. We’ll start by looking at the benefits you can gain from them. 

Top Benefits Of Using A Power Meter

power meter benefits
  • You get instant real-time feedback of your effort and progress while you cycle.
  • If you’re cycling outdoors, a power meter won’t be affected by external factors, such as the wind. This is what gives power meters an edge over heart rate monitors, as those devices can be affected by many external factors, including stress, caffeine intake, and lack of sleep.
  • You will be able to prevent the issue of training too hard when you should be scaling back your intensity or vice versa because a power meter will help you to concentrate on your goals for every cycling session.

How Does A Power Meter Work?

A power meter that’s attached to your bike measures the power that’s delivered by you when you pedal.

Bicycle power meters use what’s known as strain gauges. These measure applied torque when combined with angular speed, which calculates the power that’s being produced. “Power” basically refers to the energy that’s produced in a given fraction of time and it’s a measure of intensity known as watts.

One watt equals one joule per second, and one joule equals the energy that’s required to move a mass of about 100 grams per meter.

The power meter’s display will show you a value that corresponds to the total energy that’s required to move your body mass against the resistance. This meter then displays information that’s measured in real time so you can see the power with which you’re turning the bike’s pedals. 

A power meter transmits wireless data and can be synced with a standard bicycle computer. This makes it useful to provide you with instant feedback of your workout, and it’s especially beneficial if you’re an athlete as it can give you feedback before a cycling race.

Power meters work with Wahoo, Garmin Edge, CyleOps, and more. Some even have Bluetooth capabilities, so you can even sync them with your smartphone device.

You’ll not only be able to get live data as you cycle, but you can upload the data to apps or sites so that you can check and study the data after your rides, in order to improve your efforts the next time you train. 

Do You Really Need A Power Meter? 

power meter spinning

You’re not an athlete and you don’t take part in racing competitions, so why would you need a power meter?

You might ask yourself this, but the truth is that you do have much to gain from having a power meter. By informing you of how much power you’re releasing when you cycle, a power meter will be able to gauge if you’re training well.

If you boost your wattage over time, then you know that you’re progressing well. You can’t get this from a heart rate monitor or speedometer.

What Should You Look For In A Power Meter? 

In order to ensure that you get a quality power meter that gives you accurate readings, you should look for important features. Let’s take a look at them. 

ANT+

ANT+ is a wireless data communication protocol. It’s used to transmit data to a recording device. Many power meters will have ANT+ installed, but make sure you look for it when shopping for them.

Temperature Adjustment

Since a power meter’s strain gauges are attached to various parts of the bike, this makes them susceptible to cold or hot temperatures that you’ll experience while cycling.

The power meters need to be able to adjust to these external factors so that they don’t get in the way of providing you with accurate measurements. 

Left Or Right Balance

There are power meters that will measure the power from your left and right legs to see how they contribute to your general power output.

This is a useful feature to look for in a power meter as it will help you correct a pedal stroke that’s not as effective as it could be. 

What Are The Different Types Of Power Meters?

While there are tons of different types of power meters available on the market, they all have different advantages.

Let’s explore them in a bit more detail.

Pedal-Based Systems

pedal system

Pros

  • The pedal-based power meter system doesn’t incorporate the bike’s drivetrain so it won’t get in the way of your cycling. 
  • You can make use of dual-sided pedal power meters that can analyze your pedal force and stroke. 
  • Pedal-based power meters are easy to install and swap between bikes.

Cons

  • They tend to be less accurate than other types of power meters. This is because it’s difficult to measure force at the pedal and this part of the bike is prone to getting damaged.

Crank-Based Systems

Pros

  • This type of power meter comes in a variety of options so that it can accommodate a range of different bikes. 
  • It’s one of the most common power meters as a result of how it’s based on durability and accuracy. 

Cons

  • One of the biggest drawbacks of this type of power meter is that it’s the most complicated to remove from one bike and install on another. 

Hub/Wheel-Based System

power meter on wheel

Pros

  • One of the best things about a hub/wheel system power meter is that it’s the easiest type to install. You can also switch it from one bike to another.
  • It leaves your drivetrain out of the picture, which increases its convenience.

Cons

  • It’s not a good idea to use this power meter system if you have multiple wheelsets for racing and training unless every wheelset has its own power meter. This can end up costing a lot of money.

Bottom Bracket System

Pros

  • This type of power meter is accurate.
  • It’s easy to maintain, which makes it a popular choice. 

Cons

  • It’s difficult to install, which is further complicated by different bracket standards that are used. 

How Accurate Is A Power Meter? 

How Accurate Is A Power Meter?

A big question you might have is how accurate a power meter actually is. But what does accuracy in a power meter mean?

If you’re pedaling 200 watts, you want your power meter to show a number as close to 200 watts as possible as that means it will be more accurate. It’s worth knowing that power meter manufacturers state that their devices have an accuracy of approximately 1.0 to 2.0 percent.

That said, consistency is also important. If you’re generating 206 watts but your power meter is showing you 200 watts, it should always do this. Even if it’s displaying a 2.0 percent increase, it should always be consistent as that will make it more accurate.

If it’s giving you 2.0 percent lower one day and then 2.0 percent higher the next, it might be accurate but it’s not consistent, which is worrying. Consistency is important because if your power meter isn’t being consistent, you won’t have any way of knowing if your power is increasing or decreasing!

Some people think that consistency is more important than accuracy, but this isn’t true. Imagine if your previous power meter wasn’t accurate. How would you be able to compare the data on your new power meter to the old one?

Therefore, it’s important to consider both accuracy and consistency when using a power meter in order to get the best results.

Related Questions 

Should you use a power meter with a heart rate monitor?

Comparing your power meter to your heart rate helps you to track aerobic conditioning.

If your heart rate is lower or higher than normal for the same wattage, then you’ll be alerted of something being wrong, such as that you’re overtraining.

Should you calibrate your power meter before exercise?

Remember to calibrate! Before every cycling session, you should calibrate your power meter.

On some power meters you’ll see this as zero-offset. This will guarantee that you’ll get accurate and consistent readings. 

Conclusion

If you want to gain more data about your cycling in terms of your power, then you should invest in a power meter.

In this article, we’ve looked at everything you need to know about power meters and their benefits. 

Sources:

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.