Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Watt Envy

Let's face it--most things we cyclists buy are peacock's feathers. Most of us gain little with our carbon fiber, our skinsuits and our fancy sunglasses.

To illustrate the point, consider the following two cyclists:
A. Big Tim


B. A little girl

Which spent more money on his or her rig? The correct answer is B., the litle girl. Despite her outlays (e.g., tassels, training wheels, chainguard) the little girl is no match for Big Tim and his superior watt/weight ratio. The little girl is toast. That's the bottom line.

After getting my ass handed to me in Ritchie and Conestoga, I aim to improve my watts/weight ratio. My new power meter should allow me to track my progress.

Mike May's blog is a good example of what kind of data to expect from a power meter. My data tells me that, overall, my wattage isn't that bad (310w/30 minutes), although Floyd Landis and other pros can sustain over 500w/30 minutes. For a Cat 4, 310's OK. But when you combine that kind of middling power with my weight, you get a 3.9 w/kg ratio (for 30 minutes). That is, circle the F-ing wagons, it's a genocide, as my brother observed.

Watts provide a measuring stick that allows you to appreciate what professionals do (or the drugs they take):
-Allen Lim says here that Floyd sustained 281w for over 5 hours on his infamous stage 17 solo break, but on training rides had sustained 300-310w for 6 hours at a time.
-Taylor Phinney has thrown down 2050 watts on his powertap (the max reading on the display is 1999), and can sustain somewhere over 600w for 3 minutes.
-Lance managed 493 watts over 30 minutes (see here)
-British track sprinter Chris Hoy and his 27" thighs have pushed 2300 watts
-Chris Boardman averaged 445 watts in breaking the hour record on the track (noted here)
-Contador, even in 2005, could generate over 500w an hour in the time trial position, no less, according to MIT

The numbers are amazing. It's astonishing, really, that Contador at 140 pounds can generate almost twice as much sustainable power as me (at 175 lbs).

I now know what 500 watts feels like.
I remember what it feels like to be 140 pounds.
I can't imagine what being 140 and pushing 500 for an hour feels like.


Tim C said...

the 500watt number shouldn't be taken seriously. It sounds like the velonews article's source wasn't very accurate, and besides... it would be impossible, even for Contador.

Anonymous said...

It's called EPO brotha

Tim said...

"superior watt/weight ratio". you're giving me a lot there. a race between me and that little girl would likely come down to a bike throw.

Calvini said...

Ah, Tim C, I see that you've not yet seen Adidas' "Impossible is Nothing" ad campaign. Maybe it should be called Impossible is Nothing...with EPO."

And're damn right you can beat that little girl. You better be hoisting the velvet green belt above your head for the B races come August. Don't let the Spanish Viking get it.