by Oliver Evans
I’ll be the first to admit that my training methods are unorthodox.
I like to ride my road bike on gravel roads or trails and along singletrack that’s often muddy and goes through streams. My rides in the winter have a focus on exploration and adventure; finding new ways to get around the Vancouver Island on new roads, connecting dead-end roads via trails and often just winging rides. Riding a bike, not a computer.
I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with riding alone, but in the past year I’ve shifted from the solitude that often goes hand in hand with being a serious cyclist. In fact, I’ve taken most of the seriousness out of the sport entirely (for myself). I love having company on rides.
I don’t use a power meter. My power is simply too high to be measured…. I don’t use a heart rate monitor either. If anything, I base my rides on duration. In a race, I look at the distance and elapsed time. Those are the only numbers I’m really interested in.
I haven’t always been this way though. I used to be a slave to numbers as a junior. This unhealthy obsession certainly played a significant role in burning me out in late 2016. If I was doing intervals during a training ride and my numbers were low, I’d become disheartened and often stop. The numbers got in my way of training effectively. As my numbers consistently got lower and lower, I lost motivation and confidence. This feeling of degradation combined with poor mental health led me to eventually stop racing last March. I needed to take a step back from the sport.
Last June I got back on the bike. For the first few weeks, I didn’t even take a Garmin with me. I just wanted to ride. It was truly liberating, as biking should be. Eventually, I put the Garmin back on but left the power meter on my workbench. It’s still there now, but it’s for sale so if anyone needs a power meter you know who to call!
When I do intervals (which is rare) I base them off of perceived effort. I ride by feel. Similarly, even when I did use a power meter in training, I never looked at it in a race and never put it on my time trial bikes. There was no point in doing what the numbers on my screen said I could or couldn’t do. Power really only dictated my training. A lot of the intensity I do in training now is the result of a group ride, where other racers and friends are there to push you. For me, this is a solid way to go deeper in training than I often would on my own. Something about friendly or perhaps not-so-friendly competition.
Training by feel can be difficult to coach. It’s up to me to clearly communicate my training and how I feel both mentally and physically to my coach. It’s also up to me to call a lot of the shots when building a training program. I have had to become more aware of myself than ever before and take much more control over what I do. This season will be a bit experimental to say the least, as it’s my first actual season since adopting this training method.
Now, don’t mistake my disinterest in power meters as abhorrence. Perhaps, instead, you could consider what really works for you. What’s healthy? Are the benefits outweighing the cons? I got to the point when I was using a power meter that I wouldn’t want to ride a bike without one and sometimes would miss rides if I didn’t have my power meter. It was silly. But it really just didn’t work for me and since recognizing this, I’ve enjoyed riding much more thoroughly.
For some, power meters really do work. And that’s fantastic! There’s not just one right way to train. But just because most people do one thing doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do.
I took off my power meter and learned to ride again. I go out to ride now instead of going out to train.
Oliver Evans is a 19-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, who is currently based in Victoria. He races on the road with H&R Block Pro Cycling.