For cyclists, achieving a high wattage is like the Holy Grail. We spend hours in the pain cave trying to improve the numbers and sweating it out on an indoor bike trainer so that outdoor rides become a breeze. The ultimate goal for any cyclist is being able to ride faster for longer while expending less energy and becoming more efficient in the saddle. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Read on to find out how you can get more watts cycling and increase your power output to become the ultimate cycling machine.
What is a good average wattage for cycling?
When considering your average wattage, it’s important to remember that different cyclists will need different power outputs to achieve the same speed and acceleration. Your cycling wattage will be dependent on a long list of factors, including but not limited to: body weight, riding position, surface gradient, wind speed, tyres… the list goes on. In general, a cyclist who weighs more may be able to crank out more watts, but this is why power to weight ratio is important.
If you have a tank of a friend who’s super tall and built like a house, he’s likely to create more watts when cycling than you if you’re considerably shorter and leaner. However, that doesn’t mean he’s a ‘better’ cyclist than you, it simply means he needs more power to get up to speed because he’s heavier.
Power to weight ratio is measured in watts/kilograms where watts indicates your power output and kilograms is your body weight. So if you’re a lean 60kg cranking out an average of 180w on your ride, and your 90kg friend is cranking out 270w average on that same ride, your power to weight ratio is actually the same.
How quickly can you improve cycling power?
With all that said, it’s still desirable to improve your cycling power so that you can become a faster and more efficient cyclist. If you want to increase your power in cycling, it’ll take a lot of hard work, dedication, and most important of all: time. This is something you can’t rush but it’ll be well worth the wait.
In order to increase your cycling wattage, it’s best to follow the 75 percent rule. This training principle states that throughout the week, 75 percent of your cycle training should be done below 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). If you’re familiar with heart rate zones, you’ll realise this means three quarters of your training should be done in heart rate Zones 1 and 2. The other 25 percent of your training will be done in Zones 4 and 5, where the magic happens.
You may think that doing all your training at maximum effort and feeling like death after every session is what you’re supposed to do, when in fact this will likely just lead to endless injuries, illnesses and very little progress. With hard work and a lot of patience, following the 75 percent rule by doing most of your training at easy/recovery effort, you will find you can improve your cycling power, increase your power to weight ratio, and out-ride all your friends.
Exercises to improve cycling power
So, we know that we should be doing most of our training in heart rate Zones 1 and 2, and that the rest of our training can be done at maximum effort. But what should this look like? One of the best exercises to improve cycling power is climbing hills. It’s the thing we love to hate as cyclists, but no matter how you feel about hills they will always improve your cycling. Try hill repeats and riding intervals once a week to train your aerobic system and leg strength. This will certainly improve your overall cycling power.
Riding further and joining faster cyclists on their rides will also help to improve your fitness and cycling wattage. Don’t forget, having a strong, stable core and excellent technique will also go far in helping you to achieve the watts you desire. Make sure to do plenty of training on an indoor bike trainer so that you can focus on perfecting your technique, pedal efficiency, and position. This is best done indoors as it removes the distractions of the open road. You can spend all the hours in the world trying to improve your cycling wattage, but without good technique, you won’t get far.