Why is power to weight a useful metric to measure when cycling? In simple terms, your power to weight ratio is simply the amount of power you can output per kilogram of weight. Once you’ve worked out your power to weight ratio however, you can start to optimise it and improve your performance.
Image courtesy of Hotchillee
Power to weight and climbing
If you are into road cycling and enjoy the odd sportive, it’s likely that power to weight will be a key metric for you, as you’ll often need to get your body mass up (and over) hills.
When you’re riding in a group, your power to weight ratio also becomes more apparent on climbs. The heavier riders will need to produce more power to ride alongside the lighter members of the group up a hill.
In the example below, if Michael produces an average of 300 watts and weighs 95kg and Anne produces 250 watts and weighs 71kg then you might easily assume that Michael would cycle faster up a hill as he is producing more absolute power than Anne.
Michael - 300/95 = 3.15w/kg
Anne - 250/71 = 3.52w/kg
After discovering the power to weight ratio, it becomes clear that whilst Anne is lighter and is producing less power, she actually has a higher w/kg and therefore will climb quicker than Michael.
Power to weight and descending
When you’re facing a descent, the tables turn and gravity is in your favour. This means that, generally, the larger and heavier riders like Michael will descend more quickly than lighter riders like Anne.
Top tip: Lighter riders like Anne can benefit from a slipstream effect by tucking in behind lager riders on a descent.
How to improve your Power to Weight Ratio
The two main ways to improve your power to weight ratio are either lose weight or increase your sustainable power output.
Dieting simply to attain your ideal cycling weight can actually be counterproductive as you could lose muscle mass during your weight loss, you’ll find your ability to produce power also reduces.
The best option is to focus on optimising power whilst balancing diet and weight. To optimise your sustainable power output, try following one of our training plans.
Using a Wattbike you can begin to truly understand your power-to-weight values. From your test results you will be able to build a structured training program which will see natural weight loss and increased power bringing an overall much more enjoyable cycling experience.