How Watching Watts Can Improve Your Ride

You’ll be amazed by the changes you feel

We’ve been on our Stages bikes at Cadence for over a year now and it’s safe to say they’re a crowd pleaser! The biggest difference with the transition to new bikes was the console. While some people resist change, others couldn’t wait to try something new, and while some people initially found the onscreen numbers to be daunting or distracting, others were excited to have the accountability and motivation of tangible measurements.

Before diving a little deeper into how the console can help you improve your ride, we want to remind you that you never have to use the console when riding at Cadence. Our instructors will always cue to both RPM and the beat, and to watts and perceived exertion. What does that mean? Well, it means that your instructor will frequently give you a watt range and an RPM range to work within (more on that in a second), but they will also make sure that the RPM they cue is right on the beat (1,2 1,2), so that you can simply ride to the music, and they’ll give you a number on a scale of 1-10 as a perceived exertion at which to ride.

You’re all familiar with perceived exertion. We like to say that 0/10 is sitting on the couch and 10/10 is the hardest you can possibly push. That puts your “flat road” at a 5/10, meaning that your entire ride will range from your 5/10 to a final push that reaches for your 10/10. How do you define those numbers? What do they feel like in your body? Well, that takes us into the “perceived” part of the calculation. Everybody has a different way of defining different effort levels. If you’re unsure how you should feel at, say, a 7/10, then talk to your instructor about what type of sensation you can be looking for at different points along the perceived exertion scale. They can help you find a way to define those numbers that works best for you.

But, if you do like using the console, then that takes a bunch of the guesswork out of the equation. You will have noticed that, during the warm up, your instructor will cue you to find your flat road by finding your 5/10 in between 75 and 100 watts. Even though that’s a big range for you to play in, it gives you a specific number to use to guide the rest of your ride. Once you find whatever feels like your flat road within that range, you have a number that you know is your 5/10 perceived exertion.

Why do we love this so much? Because now you have something to hold you accountable for the rest of the ride. You can keep your eye on the screen not only as you climb and as you push through breathless intervals, but also as you come out of intervals and as you take quick active recoveries. Are your watts dropping below the number that you defined as your flat road, or below the base effort at which the instructor has asked you to be riding? Oops! Time to refocus and get back to the ride. You’ll be amazed by the changes you’ll feel by simply using the console to keep you accountable in between the big efforts.

9f4bd9_40d80013cbc5418d86ada44a5e261989~mv2.png

So you’ve got your number, somewhere between 75 and 100, that you know is your 5/10 – your flat road. But what watts should you be looking for when you’re asked to hit your 7/10, or 7.5, or 9? The best way to know is to take the Cadence Fitness Challenge. This “class” pops up on our schedule every once in a while, and is really a test that will gauge your average power output. This number will be used to generate a chart that will very clearly indicate what watts are equivalent to your perceived exertions.

If you haven’t had the chance to take the Cadence Fitness Challenge, then there are still certain watts you can use as a guide. Watts range so greatly though from person to person, depending on factors such as weight, height, and so on, that it’s best to talk to your instructor so they can help you come up with personal goals. All of our instructors love to chat and strive to help you have your best ride possible, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Another great way you can use the console to guide your ride is to keep track of your average watts. Next time you take a class in which you feel strong and energetic, make note of your average watts for that ride. Set a goal for how you want to see that number increase during your next ride (bringing your watts up by 5 from one ride to the next is a fantastic goal), and if you reach that goal, then you have tangible proof that you are getting stronger and improving!

Remember that you don’t have complete control over your own watts – the instructor has a say, too. The way the ride is designed will effect your average watts. For example, if there is less climbing and more jumping, there’s less opportunity to increase your average watts, and, instead, more opportunity to work on balance, agility, speed, core strength, and so on – every ride has a different intention behind it. In general, Cadence offers power-focused rides, though, so if you love those watts, then you’re in luck!

The gist? If you don’t want to use the console, don’t! It’s all good. If you do want to use it, then there are a bunch of ways that watching your watts can help you you improve your ride. You can use it to check your watts in between pushes and during recoveries to hold you accountable, to push you toward a target average, and to define your different stages along the perceived exertion scale.

Keep your eye on the schedule and on our social media to know when the Cadence Fitness Challenge is coming up next! And remember, the ride is never all about the numbers. It’s all about getting sweaty, challenging yourself, and letting your body surprise you!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!