Most people associate the term watts with light bulbs as opposed to cycling a bike. However, the term which was borrowed from James Watt the Scottish inventor is simply a measure of rates of energy conversion.
As such it can be used to measure energy conversion for anything from the pumping of legs to riding a bike up a mountain pass, ramp, or hill or the electricity that makes a filament in a light bulb glow.
More power conversion otherwise known to refer to as more watts is a good thing as it allows one to go faster or farther which goes to show how fit a cyclist is.
Power to Weight Ratio
The power-to-weight ratio is a measurement of how much power your produce on your bike as compared to your body weight. It is often expressed as W/kg which is the power produced for every kilogram of weight a cyclist has.
Overall, larger riders are more powerful as compared to smaller cyclists even though lighter riders usually need less energy to propel themselves forward and overcome inertia particularly when it comes to climbing hills.
As such power to weight ratio is an effective way of comparing the abilities of different cyclists as compared to looking at just the power. Moreover, it also makes it possible for individual athletes to get a better understanding of their own abilities as they improve their fitness levels by optimizing their body weight.
What is the Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of a Cyclist
The functional threshold power of a cyclist is the highest power you can achieve and maintain in a quasi-steady state for at least an hour of cycling without getting fatigued.
When power is greater than the FTP, a rider will typically get tired more quickly than if they were riding just below their FTP. Using power zone training you can then make use of baseline FTP numbers to come up with custom-made watt ranges for goals such as active recovery, tempo, endurance, and anaerobic thresholds among many others.
Average Wattage Output of a Beginner
Wattage goals typically vary from rider to rider and no exact watt number is appropriate for all riders due to varying levels of fitness and experience.
Overall a beginner cyclist will attain an average wattage output of between 75-100 watts during an hour-long workout session. A more fit amateur cyclist will typically get at least 100 watts while professional cyclists can go as high as 400 watts.
Average Wattage of a Pro Cyclist
Measuring physiological capability in the lab is one thing but there is nothing better than carrying measurements of power output on the road.
Given the media storm over Chris Froome’s second win at the Tour de France, Team Sky provided his power files from which we can glean some insightful information on how much power a pro cyclist can produce.
according to the data a professional cyclist produces about 400 watts of power from 41m28s which is 5.78W/kg given that Froome weighs about 67 kg. According to Froome’s head of performance, Froome averages 414 watts but sometimes goes as high as 419W over half an hour making for a power output of about 6.25W/kg.
Overall, the average wattage at the tour de France is about 400 watts even though some riders will go higher or lower and the terrain will also play a huge role in how much power the riders produce.
How to Determine Your Power to Weight Ratio
Even though metrics such as speed and heart rate can be influenced by other factors, power output tends to be a very objective measure. Technically speaking a watt is a measurement of energy transfer that is typically measured in real-time using a power meter.
For the most part, watts is a reference to the functional threshold power or sustainable power over a given period of time. As such for one to determine their power-to-weight ratio, they would need to know their FTP.
FTP is usually determined using simple testing procedures. Common FTP tests usually include the 8-minute or 20-minute test. Once you get your FTP numbers all you would need is to note your current weight to determine your power-to-weight ratio.
The benefit of Measuring Cycling Wattage
The advantage of monitoring cycling wattage is that power output will never lie unlike other measures such as heart rate or speed. If you ride your standard route and average 160 watts even though you used to average only 125 watts, this is an indicator that you have become stronger.
By working with your trainer you can then implement training methods to get you stronger which will over time make you able to ride long distances and attain higher speeds.