The arrival of power meters sparked a new craze in the 1990s and they are now a part and parcel of the make-up of most pro riders. Power meters are invaluable tools for pacing control and interval sessions, and are especially useful for time trial training.
But the bottom line is that they are not absolutely necessary.
And you certainly don’t need one to tackle my training programs.
Interval sessions can be performed using just a heart rate monitor. In fact, it is clear that is what the majority of my readers do, and only one in seven tend to use a power meter like SRM or Powertap.
Of course, it is obvious that something as important as pace control is easier to do with a sophisticated power meter.
However in the majority of cases it is possible to learn how to find the correct pacing for sub-threshold /threshold/VO2 max intervals using a heart rate monitor.
Heart rate values are ever so slightly delayed and represent your physiological response to past training. In contrast, a power meter represents your current external workload.
Or you could simply do without both a power meter and a heart rate monitor – and just go with your gut feeling.
Some riders do – and this works just as well as a power meter.
Don’t forget that a few years ago many pro cyclists did all their interval sessions without any type of monitoring. And there are still some modern-day riders who turn back the training clock by cycling solely based on their feelings and instinct – because they know just how hard they should train.
But if you are a relative beginner or don’t have the benefit of experience of training 20-plus hours per week for the last 10 years, it will certainly help if you at least use a cheap heart rate monitor to get some vital feedback on your physiological response to the training.