The arrival of power meters sparked a new craze in the 1990s, and they are now 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 necessary.
And you certainly don’t need one to tackle my training programs.
Interval sessions can be performed using just a heart rate monitor. However, it is clear that most of my readers do, and only one in seven tend to use a power meter like SRM or Powertap.
Of course, something as crucial as pace control is easier with a sophisticated power meter.
However, in most cases, it is possible 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 do without both a power meter and a heart rate monitor and 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 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 suppose you are a relative beginner or don’t benefit from the experience of training 20-plus hours per week for the last ten years. In that case, 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.