Treadmills, cross trainers and spin bikes, begone – it’s all about the Wattbike
What is a Wattbike?
It’s an indoor bike, like a spin bike, but with a few crucial differences. They’re used in combination with a heart rate monitor – they can be synced with chest straps or wrist-worn devices – to provide accurate, real-time information to assess your fitness levels, and improve cycling technique.
How does it do that?
Just as with a spin bike, once you’ve set up the bike to fit you, you can control the resistance to find a cadence (RPM) and power output (Watts) to suit you. A handlebar-mounted digital display, much like a car dashboard, provides real-time data including heartrate, power output, cadence, heartrate zone and training zone, as well as
a Polar View that reveals your pedalling technique.
All sounds very zonal…
Funny you say that. Wattbike recommends you subject yourself to regular tests to find your Functional Threshold Power, your maximum minute power (MMP) and your maximum heartrate (MHR) so that you can establish your training zones, then set training goals and monitor improvement over time. For example, if you want to increase your maximum power output, you’ll spend time in Zone Six, which kicks in at around 94% of your MHR.
What’s this ‘Polar View’?
The Polar View is a bit like an X-Y graph, and shows real-time power output. For a beginner, a typical shape might be a figure-of-eight tilted over at about 45 degrees; this reflects the stamping technique new cyclists use as they only apply power on the downstroke. Trained cyclists will produce a peanut or sausage shape, which shows they are pushing and pulling on the pedals at the top and bottom of their stroke to maximise power output.
So I can become fitter, and a better cyclist, while staying indoors?
Wattbike usage can definitely improve your life as a cyclist, especially over the winter when you can’t face heading out.
But does it work irl?
Wannabe Wiggo Kevin McCreeth takes on the Wattbike
I swapped my regular commutes – 25 miles, twice a week, which is about four hours in the saddle – for two weekly hour-long sessions on a Wattbike under the guidance of Cadence Peformance’s Borja Martinez Gonzalez.
Before I started, I undertook a Cycle Max test to establish my MHR, MMR, and even my VO2; the plan was to do the same at the end.
I completed two blocks of three weeks – a rest week, a build week, then a peak week – with sessions that, for example, saw me do 10 secs at zone 5 followed by 50 secs at Zone 2 repeated 10 times, five mins at Zone 1, then 10 second sprints followed by 1min 50 Zone 2 for 20 repeats, and so on.
It was hard to set up the Wattbike, and even tougher to sync with all my devices, but once the HR monitor and my Garmin were happy, so was I. The Wattbike app made life even better as I could take the Polar View data with me and show it [off] to anyone daft enough to care.
And the figures after my six weeks? A 10% improvement in my power-to-weight ratio, and a boost to my VO2 max from 52 to 58. Oh, and I lost 2kg. Result!