Numbers Game

Finally, a month after I paid for it, I have a working Computrainer. There are a million things about it that I need to learn, but right now, I love it.

I did several short rides today, keeping my power around 200 watts. That was a number pulled out of my rear end; I’ll need to establish my functional threshold power in order to make smart decisions about the kind of power I want to be aiming for in my rides. Functional threshold power? Oh, that’s the wattage you can maintain for an hour. To find it, you ride like crazy for 20 minutes, then multiply your average wattage by 95 percent. It's also known as FTP, which is just one of many power-related cycling acronyms I’m learning. There’s also NP (normalized power: the power you held for a rise without counting the stops and coasting); AP (average power: same thing, but counting the coasting, stops, etc.); VI (variability index: the difference between NP and AP); and IF (intensity factor: NP divided by FTP).

If it sounds like a lot of soulless technobabble, far removed from what got us into cycling—the beauty of spinning down a rural road on a warm spring day, taking in the countryside, feeling the soft breeze, smelling the pear blossoms and all that—well, it is. But this is wintertime. It’s cold, dark and wet out. In the bleakness that is my basement, these numbers flashing on the screen will guide and inspire me. And come April—well into my Six Months to Coeur d’Alene—I will be in the best cycling shape of my life.

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