Now that winter is upon us, I've gotten back into the gym to try and maintain fitness until next season. The exercise cycles that I use allegedly tell you how many watts you are pushing, but the wattage doesn't vary with changes in cadence, and body weight doesn't factor into the equation at all. It seems to be a fixed number programmed into the machine based on predetermined "levels". Should I use these numbers as a true indication of how many watts I'm able to ride at? Or should I only rely on them as benchmarks to determine progress, or base my workouts on over the course of the winter? Actually, what I really want to know is, how can I compare my seemingly heroic efforts in the gym to Lance's 400+ Watt average up Alpe d'Huez? Am I really that far behind, or are the numbers I'm reading totally arbitrary?
Dave Palese replies:
Eric, Those numbers that you get on gym bikes are usually generalizations as to your power output. I wouldn't look at them as any indication of your actual power output on the road.
As far as using them as a way to track your training, it is hard to say. I don't know all the particulars of the bike you are riding but I would think that, in conjunction with your heart rate monitor (if you have one), you could use the gym bike in some way to track and determine your workouts.
For instance, if you did a particular pre-programmed workout on the gym bike (i.e., a hills workout that last 24 minutes. This is a workout common to the Lifecycle brand of gym bike), you could record your average heart rate when completing that session on a certain resistance level setting. As the weeks pass, you should see your average heart rate drop. Doing this you could make an educated decision as to when you should increase the resistance level to keep the intensity in a beneficial range.
It all kinda depends on what you goals are, but this is one way you could use gym bike "constructively". I will say if you are considering putting some importance on your winter training, you might want to invest in a home trainer. Your ability to perform workouts to address your specific cycling needs is much easier to do and the sessions can be much more effective.
As far as comparing yourself to Lance, when you find out what planet he is from, let me know. But seriously, you aren't that far behind. He is just that far ahead.