An exclusive look at the first power-based cycling training facility in the Philippines
By Jose Martin Punzalan
Power-based training is already the gold standard in measuring and improving cycling performance for the majority of world tour cyclists and elite triathletes.
Although the merits of this technology are widely recognized, it is still regarded as an inessential luxury service for others because it remains expensive. For professional Filipino athletes and coaches, its cost is difficult to justify over its potential performance gains especially since heart rate (HR)-based training is still dependable and HR monitors are significantly more affordable. But what if there was a practical way to undergo power-based training to complement their long established training methods?
What’s up with WattUp?
WattUp Cycling is an indoor bike training facility that offers power-based training sessions using indoor cycling equipment. Training sessions follow instruction from a collection of videos called The Sufferfest. These videos combine upbeat music, international UCI race footage, and professionally developed programs with a twisted and sarcastic, but oddly entertaining sense of humor to make for a motivating and challenging low-volume, high-intensity workout.
For professional Filipino athletes and coaches, its cost is difficult to justify over its potential performance gains especially since heart rate (HR)-based training is still dependable and HR monitors are significantly more affordable
For precise power readings, the studio uses what is currently regarded as the best indoor cycling turbo trainer: the Wahoo Kickr. This indoor trainer is lauded for its road-realistic riding feel and its computer integration capabilities that automatically adjust spinning resistance to simulate changing road gradients based on specific workout requirements, which in this case are the Sufferfest videos.
The Wahoo Kickr directly attaches to the bike’s drivetrain in place of the rear wheel
The Sufferfest videos have visual instructions that can be easily followed even on the most basic turbo trainer and even without fancy gadgets. To make the Sufferfest workouts more precise however, its interval sets are programmed into the cycling training software, which then controls the Kickr to reflect the video’s intended workout. The software also records the rider’s performance and e-mails the data available for later analysis.
First and foremost, you get to bring and use your own bike, eliminating equipment fit, comfort, and familiarity issues. Any bike with 10 or 11 speed gears will do.
To maximize the training experience, you will need an ANT+ or Bluetooth 4.0 cadence sensor and heart rate monitor but a structured workout is still possible without these accessories.
In the event that you don’t have your bike, some of the owners’ personal bikes are on-hand and ready for use. Manny Angeles, one of the co-owners, said they do intend have loaner bikes of various sizes available soon. He laughingly adds that they have very high hopes for their facility so they want those loaner bikes to be Cervelos or Pinarellos.
Complete cycling apparel is not mandatory but proper cycling shorts are highly advised to help with comfort on the saddle. Other personal essentials to bring are a towel and a water bottle.
To make the Sufferfest workouts more precise however, its interval sets are programmed into the cycling training software, which then controls the Kickr to reflect the video’s intended workout. The software also records the rider’s performance and e-mails the data available for later analysis
Ideally, your first ride should be the Sufferfest session called Rubber Glove to determine your functional threshold power (FTP). The FTP is the highest power output you can sustain for a one-hour time trial effort. It will serve as the baseline parameter for the intensity of your next workouts. You can skip this if you already know your FTP.
The test also determines several other metrics that can be analyzed to determine your performance potential and points for improvement.
(From left) The author, producing a respectable 229 watts on an FTP test with WattUp co-owners Vince and Manny
Why Train Here?
WattUp is the only Sufferfest-licensed training facility in the Philippines and the first in Asia to use it in conjunction with Wahoo equipment. But why train here when you can just purchase the equipment and software yourself?
First, you can’t buy the Kickr anywhere in the country so if you want to experience this equipment, WattUp is the only place to be. Then again, there are several other indoor trainers available that may not be as advanced as the Kickr but are significantly cheaper and sufficiently reliable. What else can be gained from training here?
Ever notice that when you get dropped in a group ride, you tend to lose motivation and just ease off knowing that the others will be waiting up ahead anyway. According to Angeles, this is where indoor group training really shines.
Seeing how hard the stronger and more experienced riders can push themselves also urges you to do the same
In the studio, amateurs and professionals alike can all ride together in their own comfortable pace, and as Angeles puts it, “without anyone getting left behind.” Stronger riders don’t need to hold back and weaker riders don’t need to struggle just to keep up.
“You can also gain motivation from training with stronger riders,” he adds. Sure, the power numbers they generate are much higher, but seeing them heave, pant, and struggle as much as you do somewhat evens out the playing field. Seeing how hard the stronger and more experienced riders can push themselves also urges you to do the same.
So do you really need power-based training?
Power meters sure are fancy but if our pros can do without them, why can’t we? Pros have all the time in the world to try all sorts of training programs and get the best out of the tools available to them, even when limited. They also have coaches guiding them every step of the way.
By the way, the pro cyclists and triathlon coaches who have sampled a WattUp session were impressed and quite amused both with the experience and the technology.
Bikes of the Philippine Navy Standard Insurance Cycling Team are prepped and ready for a Sufferfest session
Most time-crunched enthusiasts, however, need to maximize the limited time they have to train. Make no mistake, heart rate monitors and power meters, together with cadence sensors, are supposed to complement and not replace each other. HR training has its merits, but when combined with power metrics, it can make for an even more precise and efficient training session that is instrumental in short, high intensity workouts.
Whether to prioritize HR or power-based training is all up to you or your coach. So, do you really need power based training? Not necessarily. But should you want power-based training? Yes, especially since access to it is no longer so impractical. It surely wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Actually, it will hurt, but in the way you want it to.