1. Introduction

Cycling has evolved into a highly technical sport, with athletes constantly seeking ways to optimize their performance. One metric that has gained immense popularity in the cycling community is wattage. Cycling wattage, a measure of power output, has become a critical tool for cyclists at all levels, from enthusiasts to professionals. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of cycling wattage for training, exploring its definition, purpose, measurement, and its wide-ranging applications in fitness and performance enhancement.

2. What is Cycling Wattage?

At its core, wattage in cycling refers to the amount of power a cyclist generates while pedaling. It’s a direct and quantifiable measure of the work being done during a ride. Expressed in watts, this metric provides insights into the intensity and efficiency of cycling efforts.

The Purpose of Cycling Wattage

  1. Precision in Training: Unlike subjective measures such as perceived exertion, wattage offers an objective and precise method for gauging effort. This precision is crucial for designing targeted and effective training programs.
  2. Monitoring Progress: Wattage allows cyclists to track their performance over time. Observing changes in power output helps in assessing the effectiveness of training strategies and identifying areas for improvement.
  3. Setting Performance Goals: Cyclists can establish specific wattage-based goals for various durations (short sprints, sustained efforts, etc.), providing tangible targets to strive for during training sessions.
  4. Optimizing Efficiency: By analyzing power output and pedaling mechanics, cyclists can identify inefficiencies in their riding style. This insight enables adjustments to improve overall efficiency and conserve energy during longer rides.

How is Cycling Wattage Measured?

Cycling wattage is typically measured using a power meter, a device mounted on the bike that calculates power output in real-time. Several types of power meters are available, including those integrated into the pedals, cranksets, or rear hubs. These devices use strain gauges, accelerometers, or other technologies to precisely measure the force applied to the pedals and the speed at which they are turning.

3. Applications in Fitness

  1. Structured Training Programs: Cyclists can follow structured training programs that prescribe specific wattage targets for different intervals. This approach ensures systematic progression and effective adaptation.
  2. Fatigue Management: Monitoring wattage during training helps in avoiding overtraining and managing fatigue. Cyclists can adjust their efforts based on real-time data, preventing burnout and reducing the risk of injuries.
  3. Individualized Workouts: Wattage allows for highly individualized training plans. Cyclists of varying fitness levels can train together using personalized wattage zones, ensuring that each rider works at an intensity suitable for their capabilities.Find out more about how to improve your fitness readiness here

4. Applications based in Sport Performance

  1. Race Pacing: In competitive cycling, understanding one’s sustainable wattage is crucial for pacing during races. This knowledge helps cyclists avoid starting too fast and burning out before the finish.
  2. Strategic Breakaways: Advanced cyclists can strategically use wattage data to plan breakaways. By knowing their sustained power output, they can time and execute attacks more effectively.
  3. Tactical Decision-Making: In team-based races, cyclists can collaborate based on individual wattage capabilities. This strategic approach allows teams to leverage the strengths of each member for optimal performance.

5. I Do Not Have a Power Meter. What Do I Do?

For cyclists without a power meter, understanding the force exerted on the bike becomes a challenge. In such cases, the deprecated unit known as kilogram-force (kgf) or kilopond (kp) can provide a workaround.

What is a Kilopond?

A kilopond represents the force exerted by one kilogram of mass due to gravity. In numerical terms, 1 kilopond is equal to precisely 9.80665 newtons. This unit is often encountered in fitness tests, where individuals are required to pedal against a specific resistance measured in Kiloponds.

Applying Kiloponds to Your Bike

For those aiming to meet a certain Kilopond target (e.g., 2 Kiloponds or approximately 20 Newtons), the corresponding wattage can be estimated. This is particularly relevant for fitness tests conducted on stationary bikes.

Determining Wattage at Different Kilopond Levels

To determine the wattage at a given Kilopond resistance, a specific speed (RPM) must be selected, as wattage varies with pedaling speed. Table 1 provides a reference for wattage at different Kilopond resistances across various RPMs. Locate the intersection point between the chosen speed and the desired Kilopond level to estimate the required wattage. For example, pedaling at 2 Kiloponds at 60 RPM corresponds to an estimated 120 watts.

Table 1: Kilopond Resistance and Corresponding Wattage at Different RPMs

Kilopond / RPM 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120
1 41 51 62 72 82 92 103 113 123
2 82 103 123 144 164 185 205 226 246
3 123 154 185 216 246 277 308 339 370
4 164 205 246 288 329 370 411 452 493
5 205 257 308 359 411 462 513 565 616
6 246 308 370 431 493 555 616 678 739
7 288 359 431 503 575 647 719 791 863

Utilizing this conversion can provide cyclists without power meters with a valuable reference point to gauge their efforts during training or fitness assessments. While not as precise as a power meter, this method offers a practical alternative for those seeking to optimize their cycling performance without the luxury of advanced equipment.


Cycling wattage has revolutionized how cyclists train and compete. With its ability to provide real-time, objective data, it has become an indispensable tool for anyone serious about improving their cycling or even fitness performance. From enhancing fitness to refining race strategies, the applications of cycling wattage are vast.