Power-to-weight ratio: Will losing weight make me a better cyclist?
Power-to-weight ratio. Watts per Kilogram. Race weight. Three different ways to say it, one simple meaning: no matter how much you weigh, it’s simply the strength and fitness (power) it takes to move that weight.
Simply put, theory states that the less you weigh and the more power you have, the faster of a bike rider you will be.
Does this mean we all need to go on a diet and get as small as possible in order to be a fast bike rider? No.
Well, it depends. It depends on what your goals are. It depends on what type of bike riding and/or racing you do. It depends on what type of bike rider you are and what body type you have.
The power-to-weight ratio really comes into play when you are fighting gravity, as in when you’re climbing up hills. The more body weight you have, the more you have to fight gravity and the stronger you need to be. For example, if I am riding uphill along side fellow ALP Coach Patricia Schwager, who weights 11-13 kilograms less than I do, I would be riding along at ~250watts while she is “only” riding at ~215watts. Now imagine if I lost those 13 kilograms but kept my power. I would fly up the hill. However, there is a good chance that in losing that weight, more than half of those kilograms would be muscle mass and thus, I would lose power and not be nearly as strong, as powerful and as fast on the flats as I am now.
In determining your ideal race weight, first evaluate your goals.
- What kind of riding and racing will you be doing?
- What is the terrain of those rides/races?
- How serious are you about your cycling?
If your answer is long sustained climbing, rides/races with big and or steep climbing, then perhaps, in addition to gaining fitness and power, it’s time to look over your diet and training to see where you can shed some pounds.
On the flip side, if the answer is flatter or rolling terrain, sprinting or sprint finishes or even a moderate amount of climbing, then focus on a good clean diet, but mostly, focus on getting as fit and as powerful as possible. Plus, there’s a good chance that while getting as fit and as powerful as possible, you lose a few unwanted pounds anyway.
In all honesty, I think too much emphasis is put on the power-to-weight ratio. At the end of the day, the person with the most determination and a never-give-up, suffer-like-a-mo-fo attitude will beat the person with better power-to-weight ratio who can’t suffer and gives up easily.
We all want to be lean mean fighting machines. Some will be leaner than others and some will be meaner than others. Focus on your goals, your training, your diet, your mental toughness and fortitude, and success will come—weighing 150 pounds or 125 pounds.
ALP Cycles Coaching is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.
Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Road racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.