Lowest Wattage Winner

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I’ve had this idea ever since it has become commonplace to use power meters on bicycles that there should be a competition during each event for the rider with the lowest average wattage when the event is finished. There would be some sort of formula that takes the rider’s weight, the finishing time/place into account, plus the average wattage the rider put out during the event, and there would be an award for it.

It would be really difficult to do this. It would probably only work for special races and would have to be sponsored by a power meter company with all the units matched. There really is a fair amount of fudge factor when it comes to recording power data.

I think it is strange when guys compare their wattage numbers after an event and brag about how high their wattage is. I want my average wattage to be low. As low as I can possible get it. It’s a bike race, not a training ride. Of course that isn’t the case for races that I’m using to try to get to a different level of fitness, but for a race that I’m keying on and trying to have a result, it is for sure my goal.

Another idea would be to have a battery and small electric motor on your bike and have your drive system connected to an alternator that allows you to store energy into that battery. At the start of the race, each rider would be given a completely discharged battery and then they could store up as much extra energy they could produce, in the battery, and use it whenever they needed.

This would be a strange event also. Guys pedaling like crazy on the downhills trying to store up a bunch of energy for the climbs. One rider could just be riding easy in the field at 25mph and the guy next to him could be producing 450 watts charging his battery. Maybe even have a display on each rider, the back of the seat or somewhere obvious, so the other riders would know exactly how much “charge” each rider has. The race tactics for this event would be wild.

Anyway, it’s just fun ideas. But seriously, if you consistently have a high average wattage at the end of a race and also a high number beside your name on the result sheet, you need to start trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong. There is a saying something like – “Strong like bull, dumb like bull (might be ox).” Try to avoid that description.


Electric bike motor kit.

Electric bike motor kit.

10 thoughts on “Lowest Wattage Winner

  1. Rob

    Similar to people who brag about working monstrous amounts of overtime at work, and are seen as better employees for doing so. Shouldn’t the employee who does excellent work without overtime be seen as the best worker?

  2. steevo

    I had a teammate who almost won amateur TT nats. After a hard road race, he was consistently 20% higher
    after taking watts/kilo into account. It was kind of insane at how bad he was at actually racing vs pedaling.

  3. Art G

    I remember someone once said that Andy Hampsten could ride lower, follow more closely than anyone else, and conserve energy like no other rider in the peloton.
    That was BEFORE power meters.

  4. Fergie

    I’ve had a PowerTap since 2002. I’ve also utilized our local Thursday nite training crit for even more years. Your post today sounds much like my mindset.
    On nights I would want training I would no attention to what #’s I’m doing, only looking after. I would make myself race”stupid”, make it as hard as I could on myself.
    On nights that I would arrive exhausted, phsyically beat down I would pay attention to the meter and see how efficent I could ride and reach a new low of avg watts. BTW- I’m 158-163 lbs and would get as low as 180 avg for a 25.5-27.5 avg mph crit.. Beat myself silly nights would end with and avg of 250-265.

  5. Aki

    I’m a forever Cat 3. If I go over 200w avg I can’t sprint. At 225w avg for 15 minutes I’m out of the race. My good results came at races with averages in the 170-180w range. Highest number I can recall off hand where I did well was 187w, and highest number where I made it to the finish was 202w but I blew with 2 turns to go (but I did do 587w for a minute at the end of the race). Lower than about 170w meant I wasn’t fast enough at the end to get a good result,. I averaged 175w or so in the Cat 2 Somerville until I got caught behind a crash on the last lap. I was at my limit in terms of whether I would be able to sprint or not but I never found out (and I downgraded at the end of that one year as a 2).

    I’ve joked that having a 100w motor on my bike would even things out a bit. It would be fascinating to be able to do 250-280w avg for a race. How would I race differently?

    I like the charging battery race idea. A capacitor or a flywheel would be interesting as well. Capacitor would be useful for the huge boost it could give along with the short charge times. The flywheel is also interesting, like the thing Volvo is experimenting with for autos. One cycling author had a fixed freewheel bike that would drive the cranks. The BB axle (square taper days) was modified into a crankshaft and a piston in the seat tube compressed air in the seat tube, top tube, and down tube. A lever would allow the pressure to power the piston (the lever was an extra down tube shifter). To make the derailleurs work he had to have two on the bike, one on top, one below. He claimed that it took a couple minutes off of his 10 mile TT time on a rolling course, but no scientific data as he readily admits. The more downhill the more of a difference it would make. I read this book maybe 30+ years ago and it was an old book then.


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