Size Does Matter | Watts & Speed

Sorry guys – size does matter. At least, when it comes to wattage output vs. speed. This may be obvious to some cyclist, but to others, fully understanding power output and metrics is new-ish. What’s truly ironic is that I, the anti-electronic nut, am writing an article about all this. Stranger things do happen. Don’t have high expectations of seeing any technical jargon as you read further…

power meter stuff 2I do have a reason, however, for in diving into the deep and turbulent waters of cycling power out-put – even at risk of being called out by my lack of technical jargon. I have a just motive: it’s called awareness. You see, I have a teammate who actually got upset the other week because she was ‘only’ pushing out 100 watts of normalized power at 20 mph avg for two hours.

Gee, well that’s terrible.

She should be ashamed… for rubbing it in all of our faces! Throwing down less watts and going fast is a GOOD thing. As opposed to the opposite, which probably feels like you are hauling a 500lb gorilla behind your bike. Just for kicks, another teammate of mine decided to see how many watts she pushed out while attempting to hold a 20 mph avg speed… well, it was more than 100!

Why is this important? How do you think the Pros can average 26+ mph over 80+ miles for weeks at a time?

San Jacinto Crit 2015 – Photo Cred: Corvin Alstot

Because size does matter. Our low-watts speed demon must weigh around 105 lbs or so. Me, for instance: add that 500 lb gorilla (sort of). Because I am shaped like the human giraffe I need to expend much more energy to go 20 mph than someone 50 lbs lighter than me. Of course, theoretically I should have larger muscles to compensate, but I still have to use more energy to move more mass around.

Impressive? …Not so much.

Want More Info on Watts and So Forth? CLICK HERE.

In order to put out that much energy (or watts) and be effective one must also possess more of an ideal muscle to weight ratio in order to perform effectively at the same level as a lighter person. There is a reason why most of the greatest climbers are not very tall or girthy people. You don’t see anyone with an inch of flab on Tour de France! When it comes to longer climbs, I’m way off the back. I save energy by using the best gear ratios for the condition and spinning a LOT. I’m decent at sprinting because I CAN push many more watts – but for a shorter period of time. I do have that ‘wind resistance’ thing going on after all.

To be blunt: I’m too big… size matters.

Driveway wk 3 1a
Austin Driveway 2016 Wk 3 – Photo Cred: Mike Johnson

Even if one possess the ideal muscle to weight ratio (which is tricky, because muscle weighs more), the bigger you are, the more watts you must put out to go as fast as someone smaller than you. This is particularly noticeable when one is a female competitive cyclist. Not too many gals out there than are 6′ tall. Oh boy, they sure love me when I go the front of the pack…

I hardly ever get a decent draft either {whine}.

To sum up my non-technical explanation of why watts is relative to weight / muscle / endurance – the smaller and thinner you are, most of what you really need to do is train! Get on your bike, ride a lot, get stronger – and get out of my draft already! Folks like me have to watch what they eat, obsess over silly stuff like how much your pedals weigh, and make sure we have the stiffest wheels money can buy because we’ll break a darn spoke at the sprint.

Yeah, maybe I put out some watts… so what?? Go ride a bike!