Long Test: SRM Training System

One of the coolest things about this job is reviewing the same gear that the pros use. Case in point – the good folks at SRM Systems agreed it was a good idea that we ride and test their SRM Professional Road mobile ergometer system – for the next 6 months! Here’s our first look at the system out of the box and onto the bike…

This is the first part of an in-depth look at the SRM system. Over the summer we’ll follow the progress of Jered Gruber, training and racing in the amateur ranks in Germany, as he uses the SRM Training System to go farther, faster, and stronger. This is the background and overview of what the SRM system does, the next part will show how it works on in actual training, and the final segment will be his “authoritative” review.

Chances are, you’ve seen these everywhere – maybe not on your local club ride, but definitely on the bikes of the pros: Lance, Jan, Erik, Bjarne, Tyler, Paolo, Vino, on and on and on. The better question would be – who doesn’t use this product? Long accepted as standard training equipment for most pros, we decided it’s time for the PEZ-take on the SRM System.

SRM stands for Schoberer Rad Messtechnik (Schoberer was the founder, and the second part means: “bike measurement technique” in German). The SRM team were the creators of the portable wattage unit – the Powermeter. The SRM system began development way back in 1986, with Greg Lemond and Bjarne Riis as some of the first proponents of using power in training and racing. The idea of using power for cycling is also not that new, but before the SRM Powermeter (and numerous other incarnations at present – at least 4 other companies by my count), wattage could only be measured on a big, bulky ergometer, which most certainly could not be ridden outside. The people at SRM have made it possible to turn a road, track, or mountain bike into a “mobile ergometer.”

With highest level pros using the SRM System, how could I not benefit from these? The coming weeks will tell…

The SRM system is a crank based power measuring system, using a number of strain gauges built inside the cranks to measure power. Or, as the SRM website expertly notes: “The Powermeter is a computer-designed torque-transducer made of highest quality alloy that transforms the force on your pedals (torque) and the cadence into a digital electrical signal that is transmitted telemetrically (inductively) to a sensor on the bicycle frame.” A detailed analysis of exactly how this is done is perhaps too much “white paper” for us, but the simple fact is the SRM unit measures power, and it measures it well, at (+/-) 2% accuracy for the Pro model.

The power of power measurement… right at your fingertips.

Lemond and Riis recognized on how effective power is for training. Heart rate varies from day to day, with such factors as temperature and health, but 300 watts is 300 watts no matter what direction the wind is blowing, or which side of the bed you woke up on. Lemond’s words seem particularly prophetic now:

Everybody talks about heart rate, and heart rate is important. But when you look at performance, it’s real simple. It’s how many watts you produce. I know riders who say, ‘I can ride for 30 minutes at 190 beats per minute.’ So what? You can ride at 190 bpm and
still be putting out only 200 watts. A heart-rate monitor alone is never the best measure in cycling. There’s wind, hills, drafting. You never can really tell how you’re riding. In February, I got sick. I could tell I was getting sick right away. I could tell something was going on before I got sick. With a heart-rate monitor, you could train, and your heart rate would be high, and you would think things were fine. My heart rate was fine, but I could see my power output drop dramatically. Your performance doesn’t exactly match your heart rate like everybody thinks. I’ve ridden at 180 bpm for 30 minutes in a climb during race, and I was at 330 watts of power output the whole way up to the climb. For me, that was poor. The next day, we came up the other side of the same mountain, and I produced 60 watts more at a lower heart rate.

That just about sums it up.

The rear sensor tucks in nicely out of harms way.

The SRM system does not neglect the other essential factors of training. Cadence, heart rate, speed, and distance remain front and center alongside power. This is the key though: it’s ALL of these factors put together that make it possible to get a comprehensive view of your training. The SRM system presents the logical progression of training devices. A long long time ago, when Giro helmets looked like big, white eggs, and before FSA was cool, training was measured solely on how you “felt”. Then heart rate monitors came along and revolutionized training science. After the heart rate monitor, it has been the Powermeter that has brought cycling training to a whole new level.

Just a jumble of data on a computer screen on the bike wouldn’t mean all that much, but the SRM collects all of the information of every training ride in one second intervals, which can be uploaded to your very own personal computer where the SRM software program kicks in to analyze the day’s data. We’ll have more on the software in the following segments.

With highest level pros using the SRM System, how could I not benefit from these? The coming weeks will tell…

Installation of the unit is fairly easy. Basically, you remove your old cranks and replace them with the SRM cranks. While your old cranks are off and just before you put on the SRM cranks, you put the two wired sensors on the bike – one on the fork for speed, and the other on the inside part of the chainstay very close to the inside part of the crank. If done correctly, installation should take no more than 30 minutes, after a quick zero-ing of the system, you are ready to roll.

Which is what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. We’ll have the SRM system on test through the summer, and with any luck I’ll be able to report back on the significant gains to my fitness and racing results from the unit.

At a retail price of $2600US, the system sure ain’t cheap, but then, how can you put a price on performance? …we’ll see in the coming weeks.

Get More Info:
At the SRM Website: www.SRM.de

Got a question on the SRM unit? Send ‘em to Manager@pezcyclingnews.com

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