Cyclingpeaks v2.0 WKO+ Software
While Cycling Peaks was developed for powermeter users, it is also a fully-functioning training program for those with downloadable heart rate monitors, speedos, and GPS systems. The easy download and countless custom charts that a user can create make this a good program for those who want excellent interpretive software. That noted, the focus of this review is on CP's ability to work with powermeters.
After dropping a whole lot of ching on a powermeter, it only makes sense to find the best interpretative software around. We haven't tried all the software options out there, but when it comes to SRM and Power Tap's proprietary vs. Cycling Peaks, we don't even see a comparison. Even the older Cycling Peaks was better hands down. .
The original CP we had, version 1.1, we reviewed in our document Power: The Ultimate Training Metric. The program was easy to use, easy to read, and gave us the flexibility to not only use the provided charts, but create our own depending on what we were interested in focusing on. CP's unique metrics include normalized power (NP), intensity factor (IF), and training stress score (TSS). While we can't say these are perfect, they do offer greater insights into training. NP is a theoretic average power that one would achieve if one's power output were steady as opposed to variable. For example, if your power varies widely during a ride or race, the average power might be 250w while the normalized could be 300w, and the latter number might give a better indication of how hard the event was. There's no way for us to test if the normalized power value is accurate, but it is interesting to consider. IF is the normalized power value on a ride or segment of a ride divided by your threshold power value. Assuming you've accurately forecasted your threshold power, this will be a good indicator of how hard a ride or race is. A value of 1 in a one-hour race means you were at your limit. .75 is an endurance ride. If you go over 1.05 in an hour-long ride threshold is higher than predicted. TSS is a way to measure bodily stress, both ride-to-ride and cumulative. One of the great things is that TSS is a way compare apples to oranges, like a long easy ride to a short hard ride. And even if all of the previous seems a bit crazy, the skeptic can benefit from the fact that CP automatically finds many, many peaks in each ride, like your 5s-60m peaks, can highlight them with a click of a button, and automatically inputs them into several charts.
CP 1.1 was replaced in May, 2006 by 2.0. And that was quickly updated to 2.1 in mid-August, 2006. Call it the benefit of merging with Training Bible and having the capital to hire a full-time programmer. And now they're many builds into 2.1. They've been finding and fixing glitches, and working in improvements when they can. This is both because the people behind Cycling Peaks are on top of their product, and because they use the Wattage Group on Google Groups as a sounding board.
The most obvious upgrades were the Performance Manager Chart (PMC) and the Power Profiling chart. The former is a way to chart out peaks for training and racing. The latter is a way to compare yourself to yourself and others. By profiling, you have an easy means to see where your strengths and weaknesses are (short, medium, or long efforts) and how those areas get better or worse in a given time frame -- it does help to have a few months of data before you start comparing yourself to yourself though.
The PMC is possibly the feature they're most proud of. It is a way to predict fitness peaks based on training data uploaded into the program. You don't have to do much thinking, just figure out your Chronic Training Load (CTL) constant, your Acute Training Load Constant (ATL), and the chart works its magic to predict your peaks. CTL is what you've done in the last 42 days, based on your TSS. Consider this your fitness. ATL is what you've done in the last week. Consider this your freshness. Form is fitness plus freshness. So, have a heavy training load for five weeks, back off for a week, and you should be fit and fresh and ready to fly.
The Power Profiling Chart is based on what they consider essential features of a cyclist. The chart pulls out your best five second, one minute, five minutes, and one hour effort and compares it to what CP has determined to be the best in the world at each of those benchmarks. According to co-founder Hunter Allen, "five seconds is neuromuscular power. One minute relates to anaerobic capacity. Five minutes relates to VO2 max. One hour is threshold." No one can be world champion at all the markers, so a rider's profile shows their weaknesses and strengths.
Cycling Peaks offers a free trial. For power junkies, this is the electronic equivalent of giving the first rock for free. It's a fully functioning program in trial mode, so you can migrate all your data into the new system to check out the power profile and the PMC. Since we were upgrading ours, we got a discounted price. And as 2.1 gets upgraded, the user can get free upgrades until 3.0 comes out.
Lots of data can get migrated. And rather easily. The program can migrate and/or upload data from Ergomo, Garmin, Polar, Power Tap, SRM, Timex Bodylink, Suunto T6, and iBike. Nicely, the upload and the memory clearing can be done within CP. This is a big relief to SRM users in particular who need software to clear the head unit's memory. And then, going the other direction, there's an easy way to auto-upload data to Training Peaks or Google Earth if you've been using a Garmin GPS.
Another plus that becomes apparent in the first uses is that the user can specify which sport was performed. At first, this seems useless because it's not like other sports have powermeters, but since one can manually enter data, one can assign an IF or TSS to the exercise, it is suddenly possible to create a more complete diary when mixing in other sports. In the hopes of creating more precise data entry for other exercises, and charting our efforts more completely, we started using a downloadable HRM on our runs, cross bike rides, and MTB rides to get more accurate measurements of our heart data and downloaded that into a spare athlete diary. Ours we call Fausto Coppi, and CP allows for up to three athletes in the basic license. We assign an IF to our manual entries and the program then calculates TSS, though people can start with TSS and the program can calculate IF.
As the ability to specify sports might indicate, 2.1 has the ability to make the information more flexible or more specific. Not only can you specify a sport, a race day, and days off, there's also a space to specify the workout. So long as you're careful with your naming conventions, this allows better slicing and splicing of data when looking back at past performances. This information is included on the calendar page, which also can include duration, TSS, IF, as well as workout goals and notes on the workout.
While the calendar functions make it easier to find old workouts and give a sense of total weekly effort, we find ourselves looking at a few charts regularly to get a sense of our global progress of lack thereof. We look at the mean maximal power curve, a standard chart, to see where our fitness has been for the last month. We look at the mean maximal power data points for the last 28 days to check on where our highs have been. We look at our Training Stress and IF for the last 28 days to know where our last several rides have been. All those are standard charts. We also made a weekly TSS vs. Time vs. Calories to see how our weeks stack up against one another. Three high TSS weeks in a row and we consider whether or not to do a fourth. Four in a row, and we're definitely figuring we deserve a rest week. We like to think this chart stops us from descending too deep into an overtraining hole.
The chalkboard feature is one we haven't used, but it seems like it could be useful. Not only can you put your favorite charts there, but you can do things like have particular workouts or data from particular sports saved there.
Cycling Peaks software is only available for PC's. This used to be a problem, as many power users are cutting-edge types who prefer Macs. But now with Core Duo processors standard in Apple computers, there is no need to complain. We installed our CP on a MacBook. First, we bought Parallels, a program that allows PC and Mac to run simultaneously. We then bought the cheapest Windows XP operating system we could find. Between those two programs, we spent about $160. Then, we loaded on CP. After that, we loaded on SRM USB drivers for both the Windows and Mac sides of our MacBook and bought the SRM USB cable. For some reason, CP chooses COM 4 as the training device port. Odd, but it works.
If we have a complaint it has to do with the Threshold values for Power Profiling. Not many of us are going and riding an hour all-out frequently. Even a 40k TT isn't an hour for many cyclists. We wish they had gone with a shorter value, like 15 or 20 minutes. While it is true that it wouldn't be a real threshold number, it would provide a better data comparison because those times are what people go out and test themselves at without digging too deep in the tank.