I just got a Power Tap power meter and things will never be the same when I ride my bike. In case you were worried, I am talking a positive change in my cycling. After only three rides, the Power Tap has opened my eyes to a lot of things and has answered a lot of questions as well. As I said, things will never be the same.
Back in my heavy racing days I did intervals, religiously, and based on my results, they paid off. Clearly a power meter can tell you a lot and help your training in a major way. I don't do structured workouts anymore, but the power meter has definitely helped my riding nonetheless.
For example, it gives me a good indication of my overall fitness. While my performance numbers match Lance Armstrong's on the right side of the decimal point, I am not looking to go toe-to-toe with the Texas Tornado on the left side. What I am looking for is my average sustained power output when I am climbing or riding hard on the flats. I have a pretty reasonable idea what a good number should be for me. Anything over 300 watts is good; Anything over 350 watts indicates that I am riding well.
Another benefit is to keep me honest during my rides. If I really want to ride a climb hard, if the ascent starts to flatten out near the top, I need to either shift up or pick up the cadence to keep the same power output. I was surprised at how just a 1-2% change in the grade of a hill can affect the power readings
One thing I really like is the data that indicates how many total calories you have burned during your ride. Actually, the Power Tap displays the amount of energy produced in Joules, but by multiplying that number by 1.1 (thanks, Allen Lim)you can determine how many Big Macs you can eat post-ride.
For those of you into numbers, you can store the data from all your rides for future reference. After my first ride, when I hooked up the power meter to my PC, the first thing that flashed on the screen was "Seek a Pro Contract Immediately". And you think I am kidding.
I am still playing around with the Power Tap and learning more new and interesting things. Stay tuned for the details.