tiistai 19. marraskuuta 2019

After sales marketing as a Time Trial of three Italians

A lot of my cycling gear comes from Italy. My dearest bikes have been designed by Edoardo Bianchi and his staff, and my feet turn cranks mostly in Sidi shoes.

Lately I have had after sales issues with three Italian brands: Favero Assioma, Elite and MET Helmets. Their "time trial" started one after another, and some have made it to the finish already. Let's see how they performed.

Static weight test.
My Favero Assioma Duo pedals took hit when I fell off the bike in September. All of a sudden they started to show different power levels than my Elite trainer. I contacted Favero by sending the online form (actually, did it twice before getting the automatic reply "We’ve Received Your Request").

I was impressed by the attitude and dedication of Assioma customer support. It turned out that they are able to check certain pedal parameters remotely, certain values read when the Assioma app synchronizes (battery, the result of the latest calibrations and the values of some internal sensors). That helped a lot in the process.

Some further calibration had to be done, but now the sensors give correct data. The scratches on the pedals only give more road-credibility.

Favero: useful replies the same or next day – absolutely a podium place.

The belt is wider in new models.
Elite Direto is my third indoor trainer by the same company. After two wheel-on "turbos", this no-wheel direct drive model is a step up. Unfortunately it has a belt that snapped after some 6,000 km.

I sent email to Elite. They asked me to send a picture of the broken belt and promised to send me a spare one with instructions. In less than two weeks I had gotten it.

Elite: quick replies, no hassle – another podium finisher.

MET Trenta helmet was damaged in the same crash as the Assioma Duos. Unfortunately I had bought mine from Wiggle, and the MET crash replacement program advices to contact the MET distributor of the country where I bought the helmet. So, I found the email address for MET UK and wrote them on 24th October. Nothing happened.

I sent an inquiry again on 5th November, this time to the headquarters, too. Nothing happened. I resent that inquiry once more, 18th November. Niente. No reply.

MET Helmets: no reply in four weeks, not even an automatic one – still along the course, and yet to be seen whether it ever makes it to the finish.

tiistai 5. marraskuuta 2019

Snapping a belt and losing a chance to ride in Colombia: indoor cycling woes

El Giro de Rigo when things were still going strong.
I had followed the smart indoor cycling fad for some time before buying my first turbo trainer.

I decided to get on the bandwagon as soon as the standards (like ANT+ FE-C) and the products (trainers, virtual training software) had matured enough to focus on riding, not on data engineering.

I've had two rather stress-free years until now.

After the crash (outdoors! see Aftermath of a crash) I noticed that my Favero Assioma Duo pedals didn't align with the Elite Direto trainer power meter readings.

Their power readings used to be almost identical:

Now it had generated a difference:

Which was correct? I was quite sure my fitness level was up to Direto numbers and Assioma Duo pedals were incorrect - particularly as they took a hit in the crash.

So, I calibrated the pedals. Still same difference between power readings. Next, I did Static Weight Test for the pedals. Still the same. (Albeit it corrected the measured imbalance of my left/right feet and shows now that I pedal 50/50 ±1%)

Elite Direto calibration test showed the trainer power meter is still as accurate as new.

Something does not compute when every test show correct readings and yet the curves have drifted apart.

I heard that Elite could take a Teamviewer session and change some settings in order to sort this kind of an issue. That would be the thing to do next week!

Unfortunately the belt of Direto snapped during El Giro de Rigo on Sunday. Bloody hell! DNF means I did not complete the entire event and thus lost my chance to win the Grand Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Colombia to ride in the 2020 El Giro de Rigo alongside Rigoberto Uran.

Currently I ride with my old wheel-on Elite Qubo Digital B+ (terrain interaction with Zwift) and Assioma Duo pedals (power & cadence). Two service-part belts are already on their way, one from the local vendor and one from the manufacturer. At least I'll have a spare part.

sunnuntai 3. marraskuuta 2019

Turn your epic ride into a 3D printed mountain

108 km / 0-3275m turned into a memorial object.

In my memories, I keep returning to Taiwan KOM Challenge. Now, when I wanted to get into 3D printing, a natural approach was to turn the cycling computer data into a tangible memorial of that race.

For the first, you need the data in GPX format. Practically any ride data will do. Here's what the memorial object looks like in Strava:

Export your ride data as .GPX and transform it into a .STL with GPXtruder.

Now, locate a 3D printer with proper software. This is the easy part in Finland: go to a public library!

At work I can use an Ultimaker 3 and a MehtaHeino prototype printers. For this project I chose Ultimaker.

It took a working day to have it printed. Next, I sprayed it with Concrete-look paint in order to get the surface a different kind of texture. Then I wanted to accentuate the road. For that I "borrowed" my wife's acrylic colors which seemed to work fine.

Another iconic climb is Alpe d'Huez a.k.a. Alpe du Zwift. That's something I've ridden only on virtual platforms like Zwift and BigRingVR. There'll be a day when I ride it in real life.

I decided to print it out on the MehtaHeino printer. I did it quite big, using practically 25x20x20 cm space, and with very fine settings. Thus, the printing took 1d 23h 38min. I was very happy with the end result.

This time I wanted to try out a more natural feel. Again, I started with the concrete-like gray spray. Next I sprayed some orange mostly on the top part. Then, two different greens mostly on the bottom part.

It was a bit tricky with all the foldings but end result looks pretty much to my liking even though the photo below doesn't do it justice.

For the last I'll paint some accentuation for the road - orange? shiny gray?

It might be that some day I combine this 3D file of the road with a spatial topographical mountain. See eg. this article on Instructables. Ultimaker can print out two colors at the same time. The mountain could be printed with one and the road with another to the same object.

PS. To stay true to the "natural colors" theme, I painted the road gray.

The colors in this photo are closer to what they really are but a bit too dark. Interesting how different faces it makes when in pictures.

sunnuntai 27. lokakuuta 2019

Aftermath of a crash and some exemplary customer service

It was only a kilometre from the office. The traffic light for the bike path turned green ahead.

I had been riding a good tempo and had just eased to cool down. I was coasting a slight downhill at 35 km/h when I decided to do one sprint up to the crossing as there weren't others around.

I got out of the saddle and started to push pedals. Having my weight on the right side the chain slipped momentarily just when I started to push that pedal down. The crank turned without any resistance all of a sudden and I lost balance.

I landed mostly on my shoulder. Having a heavy backpack may have helped to save my collarbone but resulted a fierce whiplash to my neck. Sliding on the tarmac meant roadrash to leg, waist, arm, hand, shoulder.

The MET Trenta helmet got broken. Without it, my skull would be in pieces.

One "bone" of the helmet fractured.
I got on bike quite soon thanks to indoor riding.
Naturally, my bike, cycling gear and computer in backpack took some damage too.

My superficial wounds have healed, and shoulder is OK'ish now. Bike will be fixed soon.

One thing wonders me, though.

The Favero Assioma Duo pedals got some hit. When I finally tested them on Friday, the power readings were intermittent. I contacted Favero and attached some data as a .FIT file. I got a thorough reply immediately.

With their prompt and dedicated help, I got the pedals produce data that looks good and is consistent. (Basically: do 4-5x manual calibration and deconnect/reconnect.)

Before the crash my Elite Direto trainer and Favero Assioma Duo pedals had shown very similar power readings, differing less than 2%.

Yesterday at 'The P Race' on Zwift, Direto was consistent with my previous average power readings but the difference to Assioma Duo reading is more than 6% now. (link to the comparison)

So, it seems like the pedals register a bit lower reading than before. Or could it be that I'm a bit weaker and Elite Direto happens to need calibration the the moment? (edit: Direto tested now, it's ok)

I think it's time to get a new pair of pedals. If we get this issue fixed with Favero support, then I'll have another pair for a second bike. 

sunnuntai 20. lokakuuta 2019

Bologna - a lovely place to ride

Fellow rider at San Luca Sanctuary
3,800 metres of portico, a covered walkway, connects the city of Bologna and the hilltop sanctuary Madonna di San Luca. We as cyclists are interested on the latter half of it.

That translates as 1,900 painful and rewarding metres from Via Saragozza upwards. That's where Il Giro stage 1 (individual time trial) took place last May, and that's also where I started the climb by bike today.

It's stunning to ride a climb that you've seen the pros do on world tour, and that you've raced as a trainer simulation in Zwift as well.

Sorry - I'm getting carried away. This article was to be about road biking in the area. Bologna is not a one-hit wonder. Let's rewind a bit.

Weather statistics say October here is 15-20° but I've been blessed with 20-24° and sunny skies. Birds that left Finland two months ago keep on singing here.

I didn't have the option to take my own bike with me. velocerental.com seems to have good bikes but is a bit on the expensive side. As a budget option I rented a Bianchi Via Nirone 7 (Shimano 105, triple 50/42/30, cassette 11-25. Ambrosio Evolution wheels and Marathon Plus tyres have a considerable say on the weight issue) from bikeinbo.com.

Bianchi Via Nirone, first with SPD-SL pedals that didn't fit my cleats. Got another pair though.

Everyone seems to be on the move on bicicletta in Bologna. No matter whether it's city, mtb, or road, no matter the age – everybody rides. Roads are in good condition and car drivers are alert and polite. The infrastructure for cycling is not so developed but it doesn't play a major role for a road cyclist outside town.

Along Via Jussi to the foot of the Apennines

I happened to find one particularly popular cycling route right away. Via Carlo Jussi (SP36) takes you from South-East corner of the city to Farneto and Botteghino di Zocca.

Initially, we drove to Parco dei Gessi in Farneto in order to hike with the dogs and possibly see the Grotta del Farneto.

Nice trails for MTB, too.
We did hike a bit on the steep slippery paths, and on our way up we saw plenty of cyclists on their MTBs coming down. Luckily we managed to rescue our small doggies. Also, I paid attention to the number of riders on SP36.

So, my first ride was on the very SP36 to Zena (Strava: BO - Zena - BO). I took a wrong turn in the city so I had some interesting additional VAM in Ponticella first. Then, I made the long, steady 2% climb/false flat to Zena, came back to Botteghiro di Zocca and from there the 2km long 6% uphill (plus 2-3 km a bit easier) towards Pianoro. After that it was mostly 1-2% downhill to the outskirts of the city in San Ruffillo.

Via Carlo Jussi (SP36) is picturesque.

Via della Colina westwards is a cat4 climb.

For the second ride the plan was there: same, same but more (Strava: BO - Barbarolo - BO). This time I kept on riding the rest of the road from Zena to the T-crossing where I turned right to Barbarolo.

Zena is only on 210 m altitude, and the T-crossing at Fornace di Zena is on 260 m. Now, there was a more demanding climb of 5 km / 300 VAM towards Barbarolo. After that some up and down, and finally after Livergnano it's mostly happy descending.

For the third ride I still wanted to do some more of the same (Strava: BO - Loiano - BO). This time I turned left at the end of SP36 T crossing. That gave me a 13 km uphill (550 VAM) to Loiano. It was only 14 km longer than the last one, and 180 VAM more but the Relative Effort based on HR was more than the two previous rides together.

As such these kinds of rides on these roads fulfilled the basic strategy for an end-of-season/start-of-winter ride: long warm-up riding getting gradually harder, then the hard part (uphill), and the rest is easy home-coming.

San Luca Sanctuary and other punchy climbs in South / South-West

There are three parts on the Madonna di San Luca climb: for the first, the road goes on the right hand side of the portico and is sort of rideable (gradient under 12%). I even could take my phone out of the pocket to take some photos. Also, I saw that people walking the portico were watching our efforts keenly, almost cheering at us cyclists.

First straight of San Luca Sanctuary is not impossible.
With Dante's inscription of a certain gate: "Abandon all hope, you who enter here!"
Then you take the first gate to continue on the left hand side of the portico. Now it really starts to hurt: my Garmin showed 18-20% for longer than I dared to think. I just kept on focusing to keep the bike moving. These gears were not enough here. For a glance I saw myself reaching max HR but then I had to put all my effort on the pedaling again.

After the second gate you go to the right side of the portico again. This is the easiest part, under 10%. Then again, you're exhausted already. For me the first thought was to avoid dying but soon as there were only a few hundred metres left, I even managed to do something like a sprint finish. I even catched some riders in front of me. 

That must have been one of the hardest efforts I've done. I steered to the side of the street to get my breath back. Sipping water, five minutes passed and my Garmin Edge 520 went to sleep. 

When I was to continue, Garmin didn't wake up but after two forced restarts. Oh sh#¿t! Now I don't know my max HR, nor whether I did it faster or slower IRL than in Zwift. 

That is one thing that Garmin has never gotten right: make your software damn foolproof reliable.

After the Sanctuary it's undulating to La Ghiacciaia and Pianoro. The climbs are short and punchy, many times over 10%, up to 20%. So, this is very different riding than the three rides along SP36. Only from Pianoro back to the city it is very similar, although I took SP58 instead of SP65.

Such an understanding wife and such tolerable Bichon Bolognese dogs that allowed me to take 4x half day for riding on family vacation :)

In short

+ the cycling culture is there
+ great selection of different kinds of roads to ride
+ not so hot as in Central / Southern Italy but warm enough
+ found this vintage S.C. Veterani Bolognesi jersey from Mauri Bikes
- a bit difficult to reach from Finland (nearest direct flights to Milano)
- rent bikes on the expensive side

keskiviikko 25. syyskuuta 2019

As fast as a pro in Yorkshire

The UCI Road World Championships are under way in Yorkshire, England. Just as Zwift did with Richmond and Innsbruck, we virtual cyclists have the luxury to ride a replica of the final lap indoors – without rain and pools of water that the TT riders have had to encounter in real life these days.

Unfortunate course of events for some in U23 TT yesterday.
Such an interesting course with continuous uphills and downhills, each section differing from the other. It's difficult to get a rhythm there and one has to negotiate every part separately. In CyclingNews, Team Sunweb pro Jan Bakelants described the course as dangerous when wet – how right he was! 

Those who have ridden both the actual course and its virtual equivalent, say that Zwift does very good job with gradients and the course profile. On the other hand, I don't like the candy-like, über-beautiful Zwift-scenery. The contrast with the rainy England has been exceptionally stark.

For once in my life I feel like a pro, after having done some laps in Yorkshire. 

This evening I went to my sweat cave to have a short ride and chose Yorkshire. Even though I raced in Watopia yesterday and the legs were tired, I couldn't resist trying to improve my PB. 

I did the Yorkshire 2019 segment in 22.22 which gave me a position 2818 /59174. Being among the fastest 5% is nice but nothing to write home blog entry about. What struck me with awe is that Jan Bakelants, the UCI WorldTeam pro rider, has cleared the lap in same time. Luckily I don't know how leisurely ride he has done, but still, seeing my own name there with a pro feels absolutely amazing. It doesn't matter how leisurely his ride has been because even I didn't give my 101%. 

perjantai 13. syyskuuta 2019

Annetaan heidän kokea oikea eSports

Otaniemessä erään talon kellarikerroksessa on kiinnostava paikka, jossa ammattikoululaiset, yliopisto-opiskelijat ja startup-yrittäjät kohtaavat.

Monille heistä eSports tarkoittaa ainoastaan videopelejä kuten CS GO, Dota2 ja Overwatch. Haluan esitellä heille uuden, fyysisemmän eUrheilun ulottuvuuden eli virtuaalipyöräilyn. Kun saan seuraavat palikat kasaan, laitan pystyyn vapaasti käytettävän sisäpyöräilysetin. Siitä sitten osallistumaan vaikkapa Zwiftin eSports-pyöräkisoihin!

Koska tällaiseen ei ole budjettia, pitää koittaa olla luova.

Juomapullo. Tämä on henkilökohtaista ja suorastaan oman persoonan jatke. Jokainen tuokoon omansa. Taidan brassailla ja ottaa omille ajokerroilleni Taiwan KOM Challenge -pullon.

Tuuletin. Koska traineriin kiinnitetty pyörä ei liiku, ei tule vastaista ilmavirtaa. Höyryävä kuumuus jää iholle ja hiki virtaa, jollei tuulettimia ole. Yksi minulta löytyy, ja sen annan lainaan kunnes taas ensi kesän helteet koittavat.

Kosteuden kestävä matto. Tämä puoli on tuolla jo kunnossa, sillä lattia on pinnoitettu makerspace-käyttöön.

Pyyhe. Tuuletin tai ei, hiki virtaa. Henkilökohtainen siinä missä juomapullokin. Itse suosin froteista Sotungin Lukio -pikkupyyhettä, jonka sain työnantajaltani kymmenisen vuotta sitten.

Korotuspala. Ilman korotusta eturengas olisi alempana kuin takarengas. Voi olla tarkoitukseen tehty palikka tai yhtä lailla tarkoitukseen sopii esimerkiksi jokin Joe Frielin paksummista valmennuskirjoista. Makerspacessa voisimme mallintaa ja 3D-tulostaa itse.

Näyttö ja tietokone/mobiililaite. Mitä isompi näyttö ja mitä lähempänä, sitä immersiivisempi kokemus. Kannustajat pystyvät seuraamaan tapahtumia ja dataa paremmin, kun ruutu on vähintään 65-tuumainen. Löytyy Makerspacesta. ANT+ anturin voin ehkä ostaa omilla viikkorahoillani Makerspacelle.

Polkupyörä ja traineri. Trainerin osalta ratkaisu on helppo. Vien sinne ylimääräisen Elite Qubo Digital B+ trainerini. Se on oikein näppärä wheel on -tyyppinen laite eli fillarin takakiekko pyörittää trainerin rullaa. Älyäkin löytyy eli se tunnistaa ylä- ja alamäet kiristäen tai höllentäen vastusta vastaavasti.

Fillarin osalta onkin hankalampi juttu. Minulla on yksi pyörä, jonka voisin sinne viedä, eli PureFix Papa. Se on takapyörää kääntäen joko fiksi (ei vapaaratasta) tai single speed (voi rullata vapaalla). Toimisi tuossa käytössä aika hyvin, mutta sopii parhaiten 185-190 cm pituisille. Toivoisin pienempää pyörää, ja mieluiten vaihteellista.

Nyt siis päästäänkin asiaan: Löytyisikö sinulta M- tai L-kokoinen maantiepyörä tai hybridi, johon saa sileäpintaiset renkaat? Lainaisitko sen talveksi Makerspaceen?

perjantai 6. syyskuuta 2019

Sisäpyöräily trendaa - ulkona treenaamisesta villien uskalikkojen harrastus

Avatar ajaa pyörällä Watopiassa. Ollaan heikon signaalin ja trendin rajamailla.

Arkipyöräilijä hymähtää niille, jotka parkkeeraavat fillarinsa olohuoneeseen ja kiinnittävät sen traineriin pyörittääkseen kampia ja tuijottaakseen telkkaria. Vähiin jää luonnon kokeminen ja raitis ilma!

Aktiiviharrastaja ja teknofriikki pitävät ihan normaalina ajaa kisaa seinän kokoinen virtuaalimaisema edessä satojen muiden samanlaisten sisätreenaajien kanssa. Kerrassaan tehokas treeni ja hyvät watit per kilo!

Uudelleen rakennettu sisäpyöräilyn areenani.
Heikko signaali on muutoksen ensioire – vaihe, jossa yleinen arvoilmasto pitää uutta ilmiötä typerän kummallisena tai suorastaan vastenmielisenä. Trendi on muutoksen näkyvä vaihe, jolloin kaupat tekevät hyllytilaa siihen liittyville tuotteille ja ilmiö saa tilaa mediassa enemmänkin tilaa kuin sen yhden "Mikäs juttu toi on"-haastattelun.

Isoin toimija markkinoilla on Peloton, jonka konseptiin kuuluvat spinningpyörät ja virtuaaliset spinningtunnit. Itselleni läheisin ja varsinaisten lajiharrastajien piirissä suosituin on Zwift, josta on tullut kirjoiteltua aika monta postausta.

Giro d'Italian aika-ajon replica virtuaalisessa Bolognassa.
Aika moni kunnon ylläpidon muoto on etääntynyt alkuperäisestä "villistä" luonnontilastaan. Raskaan fyysisen työn tai halkojenhakkuun sijaan moni hoitaa lihaskuntoaan punttisalilla. Järvellä soutaminen on vaihtunut soutulaitteeksi. Juoksumatot tulivat jäädäkseen jo 1990-luvulla. 

Metsästys on vielä tavanomaista Suomessa, mutta monessa muussa maassa se on jo vaihtunut ampumaratojen ja urheiluseurojen ohjaamaksi ampumaharrastuksesi. Murtsikkaa hiihtoputkessa, skeittausta parkissa, kiipeilyä sisäseinällä, luistelua tekojäällä. 

Teknologian kehitys muuttaa asenteita ja kulttuuria. Teknologian kehitys tekee mahdolliseksi tarjota perinteinen liikunnan kokemus kaupallisen tuotteen kautta.

Enää ei kuljeta tien laitaa jousipyssy olalla eikä ajeta hevosrattailla kuin valjakkoajokilpailuissa. Onkohan maantiepyöräilijä tien laidassa parinkymmenen vuoden kuluttua samanlainen reliikki, ehkä peräti villi lainrikkoja?

Ulkopyöräily voi olla katoavaa kansanperinnettä.