lauantai 30. joulukuuta 2017

Pain Cave setup

Yksi aikuinen lapsi muutti joksikin aikaa "kotiin", joten piti luovuttaa pain cave hänelle. Roudasin säätämön neljä fillaria autotalliin, ja sain ihan kivan sisäpyöräilytilan tästäkin.

My pain cave setup:
  • Bike - Bianchi Oltre XR2 (old road tyres)
  • Smart trainer - Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ 
  • Sensors - Garmin speed, cadence, HR
  • Connector: Garmin ANT+ (no extension cord)
  • Laptop: Macbook Pro 15" (2010)
  • TV: Old Philips 45" Sony Bravia 40
  • Garmin Edge 520 (occasionally, used for comparing data)
  • Two fans
  • Tacx basic rollers
Bought a new trainer (320 €), ANT+ (40€), and a fan (25 €). 

torstai 28. joulukuuta 2017

Over the autumn, 2017 grew apart from 2016

Up to this autumn, 2016 and 2017 seemed to be very similar, like a pair. Just over 10,000 km ridden both in 2016 and 2017. Commuting a lot. Recreational riding a bit here and a bit there, abroad.

Leisurely riding up to this October. Then, 2017 grew to become something different from 2016. Taiwan KOM Challenge made a change. It was the other of the two big cycling events of my life so far.

After Taiwan, I found virtual indoor cycling. I've done it more in six weeks than all trainer-riding and spinning together in the last ten years. Usually I wind down and even hibernate the midwinter months, but not now.

I'll be ready to ride the hilly Andalucia roads in February. Then add only some harder pre-season training, and there'll be fitness level sufficient for competitive sportives next summer.

What do you think about these Strava vintage videos? I prefer 2016 version.

lauantai 23. joulukuuta 2017

Road Grand Tours app: Riding on quiet roads

In Road Grand Tours you ride real-world roads in rendered 3D environments. It is in beta (Windows/MacOS), and there are currently only five roads to choose from. No specific ERG modes or exercises here, as RGT seems to profile itself different from The Sufferfest or Trainerroad. Nor is there any gamification à la Zwift. RGT simulates your personal rides, in good and bad.

It takes a while to start up, but RGT finds the sensors and the trainer nicely (as long as Garmin Express is not running in background). Menu is straightforward and soon one is good to go.

Two of the roads are majestic climbs (Stelvio and Ventoux), two are undulating Mediterranean roads (Cap de Formentor and Pienza), and the fifth is a one-kilometer oval ride in Canary Wharf.

I feel very natural riding my bike on Road Grand Tours – as "real" as it can be on the cheapest smart trainer on the market. The response to %-change is quick. With 95% difficulty setting I used same gears as riding outdoors. I'd say RGT is on par with BigRingVR, and both of these have felt more authentic than Zwift in this sense.

So, we can be happy about the basics. The startup does take exceptionally long, but when it's done all the checking, the sensors and the trainer are found automatically and we're good to go (as long as Garmin Express is not running in background).

RGT is a bit limited but it surely gives you happy riding a week or a few. Compared to eg. Zwift and The Sufferfest, RGT is more of a prototype to help getting some serious funding for the next phase than a platform/service a cyclist would subscribe.

This app is in beta, which naturally means that there are things the developers should pay attention to: the cadence measuring gets confused when downhill, distance information is missing on some roads/rides, the Formentor lighthouse stonewall lets the rider straight through, into an endless falling to the sea.

Road Grand Tours is a nice app to ride a week or a few. Give it a go – it takes you to great roads and doesn't ask for a dime from you!

Pienza (Italy)

Strade Bianche and L'Eroica are ridden here in the Southern Tuscany. This is the picturesque Toscana, and Pienza is its Renaissance-era city-planning masterpiece. 9 km (230 VAM) lap around the countryside is varying and long enough to ride several laps without getting bored. There are nice hills to do the intervalls.

See also: my ride on Strava.

Passo dello Stelvio (Italy)

I've never been there in real life. Despite this handicap I'm ready to say that the feeling of climbing there was very real. I even felt like getting bored with all those numbered hairpins... now 40... 39... still f#cking 36... but, then, I felt lucky to realize there were others on the same climb.

Having other athletes on the same route makes a difference even if one has intended to have their "own pace". What, how long is he going to maintain that 3.5 W/kg! Aa-haa, I knew that would make you take it easy soon. I'm not affected by others. Of course I keep my rhythm and power at 200W, only that it seems to have ballooned to 270W now... It electrifies one immediately when there are others. I prefer that there are some others over having thousands of others like we have on Zwift.

See also: my ride on Strava, and compare it to the data my Garmin Edge 520 recorded.

Cap de Formentor (Spain)

This road on the island of Mallorca is a very popular route for spring training in the real world. It's an undulating stint leading North-East to the lighthouse.

See also: my ride on Strava.

lauantai 16. joulukuuta 2017

BigRingVR: no podium or hero's reception, but very "real" riding

The bike trainer software market has expanded like the young universe after big bang. All of a sudden we have more products to choose from than at least I have time to test.

BigRingVR has a simple approach: train the big climbs. There are tens of famous mountains and other climbs from Europe and the USA. Select your ride, set a pacer if you want, and start pedaling.

Today I rode Old Road to Jaca (Spain) and Alpe d'Huez (France). Former is 54 km and 600 VAM, latter is 14 km and 1130 VAM. Combined they charged me 3 hours 36 minutes.

It feels very much like you'd be there, on a real solo ride. It is as painfully, truthfully slow as it is in the great wide open. That's precisely how one perceives the situation when it's not a race. When training, one is very conscious of the effort. So, it was relieving to see other riders on the video ascending the same road.

The realism is strong with this one: when I reached the top of Alpe d'Huez, there wasn't any Finish banner or crowds - just a dull part of the road like it happens to be on 364 days around the year. I sort of expected a hero's reception and felt a bit underwhelmed, just like I would've felt in real life :)

BigRingVR videos are of good quality. Unfortunately they've been shot from a fast moving car with a low frame rate (60 FPS is my guess). Thus when I ride 10 km/h, the picture transitions get jagged. It doesn't affect too much when I stare the 15' laptop screen but when I raise my eyes to the 42' TV screen behind the laptop, especially hairpins seem like a collage of Viewmaster images.

Also, as they've been driving fast while shooting video, when I ride 10 km/h, everything that moves on the video, haaaappennns veeeerrrry sloooww. And to be honest, it reduces the "VR" feeling when the video is shot on a highway 100 km/h.

Nevertheless, BigRingVR is currently free, and I have approached it as a "beta" or concept demo. The road steepness % is quite well synchronized with the video, and some odd mishaps don't ruin the ride.

Setting BigRingVR up was easy with my Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+, and Garmin sensors, and MacbookPro laptop (Garmin ANT+ dongle, two meters from trainer).

BigRingVR will hatch out its free concept phase soon. From January on it'll be subscription-based. So try it out now.

So far I've tested Zwift and BigRingVR. They are very different, and it's like comparing apples and oranges. If you'd like to learn about other alternatives, check out eg. Best Turbo Trainer Software 2017.

sunnuntai 3. joulukuuta 2017

Now I know why conquering mountains is so hard

After my Taiwan KOM Challenge I've been thinking a lot about climbing. What actually made it so challenging? What was it exactly?

Also my new experience riding extensively in the virtual world of Zwift has resonated the thoughts arisen after Taiwan.

It is not the climb (altitude change) itself nor the steepness that makes mountains hard to conquer. After all, it's just selecting a shorter gear and keeping power level such that one is able to maintain.

It is the fact that it is continuous work. Go a bit too hard and there's no way getting rid of the lactates (or hydrogen, to be more precise) in the muscles.

Riding a long uphill resembles running: there's no freeriding, no way to stop pedaling and recover. Of course there are other factors as well, like finding the rhythm, but the key is the continuous pressure.

Smart trainer and Zwift have changed my indoor workouts. Yesterday I did three hours. Here's a screen capture of that ride on Strava, first 50 km selected:

One of those lines differs drastically from an ordinary outdoor ride around my neighbourhood: the cadence. During the first 50 km, I've stopped pedaling only twice, each break having lasted about 15 seconds when I first opened the door for ventilation and then closed it.

The ride took 3 hours 12 min. My legs stopped rotating twelve times. Eleven of these were 5-15 seconds, once half a minute.

See the "-10" on the right hand side? This is a steep downhill and still I'm pedaling 67 rpm, producing 79 W. So, more or less one does work all the time while on a trainer. No wonder that some say 45 minutes on trainer equals 60 minutes on the road.

I wait the spring with great curiosity. Will this winter bring better results than those based on commuting to work. I expect to have more stamina and to be ready to ride the Sierra de Tejeda in February.