CyclingTips eFondo: I just “rode” a Sportive on the turbo…

So a while back I wrote about eFondos and eSportives totally becoming a thing these days. Not one to knock things before trying, I jumped aboard my Tacx NEO and logged in to join the first ever CyclingTips eFondo on Zwift.

The night before I went through my usual cycling event prep. Clean and lube the bike, lay out my kit, prepare my ride fuel/bottles, make sure everything is in it’s place and most importantly study the route profile. Just like a “real” Sportive!

The route for this one was the Watopia Pretzel, which takes in all the “climbs” on the island (apart from the Volcano) over a distance of 73km. Having ridden part of the route before I knew that that first 15km were basically uphill, all the way from sea level into the Watopian Alps and to the top of the Radio Tower. The course then rolls around the island with a couple of lumps before heading back up the reverse side of the mountain for a second big climb.

The morning of the ride I had a hearty breakfast of my usual porridge topped with golden syrup before kitting up and logging onto Zwift for a short warm-up. The riders were set off in two waves for this event. I joined the second wave consisting of over 250 riders all resplendent in their eFondo jerseys. A whole peloton of pixelated people pedalling away on their trainers. Alone yet together.

There’s a short roll-out before the road heads (virtually) skywards and stays that way right the way to the Radio Tower. The pack thins out and I settle into a nice climbing rhythm with a small bunch of other riders. I know this climb is going to take around half an hour – with the hardest section right at the top – so it’s best not to push too hard and blow early. There’s a long way to go and more climbing later.

I’m sitting just above FTP wattage for most of the climb, alternating seated efforts with short bursts out of the saddle. With 20 minutes done we turn left, heading up to the infamous Radio Tower climb. The road ramps to 19% at places. It may be virtual, but when the Tacx NEO clamps down it sure feels like true suffering! It’s a tough grind in my lowest 36/28 gear, but I manage to snag a PR to the top.

Circling around the Radio Tower and heading back downhill, I reach for my first gel of the ride. Yep, I’m fuelling this just like a real ride. The descent is ace. Once you reach a certain speed in Zwift, if you stop pedalling your avatar will “supertuck” and fly down the hill like a pro. The NEO has downhill drive to add to the immersion. It’s good to rest the legs for a moment as there’s plenty more to come.

Half way through the course and our group has thinned to six riders. We circle the island at a lower intensity, knowing we’ve still got to head back up the mountain in the opposite direction. The second big climb is a real killer. Another 20 minutes with much of it at 10% or higher. As we slog up with heavy legs a few of the group fall away until we are but three. I just concentrate on my wattage and keep focused.

Finally over the crest and another fast descent follows. We’re into the final 10km of rolling roads now.

Having given my all I’m pretty gassed and  eventually I lose the draft of the two other remaining riders of our bunch. Nothing left! Looks like the last 5km are going to be solo. Through the last of the rollers and it’s a downhill sprint to the line. Well, as much of a sprint as I can muster. I’m happy with my effort as I’ve got nothing more in the legs. As I pass under the banner my time flashes up on the screen with the results table: I’d finished in 21st place with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 49 seconds! Really pleased with that.

Unlike a regular Fondo or Sportive, there’s nobody at the finish line to hang a medal around your neck or hand you a goody bag. You do unlock the CyclingTips eFondo Jersey though, which your Zwift avatar can proudly wear so that’s something! I must say I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, it was about as “fun” as riding a turbo for over two hours can be! This was mostly due to the seriously immersive nature of Zwift paired to the Tacx NEO.

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. CyclingTips are running a series of five of these eFondos over the Australian winter. If the weather is rubbish and the legs feel up to the challenge I’d be tempted to give it another shot! #RideOn

Total distance: 73km
Elevation: 1365m

Time: 2 hours 17 minutes 49 seconds
Finish Position: 21st

Wheel Balancing for Road Bikes?

I saw this video over on Shane Miller’s YouTube page. I’d mulled over the idea of balancing road bike wheels a few times in the past, but never taken it any further than the odd thought. You balance your car and motorbike wheels, so why not your very expensive road bike wheels? Check this out:

As it turns out, balancing your road bike wheels actually does make a difference and is another one of those marginal gains for the OCD cyclists out there. This weekend I’m going to check out my deep section wheels and see just how out of balance they are!

Should I buy a mountain bike?

You know N+1 and all that… So should this all-out roadie get a MTB?

I owned a (very, very) budget mountain bike in the past. I rode it a little off road until it got stolen when I loaned it to a friend (it was secured in a town centre with a lock worth more than the bike). There are hundreds of kilometres of “totally sick” trails around Hobart and surrounds. According to many cyclists around here it’s a mountain biker’s paradise! Of course if I took up MTB’ing I’d have to start using words like “rad” and “shred” and start drinking Mountain Dew… ;-)

xtrek-slash-9-9-5Thrash that totally gnarly trail, bro… (image credit: MBR)

Actually I wouldn’t even know where to start! Not a true MTB, but I kinda like this quirky looking inbred ride from Cannondale:

mg_7623Cannondale Slate Force CX1 – Cycling Tips

So should I buy a mountain bike? Or do I need a swift slap back to my senses? And if I should get one, what should I get? 26? 29? Hardtail? Full sus? Rigid? Single ring? Discs?

Or maybe I’ll just buy a new carbon road bike…… lol

argon-18-nitrogen-pro-2016-aero-road-bike-1Ahhhhhh, that’s better… Argon 18 Nitrogen Dura Ace Di2

How NOT to maintain your bike?

I’m sure there were a lot of very good maintenance tips in this GCN video, but I couldn’t take my attention away from Simon’s luscious Canyon Aeroad with SRAM eTap groupset, Rotor power meter crankset and Zipp 404 wheels…

“….that’s the bolt that’s stopping my face from hitting the
tarmac, so I better make sure it doesn’t come loose!”

Dear Santa, PowerTap P1 Pedals

High on my Christmas list (yeah sure, I haven’t been that good this year) how I’d love a set of PowerTap P1 powermeter pedals. I love my G3 hub, but it does mean you’re limited to using it only in the one wheel. PowerTap P1’s give you the option of putting your powermeter on any bike simply by switching pedals. It is a very expensive way to basically tell yourself to pedal harder though!

img_2571_thumbImage: DC Rainmaker

There’s no need to a torque wrench when installing to ensure accuracy either unlike the Garmin Vector pedals, making the P1 pedals the most portable and transferable powermeter currently on the market.

The biggest downside I can see with these (and all pedal based powermeters) is that pedals are easily damaged in a crash,  drop your bike, scrape them on curbs, etc. Here’s a little video from the GCN boys showing how they’re made and tested:

Bike packing like a boss

So you’ve got a fancy road bike, you’ve racked up some training miles and now you want to go explore pastures new. Maybe even tick off a few epic Cols. Well unless you’re hiring out there, you’re going to need to pack your bike!

img_2732In my opinion there’s no substitute for a proper hard case bike box. Sure soft bags are lighter and usually slightly smaller, but if you want the best peace of mind for your (probably quite expensive) road bike then it’s GOT to be a hard case box. Nobody wants to arrive at their destination to find a snapped derailleur or worse, a crushed carbon fibre frame!

My favourite is the Bike Box Alan. It’s got plenty of padding, Velcro straps to hold everything in place, anti-crush pole plus loads of extra space for all your other gear such as helmet, clothes or nutrition. While not the cheapest and at a shade under 11kg not the lightest, in every other way the Bike Box Alan really is a cracker. Mine has protected my bike when flying across the globe and also when moving house.

img_2734Foam protective layer sits between frame and wheels. Note the anti-crush pole.

Yes, I bought a bright pink one! ;-) It’s taken some hard knocks along the way and there’s plenty of scratches to the outer case, but everything inside has always arrived in perfect order exactly how I packed it. You can’t ask more than that.