Winter project: Converting the TT bike into a fast road bike

This winter’s project is to convert my Planet X time trial bike into a road bike. I love riding the TT bike, but there’s not much of a TT scene around here and I’m not getting enough use out of it. It’d be great (I think) to use it as an aero road bike for a while.

With a bit of Googling I tracked down a pair of new old stock SRAM Rival 10-speed shifters to compliment the rest of the 10-speed drivetrain. These were harder than expected to source now that everything has gone 11-speed, I had to get them sent over from the UK.

As I’m not even sure if I’ll like how it rides with drop bars I didn’t want to splash out on a completely new groupset. I think I can live without that one extra gear now now. The old SRAM Rival stuff is actually pretty ace and the bike is already sporting  SRAM carbon cranks. Of course the SRAM eTap upgrade kit would have been nice… ;-)

As for bars I’m waiting for a good deal on some carbon aero topped bars, possibly 3T or similar. Although it won’t be a TT bike anymore I still want it to be slippery and these just look fast, which is half the fun!

The geometry of the Stealth frame will make for a fairly aggressive position so we shall see if it even works as a roadie. If not, I can always convert it back! Anyways it’ll give me something to tinker with on those cold winter weekend mornings.

Exploring the Tasman Peninsula on two wheels

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my bike down onto the Tasman Peninsula for a ride along the coast and into the hills. It was one of those rare and perfect early winter evenings. Still mild enough to have the legs out, not a drop of wind and hardly a car to contend with.

It’s not often enough I get out on the road these days and this ride certainly reminded me of what I am missing out on!

During the summer  the roads down on the Peninsula are jammed full of tourist rental cars and badly driven camper vans, but outside of peak season you can almost have the place to yourself. It really is a little slice of island paradise. If it weren’t for the fading light I could have ridden for hours, but in the end I rolled back to the house with a shade over 51km on the Garmin, three Cat 4 Climbs, 28kph average, two Strava KOMS and one absolutely stunning sunset to finish off the ride. Some days life is just ohhh so sweet and it makes you thankful to be alive. #keepthosepedalsturning

5 Reasons the Tacx NEO is awesome (and one reason it’s not)

The age old debate of Wahoo KICKR vs Tacx NEO! Arguably the top two smart turbo trainers currently on the market (although there are plenty of new contenders).  If you’re looking for the ultimate indoor trainer or epic Zwift experience then these two are your top choices as both are high quality trainers in their own right. I rode a KICKR but bought a NEO. It’s the first day of winter down here in Tassie, so here are my 5 reasons why the Tacx NEO is an insanely fantastic piece of kit:

1) It’s rated to simulate 20% inclines and can handle 2200 watts. Higher on both fronts than the Wahoo KICKR. Oh and that’s a lot of watts, in fact if you can hit that kind of wattage on a regular basis, then  I want to be reading YOUR blog.

2) The sound of silence. When Tacx say the NEO is near silent they mean it. Your fan (you do have a fan, right?) will be louder. So will your drivetrain. My wife is often asleep in the next room, her head literally three feet away. She can’t hear it. Have a listen to DCRainmaker’s KICKR vs NEO sound comparison below.

3) Direct drive. No rear wheel  equals better power transfer, no tyre wear and no slippage. All your effort goes into smashing out watt bombs! It’s a turbo trainer game changer. I’d never go back to a wheel-on trainer.

4) No need to calibrate. Every single other smart turbo currently on the market requires some form of periodic calibration to retain accuracy. Sometimes every ride and after the turbo has warmed up. Not the NEO. Not once, not ever. Get on. Ride.

5) It syncs seamlessly with Zwift (other platforms available) for a fully immersive experience. It can even simulate road surfaces such as wooden bridges and cobbled streets if you want it to. Hit a virtual 10% incline? You’ll feel it! Head downhill after that big climb? The NEO spins out as if you’re flying back down the mountain! I could write a whole bunch of superlatives and fancy metaphors describing the experience, but you really need to ride it for yourself.

And of course, the one big reason it’s not so awesome…

1) It is – without a shadow of a doubt – a crazy expensive trainer! There’s no getting around the fact that you could buy a very decent second road bike for the money the NEO will set you back. It’s quite the purchase so you’ve got to know you’re going to get serious use out of it before pulling the trigger.

Now, who want’s to buy my no-longer-needed rear wheel? #RideOn

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

The rise of the eFondo and eSportive

Riding a Sportive on your turbo trainer. Apparently that’s totally a thing now. With the success of their first eFondo, where over 1000 people signed up to “ride” the event, Zwift have this time partnered with Cycling Tips to run a whole series of eFondos over the coming months.

Yep that’s right folks, a virtual Sportive! Dust off your replica World Champs kit and get ready to litter the floor of your pain cave with discarded gel wrappers, because you can now have the whole Sportive experience without leaving the house.

They’ll be on a Sunday morning (for those down here in Australia at least, where winter is on the way) and consist of one full lap of the Watopia Pretzel route. That’s a virtual 72km with 1330m of virtual climbing. For those with smart trainers it can be quite a challenge as the route is almost entirely “uphill” from the gun all the way to the top of the Radio Tower climb. I rode the first half of the last eFondo and to be fair it was actually pretty motivating. Being surrounded by so many other Zwifters means you always had somebody to chase!

Get ready for the Zwift Cycling Tips eFondo Series!

If you complete one of the events you unlock the Zwift eFondo kit (virtual). Now if only they could incorporate virtual feed stations along the route and a virtual finisher’s goody bag when you cross the line… #RideOn