Train by numbers: Feeding the Golden Cheetah

I love riding/training with power. It’s not for everyone, you need to love numbers and be a bit of a geek at heart. Other training metrics such as average speed, Strava segments and heart rate are variable and dependent on outside factors, But with wattage you either make it or you don’t. At the end of the day 200 watts is 200 watts.

trwpmNew to power? First click this Cycling Weekly article for the basics then take a look at some Golden Cheetah videos on YouTube. If you’re not put off by that, buy the book Training and Racing with a Powermeter and read it cover to cover. If you STILL want to delve into the world of power, go ahead and pull the trigger!

This year so far I’ve completed a majority of my training on rollers and Zwift, giving me a widespread data bank of power files from my PowerTap G3 hub. Having all my rides logged with power means I can easily track fitness improvements and monitor training load over time.

IMG_1638Ride with power, and train hard – but remember to enjoy the journey!

For me it’s about that continual improvement. I use Golden Cheetah to track my keep tabs on my long term (chronic) and short term (acute) training loads. It gives me a good indicator of how fresh or fatigued I am within a training cycle. Looking over my data shows positive power level trends as both my short and long term training loads increase. Golden Cheetah is not the most user friendly software available but on the plus side it’s free!

goldencheetah2017It takes time to get your head around the many GC graphs and data points.

Like I said, it’s certainly not for everyone! You can very easily get sucked into the black hole of endless data sets, which can drain the fun out of cycling. The trick is not to get bogged down and just keep an eye on the metrics that are important to your particular cycling goals. For me it’s a solid way of tracking real progress. Never forget to just ride for fun every once in a while too!

So however you may be cycling this weekend. Ride hard, ride safe and pedal on!

How does the real Box Hill compare to the Zwift version?

It’s a question that comes up quite a lot in the Zwift community! How does the real Box Hill compare to the Zwift version? Will riding London Loop on Zwift help me train for Ride London? I’m lucky enough to have ridden both climbs numerous times with the same power meter (a very reliable PowerTap G3 hub) thus have some  meaningful data to compare the two. This weekend I got number crunching.

First up a bit of real life riding:

Box Hill Roundabout to Cafe (2.8km @ 5%)
https://www.strava.com/segments/1450512

Watts: 237W
Time: 8 min 50 seconds (cadence 81rpm)

boxxxxxxxThis particular effort was in the middle of a stark British winter on a 115km club ride with Woking CC. I was rugged up in a lot of warm clothing and had already climbed Staple Lane followed by Ranmore Road (both Cat 4 climbs) in the Surrey Hills before hitting Box.

I was still pushing hard of course with a small group to get to the top for some steaming hot coffee and home made cake. As you can see from the photo it was a pretty bleak looking day for a ride! Cold, wet, foggy and grimy. Ahhh those romantic hardcore UK winter rides before we all got soft…

Now for the VIRTUAL version:

Zwift Box Hill Real KOM (2.9km @ 5%)
https://www.strava.com/segments/13812242

Watts: 230W
Time: 8 minutes 10 seconds (cadence 79rpm)

Ridden as part of a Zwift race where I was trying to stick with a small group of 4-5 other racers at the time, this ascent of the virtual hill was actually a PR for me. My setup is Elite rollers with my PowerTap measuring wattage. I was pushing hard, but pretty gassed after the SUPER HARD start that makes up a Zwift race. I didn’t use any power-ups during the climb.

zwift-london-5

Evaluation of real life vs Zwift life:

With pretty much the same cadence I averaged a 7 watt difference over the two efforts, which is well within an acceptable margin of error for measurement.  As you can see there is a 40 second difference in favour of the Zwift climb for me (the virtual segment is also around 100 metres shorter). This is roughly what I would have expected from the data I have collected and my percieved efforts over both of the segments. On a fair summer’s day (with less clothing, lighter bike, etc) I would knock a chunk off the real Roundabout to Cafe segment – and have done – thus getting closer to my virtual time.

woking-cycling-club

So what can you take away from the data? Training for Box Hill or similar climbs by using the Zwift virtual Box Hill climb would actually be pretty effective, especially if you have a smart turbo that changes the resistance settings for you. Time-wise you can expect to spend a bit of extra time laying down wattage when you get out to Surrey for the real thing. Also the Zwift climb finishes past the National Trust cafe! You’ll definitely want to pull in there for the best treacle tart in the world… :-)

176

END NOTES: For reference I weigh in at 60kg so was climbing at just under 4w/kg. I’m no powerhouse. I chose these two segments rather than the Zwiftblog verified one as they were the two closest matched ones for distance I could find on Strava.

EXTRA TIP: Don’t ride over the squiggly white line painting when you do the real Box Hill climb. It’s actually pretty bumpy and will kill your speed…

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.

Checking off another of Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs

Before moving to Tassie I did a bit of research on the road cycling scene out here and came across a list of Hobart’s Top 10 Road Climbs on Marc Durdin’s website. It details ten of the best road cycling climbs in the Hobart surrounds, starting with a couple of Cat 4 lumps and moving right through to the numero uno, the big daddy 11-mile Hors Catégorie rated climb of Mount Wellington.

IMG_2392My post-ride face of exhaustion!

Today I rode over the bridge into Hobart to check another one off the list. I first spotted Nelson Road’s unmistakable hairpin bends on Google Earth, the snaking switchbacks marking it out as a must-ride road before I’d even hit Tasmanian soil.

Hobart_Fondo

nelsonThe multiple hairpin corners of Nelson Road were worth the ride over.

It’s a fairly lumpy ride out to Hobart from my place so it’s important to take it  little easy, then once you’re through Hobart city it’s straight up the hill, turn around and roll back down for a quick cafe stop by the harbour, then hopefully have enough in the legs to get home. Today’s ride was a shade over 72 miles with 5120ft of climbing. A great way to kick off the new season and beat my lazy legs into submission!

Now for a HUGE announcement!

In a momentous piece of life changing decision making, April and I are upping sticks from England and moving to TASMANIA! It’s not an overnight decision, but it’s certainly been a quick one! Our decade in the UK is finally coming to an end…

journey

The wife and I have been furiously cleaning, sorting and packing up our belongings to get this move underway. Looking at all our stuff, it’s hard to believe we arrived in the UK with nothing more than a suitcase each containing our entire lives! We still don’t have much in the way of possessions, but it’s a damn sight more than before.

I’ve sold the car, packed all our belongings into boxes ready for shipping and made a good start on cleaning up the house. All but one bike is neatly packaged up for transport via sea and I’ll be relying on a Bike Box Alan to keep my Kinesis Aithein safe on the journey. It’s coming with me on the plane!

BBA_002

As a very rough guide, Tasmania is about the size of Ireland or if you overlay an outline of the island onto England it looks a little like this:

TassieCapture

Population of England = 53,000,000
Population of Tasmania = 515,000

Apparently the area of Tassie I’m heading for is pretty hilly – there’s not a lot flat roads around the island. I’d better start preparing my mountain climbing legs!

Bring on Spring!

What a weekend! Two consecutive bright, sunny and dry days to kick off the season and get some quality miles ridden. What more could a guy ask for? :-)

After yesterday’s blast on the time trial bike, today I whipped out into Surrey for a solo 50 mile ramble, including three reps up and down Staple Lane for good measure. The legs felt heavy after yesterday, but my power data and a Strava PB up Staple Lane’s Cat 4 climb tell me I was doing alright.


staple
staple333

With a few years in England under my belt now I’ve learnt that you’ve got to make the most of fine weather as you never know how long (or short) it will last. Hope you all got some enjoyable weekend miles in! Back to the commute tomorrow morning.