Cycling Tips eFondo #3 London Pretzel

It’s still very much mid-winter here in Tasmania, with many a frosty start to the day and snow settling about half way down Mount Wellington. So when the third event in the CyclingTips eFondo series rolled around, I decided to jump on again and ride the virtual sportive bandwagon!

This time it was over the shorter “London Pretzel” course. It’s only 55km yet covers all the roads on the Zwift London Map in both directions – so about 32km of rolling road followed by “climbing” Fox Hill and Box Hill before descending back into London for the finish.

I didn’t plan on smashing myself over this one as I’d been slacking in the training department, but as I sat in the virtual holding pen warming up with 300+ other Zwifters, that plan went straight out the window! I dialled up over 400W and launched out the gate in order to make the front group. No matter what the event, the starts are always a smash fest so I knew the drill. Sprint hard out the gate, keep it above threshold and hang on for the first five!

As a bunch formed I tried to hold it at FTP wattage with squirts above to keep my place in the group. The pace finally “settled” and the initial selection saw our 50 strong peloton put a minute or two into the rest very quickly  – we were bowling along at 42+ km/hr average all the way to the foot of the first climb.

As soon as we hit Fox Hill the group shattered as expected. I’d been riding at or above threshold for the best part of an hour so was doing my best to keep pace with the depleted bunch around me. It wasn’t to be my day though and right at the crest of the climb my head was shouting PEDAL HARDER but my legs had other ideas. Tank empty. I was shelled quicker than a boiled egg at breakfast…

Luckily the descent down the other side gave some respite – although the pace was still high as I tried to latch onto any other rider I could. The rest of the ride was spent trying not to lose too much time – a short flat section back through London swapping turns with five other riders and then straight up Box Hill (the less said about that the better) before hammering it down the other side to the finish.

Passing under the banner I was spent – hardly anything left for a final sprint – but somehow I’d managed not to embarrass myself too badly coming in 39th place from 320 starters, six minutes down on first. I’m a fan of these events now, they really do push you hard and the motivation to keep pace with those around you is strong! A great way to keep those legs turning through the winter. #RideOn

Tragedy at Indi Pac Wheel Race

Incredibly sad news coming from the Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia as we learn that competitor and world class ultra cyclist Mike Hall has been hit and killed in a car accident while taking part in the 5,500km race from coast to coast.

For the past two weeks we have been watching the dots on screen as riders made their way from one side of Australia to the other, totally unsupported and racing under their own steam. We’ve watched their progress, their photos on Twitter and updates through media as they endure incredibly tough conditions along the way. We admired their determination and athletic ability to even attempt such a challenge.

Then disaster strikes. One that should never happen. The Indi Pac has been cancelled with immediate effect as word is being delivered to the other competitors. RIP Mike Hall. A dark day in ultra cycling indeed and our thoughts go out to his friends, family and every other Indi Pac competitor. Stay safe out there folks…

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!

One Year Time Trial (again)

Looks like Steve Abraham is at it again. After having to abandon his first attempt when taken out by an inattentive moped rider, then  cutting his second attempt short, he is once more hitting the road for a third time in an attempt to break the Year Record. In his usual subdued and understated fashion he’s taking to those less than ideal English roads at midnight on the 4th of March to begin his attempt.

steve-a-tt

He’s going to have a tougher slog this time around. Last time he was chasing Tommy Goodwin’s 1939 record of 75,065 miles, but since then the record has been pushed even further. Kurt Searvogel pedalled his way to 76,076 miles! Only a few miles more but still. More.

amanda-cokerThen there’s Amanda Coker! She is cycling circles (quite literally) around the rest to destroy the women’s record and may even go further than the Kurt.

She surpassed the women’s Year Record in only four months and is currently averaging 220 miles per day – a higher daily rate than Searvogel! It does help she’s picked to do it almost entirely on a pan flat circuit flanked by other strong club cyclists for a helping wheel to draft. Nothing wrong with that of course, it’s that’s the way I’d choose to do it if I were mad enough. I wouldn’t bet against her cruising past the 80,000 mile mark.

Good luck to Steve of course, he’s hard as nails and knows how to suffer while covering crazy distances. I just hope he avoids those pesky mopeds.

oneyeartt

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 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…