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!

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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… :-)

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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…

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:

Late to the Zwift party!

Okay. I’ll admit it. I was wrong. Oh so wrong…

Zwift is pretty damn cool.

When it comes to indoor training I’ve always been in the “short sharp suffering in the pain cave with intense intervals and no distractions” type of guy, but after clocking up a few virtual rides in the virtual world of Zwift, I’m converted!

zwift_001An hour on the trainer usually feels like a whole day – but with Zwift everything flies by in a blur of smashing it up “hills” and chasing down breaks. You can even virtually “draft” other riders to save energy! Just this morning I spent over two hours on the trainer and you know what? It didn’t suck! I wish I’d had Zwift back during those grimy UK winters. Oh and check virtual me out in my virtual Sigma Sport kit!

I’ve got a pretty basic setup now using my power meter equipped bike, a set of Elite rollers, Zwift on the laptop and a floor fan. It works and does the job, but a new smart turbo trainer will automatically vary resistance to simulate climbs and descents.

zwiftmaplondon8A virtual ride around London including a re-located Box Hill climb!

If you haven’t tried Zwift yet, do so this month! As a bonus Strava Premium members get the rest of the year for FREE! This could get very addictive…

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Back on the Rollers

In an attempt to increase my saddle time and get back up to flying fitness I splurged on a new set of rollers. Last month we smashed our target at work, so what better way to spend some of that bonus money than on bike tech? :-)

elite-arion-mag-1

Back in the UK I had a set of Elite Arion rollers that I loved. Unfortunately I couldn’t take them or my turbo with me. This time around I plumped for the upgraded version with built-in resistance levels (picture below is me on the old set a few years ago).

RELATED: Indoor Training – Turbo vs Rollers

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The Elite Arion has parabolic rollers, meaning they are taller at the edges to help keep you centred. It’s not a fail safe though and it is still possible to ride over and off, trust me on that one!

Two other great features of the Elite rollers are the lighter plastic frame and the ability to fold it in half for storage. I haven’t given the resistance levels a thorough testing yet, but I’m sure it’ll stop me from spinning madly when trying to put down some wattage! Not that I have much wattage now (okay, I never had much). It’s going to be a tough slog back to finding my form. #keepcycling

elite-arion-mag-2

Plug in your PowerTap!

Just a quickie for any PowerTap users out there. A new firmware update was recently released for all P1 pedals, C1 chainring and G3/GS hub power meters.

PLANETX_002

According to PowerTap this is new firmware update aims to “simplify across the entire power portfolio” the way offset and calibration is measured. Now all units will share the same starting point of zero (instead of 520-something for hubs) with a range of +/- 30 being acceptable.

Also when calibration falls outside of the +/- 30 point normal range your head unit will display “Failed” on the screen. This is PowerTap’s new way of gently telling you to get the unit serviced and professionally re-calibrated.

Updates to PowerTap Offset Values

I’m yet to install the new firmware. I might wait until I need to replace the battery and do both jobs at once. It doesn’t strike me as an important update so I’ll report back once I’ve installed and tested it.