Cycling and Hearing Damage?

The subject of hearing loss from wind noise has always played on my mind. When you’re bombing around at 20+ mile an hour in the paceline, flying down your favourite descent or just battling a strong headwind – the noise from the resulting wind rush can get quite loud. Sometimes you notice it, sometimes you don’t, but it’s there. Should we be worried about it?

Huh? What did you say? Time for cake?

Ever been sitting somewhere and seen a bunch of cyclists ride by having a good old chat to each other? They need to raise their voices quite a lot just to be heard clearly by one another! Here’s an interesting article from Cycling Tips discussing the issue:

https://cyclingtips.com/2017/08/listen-cyclists-risk-hearing-loss/

About to head back down the mountain, should I pop my earplugs in?

On my motorbike I always wear hearing protection (disposable foam earplugs rated at 30 decibel reduction). Even with a full-faced helmet the wind noise can easily reach damaging levels, enough to cause permanent hearing loss as well as increasing fatigue and distraction levels.

Wearing earplugs is not something I plan on doing while out cycling. I haven’t heard any reports of pro cyclists suffering hearing damage, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Maybe future helmet technology will focus on reducing wind noise? My aero road helmet (Bontrager Ballista) is noticeably quieter than my heavily vented Specialized Propero, so there’s definitely something in it.

Paul Pritchard: Adventure Trike Rider

I get to meet some awesome people in my line of work. Today, one of those incredible human beings was Paul Pritchard. He came in today so we could kit him and his team out in our merino wool thermals and active/outdoor wear in preparation for their upcoming cycle expedition!

Paul is a life-long adventurer. Back in 1998 while climbing the Totem Pole (one of Tasmania’s most famous rock formations) Paul was struck on the head by a falling boulder. He lay on the cliff ledge for over ten hours, bleeding and broken, as his climbing partner ran 8km back to base for help. The accident left him a hemiplegic and changed his life forever. He basically had to learn to walk and talk all over again.

But he has never let his injuries curb his adventure spirit. Years of recovery and rehab later, he has since completed a trike expedition across the Himalaya from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Everest Base Camp and most significantly, returned to the rock which almost finished him – to finish what he started – succeeding in climbing to the top!

Tasman Peninsula rock formations, including the Totem Pole

Next month Paul and his team will set off on a 2100km cycling challenge which will see them pedal their trikes from Australia’s geographical low point (Lake Eyre) to it’s highest, the peak of Mount Kosciusko! Not only that, he’ll be doing it on a TANDEM trike – accompanied by a blind stoker – alongside his team of other disabled adventurers. People really are amazing.

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

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

A perfect Sunday cafe spin!

After almost a year in Tassie I finally managed to meet up with a local rider. Paul lives in the next town over and I’d initially found him through Strava, as we swapped KOMs back and forth a few times when I first moved to Tassie, then crossed paths out riding on our own. More recently we’ve both been riding Zwift and chatting on there, but we’d never been able to get out for a proper ride together. Today that changed.

We had agreed on a more sedate “cafe ride” this Sunday to start things off. We met up at the bakery (conveniently located half way between each of our places) for a later 10am start to let the sun burn away the morning chill. It was glorious outside, almost perfect as we rolled along the coast and country roads. The sun was shining brightly and a gentle cooling sea breeze swept across the island. It’s hard to beat Tassie on a day like today. We weren’t pushing super hard and spent much of the time side-by-side having a good chat like old friends.

After a solid 60km loop back to the bakery we stopped for a quick coffee in the sunshine, review the ride and chat some more breeze. Even though we were weren’t smashing it or pacelining, we still pushed hard enough to feel it a little in the legs and snag some good Strava trophies. A perfect Sunday cafe ride!

I don’t mind admitting that Paul is a much stronger rider than I am, in his words all he does is ride, eat and sleep! His FTP is a good 100W over mine so I know if he wants to he could drop me pretty easily. We’re hoping to make the “Z TAZ Sunday Ride” a semi regular thing, so it should amount to pretty good training when he does decide to put the hammer down!