Zwift Academy 2017 Review

Well it’s all done and dusted. The 2017 Zwift Academy (for those who haven’t made the final U23 top ten) is officially over. From the 9234 entrants in the Men’s Academy, 1245 managed to finish the program, myself included!

Over the six-week program, entrants needed to complete 8 structured workouts, 5 group rides and 2 races on Zwift. The workouts were pretty tough, especially towards the end of the program. One called for twenty four 15-second sprints at max power with only 30 seconds recovery! But then they are made to test you and also uncover real talent for the Dimension Data Pro Conti team! Overall it was great to have some proper, structured training rather than just randomly smashing it on the trainer.

The warm downs were a bit long for my liking, a lot of them were over 15 minutes long soft pedalling at really low wattage. I was ready to climb off and grab a recovery shake after five. I prefer a short, sharp hour.

The races – as with all Zwift races – were brutally tough. I’m very much a mid-pack B grade racer on Zwift at the best of times. I managed 26th place on my first race and a much more respectable 5th place on the second. Those were a real test! The group rides were a little hit and miss. I used most of them as recovery spins.

Overall I did enjoy the Academy. It motivated me to get on the trainer and dig deep in order to complete all the rides within the specified time frame. The workouts were longer than I would have preferred and that is my only real complaint. Would I do it again? Yes, if the program fit in with my training at the time. Free structured training laid out for six weeks? Why not!

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What weekends are made for!

Daylight saving has kicked in, the days are getting longer, warmer and so much brighter. Summer is on it’s way! For the first time in a while I rode outside both Saturday AND Sunday. Sure I’ve been hitting the trainer and Zwift with a vengeance, but there’s nothing quite like two beautifully sunny and perfect cycling weekend days in a row! How I’ve missed this!

Saturday was a climb-fest with some new cycling buddies and saw me tick off another one of Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs. Sunday was a much more laid back affair with a simple solo spin soaking up the sunshine.

It really doesn’t get much better than that! #happydays

Zwift Academy 2017 – All signed up and ready to roll!

So on a whim this morning, I signed up for the 2017 Zwift Academy!

This year alongside the women’s event, Zwift have teamed up with Dimension Data to offer a men’s Academy! Dimension Data have even offered a spot on their continental squad to the top male graduate under 23 years of age. Of course, for us oldies and mere mortals it’s simply a chance to take on some free structured training. Plus for every ten graduates, Zwift will donate one bike to underprivileged communities in South Africa. Talk about a win-win!

In order to “graduate” from the Academy, you need to complete eight structured workout sessions, five group rides and two Zwift races over the next six weeks.

Being a rash sort of guy, I signed up this morning and completed the first workout this afternoon. This was (surprise, surprise) an FTP test. What fun. The hour long workout started with a long warm-up, followed by a 20-minute all out hammering at a pace you think you can sustain for that period, then a gradual cool down.

I’d forgotten how much these tests hurt. I’m not sure why I chose to do this test today, especially as my legs were pretty achy after yesterday’s 70km ride. I guess I just wanted to get it over with! It’s been a long time since I’ve done a “proper” FTP test on the turbo and I do not miss them!

So that’s one workout down, seven more to go… #RideOn

The Wahoo Kickr Climb?!?!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “you know what, turbo training needs a bit more realism, I wish my bike would change angle according to the virtual gradient on the screen.” Well now thanks to Wahoo you can have your wish granted.

Introducing Wahoo’s latest trainer innovation – the Kickr Climb. Now you can not only have automatic resistance changes, but you can have the front of your bike simulate climbs (and descents) with this new device automatically raising or lowering the height of your front end! We’re talking raising your front end to simulate up to 20% climbs and lowering for “realistic” 10% descents.

Now, I’m all for realistic indoor training, but I’m not sold on whether this would actually add all that much or just be a distraction. I would however LOVE to try one out. It’d be interesting to see how quickly, smoothly and seamlessly it can react to gradient changes in Zwift – through the Watopia rollers it can switch very quickly. Check out this little taster video from Shane Miller:

The release price is £450. Now that’s an awful lot of coin for a device that doesn’t actually change your training all that much. That price is also over and above the cost of a KICKR2 trainer so you’re talking around £1500 for the complete setup. Ouch.

I don’t see a huge benefit in terms of indoor training. Okay, so you can train your climbing muscles a bit better and get used to the changing angles when you hit some real hills. That’s about all I can think of.

Gimmick? Maybe. I bet it’s kinda fun at first though!!

Climbing faster, getting fitter (or taking the #ZwiftEffect to the streets)

I’ve hardly ridden any road miles in the past couple of months, a combination of a chilly Tassie winter and weekend commitments meant that outdoor cycling has taken a back seat. Finally last weekend I got out for a decent spin including a local climb.

Mount Rumney (can you pick it from the route profile? lol) is a Cat 3 rated climb and number seven on Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs list. The full climb is a fairly consistent ascent averaging 5 percent for just shy of 6km. It allows to you get into a good seated rhythm for the most part, with a few steeper sections to test you out of the saddle.

On my fastest previous attempt I was actually gunning for a PR and was pretty gassed by the top. This time around I wasn’t aiming for a good time – simply enjoying the ride and fresh air – and I managed to knock 30 seconds off my previous best! I still had plenty left in the tank and was going to bang out another rep, but ran short on time before needing to be home. Instead I took a quick photo at the top…

…before descending back to the base. There’s actually nothing else at the top of this climb besides the nice view towards Hobart and only one road up the mountain.

I know I bang on about Zwift a lot, but it really has saved my cycling over the past couple of dark and cold months. There is no way I’d be as fit as I am or as motivated as I am right now without it. Bring on Spring and Summer!

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.