Cyclops showed a new trainer interface that allows you to ride over videoed courses. You’ll have to put together the big-ass monitor set-up yourself. but it dials up wattage on the hills and changes the speed of the video relative to your speed. Tacx has a similar unit, but this one appears easier to operate. Maybe we’ll get a chance to find out.
Saris was showing off a new hitch-mount rack that comes in two and four-bike configurations.
It, like the Thule, comes with locks integrated into the rack. I wouldn’t leave bikes on the rack overnight in Fresno, but it should do an adequate job of keeping honest people honest.
Shimano showed off the new 11-speed Ultegra group. My sense from my limited chance to play with the group is that this is the closes that Ultegra has ever been in performance to Dura-Ace. The difference in the two levers is fairly negligible.
The crank uses the same asymmetric bolt pattern found in Dura-Ace. It’s a look I still haven’t fallen in love with.
The longer parallelogram of the front derailleur and the lines of the rear derailleur only reinforce the the impression that this is a heavier version of Dura-Ace.
For anyone who had a difficult time justifying the extra expense of Dura-Ace previously will find it much harder to do now.
Shimano also introduced a new apparel line. It’s not meant to go after the upper end of the market and compete with Assos and Rapha. Rather, it’s meant to be another affordable alternative for shops.
In addition to a line of clothes for the road, they also showed apparel for mountain biking as well.
Shimano showed some new hydration packs. This one intrigued me because of its relatively small size. It’s ideal for rides in the two to three-hour range.
Most hard-shell helmets, such as the ones worn in skateboarding, are known for being long on durability, but short on protection. Bell has undertaken a novel approach to using EPS foam in a hard-ish shell helmet.
The shell is flexible and populated with multiple sections of EPS , making it able to take a variety of abuses.
I imagine the helmets made with this new approach will give parents at least two or three different kinds of peace of mind.
The Belkin team wore this aero road helmet at the Tour de France (the hot new term for them is “sprint helmet”). Bell was showing it but indicated that this helmet won’t be put into production. They were showing it off as an indication of things to come.
Blackburn undertook a pretty radical reexamination of the brand’s identity and priorities this past year. The upshot is a reinvigorated focus on bags and racks. Among the new products was a locking rack so that when you lock up your bike, you can rest assured that the bags will stay put.
This new rack is stronger than a skunk’s odor and more adaptable than a character actor. I confess that I failed to take any pictures of the bags. My excuse if Friday afternoon lameness. The Blackburn line impressed me enough to make me fantasize about everything from grocery shopping to loaded touring.
In addition to showing off the new 810 computer, Garmin was showing off this new GPS-enabled video camera. It would be an ideal way to record video for the Cyclops trainer interface above.
Sometimes, late on a Friday, when I’m plotting a course across a digital map, seeking out roads I haven’t ridden, trees and lakes and towns I haven’t seen already, I get the Pogues’ Navigator stuck on repeat in my head. Though I am not certain, at this point, I would assign route-finding responsibilities to Shane MacGowan, the song’s story of British railway building gets me thinking about the history and tools of navigation.
Some of my favorite novels are travel epics (this, this and this, for example). There is a dramatic tension inherent in not knowing where you’re going, of having a goal and not being entirely sure you’re going to make it. Sometimes, as when you’ve bonked, it’s a question of survival. Sometimes, as when you’re meeting someone out on the road, it’s a matter of connection.
As I sit comfortably in my spot at the end of the couch, the dog at my feet, and the computer slowly warming my lap, I cut a far different profile than the million or so sailors who have worried at the treacherous rounding of Cape Horn or the foolhardy adventurers who made for magnetic north.
Of course, my own efforts at navigation have evolved rapidly in recent years. There was a time when you just needed to know your way around. You got lost a lot, so that later you could not get lost.
I have employed the strategy of inviting myself on group rides with older, more experienced riders, people who know how to get to Lost Lake, who know the back way out through Carlisle and Chelmsford, the little nothing turns that yield long rambles through farm country.
And then, of course, I spent time studying maps, both paper and digital, committing turns to memory and hoping the street signs would be enough to get me around the loop. This was an incremental approach, branching off of roads I knew, slowly growing my ride territory.
And finally, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) came on line with practicable cycling applications and devices. I have the Garmin Edge 200. I am a minimalist, but even this entry-level computer frees me from many of the mental and logistical constraints I have been fumbling with for years.
I like it, but sometimes I also wonder if I am removing too much of the experience of riding. Would the Aeneid still be in circulation, if Aeneas had been equipped with a digital Italy-finder?
This week’s Group Ride asks how you get around? Do you Garmin? Do you use some other magic box-like device? Do you tuck cue sheets in the leg of your bibs and cut for sign? How has what you do changed, and do you like the way it’s changed? What have you gained or lost?
My takeaways from the first week of the 100th Tour de France are as follows: 1) Corsica is beautiful, and despite the narrow, nervous, crashy, not-altogether-organized nature of the opening stages there, I need to put it on my “Places I Need to Ride My Bike” list; 2) As always, there are some tough sons-a-bitches in that peloton, including three of my favorites, Ryder Hesjedal, Ted King and Geraint Thomas; and 3) the sprint competition is going to be more fun to watch than usual, with Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, Simon Gerrans and Mark Cavendish all taking sprint wins (and intermediate points) through the first week.
When you toss in that Daryl Impey has just become the first African to wear the yellow jersey, it is hard to argue that this version of the Grande Boucle lacks for drama, grit and flair.
You will note that I have not yet even mentioned the GC competition (Impey is in yellow, but he is not in the GC mix). On that score, rather than attempting anything resembling expert prognostication, a task better left to the right honorable Pelkey and/or his Irish partner in crime, I will only say that Nicolas Roche, Roman Kreuziger, Alejandro Valverde and a whole gaggle of Garmins are still comfortably within touching distance of the top.
That means, to me, that weeks two and possibly three will have more real players involved in the struggle for the jaundiced shirt than past iterations of this race have allowed. So that’s cool.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the story of this Tour for you so far? What are the surprises? What magic is yet to come? Take this wherever you want, the Tour does not submit itself to easy reduction. We could, quite possibly, talk about this all day. So start now.
I’m going to begin by saying that it’s not in my habit to write posts in response to a press release. Reprinting a press release isn’t RKP’s editorial mandate; put another way, being a mouthpiece for some company’s PR machine rubs me the wrong way. I like having a chance to check something out before I write about it. There have been a few occasions when I came close to writing something in the wake of an announcement because I thought the company or product was interesting enough to be worth chasing, but for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, I didn’t ultimately find those situations compelling enough to warrant moving forward with a piece.
So this is a first for RKP. And I think it’s warranted.
A new company, Recon Instruments, has introduced the Recon Jet, a heads-up display (HUD) for cyclists. Actually, it’s a lot more than that. In reading through the press release I had the sense that I could sit through an hour-long presentation about the Jet and still not understand all its functionality. The last time that happened was when I was introduced to Map My Ride founder Robin Thurston back in 2006.
If this were just a bike computer incorporated into a HUD, I wouldn’t be writing. This thing has more tricks than Batman’s utility belt. It’s a GPS unit. It has WiFi, Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. Did I mention the HD camera? The polarized lens? Running all this is a 1GHz dual-core processor. This thing is more powerful than an iPhone 4s. Srsly. Battery life depends, of course, on just how much you’re doing with it, but will range between four and six hours. That’s not terrific, but where the Jet differs from most devices is that you can replace the battery while you’re out.
Its makers say the Jet is controlled by a precision optical touchscreen with gestures and clicks. It also includes a microphone and speakers. Voice commands could be just around the corner.
Recon Instruments says that the device adds only 28 grams to the glasses, balanced 14g per side. What I’m more curious about is what the glasses feel like on your head than what they weigh, and what screens below actually look like.
Those are just bullet-point capabilities, not actual features that either give you something useful or distract you from your ride. I’ve run across bike computers that promised the ability to recite Shakespeare, but were so hopelessly complicated in actual use that I took them off after only a week.
So this isn’t an endorsement. I’m not urging anyone to order a set, STAT.
This thing is open-platform, so other developers will be able to think up new capabilities for the Jet.
I have concerns about how much of my field of vision the Jet will obscure and I’m curious about how these will fare in a crash. I’m hoping there’s a crash replacement program of some sort.
In the early 2000s (2003 perhaps?), I began using a Garmin Geko. It was a mostly lousy unit, but I loved the VAM function on it when I was climbing. Garmin is way past that now and because at least some of us bought those early Garmin units (I also had an eTrex), we now have units like the new 810. To help encourage some early adopters of their own, Recon is offering an introductory deal on the Jet. Until the final stage of the Tour de France—July 21—people can order a Jet for $499. After that they’ll go for $599. According to Recon’s site, the Jet is not yet available. They anticipate shipping the first units in December.
I am the guy who said he didn’t need his phone to be able to play music. And on the first phone I owned that could do that, the process was more difficult than operating a Polar heart rate monitor, so I never loaded any of my music to it. I also said I didn’t need a camera in my phone. As an iPhone user, my phone now does tons more than I could have imagined. I offer that as a prelude to the question of just how much more I need my bike computer to do. It would be easy to play the role of hater and rag on how I don’t need to be able to make phone calls with my glasses while riding my bike. However, I’m aware that that one idea—make phone call with glasses while riding bike—would have sent 10-year-old me into sci-fi heaven.
Take that Dick Tracy!
I’d have gone on bike rides just so I could make a phone call. My iPhone does things I don’t want to give up. I imagine if I start using the Jet I’ll find some of the things it does indispensable. Maybe. I’m willing to find out.
If you self-select as an early adopter, you can order a set here.
On my first test run, I carefully rode for 30 minutes on the standard chain and then 30 minutes with the optimized, following the same protocol for both runs, the optimized came out ahead, but just. The second run was even clearer, the optimized was faster.
Then a friend suggested using the optimized first. And then the run with the standard chain was the faster. Yikes.
I reached out to Kreitler to see if the bearings could get faster after a warm-up period. Never heard back. The temperature during these early runs, according to the Garmin we were using, registered at .8˚ Fahrenheit difference. I didn’t have the means to see if the drum was heating up. I resolved to find a temperature correction formula as well as only test one chain per day.
As for temperature, I asked around and was pointed to the book Bicycling Science. The book posits that rolling resistance (Crr) changes by about .6% per degree Fahrenheit. Some recently tried to see if they could find those numbers, but in their tests they got .8% per degree Fahrenheit difference, and are wondering which to trust. So looking at the temperature differentials on the Garmin, I could have been getting anywhere from a 1.7-2.3% difference in Crr on the first day of testing, which, assuming the power was spot-on in both runs, is hard to know if it would be enough to make a difference I could find, but a difference all the same. I base this on looking at Tom Anhalt’s Crr spreadsheet and the accompanying article. He tests an Armadillo’s Crr being .0077, and 2.3% of that is .0001771, so the new Crr would be .0078771. As I didn’t measure either the tires or the loads going in, and I know my weight fluctuates over the course of the day, I’m reluctant to calculate the Crr for the tires I was riding. And finally, it’s hard to know how consistent the Garmin’s temperature measurement is.
|chain||tires||powermeter||Kreitler||interval||power||distance||speed mph||speed m/s||cadence||Temp|
|standard||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||4:00||153||1.015||15.225||6.806184||102||69|
|standard||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||4:00||200||1.164||17.46||7.8053184||99||69.8|
|standard||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||15:00||250||4.872||19.488||8.71191552||96||69.8|
|optimized||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||4:00||151||1.026||15.39||6.8799456||102||71.6|
|optimized||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||4:00||200||1.175||17.625||7.87908||101||71.6|
|optimized||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||gate open||15:00||250||4.865||19.46||8.6993984||96||71.6|
|standard||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||no resistance||15:00||251||6.33||25.32||11.3190528||92||68|
|optimized||Rubino Pro||Cinquo||no resistance||15:00||249||6.5||26||11.62304||94||68|
|standard||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||4.868||19.472||8.70476288||106||73.5|
|standard||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||gate closed||15:00||247||5.365||21.46||9.5934784||93||67.7|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||4.863||19.452||8.69582208||99||71.6|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||gate closed||15:00||247||5.482||21.928||9.80269312||94||69.8|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||6.059||24.236||10.83446144||98||69.8|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||6.159||24.636||11.01327744||100||69.8|
|standard||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||5.785||23.14||10.3445056||99||64.4|
|standard||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||5.786||23.144||10.34629376||99||64.4|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||5.877||23.508||10.50901632||100||66.2|
|optimized||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||gate closed||15:00||247||5.842||23.368||10.44643072||96||64.4|
|optim&lubed||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||5.915||23.66||10.5769664||96||68|
|optim&lubed||Armadillo||Elsa Calibrated||gate closed||15:00||205||5.228||20.912||9.34850048||91||64.5|
|optim&lubed||Zipp 303||Elsa Calibrated||no resistance||15:00||154||8.883||35.532||15.88422528||106||68|
That said, the optimized chain did beat the standard chain at identical power in most runs. And given days with two identical runs with the same chain, the second run was typically faster.
After lots of runs, and lots of frustration realizing how carefully I had to control for variables and wishing I had been able to stay on the same components at the same calibration and same temperature for every run, it seems that I probably found small benefits. Interestingly, the results recorded show the difference between the optimized and standard chain to be greater than 6cm per second, not that the numbers I found are reliable due to the power meter variations and the questions as to how to correct for temperature.
The testing itself was eye-opening. The first thing is that taking the time and attention to make sure all the variables are properly controlled is hard. The second thing is that even with all that effort, I found myself questioning the results, worried that the unquantified made the measurable differences. To me, the experience showed if I’m going to sweat any detail, better sweat all the details because otherwise the effort could be for naught. It’s swell to have a fast chain, but if I ride the wrong tire, or the right tire at the wrong pressure, or too thick a grease on the bearings, the power saved by one component could be more than offset by insufficient attention paid to another. This is why the top racing teams often have people who figure this stuff out (“performance directors”) and then they nag the mechanics to get it all dialed in properly—in some cases it gets undone by a competitor making a boneheaded equipment choice. It seems that the smart strategy in the marginal gains game is pick off the easy gains first, and then, as focus and budget allows, go for the harder ones. Even non-racers can benefit from marginal gains so long as they choose wisely. On the flip side, it’s a waste of resources to spend on all one’s budget looking for marginal power savings, and then lack the funds to travel comfortably to your primary racing goal of the year.
I’ll trust Friction Facts tests because Smith has demonstrated he’s careful, transparent, thorough, and thoughtful–and Smith is also giving away the details of his wax mix on the Friction Facts website, so it’s hard to accuse him of skewing the results to favor a service he sells.. I should add “for now,” as new data questioning everything could come to light some day. With the chain, looking at the tests he’s produced and talking with him, doing the full-on optimization makes sense only when I’ve got everything in life, training, and my bike set and I’m heading to some kind of championship event. Melting plain paraffin and bathing a chain in it looks like it can get people most of the way to the special treatment, and if it’s easy to do, it could be a real help to do it right before a major event if you have the time. A good master link, like Wippermann’s, can make this operation pretty fast and simple. And short of that there are thin lubes FF tested that are good for everyday use.
One of the other questions I had with the optimized chain is how it would fare in terms of durability. Could it manage several time trials? A long road race? A stage race? What about riding in rain and grit? At the end of the test, after riding the optimized chain 111mi indoors, we took the chain outside into the final throes of NYC winter. The first outside ride was the day after a snowfall, and it was pretty messy. We did 50 miles that day, and then another 44 miles before squeaks started emanating from the chain. FF’s Smith states that the chain efficiency decreases before squeaks start happening, and our last run before applying Rock ‘n Roll Gold lube was slower than the first run after applying the lube. RnR is both what I had handy, and a lube that tested very well for FF.
The wax treatment probably isn’t effective for a stage race, but for long road races, time trials, and especially track racing, it could be a relatively easy performance boost.
I didn’t expect this test to focus on testing methodology and controlling variables, but that’s where the focus shifted as I started to analyze results. At the same time, it was a valuable lesson and good practice for the future, both in terms of testing and looking for performance gains. It is frustrating not to be able to re-create at home any assurance that the gains found in labs can be found in real-world testing, but that’s the nature of marginal gains, and why they’re hard to find.
I want to thank Velimpex for suggesting said test, providing the chains, and for Friction Facts for their work and time.
What. A. Race. There were so many big moments in yesterday’s Tour of Flanders, it reminded me of a Fourth of July fireworks show. As soon as you think, “That must be it,” another big blast goes off and leaves you breathless.
First of all, Nick Nuyens. This guy has been an increasingly dark horse since some good showings in 2008. That he won the Dwar doors Vlaanderen a week-and-a-half ago might have been an indication of good form, but it took more than form to win yesterday’s Ronde. It took the perfect tactics, riding wheels, getting in the right moves, saving up, and then exploding in the last 200m to absolutely shock everyone.
Padraig: Nick Nuyens rode a terrific race and has given Bjarne Riis the right to walk around with a guilt-free smug grin for the rest of the week. And though he won, because he isn’t a rider I have feelings for one way or another and really did nothing to make the race exciting save for the fact that he won the final sprint (and let’s be honest, it is the most important move of the race), I must admit I feel slightly cheated by the outcome.
For some Nuyens’ win is disappointing. The Ronde is an emotional race, and it wants an emotional winner. Does anyone have any feelings for Nuyens? No. I didn’t think so.
At the finish I wondered, though, if Cancellara had had Riis in his ear, would the outcome have been different? More importantly, did Spartacus have the same thought? For fans, this win for Saxo can only intensify the rivalry with Leopard-Trek. Can there be any doubt who is winning?
Padraig: Spartacus was the man of the day. He may only have gotten third, but he was the carbonated water in my Coke, and a Coke without fizz is just pointless.
And if the Leopards were disappointed with third place, how must Quick Step have felt about 2nd and 4th. It looked as though QS put too much stock in the plan to win with Tom Boonen, completely disregarding, until it was too late, the obvious strength of Sylvain Chavanel on the day.
Padraig: For my part it was a race of surprises. I was surprised to learn that Quick Step director Patrick Lefevre was all-in on Boonen. You’ve got Sylvain Chavanel and you won’t let him do anything more than mark Spartacus? Really? That Philippe Gilbert couldn’t stay away showed how stunningly strong the top riders were. But I think my biggest shock was when Cancellara originally attacked how easily Tomeke seemed to give up when he got caught up in traffic.
The turning point for the Quick Steps seemed to come with about 2k to go with Chavanel off the front with Spartacus and Nuyens. The Frenchman shook hands with the Swiss as if to say, “I’ve been released. We can work together now,” which is just what they did, holding off Boonen, Gilbert, Flecha, Leukemans, et. al. Where Riis got it just right, QS chief Lefevre got it just wrong.
Was anyone else screaming at the TV for Gilbert when he made his own move with 3k left? It was textbook Gilbert, but just as Cancellara’s textbook escape with 40ks left failed to break the chasers’ will, so too was Gilbert reeled in.
Special mention should go to three domestiques. First, Chavanel, who was clearly Boonen’s up the road decoy, continued to follow the plan long after Boonen was able to hold up his end of the bargain. Second, Geraint Thomas buried himself over and over to keep Flecha in amongst the leaders, and finally Big George Hincapie performed yeoman’s work towing Alessandro Ballan over cobble and dale. Even if their leaders didn’t come through, they did their jobs to perfection. Hats off.
The only item left on my agenda is a quick assessment of Garmin-Cervelo. They sucked. I suppose Farrar did well to take the bunch sprint from the peloton, but did anyone hear Haussler’s name mentioned all day? And what did Hushovd do in the rainbow jersey? He was there or thereabouts for two-thirds of the race and then faded like a pair of Levis on permanent spin cycle.
I watched the race twice. Once on the Eurosport feed (while tuned in to the Feed Zone on Pavé, and that was excellent) and then again in the afternoon on Versus. It struck me how completely different were the stories the two networks told.
What did you think of this year’s Ronde? What surprised you? And what does it all mean for next week’s tilt in the North of France?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Enough, enough, enough of all this doping-related blather. Just because the Tour of Qatar is as entertaining as watching someone do their taxes, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be spending this time chatting anxiously about the coming season, rather than sticking pins in our Pat McQuaid voodoo dolls or trying to understand how the body takes in and stores dime store stimulants.
There is actually a racing season coming.
And, as it does every year, the landscape has shifted. Whether it’s the renaming of Team SaxoBank to Team Leopard – Trek (What? They’re not the same team?), or the merger of Cervelo with Garmin, the talent has been thrown up in the air like a deck of cards and then quickly reshuffled. How will it all play out?
Will Taylor Phinney’s move to BMC put them on more podiums? Will Tejay VanGarderen improve on last season’s promise? What of Jack Bobridge, the new owner of the world individual pursuit record? Will Radio Shack, the de facto retirement home for aging racers, have more to offer than they did last year, in Lance’s swan (dive) song?
Can Tyler Farrar help Thor Hushovd pour glory on the rainbow stripes, and can Hushovd help Farrar best Mark Cavendish? Can they even coexist? Will Andrei Greipel rise up to compete at the very top of the sprint pile? Can Phillipe Gilbert win big in the Spring? What does Fabian Cancellara do for an encore after complete lighting up 2010? Will Tom Boonen come back to the form from his early career?
So many questions. This week’s Group Ride tries to keep it simple: What is the most interesting unanswered question for the 2011 season?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Data-less riding is in vogue these days. Rolling around with no computer and only the feedback of lactic acid to tell you how hard (or not) you’re going has a minimalist appeal. Think of it as the fixie romance for those with legs too big to fit in skinny jeans. (Dude, come on, even Robin Zander wasn’t that skinny!)
Where was I? Oh yeah, sans details. I do get the appeal. I was once in a Specialized Concept Store and discussing the merits of a wattage device with a prospective customer. What I said wasn’t helpful to the sale: “If your hardest training is on group rides, wattage doesn’t matter. When the move comes, either you’re there or you’re not.”
So it goes with riding hard. Either it was hard enough, or it wasn’t. And if it wasn’t, it’s likely all you did is delay your next opportunity to train hard enough. For those of you struggling to get more than a few hours of riding per week, this perspective might be less helpful than gasoline to a firefighter. Apologies and all that; there’s a wheel review coming shortly.
I have tended to find computers and heart rate monitors most useful as a governor to my efforts. It’s easier to go too hard on a recovery ride than it is to gridlock Congress. I remain a big believer in using data to keep from overtaining and in these parts you can group ride yourself into overtaining in less than half a lunar cycle. The Easy-Bake Oven isn’t that easy.
Even for those who don’t want data overload on their rides, riding five or six days per week deserves to be tracked for the sake of planning recovery rides and rest weeks. Of late, I’ve suffered from two broken GPS units and have thus used my iPhone and the Map My Ride iPhone app to keep track of my riding while alleviating me of the self-doubt that plagues me every time I look down at those little numbers. Oh, the questions!
How much longer can I maintain this pace? Is the pace high enough? Why isn’t the pace higher? Should I be hurting this much? Is my form declining?
In a bookcase I have notebook after notebook of old training data. Most of those accumulated miles are unremarkable, but there were rides among them over roads and routes that I no longer recall. To have a full range of digital data on all those rides is something that I … well, I wouldn’t kill for it, but I might squash a bug or two.
When Map My Ride hit the Interwebs a few years back I was stunned to see someone finally offering what MotionBased had promised circa 2004. As a registered map nut (I get lost in maps the way some cooks get lost in the kitchen) I get an unnatural entertainment from looking at my route on a map. I love playing back in my head the climbs, turns and descents.
As I mentioned both my primary and back up GPS units threw a rod and, as a result, I’ve been using my iPhone to track my rides. It’s a nearly ideal solution for me. I’ve been relieved of knowing exactly how fast I’m going, which is bad news more often than good, and I still finish the ride with a file detailing my ride. Better still is the fact that I don’t have to download it to the site as the iPhone app does that for me within seconds of climbing off the bike. I bought an external battery to extend the life of my iPhone so I can ride for more than three hours, to boot.
I’ve looked at each of the services that allow a cyclist to download training data. For strictly training purposes, Training Peaks kills Map My Ride, but because I’m not trying to race anymore, and few people I know are training as seriously as is necessary to really utilize the full suite of features of Training Peaks, Map My Ride strikes me as a better overall package for most riders. I completely geek out on the mapping and elevation profile features. The social media aspect of Map My Ride makes it a powerful way to connect with friends as well, whether you’re just posting your rides to Facebook or connecting with other riders who seem to be on your riding wavelength.
When I contacted them to get a few images, they asked me to mention that they’ve got a couple of deals going for the Holidays. I dig this site. I dig their CEO (he’s a halogen bulb even in a room full of high-wattage incandescents) and I dig that they’ve been willing to take feedback from me on features they should add.
The first is:
Buy any new Premium membership and receive a FREE invisible Bracelet membership for one year!
Invisible Bracelet is a competitor to Road ID, but with an important twist. IB is creating a database of users so that emergency service providers have a complete set of contacts for you and your loved ones. Whether it’s a standard everyone adopts remains to be seen; regardless, it seems a powerful way to reach out to families in the event of an emergency. Learn more here.
The second is:
Gift your loved ones a Premium membership for a special discount price of only $19.99!
MMR is offering their bronze membership benefits as a “special holiday deal” for only $19.99 (regularly $29.99, and said to be a value of more than $71.00 given the monthly access price is $5.99). Learn more here.
My point: Killer Christmas Gift.
As the transfer season churns and boils, riders lining up new teams and new plans for 2011, the landscape and traditional power centers seem to be shifting. Omega Pharma – Lotto’s paltry four wins in 2010 will surely be bolstered by the addition of German sprinter Andrei Greipel. The merger of Garmin – Transitions with Cervelo Test Team gives the already opportunistic boys in argyle even more strong horses in more races, the only piece missing a real grand tour GC threat. Movistar’s take over and cash infusion with the current Caisse d’Epargne team promises a bright new day for Spanish cycling, not to mention Geox’s takeover of Footon-Servetto.
Along with the advent of the Schleck’s new Luxembourg-based team and Bjarne Riis’ capture of Alberto Contador to replace Schleck, this may be the most active off-season in recent memory.
The question for this week’s Group Ride is: Who will come out of this battle royale with the strongest team? Who is on the rise, and who is on the wane?
You don’t get any points for predicting the slow demise of Team Radio Shack, but I am curious to hear what we think of the moves made by the Belgian teams, Quick Step and Omega Pharma – Lotto. The rain in Spain is also mainly on the plain with a group of teams, once looking on the verge of collapse, blundering into new pots of money. Which team will emerge as the new Iberian powerhouse? And is there any hope for the French?
No. Probably not.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I used to have a cyclocomputer, a not very fancy one. It told me how slow I was going. It gave me my average lack of speed, my top slowness and the paltry total distance I’d covered. I hated it.
Of course when I first affixed its magnet and wired its sensor, I was excited. So this is what 25mph feels like. So that’s how far it is from my house to the end of my second water bottle. All this new information was fascinating. I used it to formulate boasts to friends about how much further I was riding than they were and how much faster I had climbed this hill or descended that one. I used it to measure my progress from the chilly beginnings of spring to the stiff breezes of leaf strewn autumn. And on some level, I just accepted that this was part of the equipment, part of the way you rode a bike.
Last summer, Wired told me about the boom in personal metrics measurement. Suddenly this trend that cycling has been following for years was spreading and “booming.” People loved and felt inspired by statistics. And with the proliferation of devices from Garmin and others that would quantify your work in dozens of different ways and allow you to make bar charts and graphs and multicolored pie representations of your everyday grind, who could blame them?
Why generate sweat when you can generate stats?
One day, about two years after I’d purchased my first such device, I was struggling into a headwind up a false flat staring down at its digital readout. 14.1 mph. Grunt. Groan. 14.2 mph. Muttered curses. 14.3 mph. Pain. Strain. Incredulity. 14.1 mph. Back and forth like this for a few minutes, all the time with my head down, all the time bouncing between 14.1 and 14.3 mph, in other words, working hard for no real gain with my head down and a growing frustration.
At some point, I had a revelation. I reached down, unplugged the computer and slid it forward out of its bracket, depositing it in a jersey pocket, before lifting my head, seeing both the forest AND the trees and riding off on my merry, if deeply fatigued, way.
I realized in that moment that I had, at some point over the preceding years, ceased to ride my bicycle. I had begun to ride my computer, and, in the end, it had ended up riding me. I had stopped collecting experiences on my bike and resorted only to collecting statistics. Perhaps worst of all, I had stopped seeing where I was going. I was the computer. The computer was me.
Computers don’t ride bicycles. They compute.
It was shocking to me how much more I enjoyed riding once I stopped measuring my rides. I became more aware of my form and position on the bike. I live in a beautiful part of the country, and I began to see it. I got faster, if not in actual digital terms, then certainly in my heart, because I felt faster. I swore then to reaffix my computer only after deep and careful thought about what doing so would get me.
I’m not sure where that thing went. I think it’s in a box in the garage.
Obviously, I understand why professionals use these tools. They earn their living by generating large numbers. They tune their rides by percentage of max heart rate or by speed intervals or by sustaining specific efforts for specific periods of time. And of course, the tools have become more and more sophisticated. The simple measurements I was taking years ago don’t complete the basic functions on today’s most basic units. There are GPS and power meters. There is software to chart progress (or lack thereof) over days/weeks/months/years.
Clearly, racing cyclists of every category who want to get better will want to measure their workouts and most of them do. I can see that even casual cyclists take some great satisfaction from the accumulation of data. I might just live in that odd middle space where I am neither casual in my cycling, nor very much interested in racing. I suppose though, it matters what and whom you are racing.
A zen master once said, “When you are drinking tea, only drink tea,” and, for me, this applies to the bicycle as well. When I am riding my bike, I try only to ride my bike. I don’t concern myself with speed, fitness or progress. Those things are elusive. They come and go. When I ride, I become fit. I progress. I go fast. Except when I ride myself right out of fitness, speed and progress. The form dips and swerves. The consequences of my riding change and shift, but the riding is always there.
For me, measurement started as a curious and entertaining diversion, but ended as an obstacle. Somewhere along the fault line of the pro-hobbyist divide, technology and science have interceded. Those who wish to race, if not professionally, then certainly as the pros do, have followed them down the statistical path. It is, perhaps, a hobby within the hobby, neither bad nor good, but simply another thing you can do with your bicycle.
I’ve left it far behind now. Occasionally I wonder exactly how fast I’m going, but the thought passes. I’m going fast enough.