Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Velo Games Spring Classics

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 | Distractions

This year’s Velo Games fantasy cycling allowed unlimited team changes between the Spring Classics races. This made for quite a commitment: optimising our teams between each race.

Luckily, John and I have a simple tactic: take Sagan and then work out what to do with the handle of points left over. This proved to be a good tactic even though Sagan had a disappointing start to the season. Coming fourth is still worth a lot of points.

Alaphilippe was the dominant ride of the spring. This was often bad news for Bogdan who took up to three Deceuninck–Quick-Step riders and someone didn’t pick the DQS winner. It was not a tactic without merit, though: Štybar and Gilbert both took a victory.

As we entered the final race, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, it was neck-and-neck between Team Chris and We Didn’t Inhale. Luckily for me, we both had a pretty terrible race with only one serious point-scorer between the two squads: Fuglsang for me.

Wahoo RPM speed and cadence sensors

Saturday, May 18th, 2019 | Video

The Wahoo RPM speed and cadence sensors are easy-to-install bike sensors that provide data by both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity.

They are small and don’t use magnets, which is a massive improvement over the bike sensors that you have to fiddle around with to line up. They are easy to install, too: you take the sensor and insert it into its rubber housing then strap it around your wheel hub (in the case of the speed sensor) or cable tie it around your crank arm (in the case of the cadence sensor).

The battery lasts for ages. I’ve been using them for over six months now, and they still have plenty of battery left in them.

The speed sensor is a bit of a pain to install, though. You have to stretch out the rubber and spend ages trying to get your hands inside the spokes to hook it around the catches that keep it secure. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes, and you only need to take it off when you need to replace the battery.

The data seems mostly reliable, but I have seen some occasional spikes where an unrealistic speed is reported. I found the data slow on Zwift: anywhere from 3-10 seconds behind the power, I was putting down. Outside, it consistently responds within a few seconds on my Garmin head unit, so I think a large part of the problem is Zwift rather than the sensor.

In this video, I’ll show you both of the sensors, and I’ll also show you a close-up of me installing the speed sensor on my back wheel.

Stages Power L review

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Video

The Stages Power L Shimano 105 is a single-sided power meter that replaces the offside crank arm on your bike. You pull off your existing crank arm and fit the Stages Power drop-in replacement to get some power measuring data.

Stages produce a full range of different versions for each groupset, so you need to match the correct one. In this case, my bike has a Shimano 105 groupset, so I needed that version. As it is the offside crank arm, chainrings are not important, but if you want the dual-sided one, you will need to match your chainring as well.

The beauty of them is that they plug in and go. You don’t need to change your pedals, and if you are comfortable taking it on and off, you could even swap it between bikes (if you had another with the same groupset).

The unit transmits on both Bluetooth and ANT+. In the past, there have been issues with drop-outs between Garmin and Stages. I haven’t experienced any of this; it has worked perfectly with my Edge 1030 and with TrainerRoad on my iPhone. I have had some drop-outs on Zwift, though, but I’ve had a lot of problems with Zwift regardless of setup.

Battery life is reasonable. It takes a 2032 watch battery which has lasted me about six months. The battery is easily accessible so looks simple to change.

Without calibrating it against another power meter, it is difficult to say how accurate it is. But, on the turbo trainer, it has worked like a dream. Outside has mostly been fine, too, although I have occasionally got spikes of power way higher than I would expect.

I’ve also had a bit of squeaking. Whether it is because the crank arm has come loose or because there is an issue with the bottom bracket on my bike is not clear.

Tour de Yorkshire meal plan

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 | Food

During the Tour de Yorkshire last week, including the day as a whole, I burnt 5,133 kcals. That is a lot of kcals. Helpfully, my friends James put together a meal plan to work out how much McDonald’s I could eat to recover the energy.

Breakfast items

  • Double sausage and egg McMuffin
  • Hash brown
  • Pancakes and syrup

Main menu items

  • Double cheeseburger
  • Quarter pounder
  • Big Mac
  • 2 x medium fries

Desserts

  • Chocolate doughnut
  • Aero McFlurry
  • Chocolate muffin

Drinks

  • Small Fanta orange
  • Large chocolate milkshake
  • Flat white
  • Latte

Will get all of that queued up for my next big sportive!

Tour de Yorkshire 2019

Friday, May 10th, 2019 | Sport

Last year I completed the medium route of the Tour de Yorkshire, making it the longest ride I had ever done by some 10km and the highest I’d climbed at 1,200 metres. This year I was planning to do a similar thing: the long route features 123 km and 2,400 metres of climbing.

It was decisively colder than last year when I came away with sunburn. I wasn’t planning on too many layers but in the end went for a full Under Armour base layer top and bottom with my rain cape in my jersey pocket. Thank god I did. 20km in I had to pull over and put the rain cape on, and it stayed on for the rest of the day. I should have taken my winter gloves, too.

I met Bogdan at city square at 7am and we cycled up to the start, getting through the queue and onto the load about 7:45. The first section of the ride was easy, although I did find myself needing a rather urgent bathroom break as we approached the first feed stop.

Things were reasonably flat (Yorkshire flat) until we reached Summerbridge, at which point we encountered our first real challenge of the day. The road went straight out of the back. And straight up. Arguably, this was the hardest climb. it started at about 11% and just kept on getting steeper. Even at the top you simply found yourself on a false flat of 5%.

The road continued to go up and up in stages as we headed around Brimham Rocks. Finally, it dropped down into Pateley Bridge where the second feed stop was located. I stuffed my face, which was a bold choice given what was to come next: the legendary Greenhow climb.

I did Nidderdale triathlon in September and drove home via Greenhow. I remember thinking at the time “fuck me, wouldn’t want to do this on a bicycle.” Well, here I was doing it. It was hard. But, thankfully, the toughest gradients come in four distinct segments, and you get a chance to get your breath back in between.

One woman was going up on a mountain bike. I told her I was jealous of the gearing. She laughed and told me that pretty much everyone else that had gone past her had said the exact same thing.

The top of Greenhow was a cold, lonely place. We turned and headed towards Fewston Reservoir where we would join up with the medium route. By this time, everyone on the medium route had finished, though. As we struggled up Snowdon Bank, the clock continued to tick and the race looked over: almost everyone else left in the course was pushing their bike up the hills with a defeated look on their face.

The descent into Otley was a fast one. They close the pro finish line at 3:35 to get ready for the peloton coming through. And I was determined that I wouldn’t miss it because of comfort breaking. I certainly didn’t set any records, but the 56.8 kph I managed really pushed my comfort zone.

Then it was out of the back of Otley and onto East Chevin Road. The long 11% grind. It felt easier this year than it did last year, even on tired legs. It hurt but it was manageable. There was no fear that I would have to give up, only that I would have to enjoy a lot of pain.

By the time we reached the top, we had less than an hour to get to the line in time. We both gritted our teeth and put the power down and steamed down into Leeds, cursing every traffic light that made us stop. Then we hit Tinshill and found ourselves with yet another climb. This was too much and we had to take a short break. Within 10km of the line, we had almost made it. One last effort would see us through.

Again we climbed into the bikes and powered up to the hill before turning to descend onto Spen Lane and Burley Road. Burley Road itself goes up and down. The groupetto that has formed around us quickly worked out I was lying when I said this was “definitely the last little hill” but chose to believe anyway so that they could convince their bodies to make the cut-off.

As we entered the barriered section on The Headrow, the large crowds that had already gathered cheered and banged on the barriers as we crossed the line with just 10 minutes to spare. By the time we had collected our medals and chatted to Elin and John, who were on hand with some much-needed chocolate and beer, they were already clearing the tents away. But it did not matter: we had made it!

I had set a new longest ride ever, beating my previous best by 13 km. I had set a new climbing record, more than doubling my previous attempt, which was in fact last year’s Tour de Yorkshire medium route. And my lower back hurt so much that I could no longer bend down. But who needs a working back when you’ve just smashed the Tour de Yorkshire long route?

My official time was 7:40:26. We had two feed stops, and I spent some time catching my breath at the top of the climbs. But the total elapsed time since cycling out of my front gate was closer to 8:30. A tough day in the saddle but a very rewarding one.

Shimano PD-M530 bike pedal review

Thursday, May 9th, 2019 | Video

The Shimano PD-M530 is a dual-sided SPD bike pedal. SPD is Shimano’s two-point mountain bike cleat but is also a favourite for commuting or those who are new to clipless pedals because it is easier to clip in and out of than the road version, SPD-SL.

The M530 has SPD cleats on both sides. This means that you do not need the pedal to the be the correct way up; you can push your foot down, and it doesn’t matter what side it is on.

The pedal comes with the standard dial to make it easier or more difficult to clip in and out of. Being dual-sided, though, means that you have two dials on each pedal which means you have to set the tension to how you like it four times in total.

They are mostly black, which should match standard crank arms. They have a larger surface area than other styles of SPD pedals, such as egg beaters, which makes it easier to find with your foot. You won’t be able to use them as flats, though, as your foot always makes contact with the cleat. And, having a larger surface area, they are heavier than other types.

If you like the look of these pedals, you may also want to consider the Shimano PD-EH500, which is similar but has a flat side as well as an SPD side, allowing you to choose between clipless and flats. In the video, I’m actually demoing the EH500, but only on the SPD side, which is identical to the M530.

Music credits: The Kyoto Connection – Fly

Chris tries to change a bike stem

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 | Video

In this video, I’ll attempt to change the stem on my bike. The stem is the piece that holds your handlebars to your steerer tube. You may want to use a bigger or smaller stem to dial in the perfect amount of reach (the distance your handlebars are to your saddle).

I’m not calling it a tutorial because I have never done it before, so who knows how it will turn out!

I’m using my Voodoo Limba cyclocross bike. I made the rookie mistake of buying a frame that was too big for me and so I needed to reduce the reach. I moved the saddle forward to put it into a racier position, using my race bike to match the geometry. But I also needed to swap out the 90mm FSA stem for a 70mm stem. Luckily, FSA does such a step, so it should just be an easy swap-out swap-in job.

The first step was to take off the reflector which was blocking access to the bolts holding the stem’s front plate in place. I then loosened these a little at a time to avoid putting too much stress on any bolt. Once the faceplate was off, I let the handlebars dangle down. I had my bike on the turbo, rather than in a stand, so there was no chance the forks would drop out.

Next, I removed the dust cap from the top of the stem and then loosened the bolts holding it onto the top of the fork. Once this was done, it slid off and allowed me to put the new stem on. Then it was merely a case of reversing the procedure.

Getting the new stem in the correct position is a tricky one. The handlebars need to be both in the centre and at the correct angle, and it took me a while to get them just right. After that, I could tighten up all of the bolds, including making sure that the stem lined up with the forks and front wheel.

Easter Sunday ride

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 | Sport

As if the punishment from Good Friday’s 84km wasn’t enough, I set out to do a round trip to York on Sunday. I collected Bogdan from Rothwell and we headed along the quiet roads of East Leeds to Cycle Heaven’s Naught-E cafe in the centre of York.

The cafe has a good range of stuff: full cooked breakfast and a wide selection of nice cakes. I opted for a bacon sandwich and a brownie. And we timed our arrival just right, getting there three minutes after they had opened.

The way back had some inevitable headwind but this died off the further we went. In total, the distance came to 110km, making it a new personal record for me, although only by 4km. I’m feeling like I should have done way more than that given the Yorkshireman is only nine weeks away, but putting nearly 200km into my legs over a weekend and still feeling good has been a confidence boost.

HPH Good Friday ride

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 | Sport

On Good Friday, I went cycling with Hyde Park Harriers triathlon club. Around twenty of us set off from the Three Horse Shoes in two groups: a “fast” group and a “social” group, with both being respectable rides that took in some hills.

I managed to hold the wheel of the fast group as we made our way to Bolton Abbey for some cake at the pavilion. We then took in Langbar, which was not as bad as I was expecting, before descending (and then climbing, because it’s Yorkshire) to Golden Arce park for ice cream and finally The Stables for a beverage of a refreshing nature.

In total, it amounted to 84km and just over 1,000 metres of climbing. A lovely way to start the Easter weekend.

Garmin Extended Display Mode: not so useful?

Friday, March 29th, 2019 | Reviews, Sport

Garmin Edge computers come with a feature called “Extended Display Mode” that allows you to relay your Forerunner watch data through your bike computer. This sounds super handy for triathlon because you will be tracking the activity through your watch, so relaying the data you are already capturing makes a lot of sense.

In reality, though, it’s not a particularly useful feature.

The data screens are driven by the watch. That means that you can only have a few fields on there. I like to have a tonne of stuff on my display, and at very least I would like to see my speed, power, heart rate and cadence. So, I think I’ll be sticking with running them independently for now.