Tag Archives: Indoor Trainer

Zwift has me daydreaming

When I discovered Strava, I found a new motivation to ride. Going “Strava segment hunting” helped meet a competitive desire now that I was no longer racing. Then I found that I wasn’t strong enough to beat my own times on Strava, much less up and coming whippersnappers. I’ll admit that when winter 2014/2015 came along, I basically parked the bicycle.

In November I rode my bicycle for all of 7 hours. In December, I rode for three times for less than 5.5 hours. Finally, on January 5, I started finding the urge to climb back in the saddle. It was just soon after that I discovered the online program Zwift. Suddenly, January found me racking up 18 hours on the bike. 11 of those hours came in the last week… and I’ve got one week to go.


Sure, improving weather was a help, but just as Strava gave a shot of motivation, Zwift did the same. It is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll give a short description here and then let a video I recently published give you more details.

Zwift is part video game and part training tool. You download a program just as you would the latest version of Call of Duty. Once it is installed, you use wireless technology to connect your bicycle’s data collecting devices to your computer. The computer program then uses the data input to control your avatar on the screen.

Instead of this being a first-person shooter game it is a first-person cyclist game. What makes it interesting is that it takes the simple data from your trainer ride and combines it with the virtual world. It adds a new dimension to an otherwise static experience on the trainer.

On the trainer when you increase your wattage you increase your speed. The harder you pedal, the faster you will spin the rear wheel. To mix things up, you typically will use a stop watch to add variety (or intervals) to your ride. This works, but is so often still boringly sterile.

Zwift changes that up. For instance, you approach a climb. Obviously, the virtual world creates a change visually. However, it does something more. As you begin to climb a grade, you notice your speed on the computer readout begins to slow. You also get the audible cue that your wheels are turning less (even though your actual wheels are turning at a consistent speed.) So, if you want to go up the hill faster, you are going to have to increase your wattage.

Boom! There you have an interval. However, it is more than just a stop watch. You now have visual, audible, and self-generated force feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 4.25.01 PMI’m just getting started. To add to the motivation you have dozens of other people doing just what you are. My sons enjoy playing multiplayer first-person shooters on their Xbox. Zwift brings the multiplayer aspect to trainer rides. I’ve already found a consistent group of riding buddies!

I can see where this can go… How about riding a Tour De France route? What about a special interval training course that gives you visual cues to guide you through multiple sets of repeats? Want to ride with your buddy in Italy and chat while you are at it? Just log in with your “race radio” and ride side-by-side.

I even have my own app idea that I would love my software firm, Worthwhile, to build. It would be a phone app that allows you to use the camera function of your phone to bring your body within an outline on the phone’s screen. When you snap a photo of you in your kit from four different angles, you will find your team’s kit rendered on your avatar. This would then be uploaded to Zwift allowing you to enter the virtual world looking a bit more like yourself!

Oh, sorry. So much for a short description! Without further ado, here is the video.

Thanks for watching and get ready for the Zwift experience. Word is that the software should be available this spring. I’m thankful I was able to get in for the beta testing. You can learn more here at Zwift.com.

The EKG workout

Had a new workout sent to me for last night. Looking at the data chart for the session, I’ve decided to call it my “EKG Workout”. Of course, it wasn’t my heart causing the spikes, it was my legs.

Watts, RPM, and BPM graph

No, this isn't a stress test... (Click to Enlarge)

The setup was my Giant road bike in the trainer with the gearing set at 38:13. It was supposed to be a training session on my fixed gear, but I’ve not yet figured out how to mount it securely in the trainer. The Giant would have to do, though I’m sure that even though the gearing was the same, the overall experience didn’t match exactly.

It was later in the evening by the time I got on the bike. I had been at a board meeting and the way things were going in the meeting I figured I would be there past 10 PM. Thankfully, some of the agenda items were moved to a future time and the meeting suddenly finished up and we adjourned. I was able to be on the trainer by 9:30 PM.

My first instruction was to warm up for 15 minutes. I was to ramp up my effort from about 2 RPE (rating of perceived exertion) to about a 6.  This is one of those things I have always struggled with. How do I really know what a 2 is or a 6? Typically, I just either go hard or go easy. I figure I’ve got to come close in there somewhere and if I’m turning my legs, then it can’t be bad for me.

That is one of the reasons why I like training with power. It is more absolute. I must prefer instructions that say, “Ride between 160 -190 watts and ramp up to 230 watts.” That I can measure and know I’m where I should be.

Anyway, I ended up riding at about 180 watts turning 88 rpm for that warm up period. As I started it out I realized I might have an issue with the second portion of my workout. The problem was that as I would start out my wheel would slip on the roller and the “jump” in power you would typically get from a quick start was negated by the lack of grip.

The second part of the session was to “Start at 8 m.p.h. & 50 rpm’s, stay in the saddle and push pedals as hard as can working up to 85 rpm’s as quickly as possible.” Two things: 1) I had no idea what speed I was going. I use a Garmin to measure my speed and when you are on your basement trainer — well. 2) I wasn’t sure how long to go. Turns out I was going from 50 rpm to 85 rpm so fast it wasn’t registering on the computer screen.

I think part of that was due to my wheel “slipping” when I attacked. The wheel was turning much faster off the start than it would be on the road. I was going from 55 rpm to 100 rpm in no time.

So, it was time to adjust. What I decided to do was turn it into a quasi leg speed drill. Each effort would last for 30 seconds. For some I would attack and try to hold a leg speed of 120 – 130  rpm for as long as I could during the 30 seconds. For others, I would start at a slower rpm and work my way up to a top effort.

Effort 1: Average 125 rpm / Max. 146 rpm – Average 567 watts / Max. 852 watts

Effort 2: Average 123 rpm / Max. 144 rpm – Average 559 watts / Max. 744 watts

Effort 3: Average 118 rpm / Max. 127 rpm – Average 464 watts / Max. 584 watts

Effort 4: Average 117 rpm / Max. 127 rpm – Average 460 watts / Max. 550 watts

Effort 5: Average 115 rpm / Max. 136 rpm – Average 467 watts / Max. 704 watts

Effort 6: Average 117 rpm / Max. 143 rpm – Average 470 watts / Max. 780 watts

Effort 7: Average 108 rpm / Max. 144 rpm – Average 412 watts / Max. 833 watts

Effort 8: Average 109 rpm / Max. 142 rpm – Average 420 watts / Max. 772 watts

Effort 9: Average 132 rpm / Max. 146 rpm – Average 379 watts / Max. 818 watts

You can see from the numbers above how the various approaches to the efforts changed the results. The data above is reflected in the chart near the top of the post. You can see the burst broken up by “5 minutes between efforts at RPE of 1-2.” That is what makes it look like an EKG.

One thing seems pretty clear, I can’t pedal any faster than 146 rpm when spinning with a 38:13 gear ratio. I have exceeded 200 rpm in previous leg speed drills. Last night I was turning as fast as I could at times and the max I could get out was 146 rpm.

I wasn’t paying that much attention to my wattage during the session. My peak was only for 2 seconds at 822 watts. 10 seconds was 716 watts. No sir, 38:13 is NOT my sprinting gear!

Overall, it felt like a good workout. As I cooled down for the last 10 minutes or so, I felt that little spot nauseousness in my upper stomach. That normally means I’ve put out a pretty good effort. Those sudden spikes of effort gave me a pretty good shock to the system.  I’ve had that feeling in races before. Good to get used to it again.

Oh, as for the heart? Don’t think I’ll need an EKG. Average heart rate for the entire session was 132 bpm. The maximum output was only 146 bpm.

Matching gear ratios on two different bikes

I have a fixed gear bike with a gear ratio of 48:16. I have a road bike with standard 53/39 front chain rings and a 11/28 rear cassette. My coach has given me some fixed gear workouts for my training, but I’m hesitant to put my fixed gear on the trainer. So, the challenge is to find out what combination of gearing I need to run on the road bike in order to simulate the gearing of the fixie.

“What’s the big deal,” you ask. “That is easy!” Well, that is easy for you to say. I am mathematically and mechanically challenged. I even had trouble counting the teeth on my cassette.


Wow! What is the gear ratio on that thing?!

Approaching this problem, I first thought I should count the total number of teeth from the different combination of rings. So, that would mean my fixed gear would have a total of 64 teeth. To match up my road bike, I would need to run a gear ratio of 39:25. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the laws of physics. My brain was telling me that was way too simple, and getting on the bike and spinning confirmed it.

There are several things to consider when you are measuring the gearing on your bike. 1) One obvious component is the gears, but it doesn’t end there. 2) You also need to take into account the wheels. 3) If you want to get really technical, you can throw in crank arm length. We need to know information about these three things — or at least two of them — to properly match up the bikes.

All normal road bikes have overdrive gearing. That means that the rear wheel always will turn more revolutions than the crank. The higher the gear ratio (say 53:11) the more times your wheel will spin around per pedal revolution. At my lowest gear ratio (39:28) the wheel will spin fewer times per revolution, but will still turn more times per crank.

The way this works is the rings on the cassette make the rear wheel seem bigger or smaller based on the number of teeth. Though the wheel remains consistent in circumference, the rings alter how large the wheel appears to the front crank. The laws of leverage make it so that turning a large gear connected to a small gear will make the smaller gear turn multiple times per each revolution of the larger gear.

That is why just counting teeth won’t work. A front ring of 32 teeth connected by a chain to a rear ring of 32 teeth will spin the rear wheel only once per pedal revolution. Take those 64 teeth and divide it 39 and 25 front to rear and suddenly you’re getting a lot more wheel turns per crank revolution. That means more speed, but also more power needed to turn it.

It then becomes a little complicated figuring out how to match up the gears since I don’t have a 48 front ring on my road bike. I would need to find the combination of gears using a 39 front ring and one of the rings on my rear cassette. So, I turned to the Internet and my local bicycle shop for answers.

I found calculators and such stuff on the Internet, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to use them. None of the charts and explanations dealt directly with trying to match up gearing between two bikes without common gear ratios. I was coming up with numbers, but not sure how to apply them.

Mike at Sunshine Cycle Shop helped me out. He pointed out that you have to take the wheel into consideration. For instance, if one wheel of a bike is smaller than the wheel of a second bike, even running identical gear ratios would not give equal speed or power readings.

1) Make sure your wheels are the same circumference. To be technical about it, you should make sure the tires are the same type.

Mike went on to explain that you must now consider the amount of times your wheel turns per pedal revolution. So, rather than concentrating on the number of teeth on or size of your rings, you should focus on the ground. That is what will allow you to measure all of the components — wheel, front ring, and rear ring.

2) Mark a spot on the floor. Put the valve stem of the front wheel of your fixed gear on that mark. Then make sure that your right crank arm is pointing straight up. Now you start rolling your bike backward or forward. Guide the bike in a straight line until the crank arm returns to the upright position. Mark the spot where your wheel stops.

What you will find is that your valve stem will make several revolutions before the pedal makes a full revolution. You will now find a distance between two points marked out on the floor. The measurement of this distance is called “gear inches.” It is the distance your bike travels using a particular gear ratio.

3) Using the same process, now get your road bike and experiment with the gear ratios that produce the closest number of  gear inches to those arrived at with the fixed gear.

For me that means the closest I can come to matching up my road bike with the fixed gear is to run a 39:13. This gets me verrrrry close to an even match. As a matter of fact, if you use Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Gear Calculator, it gives you the same results (78.8) for 39:13 and 48:16.

So, if I want to use my road bike on the trainer to do my fixed gear workouts, I can just keep the gearing at 39:13. I’m looking forward to trying it tonight. I have another fixed gear workout then.

I did get my fixed gear on the trainer. I really had to extend the locking bar and I’m not sure I want to put the stress on it that would probably come if I tried to ride with much power. However, just for the fun of it, I do think I will see if I can figure out how to make the iBike power meter work on the trainer. Word is you should be able to do it. I might even try a workout as long as it is an endurance ride and not a power workout.

Anyway, if there is anyone out there trying to match up their fixie gearing with their road bike, I hope this will be a help. Do you have a simpler way? Lay it on us.

Ooooo, that is tender!

Back when I was completing my 740 miles in 7 days Ride for Mike, it wasn’t the bike, my legs, my head, or the external forces that almost brought the ride to a a premature end. It was my seat. The hours upon hours of riding had my posterior blistering and even bleeding by the time I rolled into Memphis. I was reminded of the experience last night.

As I asked him to, Jim has been incorporating some fixed gear riding into my training plan. Unfortunately, that means that I really need some time to ride on the road. I have not yet figured out how to get my fixed gear onto the trainer. I would also have to spend some time figuring out how to get the iBike to register my power while stationary. I know it can be done, but I really don’t have the time to devote to figuring it out.

So, I attempted to find the equivalent gearing on the road bike to match the 49 to 16 gear ratio on the fixed gear. My experience and my resulting discoveries will be a part of another blog post. Let’s just say for now that I didn’t have it figured out by the time I started my workout. I ended up going by “feel” to find a pedal pressure that would match that of the single speed.

Turns out I was pedaling in way too easy of a gear. I’ll have to make some adjustment to the gearing before I try that again. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Now, what has that got to do with my butt?

Chamois cream

Is it possible to get carried away to protect yourself?

One of the reasons why you can ride for long lengths of time on a small saddle is because you are actually lifted ever so slightly from full pressure on the saddle as you push down with your pedal stroke. There are times I will move to a harder gear to give my seat a rest. Besides, you can even stand and still pedal efficiently giving the bum a break.

On a fixed gear it is a different animal. More often your cadence will be rather high even on flat ground. It is hard to have an efficient pedal stroke at a high cadence while standing. So, unless you are trudging up a hill, you spend lots of time seated. This is the case if you put a fixed gear on a stationary trainer.

Add to this to easy of a gear and you remove all pressure on the pedals to help lift you out of the saddle. What happens is you rest solely on your tail and spin your legs round and round causing where your body meets the saddle to rub repetitively.

Starting to get the picture?

Well, by the time I reached the hour mark in my session, I had to call it quits. I haven’t worked up the toughness yet down there to take that kind of continued motion and pressure. I was hurting and was still feeling it a bit this morning.

I realize that I will get a bit tougher as I spend more time on the saddle. Also, I’ve figured out the proper gearing to substitute my road bike for the fixie. I should feel a lot more pressure on the pedals next time.

Ultimately, I just can’t wait until I can leave the trainer behind and… well… not have to think about my behind.

Easing into the training scene

Last night was my first “repeat workout.” No, that does not mean I was doing repeats during the workout. It means that it was the first time I did a workout for the second time. The encouraging thing is that I noticed some improvement from the first to the second.

It was a repeat of last Thursday’s workout plan. I’m sure part of my improvement was due to me not eating a huge steak before I climbed on the bike! The rice and stir fry was a little more helpful.

I’m not going to repeat it all today. I’ll just say that I found the workout to be much smoother.  Having done it more recently, I knew what to expect and transitioned from one instruction to the other without a lot of undirected spinning in between. One thing that helped with this is that I set my computer screen up to show both the lap time and the overall time along with cadence and power.

Another change I made was on the isolated leg drills. Last time even though I was on the trainer, I followed the instructions that were intended for a road workout. Specifically, I was supposed to pedal with one leg and at the same time keep only one hand on the bar. The problem is that on a trainer you don’t get the benefit you should.

The reason for this little maneuver is to help with your balance and strengthen your core muscles. The work of balancing the moving bike with one leg and one hand makes you correct with your core muscles. You can feel it in your lower back and abs. So, the question becomes, “How do you get this benefit on the trainer?”

The way I did this was to pedal with one leg and no hands. It didn’t completely replicate the one leg/one hand on the road workout. However, if the burn I was feeling in my abs and back are any indication, it did help zero in on those muscles. Again, the primary negative is what this does to your seat area!

Don't they look happy?

Some people like going nowhere together

Speaking of the road, I don’t see myself getting out anytime soon. Today I am supposed to ride my fixed gear at a steady pace. I imagine what I am going to end up doing is counting my gears and finding the equivalent gearing ratio on my road bike that I use on the trainer. Again, it isn’t perfect, but I know it will work.

My personal opinion is that for pure sterile power workout you can’t beat the trainer. The trainer takes out the variables of terrain and environment. It is just you and your powermeter. Coasting isn’t on the menu so you get all the calories from the meal.

Now, does that mean it is fun? No. It isn’t as enjoyable as a ride out in nature. However, when the high for a day is 34 degrees the indoor trainer starts looking pretty attractive to this southerner!