Tag Archives: Kickr

Watopia: First June Friday Training Race

I’m so tired from the last two days of riding, I’m afraid that my brain has suffered from oxygen debt. I hope I can remember what happened during the Friday Training Race. As usual, I’ll just let Chris Wiedmann give the extended race report.

I almost didn’t participate. My Six Jersey Challenge attempt on Thursday had only been finished about 16 hours before. However, as I walked down the stairs into the basement my legs didn’t have that stiff feel I had when I woke up that morning.

I had a muted excitement about this ride. It would be the first time I would race with the new Zwift update. This update allows us to connect both a power meter and a Kickr to the program. This is helpful to me because while I love the feedback the Kickr allows from the software, I have not always liked the way it sends data.

You can’t ride like you would on the road. For instance, going for a sprint you have to start well before you think you do because you have to get the wheel spun up before the wattage reaches the level you need. Then when you are finished it just continues releasing the power.

This also plays a factor when trying to ride in a nuanced manner. I have been suspicious that this delay has played a role in my inability to stay with a group. I just haven’t learned how to find the sweet spot.

Riding with the power meter solves that issue. The response from the crank based power meter to the computer is immediate. Now there is only the small delay as the software receives the data and processes it.

Even if I couldn’t finish strong in the race, at least I could test my theory. So after warming up with Chris Wiedmann I pulled into the “drop in” zone to await the start. I kept seeing more and more riders appear with FTR beside their names. This would be a big group.

Becker is the lone rider in the middle - putting a hurting on us!

Becker is the lone rider in the middle – putting a hurting on us!

We rolled off and I looked around to take stock of the FTR-A riders around me. There didn’t seem to be too many. Most riders were FTR-B or C. Well, at least I could count on having a top ten finish!

There was Wiedmann, of course. F. Garcia and M. Wardle were on board. C. Schumm was there as well as N. Law — the usual suspects. This might work out okay… then I saw H. Becker pop up nearby. Oh boy, this really changed everything.

We finished up the warmup and Wiedmann called the start. Immediately I knew things were going to be different. I found it easy to adjust with the ebb and flow of the pack. I was paying so much attention to sitting in I didn’t notice a move up front.

Suddenly, I saw Becker and Garcia with a 2 second gap. This was not normal. Typically there was no attempt to make a selection until the first climb. Here we were just getting started and two strong riders were testing us.

I knew then I had to cross the gap or they would be gone. I could see Wardle and Wiedmann responding the same way. However, by the time we reached the sprint zone Wardle, Garcia, and myself with Becker were holding a soft gap over the rest of the field.

The rollers grew the gap even more and then on the first climb we were over a minute over the closest following racer. I was just happy to hold with the other three riders. We went over the top together and I spent the rest of the second full lap trying to make Becker and company do as much of the work as possible.

It was working until we reached the rollers. This was when I started to feel fatigued. It wasn’t that my heart rate was over the top. It was up there, but manageable. It was simply a matter of my legs feeling fatigued.

However, I stayed with them to finish out that second lap. It was now time to take on the climb once more. We hit it and the other guys started up at a pace that would have me pushing up at over 400 watts. It was too much. I could do 350, but that was it. I was done trying to keep up with them.

That was the race. For the most part the finishing order was where each racer was at that point (though the time gaps continued to grow). I kept an okay pace, but to be honest, with over a minute lead on the next racer, I didn’t have a lot of motivation to push too hard. I would ride along and then pick up my pace if I saw him closing in.

I finished a distant fourth place, but I was happy! Finally, I had no instance where I found myself slipping off the back and having to push to get back on. Of course, with the very early move, there wasn’t much pack riding for me anyway!

One sad thing to note. I was followed by G. Christopher who was in the B group. He stayed about 40 seconds behind me and even closing into around 15 seconds as I would begin a climb. One time he messaged the group asking where the finish was… the alien statues?

I tried to reply to him to say the Start/Finish banner, but my iPhone was so covered with sweat, I couldn’t get the touch screen to work! I had also dropped my towel earlier and had nothing dry with which to wipe it off. Unfortunately, no one replied and he stopped at the statues.

It is sad that he was giving me, an A rider, pause for concern and had the B race wrapped up. He ended with a DNF. Good ride, Garry! Sorry I couldn’t warn you.

And now… for the real report from Chris Wiedmann:

FTR Race Report 2015-06-05

19 riders gathered for the start of today’s Friday Training Race. This week H.-G. Becker was the main engine in the grinder that chewed up and spit out the rest of the riders. He drove the pace hard and managed a solo victory over M. Wardle with F. Garcia following some distance back in third.

In the B race a miscommunication cost G. Christopher the victory when he finished 1/2 lap early leaving B. Greatrick to take the victory with M. R and J. Lemon rounding out the podium. In the C race, S. Carter held off R. Butler for the victory with S. Yeatts on the third step of the podium.

The race started out fast with immediate attacks over the rollers after the start. Only Becker, Wardle, Garcia and J. Pait made it to the first climb in the lead group. Becker immediately drove the pace up, pulling out a 5s gap over the other riders, but they regrouped shortly thereafter.

On the next big climb, however, Becker managed to split the field with Wardle the only rider able to stay in contact. Garcia and Pait followed solo with growing gaps between all riders. On the third climb Becker proved his superiority by dropping Wardle. The rest of the race was a time trial to the finish with Becker taking the win and the rest of the group following in order.

The fast start separated the B group from the As by the back climb. J. Lemon managed to get a small lead with G. Christopher, J. Curley and B. Greatrick chasing one-by-one further back. By the second climb, Lemon and Christopher had joined up with Greatrick and Curley chasing. On the third climb Greatrick opened a gap on Curley and started working to bridge to the leaders. Curley dropped back to the next chase group of M. R and I. Munro.

Christopher managed to get a gap on Lemon on the back climb of this lap. Christopher and Greatrick pushed on solo in front of the chasers while M.R managed to bridge up to Lemon at the base of the last climb. Christopher dropped out leaving Greatrick to solo to the victory. M.R managed to pull out a slim lead on Lemon and hold him off to the line for second. Lemon finished third.

In the C race, Carter and Butler managed to establish a lead group in front of the rest of the field. Carter managed to pull out a gap on the last lap that he held to the finish. Butler solo a short time after, with Yeatts following for third.

A Group
1. H.-G. Becker 1:00:59 (41.0 km/h)
2. M. Wardle 0:00:32
3 F. Garcia 0:02:54
4. J. Pait 0:05:41
5. C. Wiedmann 0:09:20
DNF N. Law (Pub emergency)

B Group
1. B. Greatrick 1:05:35 (37.0 km/h)
2. M. R 0:01:03
3. J. Lemon 0:01:08
4. J. Curley 0:03:53
5. R. Van Praet 0:04:03
DNF G. Christopher
DNF I. Munro (Pub emergency)

C Group
1. S. Carter 1:11:45 (34.9 km/h)
2. R. Butler 0:00:22
3. S. Yeatts 0:04:52
4. T. Marshall 0:11:35
-1 Lap
5. G. Raya -0:07:00

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome. I have skipped listing anybody whose Strava activity I could not find. If you wish to be included, let me know.

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1410852035907353
Strava fly-by: http://labs.strava.com/flyby/viewer/…

Racing on Zwift is the real deal

Each week there are a couple of training races that take place on Watopia. The Tuesday Night Worlds and the Friday Training Race are the two I will typically attempt. It is somewhat of a challenge because the TNW takes place during the time of the “real life” ride with the same name here in Greenville. The Friday race takes place at 1:30 PM — when I am typically at work. Yesterday I was taking a long weekend, so I was able to join in the fun.

Special thanks to Chris Wiedmann who organizes the events. It is an interesting exercise to organize a “virtual race” and then to report on it afterwards. Chris does a good job, and I wanted to share his report from Friday so you can see what it is like. I’ll have some comments from my perspective at the end of his report.

FTR Race Report 2014-05-01

Fifteen riders took the start for what we’ll call “Rund um Watopia” in tribute to the pro race that was cancelled today. A strong international field with representation from South America, North America and Europe rolled out promptly at 17:30 UTC for the neutral promenade to the bicycle statues. As usual the first half lap at race pace was relatively quiet with only a brief testing of legs on the back climb.

The first climb was the first real test of strength. Matt Wardle (UK) initiated the acceleration with H-G Becker (GER) following suit to push the pace. The field showed considerable depth with 9 riders cresting the climb in the lead pack. A little later in the lap, Becker and Francois Coppex (CH) again tested the field with an acceleration on the back field that opened a small gap. The gap was only a few seconds but took ominously long to close, with the group only coming back together past the start/finish line.

The second main climb followed a script similar to the back climb with Becker initiating a move and Coppex following. The pair then started rolling away from the chasers. Jonathan Pait (US) tried a bridging move after the hairpin, but was unable to make the junction. Just after the KOM line he came back to the chase group consisting of Wardle, Casey Schumm (US), Robson Figueiredo Rodrigues (BR) and Christian Wiedmann (US). Unfortunately the bridging effort had taken a toll and he lost contact on the rollers before the bicycle statue.

Becker and Coppex worked together well, slowly opening up the gap. Wardle was clearly strongest of the chasers and after pulling the group for a lap decided to go on his own up climb 3. He got to within 30 seconds of the two leaders, but then got stuck in no-man’s-land 30 seconds in front of the chasers.

This situation held to the finish. Coppex and Becker sprinted for the win with Coppex leading out and barely holding off Becker for the win. Wardle finished solo in third. Schumm won the sprint for fourth over Rodrigues.

1. Francois Coppex 1:00:16 (41.6 km/h)
2. H-G Becker s.t.
3. Matt Wardle 0:00:37
4. Casey Schumm 0:01:37
5. Nelson Figueiredo Rodrigues s.t.
6. Christian Wiedmann 0:01:55
7. Jonathan Pait 0:04:43
8. Frank Garcia 0:05:42 (completed three more iterations of the full ride distance afterward – 20 laps total)
9. Mark Howard 0:05:45
10. Jonathan Lemon 0:07:01
11. John Greig 0:08:17
12. George Thomaidis 0:12:04
13. Johnny Bevan -1L 0:05:24
DNF M. Trudell
DNS J. Purtell (gender disfunction)

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome.

Not placed because  I couldn’t locate the Strava activity
G. Christopher

I think it is easy for people to discount Zwift racing because you are not actually on the road. You definitely have a point in that the dangers or racing are not present. Road hazards, equipment failures, and close proximity with other riders are not an issue. However, when it comes to effort and strategy, this IS racing.

Consider the course. “Oh, you’re just spinning along on your trainer.” Nope. Here is the topographical map of the island. See that climbing? It is real. The data used to create this virtual course is sent to my Wahoo Kickr and the resistance on my drive train increases to match the incline.

So, all the tactics of when and where to attack are there. This climbing is real! Actually, I think the one place where the island really steps out of reality is on the downhill. I found that the group seemed to pull away from me on the downhills and at times I was putting out 400+ watts just to get back to the group. Then I would go shooting through them and then when I tried to find the sweet spot that would keep me in the group, I would immediately start fading back to repeat the process. Frankly, that worked to wear me out early.

Consider the data from my participation in the race which lasted 1:15 hours and covered 29 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.26.22 AM

Now, compare that to the most recent road race in which I participated that lasted for two hours and covered 43 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.29.13 AM

What about the work I put out? Here is the power breakdown from the above road race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.31.38 AM

Compare that with the breakdown from yesterday’s Zwift race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.36.27 AM

Keep in mind that the Zwift race data includes a cool down lap that lasted for about 20 minutes. So, the percentages above Active Recovery will be higher than what you see here. Even with that lap, the effort put out in the Zwift race exceeds that of the road race. Yes, the road race was longer, but I did not work as hard.

Now, you could say that I am comparing apples to oranges… maybe it is more like oranges to tangerines. The two activities are definitely NOT the same. Zwift racing puts the emphasis on effort and secondly on tactics. The software has some work to be done before you will see riders taking advantage of a pace line in a chase group.

However, it is cool to see the race develop. It is like having a TV monitor of your race as you are able to instantly see time gaps. You have the visual stimulus of seeing the riders ahead of you forming that gap or drawing closer as you chase them down. It isn’t like racing in a group, but it has its own camaraderie.

Zwift will never replace racing on the road. It will never match the thrill of racing on the road. However, as a means of competition in and of itself, it is a blast… and is the closest you are going to get to racing on the road while in your basement!

The main point I’m trying to make is don’t downplay the competitive nature and sheer workload of competing on Zwift… especially if you are using an intelligent trainer. It may not be the same as racing on the road, but I give testimony that it is RACING!


Getting a kick out of the Wahoo Fitness Kickr

Friday was a frustrating day. Work did not go well at all. Last second changes to some event plans, some process failures that lead to some embarrassments, and then just normal stress of soon coming deadlines. About mid-afternoon, I saw a chance to get some work done and have a little fun in the process.

I headed home where I planned to watch some required software training tutorials (about 4 hours worth!) and ride my trainer while I was at it. If I was going to have to sit for a couple of hours, I figured I might as well sit on my trainer. I could work my legs even if I wasn’t necessarily working my mind.

Things got more frustrating as I kept getting phone calls from work dealing with the above issues, the tutorials were a bear to find in the online system, and Zwift released an update that for my machine contained a bug that forced the launcher into an infinite loop. So, my afternoon turned into a mixture of giving instructions over the phone, searching for online videos, and deleting files to reinstall my Zwift. Multitasking anyone?

So, finally, at 5 PM, I had gotten through several tutorials, Zwift was finally installed, and I told my assistant to go home because there was no progress to be made on our issues until Monday morning. After another tutorial, I tested the new Zwift update and headed up for dinner. It was about 8:30 PM before I finally made it back to the trainer to get the workout I had hoped to started around 2 PM.

With the way things were going, I was afraid that I would relive the issues of Thursday evening. I rode the trainer for about 2.5 hours. Everything was pretty good for the first hour, but then I started playing around with the Wahoo Fitness apps while spinning with Zwift. They led to the connection between my computer and the trainer to drop. I couldn’t get it reconnected and so rode the last hour plus in “dumb trainer” mode.

Now, finally on Friday evening I logged into my Zwift profile and started to spin. As you begin the initial straight there isn’t any elevation. So, I wasn’t sure if the Kickr was working or not. Then I approached the first kite marking the finish of the Green Jersey Sprint. This was the first kick up in grade and I could feel it!

The Kickr was working. You might ask, what does that mean? Well, the Kickr is a “smart trainer.” Not only does it measure your power as you produce it, but it also can receive signals from software applications that cause the trainer to adjust its resistance based on those signals.

Compare a lap between my CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer (a “dumb” one) using a Quarq crank mounted power meter with the Wahoo Fitness Kickr trainer (a “smart” one). Resistance on the CycleOps is relatively constant. The only way to increase the resistance is to shift to harder gears. In other words, it would be like riding on a flat road with a normal bicycle. So, when you ride on the virtual Zwift Island even the hills are “flat.” Zwift compensates by slowing your virtual speed on the island. If you want to climb in a respectable time, your brain has to see the drop in speed and tell your legs to ride faster to compensate.

Now, the Kickr changes all this. When you approach the climb, Zwift sends a signal to the Kickr indicating the change in grade. The Kickr can then use electromagnetic resistance to give the sensation of a topographical change. So if you ride with a constant cadence at 0% grade and then start a climb on Zwift, the Kickr will begin to build resistance to match the amount of grade you are experiencing. A 3% grade is going to engage a little lest resistance than a 15% grade.

A smart trainer like the Kickr is the missing element to a product like Zwift. It truly turns your experience into one as road-like as you can imagine. It allows you to immerse yourself in the experience in a way the dumb trainer does not allow.

I have not yet experimented with the many other software options that pair with the Kickr. I can certainly see the training benefit. For instance, if I am doing an interval workout on the trainer. With the dumb trainer I have to keep one eye on the watch and the other on my wattage display. Then I get lost in the myriad of rests, efforts, and repeats.

With the Kickr you can set up a training session that preprograms the Kickr to guide you through the repeats. The trainer holds the resistance pushing you to maintain the proper wattage. When it come to rest, the trainer releases to allow you to spin. It then engages once again when it is time to start your next interval repeat. You can focus on your effort and not keeping up with what interval you are on!

I hope to be back with more on the Kickr as I get used to it. However, I think the way I can best describe my experience and what I think of the trainer is this… that Friday evening after a frustrating day at work, I got off the trainer with a smile on my face. I rode for an hour and got my first ever triple jersey: Green Jersey Sprint, Polka Dot Jersey, and Orange Jersey.


Ride on!

EPO – Elevation Protected from Outdoors

Dopers! Dopers, the lot of you! EPO – Elevation Protected from Outdoors.

I stepped on a landmine yesterday. I got a notice that there was a comment posted to the Zwift Club discussion page on Strava. It brought up a point I had not considered before and which even when I read it did not take very seriously. Then the shrapnel started flying!

It would appear that the person commenting was not a Zwift user and was upset about people using Zwift using elevation data in Strava — specifically for climbing challenges. Here, I’ll let you read it for yourself.

Using this Club to add elevation is just wrong, you’re not out really riding and don’t tell me the trainer is just as hard as real climbing. I was just out in a blizzard climbing real hills with a real headwind. Trainers are an essential piece of training equipment, to use them to cheat on elevation is weak. Post your rides as what they are, trainer miles and nothing more. I use a trainer but have 0 miles posted. You are not riding a bike, your front wheel is not moving, spare me the BS roller riders as you never left your cozy house or wherever it is that makes you feel warm & fuzzy. Cheaters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.07.13 AMFor fun I responded with the following line, “Dopers! Dopers, the lot of you! EPO – Elevation Protected from Outdoors.” I thought that would be the end of it, but is seems that lots of other people wanted to also make their own smart alec remarks. Then, as these things often do, it turned kind of nasty.

However, I’m not here to dwell on that. I actually began to wonder what really is the difference.

First, let me point out that folks using Zwift cannot simply mark the ride as a trainer ride. If they do that, it removes all the GPS data and basically destroys any record of what you did on Jarvis Island. So, that is not an option.

So, let’s turn our attention to “climbing” on Zwift’s Jarvis Island and riding uphill in the “real world.” Obviously, riding a trainer in your basement is not the same experience as riding out on the road. While it might not be like comparing apples to oranges, it can be more like comparing oranges to grapefruit. They look very similar, but are different. At the same time, eating an orange doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat a grapefruit.

I went out Tuesday and rode for 2.5 hours covering 33.5 miles and climbed 4,386 feet. Earlier in the month I had joined the Strava Climbing Challenge not because I thought I would accomplish it, but because I like to see how close I can get to meeting the goal. I was somewhat surprised when that ride put me over the bar and I earned my little virtual badge.

As it turns out, I made up the majority (though not all) of the remaining 9,052 feet on my trainer riding the virtual road and climbs of Jarvis Island. Wow, that is a lot! It took me by surprise.

So, how long did it take me to do that? In an attempt to find out, I went to my century ride completed earlier this month. I rode the trainer for 5 hours and 40 minutes. I covered 100 Zwift miles and climbed a total of 5,203 feet. This effort was accomplished on a dumb trainer.

Each lap on Jarvis Island is 155 feet when going counterclockwise and 157 feet when going clockwise. This means I would need to complete 59 laps to amass over 9000 feet on the trainer. Averaging 10 minutes a lap would mean I would need to ride nearly 10 hours on the trainer. To be honest, giving myself 10 minutes on average is kind of generous.

Compare that to repeats on Paris Mountain’s Altamont Road. Each repeat would net me 850 feet (to the towers). It would take me on average 18 minutes per climb up with 5 minutes down. So, basically 11 repeats would have me in the saddle for under 4 hours and 30 minutes.

I’m not here to pass judgement on which of those two options is the harder feat. Having done both, I can say it is a draw. Each has its own pain, but in different ways. If I had to make a choice of which I would prefer to use to gain the elevation, it would be Altamont. Mentally, that is definitely the easier option.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.08.54 AM

Now, throw in the option to use the Wahoo Kickr with Zwift and the grapefruit starts looking and tasting a lot more like an orange! When using the dumb trainer to climb on Zwift, the only thing that really changes is the time it takes to “climb.” Yes, you could get your elevation by spinning along at 75 watts. However, it would take you absolutely forever!

With the Kickr you will come to a standstill if you try that. Why? Because just as the real road combined with gravity creates a greater resistance when you climb, the Kickr begins to build resistance into the trainer according to the “virtual” grade data sent to it from Zwift.

So, in this case, if you were to put a virtual Paris Mountain in Zwift, you would find that it would basically take the same wattage to overcome the resistance on the trainer as it would on the road. Granted, it could not be exact because of environmental differences. I’m convinced though that it would be close.

My conclusion? I probably will not join a Strava climbing challenge in the future if I know that the majority of my time will be spent on Zwift. At the same time, I am not going to sweat it out if I happen to join a challenge and have a few Zwift rides sprinkled among the efforts.

I love the road. A virtual world can never replace that. I love to climb. Caesars Head, Sassafras, Skyuka, Paris Mountain, and other grades in my beloved Upstate will always call me with a stronger voice than a virtual island. If there is one thing I don’t like about Zwift it is the fact that it does not have a Paris Mountain type climb on it.

At the same time, do not call trainer rides — especially those using technology such as Zwift and trainers such as the Wahoo Kickr — pansy rides. I’d even go so far as to say you cannot call it cheating. The effort is the same and the surrounding environment is not germane. If you are riding in a blizzard to get your elevation and someone else is climbing in South America, do the people in the lower hemisphere not get to count their feet?