Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Android Apps for Cycling

Sometimes I feel like the best modern invention for cycling is the smart phone.  When I re-ignited my passion for cycling, I had an Android phone.  I was hoping there would be a program that could make use of the phone's sensors and give me a good guess as to my speed.  Today I have a variety of apps that enhance my cycling experience.

Note: I will probably do some reviews of these in the future, which is why I don't want to go too in-depth with each app.  I will post examples that I have used in the past.  This is why you'll see sometimes I only have one example to offer up.

I'm going to stick with an Android perspective since it's what I know and use.

Activity Tracking
Strava screen.  No map as this
activity was indoors (no GPS).
When I was first exposed to an activity tracking app, I thought it was a great idea.  It would be able to tell me how fast I was going and show me the map of where I went.  I also like to joke that certain attributes (speed, distance time) are like scores on a game.  You've got to beat your old score!  Some trackers take this very literally and make your ride into a game.

It also keeps track of those attributes for you.  It does analysis on your ride.  It makes it easy to share on social media or connect into the other apps.  Some have interesting features like off-road maps, auto-pausing, camera shots included into your ride, turn by turn navigation, competitive leader boards and so on.  Many have feature-rich web sites which complement the application.

Below are examples of software you can do this with on Android.
Ride With GPS (free but requires monthly subscription for premium)
Strava (free but requires monthly subscription for premium)
Map My Ride (free but requires monthly subscription for premium)
Wahoo Fitness (free but only guaranteed compatibility with Wahoo products, which are only guaranteed with iPhones.  They have some Android support).
Zombies, Run (paid + paid upgrades).

Food Tracking
An important aspect of diabetes management is watching what you eat.  So when I started to track what I ate, I looked for an app that could log food easily.  Like being able to scan a bar code to speed up entering in details or being able to repeat something I've logged before.  Things like being able to add your own recipes and foods are a big bonus.

A good food tracker can assist you with your diet.  You should be able to set goals such as weight or other parameters, for example waist size.  A good food tracker will help you watch whatever you need to; watching calories is great for dieting but watching carbohydrates is important for diabetics.

One function that is really important to me is a food tracker that will talk to my activity tracker.  That way your diet can be adjusted according to your exercise.

A popular free food tracker many people use is MyFitnessPal.

To be honest though I've been slacking in my food tracking.  At a certain point I was riding my bicycle so frequently that I was burning calories at a crazy rate.  But lately things have slowed.  I need to get back on this particular wagon.

People Tracking
No, this isn't a lesson in stalking or a primer for a spy.  I'm talking about a more voluntary sort of tracking.  While most people would eschew others tracking them, this is a good idea for a few reasons:

  • Riding somewhere dangerous (environmental, wildlife, maybe its just the bad end of town).
  • Have health issues where you might need immediate assistance.
  • Live in an area with other cyclists where you might want to meet up with each other while riding.
  • Riding alone.  Even if it's somewhere safe.  Like winter biking around my house.  If I were to slip and hit my head, I could get knocked out and freeze to death.

In the past I've tried using the built-in "meet up" functionality that's already found in subscription-based activity trackers.  But it usually requires a subscription and the other person has to use the same app.  And its hard to just ride up and meet with friends when you live way out in the sticks.  Lately I've been using Glympse.  I like it because you can send anyone a link via email and you control how long it will track you for.

Weather Tracking
The Weather Network
One of the most important apps I use.  It tells me how to dress properly for a bicycle ride.  It will tell me how much or how little clothing I need to wear.  I hate riding in the rain so it also tells me when I need to dust off the trainer or stationary bike.  Here are several Android favourites:
The Weather Channel
The Weather Network

St Johns Ambulance
First Aid for Cyclists
So you're out riding your bicycle and you endo (flip over your handlebars, "end over end" or endo).  You discover there's no reception where you are.  What do you do?  Well, there's an app for that!  I keep around a first aid app (I use St John's Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists).  A repair app would come in handy as well but I haven't found one I like yet.  Best would be any application that works offline in case the area has no cellular reception.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Winter Cycling Noon and Night

Still eager to hit the snow, I planned on two rides in the same day.  One would be a quick ride to the post office in the snow.  The other would be a longer night ride, with a clear sky and icy roads.  I was also eager to try out some new gear.

I Spy With My Giant Eyes
I had purchased Spy Optics Whip MX Goggles.  I was hoping they would fill the need for anti-fogging eye-wear.  I was also hoping for something that would be comfortable, especially over the course of a long ride.

The other piece to keep my face warm is a Seirus Neofleece Combo Scarf.  It works like a face mask that has a nose opening.  There are lots of small openings around the mouth.  It can also be flipped down so it functions like a scarf.
Very thin, very warm.

And of course, when you wear them both you look like a badass ninja.

I am a badass ninja!
The last bit of wear would be my MEC Watchtower Pants.  They're actually the 2013 version I bought on clearance.  It seemed like a great layer to use as an alternative to my usual thermal tights.  I would be wearing them with my Drencher pants to see if I ended up sweating a lot.  For a shirt and jacket I went with a very thin polyester shirt and my red rain coat.  The idea was using less insulating base layers so maybe I could be waterproof on the outside and sweat proof on the inside.

I started my quick noon ride.  The goggles turned out to be just what I was looking for.  They didn't fog up regardless of my activity level and they were very comfortable on my face.  In addition the wide band ends up insulating your ears a bit.  The lenses can also be changed out for new ones that block out various spectrum.  The only big downside is it did not play friendly with my cheap head lamps.  Not a fault of the goggles though; I should be using a bicycle helmet friendly headlamp. 

The mask was very easy to breath through but the material turned out to be very warm.  I ended up pulling it down into a scarf shape a few minutes. after I started riding.  At my halfway point I just removed the mask entirely and pocketed it.  I still believe this mask is going to be a great asset when it gets substantially colder.  Right now it is simply too warm.

My new layering idea didn't quite work.  Even for a short ride I found I was getting entirely too warm.  I think I need a windproof jacket that has a bit of breath-ability.  And perhaps some tights with built in water resistance.

The evening brought lower visibility and colder temperatures.  But I wasn't going to try the same layers.  Instead I'd be wearing a MEC Ardent Jersey with the MEC Watchman pants.  There was no snow so water resistance wasn't necessary.  Because of this I skipped out on the eye-wear portion entirely.

As I headed off to check out the MUP, I noticed that I was at the perfect temperature; not too hot and not too cold.  It looks like the combination was a good one.  The tires themselves did an amazing job of sticking to the ground.  My rear tire slipped at a couple of very icy areas but I was able to keep the bike upright without putting a foot on the ground.

Since it was a bit easier to see tonight, I noticed others taking notice of me.  Pedestrians looked at me like I was simply from another planet.  Cars and trucks made sure to drive slowly and cautiously around me.  Since winter biking is new in town I can forgive them if they thought I was an escaped mental patient.

Through both rides I didn't have a single problem with chain slippage.  I stuck to just spinning at a lower intensity and I think that is what did the trick.  I will talk to my bike mechanic and find out if we can narrow the problem further.  I don't want this bike breaking down on me in the middle of nowhere.

Stay tuned for more winter fun!

Indoor Cycling Week 3

Day 1
Today was the day to bring on the pain.  The intervals we were performing were called High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.  With this sort of training, we are performing a "microburst" of activity followed by a very short recovery.

After the usual warm up and ramp up to get our heart rate going, we dived into these intervals.  They were only 15 seconds each at 150% of our Functional Threshold Power (FTP value calculated at first class).  After each we'd easy spin for 15 seconds.  Repeat this sixteen times for a set, then perform the set 3 times (with cool down in between).

I had a rough estimate of my FTP based on my heart rate.  The problem here is, how do you get to 150% of your FTP in only 15 seconds?  It takes a little while for your heart to fire up like that!  So instead I just threw every intensity I had at it.  I started standing up to pedal for every other peak, in order to make it even more difficult.

Day 2
 This was another new interval called a Sprint-erval.  First, a warm up with a bit of sprinting in it.  For a set you had to do 200% of your FTP for 15 seconds, then easy spin for 45 seconds.  This is repeated 3 times.  Finally, a sustained effort of 4 minutes for 90% of your FTP.  This set was performed five times.

Its very hard to get that heart rate up in 15 seconds.  I put everything on with the most resistance, stand on the pedals and power down as hard as I can.  I managed to stand for every sprint session.

Day 3
Unfortunately I got off to a bad start.  I was almost at class when I realized I had forgotten my phone.  All my sensors rely on my phone; without it I have no idea of my heart rate or cadence.  These have gotten very important in class.  I had to head back, get my phone and head to class again.  It made me 15 minutes late but I arrived in the midst of the first interval.

Today was a day I will refer to as Sprints and Sprint-ervals.

The first set of intervals consisted of a hard (200%FTP) effort for 15 seconds followed by a 45 second recovery.  Then a sustained effort of 4 minutes.  This was repeated three times.  At the end of the third set there was also a 30 second sprint effort.  For the sprints I was standing up to pedal and I did the sustained effort from the drop position.

The second set of intervals were hard sprints.  You start at 200% FTP for 15 seconds, easy spin for 15 seconds,   Repeat sixteen times for a set.  We did that set three times.  I didn't bother standing for any of these sprints; there was so much shifting I felt more comfortable with my hands on the brake hoods.  My chain managed to drop twice doing these.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Finally Some Winter Cycling!

Ride on ice like its dry pavement!
Well, we finally got some temperatures below freezing and some snow, ice and slush.  I was looking forward to putting SubZero (aka Project: SubZero aka The Scrambler).The only downside was I would have to ride after dark; I can't leave any earlier due to my day job.

The weather conditions were not ideal.  The temperature was about -1C.  It was snowing pretty heavily but most of it was melting right away.  Anything that did manage to stick ended up being pretty slushy.  In other words, pretty crappy conditions.  I'm not a commuter so I have the choice to shy away.  If it was raining I would have.  But I've been waiting eagerly to try this bike out in real world conditions.

For clothing I tossed on a MEC Ardent jersey with the Pearl Izumi thermal tights.  I thought about doing a waterproof shell but that combo always ended up too warm.  I wore merino wool socks and my hiking boots on my feet.  For gloves I thought I'd give my lighter MEC gloves a shot.

Snow acting like icing on a muddy cake.
I start off by heading down to the muddy road where I tested before.  I figured if anything the snow would stick there better than on the pavement.  Well after carving myself a path through the sopping wet mess, I found my way there.  There was definitely lots of snow as well as a lot of mud, clay and water.  I found that I was still kicking up mud as it hadn't frozen at all.  Riding through mud with snow on top is even more difficult than riding through mud.  After several minutes of powering through it, I figure it will be more funfun to try out in daylight hours when things are a bit colder.

I set my sights for a nearby multi-use path and started pedalling over.  That's when my chain started slipping a lot.  This is the same problem I had each time I took the bike out!  I've already replaced the chain and had it eyeballed.  It seemed like it had no problems prior.  I figured I should make some observations (what gear, how much slippage, does shifting help, etc.) so I would have lots of data for my bike mechanic.  It seemed to slip more in higher gears; shifting back and forth sometimes seemed to help and sometimes didn't.  But the problem would go away for 5 or 10 minutes at a time before returning to plague me.

Snowiest patch of the entire MUP.
I ended up on the MUP only to be disappointed.  I had been expecting some snow as there was slushy snow on the roads.  In my township, MUPs do not get plowed, roads do.  My guess is the MUP is slightly darker and retained more heat from the daytime sun.

I found my clothing choice was not good with the weather.  I've always concentrated on using certain clothing at certain temperatures.  If it wasn't snowing so heavily I would have been fine.  Snow would land on me and melt instantly due to the warmth I generated.  So in short order my clothes were already wet.  I was starting to feel the cold so I made up with it with some more exerted effort.

Winter cycling version of HIIT!
I found an open field of snow and figured I'd give it a shot.  Well now I know how to peak my heart rate pretty quickly, just mountain bike over some snow and grass!  I got most of the way across when I felt the need to stop.  I quickly realised I was getting cold fast from being wet so I got out by spinning a much smaller gear.

I was running out of fresh terrain to test out on and figured I'd give the nearby parkway a shot.  It was definitely bicycle and runner friendly during the summer.  In the winter it doesn't get cleared so there ends up being less car traffic.  Later in the year there would be a surge of snowmobile and ATVs.

Reflections look better when they aren't pairs of eyes.
Upon arrival I noticed it was pitch black on the parkway.  Really a great way to test lights!  I felt like my lighting situation was sufficient (head lamp, handlebar light, animated pulsing rear light, laser red outline around bike).  But then the dreaded chain slip hit me again.  I started to think about being stuck by myself on the parkway in the dark, already soaked.  Walking home would be a good way to freeze.  So I ended my trip on the parkway early.

Snow.  Or a broken hyperdrive.  Mmm.  Probably snow.
I ended up cycling around on residential streets (and the occasional patch of grass) to get a feel for the snow and slush.  It didn't take long before I started getting chilly; the temperatures kept dropping and I was still wet from the snow.  I really need to learn to mix and match my layers more, to take into account the type of precipitation I was going to experience.  The last time I tried a waterproof shell I had these clothes on underneath; it was entirely too warm.  Maybe I need to try with some lighter layers underneath?

There was one other thing I wanted to check next ride and it involved my chain.  My current hypothesis is that something ends up failing whenever I apply a lot of force to the pedals.  Both times this problem occurred were after I had tried riding through that muddy area.  The other time we experienced chain slippage was after any forceful pedalling in the mountain bike area.  On my next ride I would stick to fast, light spinning and see if I had a similar issue.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Hybrid Rides and Dancing Deer

Most of my bike rides lately have been on a trainer.  I've been itching for any reason whatsoever to take one of my other bicycles for an outdoor ride.  Well, on this particular Sunday the temperature was only 2C.  But it was sunny and the roads were dry after days and days of rain.  It seemed like the perfect excuse to bust out my hybrid bicycle and hit some of the waterfront trail.

Dirt road complete with crater sized potholes.

The route I was planning on had mixed surfaces.  Some of it would be paved bicycle path.  But a lot of that pavement has buckled, cracked, broken and formed "eggs" (giant bumps in the road).  Some of it is dirt road pocked with hazardous potholes.  Some of it is stone dust with a smattering of gravel.  As the area is pretty flat there is little change in elevation.  Almost all of it follows a river and has plenty of ponds, marshes and other wetlands.  In other words, perfect for my hybrid bike.

An "egg" in the road.  Easily kill your wheel hitting it.
It was also a blast from the not-so-distant-past for me.  I started this journey on this bike and this route.

Clothing wise I had good ideas.  MEC Ardent jersey, Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Tights, thermal beanie, MEC Ace cycling liner, Mirelle trail running shoes and SmartWool socks.  I wouldn't dream of this combo at this temperature on the Valence.  But the Hybrid is a lot slower than the Valence so cutting the wind is a lot less of an issue.  I brought extra layers just in case.

Not sure why the cone is there?  I survived crossing twice.
I started to regret skipping the maintenance when I started pedaling on the bike.  I found lots of resistance but just chalked it up to being spoiled with a super light road bike.  After trying to tough it out for a while, I stopped and noticed my rear tire was really low.  I pulled out my hand pump and learned why it's so important to have a pump with you.  I also learned why people use CO2 pumps because pumping up tires with a mini pump SUCKS!

Pretty unstable ground here, back tire slid a fair amount.
On the way back while climbing a slight incline on stone dust, I saw a deer.  I have run into wildlife on a third of my rides in this area and had been hoping to see something.  When it dashed into the tree line I saw a second deer follow it in.  I noticed the tree line was actually just a line of trees blocking an open field.  One I would have access to another 10 or so meters up the path.  So I biked into the grass and aligned my video camera to see the deer...

... and I kid you not, they started leaping about playfully!  And I have some poorly recorded proof of the encounter, courtesy of my budget action camera!  It's a bit hard to see due to the sun.
Sorry about the bad sound and shakiness.  I need to get a better video editing software to clean up these clips.  I'm getting a helmet mount so the view should be more directional (and less shaky).  I also have a better camera on my wish list.

Trail gets washed out with old leaves and pine needles.
On my way back, I could see in my mind's eyes places where I huffed and puffed with exertion.  I was so much slower then.  I'd be wearing a smattering of sweaty workout clothes and a look of determination.  Now I'm more than 40 lbs lighter than the man I was; I'm leaner, more muscular, more fit than I've been in my entire adult life.  The one thing that hasn't changed an iota is my determination.

The bike ride was perfect.  I really missed riding outside and it was nice to do it again.  The deer incident really put a smile on my face.  I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Indoor Cycling Week 2

Day 1 (1 hour)
Tuesday's class consisted of some new intervals.  It started off similar to the others we've done; five minutes warmup, 70% effort for a minute, minute easy, 80% minute, minute easy, 90% minute, minute easy.  After that we went full-out effort for 30 seconds and easy spinning for 30 seconds, repeated 20 times for the set.  Then five minutes easy spinning and a repeat of the 20 intervals, finishing with a 5 minute cool down.

I noticed my wooden block slipping again.  I slowly (but firmly) tried to rotate my front tire with my hand, as though to pull the block under the tire more.  Instead of the block moving, my entire bike rolled forward.  Which again was fine, because I was centered on the block.  Unfortunately, my wife wasn't so lucky.  Her blocks few out from under her front tire with a clatter.  But like a trooper she just kept on spinning.

Day 2 (1 hour)
I wanted to put an end to the slippery antics so I went shopping.  I picked up two CyclOps Riser Blocks.  Unlike other blocks, they have three different levels.  Apparently both blocks can be combined to simulate many climbing positions.  I also picked up some cushioned interlocking mats.  The mats would help with the slippery sweat mess in addition to providing some dampening of vibrations.

Today's class started with an 80% effort to warm up, then we went right into Individual Leg Training, or ILT's.  In a nutshell, you start pedaling with one foot then switch to another.  While pedalling you concentrate on how to make circles with your pedal stroke. It sounds easy enough, but I actually found it pretty difficult.  I had my bike set for little resistance and was using an easy gear, but found my heart rate up while doing the ILTs.

The last intervals were interesting.  Each set was nine minutes.  The first 2 minutes were at 80% effort and the third minute was at 100%.  Then minutes four and five were at 80%, then minute six at 100%.  Then minutes seven and eight at 80% and finally the ninth minute at 100%.  We did this three times with a 5 minute cool down in between.

Day 3 (1.5 hours)
Last Saturday I was low on liquids so I thought I'd be better prepared this time.  In addition to my Polar 24oz water bottles, I also brought along a bottle of Powerade.  My bike doesn't have three bottle holders though.  I used a small bungee cord to fasten it to a sane spot on the front of my bike.

For this class we did more over-unders.  First a warm up to bring us to our Functional Threshold Power (FTP).  After a five minute cool down, three minutes were 90% of FTP, then 2 minutes 105% FTP, another 3 at 90% and another 2 at 105%.  That's ten minutes of cycling like a madman.  We did that particular set five times, with five minutes of cool down in between.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Project: SubZero Update 3

Now I just need some ice and snow.
A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to put Project: SubZero through the paces.  I had heard about a mountain biking area nearby and went to check it out.  As I started packing for it, my wife expressed interest in coming along.  We'd have to take turns riding as we only had one mountain bike, and the trails here would have killed our hybrids.  But I'd rather spend time with my wife and share a bike than ride around solo.

The trails were pretty tough to navigate.  There was just so many fallen leaves from autumn covering the path, that sometimes the leaves were a foot or two deep.  You couldn't see rocks, roots or other obstacles.  But we found some areas that weren't too bad and had fun taking turns with Project: SubZero.  We did find there were some gearing issues so we tried to "single speed" it for the most part.

I tried messing with the derailleur when I got back.  I was able to get it shifting properly again but it just seemed off.  I'm not sure if it's an equipment problem or my inexperience with them.

I waited for an opportunity to test it properly.  Finally after several days of rain I was able to take it for a test drive on a back road.  At least, it was a dirt road last time I checked.  It ended up being thick gooey mud.  Normally the sight of a road like this would put me in a bad mood.  But I had a mountain bike equipped with fenders and big knobby tires; a thick gooey muddy road was ideal!

I didn't get in too far as it was starting to get dark.  I turned around and churned up the mud some more.  I found myself laughing as I watched my bike spray mud everywhere.  I felt my rear tire slip a few times as the mud started giving way into puddles.  I managed to stay stable and got out of the mud trap.

Riding a mountain bike is a completely different experience in comparison to road biking.  But I'm learning the one big thing they have in common is they're both fun as hell!

Next stop was another nearby dirt road.  This one didn't turn into gooey mud so I was able to pay more attention to how the shifts were going and other various noises coming from the bike.  While it was shifting there were obviously some problems going on.  I also noticed that my rear wheel was out of true.

The mud spray looks neat when lit up.
A few days later I rinsed off the bike as best I could, then packed it up in the car and headed down to the LBS.  They'll be going over both derailleurs to see what the problem is.  They'll also fix up my wheel so it is true again.  Last, but definitely not least, the studded tires are going on!

Still eagerly awaiting snow and ice.  For the first time since I made snow forts as a kid.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cycling Indoor Edition Part 4

After an awesome party and return ride home, I only got a few hours sleep.  My wife was going to be working throughout the day and wouldn't be joining me for this class.  I felt like my determination to go was wavering.  My wife pointed out how much trouble I went to in order to attend..  It was subtle but effective prodding as I ended up heading to the two-wheeled torture chamber.

The Bike Thong!
I picked up a Minoura Safe - T - Net Sweat Net.  The amount that I sweat is nothing short of epic.  All that sweat is basically salty water and not good for my frame.  The sweat guard stretches from the handlebars to the seat post, creating a terrycloth towel-like barrier.  I like to jokingly call it my "bike thong."

Today's session was longer, 90 minutes instead of the usual 60.  It would be more intervals of varying effort with 1-3 minutes of easy spinning between each.  We started with a five minute warm up and started our first set.  It had 3 intervals; 70% effort for 5 minutes, 80% effort for 4 minutes and 90% effort for 3 minutes.  This set would be performed a second time.  Then a set with 3 intervals of 3 minutes duration.  The last two sets were the same 3 intervals; 70% effort for 3 minutes, 80% effort for 4 minutes and 90% effort for five minutes.  Then a five minute cool down.

The resistance changes I made fixed my problem.  I felt like I was getting the right amount of resistance.  I was able to stand up during intervals where it was called for and was able to keep pedalling along.

This class I ended up rationing my water carefully.  The last two classes I had brought sufficient water but this class would be harder and longer.  I made a mental note to bring either an extra bottle or an energy drink to the next long class.

The hardest part of the session was the cool down.  I kid you not.  Normally I'm all smiles and enjoying the endorphin buzz on cool down.  This time it was agony.  For some reason spinning with no resistance was leaving me with a permanent grimace.  It seemed like the longest five minutes of my life.

So far I've really enjoyed the class.  The work outs have me drenched in sweat and I'm already looking forward to seeing how it affects my performance in the spring.  There are three classes per week and I'm positive I can make a minimum of two, if not all three.  Between this, Project SubZero and the core exercises I've been planning, I should have a very active winter!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cycling Indoor Edition Part 3

Jet Black M1 Trainer with Tacx Trainer Tyre.
Our second day we had Tacx Trainer Tyres outfitted on our rear wheels.  The concept is they're made specifically for use with a trainer, so they'll last longer than a normal tire.  And of course, since you're not using your actual road tire, it's getting no wear at all.  The tires are smurf blue, guaranteeing you'll never confuse them with a normal road tire.

Through the fitness test we discovered what sort of sustained effort we could keep.  I think the term for it is "Functional Threshold Power."  Today we'd be making use of that information for our efforts.  I used a heart rate monitor to keep track of my efforts but the instructor also gave instructions for people with power meters and speed/cadence sensors.

The instructor dubbed the class "Throwback Thursday" with all music being from the 80's and 90's.  The format was similar to yesterday's class only the intervals were shorter and more frequent.  There were a few screens displaying this information with a series of graphic displays and timers,  The instructor would also call out any changes so you didn't need to keep an eye on them.

Looking around I noticed new faces and rides.  Lots of road bikes and more triathlon bikes.  It seemed like aero-bars were extremely popular.  From what I heard, this would be happening all month as people retired their rides for the winter.

At one point we were instructed to stand while pedalling.  I got up to pedal and found I couldn't.  I felt like there was no resistance there.  I ensured that I was in my hardest gear and my trainer's resistance was on the highest setting.  I looked over to my wife and noticed she had a similar problem.We ended up just sitting through the rest of the standing segments.  I tried to make up for it by greatly increasing my effort through cadence.

We discussed the problem with the instructor afterwards and got some tips on how to fix it.  After making some adjustments, I noticed there was a lot more resistance.  I don't think it was pressed up against the tire enough.  I checked the manual later that evening and it confirmed my suspicions.

Next up, the finale aka Part 4!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Cycling Indoor Edition Part 2

A window-less basement room with lots of bikes set up on trainers.
A window-less basement room filled with metal monstrosities
whose sole purpose is to cause pain and agony.
In medieval times it was called a torture chamber;
today it is called the spinning room.
On my first day I had a look around at other riders and bicycles.  It seemed like the majority of the bikes were time trial or triathlon bikes.  A few road bikes and I spotted one hybrid.  All the pedals that I saw were clip-less pedals.

Once we got started we did some light spinning while introducing ourselves.  After that the instructor gave us an outline of what we would be doing.  We would be doing a fitness test where we had to hold a certain amount of effort for two eight minute intervals, with a few minutes of easy spinning in between.  He explained that it was important not to go all-out; you don't want to just run yourself to exhaustion right away.  You want to go at your highest sustained effort that still allows you to accomplish the intervals.  And of course, there would be a warm up prior and a cool down after.

Well, it ended up being quite a workout.  I was sweating like crazy, even with help of three fans.  A puddle of sweat pooled below my bike.  I am so glad I brought two towels!  The only thing that was odd was my speed was pretty high.  I feel like there might be an issue with the resistance being too mild.

Picture of my wife's bike and my bike.  Both are Norco Valences but hers is a smaller women's version.
The Wife's Valence (left) and my Valence (right).
The style of trainer we had uses the rear tire, which elevates the tire.  Most people put something under their front tire to level things out.  I had grabbed one of the "freebie" wooden blocks from the front of the class.  At first it was working out well.  But my uber-sweating had created a pool of disgusting-ness beneath me which made the block a little slippery.  It ended out sliding from under me.  Fortunately I could feel it happening and made the transition as gently as possible.  I then made sure to put on my "I meant to do that!" face.  Might be a sign to start looking for a good riser block that won't slide.

I had heard one of the down sides of indoor cycling was the monotony of it.  You don't have the breeze in your hair or beautiful scenery to look at.  I found doing intervals really helped with this.  When you change things up every few minutes, the time just flies.

More coming up in Part 3!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Cycling Indoor Edition Part 1

I had my last ride outdoors with the Valence.  The temperature was about 6C and the wind was southeast at about 20km/h.  I made the mistake of forgetting about the wind and rocketed along with it.  I ended up fighting a mean head wind all the way back.  Despite the rough ride back, I made sure to enjoy every minute of it.

One of my winter strategies was to take up cycling indoors.  I have a recumbent stationary bike that I can ride.  The upside is its free, the downside is I can't ride with my wife and it doesn't do much for my cycling form.  There are spin classes where they supply stationary bikes; I can ride with my wife but again it doesn't do much with cycling form.  I'm also worried that relying on either will mean getting used to my saddle all over again in the spring.

So instead we opted for an indoor cycling class being held by my local bike shop.  This class didn't supply equipment; you need to bring in your real bike and a turbo trainer.  These trainers basically convert your real bike into a stationary one.

My trainer, a JetBlack M1 turbo trainer.
We were able to obtain two Jet Black M1 magnetic trainers. A remote attached to your handlebars allows you to control the magnetic resistance.  The trainer holds onto the rear of the bike and presses up against the rear tire for resistance.

The indoor cycling room is a large basement room that is well ventilated with several fans.  We set ourselves up at the front of the class, near one of the larger fans.  I'm not normally a front-of-the-class kind of guy but I wanted to make sure not to miss anything.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we get right into the action!