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In it, I discuss a 3.5 hour workout involving four ascents of increasing length, such a workout mimicking the demands of the Everest Challenge or a century or double century (ascent following by recovery on descent and flat ground).
In this discussion, “losing body weight” means losing fat while retaining muscle, a challenge often bypassed in “weight loss” discussions. Loss of muscle is self-defeating and leads to a nasty rebound effect.
See also How Fat Loss Actually Goes in Practice. Six weeks ago I postulated a breakthrough below my typical set point* of 175 pounds; instead appetite increased and weight stayed stubbornly right around 175. OTOH, I feel noticeably leaner (as per pinch tests) and I am considerably stronger, so I think fat has been traded for muscle, a sort of periodic annual resculpturing of body tissue typical in training at certain stages.
My goal remains to hit ~170 or so in time for the Four Horsemen of the Solstice and Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge Double leaned-out. Carrying even one more pound up 30,000 or 20,500 feet really does matter, to the tune of 5-6 minutes, although for Four Horsemen I’ll have to carry 4-5 pounds of gear for weather, flats, etc.
The faint red dots below are all around April 1st of each year, showing that 2014 is on track to match 2012 (2013 was an injury and surgery year). My 2012 season was a personal best year, and all metrics now point to beating 2012, the primary goal being finishing at or near the top in the Everest Challenge.
* A body weight set point is a weight below which body strongly resists going and seeks to reestablish—by increasing appetite.
Click for larger graph.
I track my body weight (weighing consistently) on a medical-grade scale and I track my food intake for accurate caloric intake to the gram , and I get kilojoule (kilocalorie) figures from my SRM power meter.
A body weight “set point” of around 175 is my personal challenge every year. The multi-year graph above shows a consistent and prolonged clustering around that 175 level, which is about 10% body fat. Moreover, my body always seeks to get back up to that 175 level each fall, a physiological cycle that never fails, and is insistently demanding (appetite). Each spring the biology relents a little and I am able to force body weight down below that level, though with considerable discipline and effort. My supposition is that it is a seasonal hormonal reaction to sunlight / day length or similar.
In the graph below from Dec 2013 thru April 2014, the 175 body weight resistance is emphasized by the rise in calories and flattening of the weight decline trend around March. That’s my physiology making me hungry in an attempt to forestall further weight loss (“you idiot you’re gonna starve to death” sort of thing I suppose).
Tremendous self discipline is required to overcome this physiological push-back. In March, the best I could do was to maintain a slight caloric deficit. Of course, the body does have demands for more calories to repair and rebuild muscle, so even a net neutral can mean body weight reductions as fat is lost and muscle replaces it.
The task in April/May is to apply relentless daily pressure to get down to ~171 or so by June. It won’t be easy, but once a breakthrough of ~2 pounds past the set point is achieved, my physiology tends to relent (just a little), and allow me to go to ~170 pounds without the demanding increase in appetite.
Once at a desired body weight / body fat, eating to caloric parity is far easier than running a daily deficit.
In Raising Lactate Threshold in Early Season I discuss the importance of lactate threshold training and how I go about it.
All my metrics including this surprisingly strong workout (for April) along with my strong Solvang Spring Double effort give me considerable confidence that this season might be even stronger than my previous best season (2012).
I discussed Panda Licorice back in October 2012 as a possible caloric source for long events, also making the point that it tastes a lot better than Perpetuem or Hammer Gel or GU or other stuff like that.
Licorice, the cyclist’s secret weapon™.
During the 2014 Solvang Spring Double, I consumed about 900 calories from Panda licorice and about 500 calories from Hammer gel and ~300 calories from Perpetuem other things (total “burn” of 7628 calories as per my SRM power meter). I used the convenient 100-calories individually-wrapped Panda licorice sticks; this makes it easy to remember how much one has eaten per hour (2 per hour is about right, with some Hammer gel thrown in too or vice versa).
My proven (for my body) conclusion over many long events is that a pure glucose source alone (e.g. Hammer Gel, e.g. maltodextrin) is not optimal by itself for 6+ hour rides for carbs. It works better to have mostly glucose, but also sucrose and even some fructose because part of those molecules go go the liver for processing, giving it a job to do and feeding in another source of glucose at a slower but steady rate (the liver converting half that sucrose molecule to glucose). It’s why a Mountain Dew or Coke 10 hours in works so well (if not too dehydrated); it gives the liver something to do when it is wholly depleted of glucose. Of course, some protein is warranted too (Perpetuem has some).
The Panda brand is a not very common in stores (try Amazon, and the 6 oz bags of licorice chews are excellent). The ingredients in Panda licorice are of good quality for what they are, not like Twizzlers or the truly awful Red Vines corn syrup crap (though I can eat either when pressed or tempted).
The first ingredient in the Panda licorice that I eat is molasses, which includes calcium, iron and magneisum at fairly high levels, and likely other trace minerals too. So it’s a far cry from high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar breakdown is ~53% sucrose, 21% glucose, 23% fructose. But my understanding is that half the sucrose molecule immediately splits into glucose and fructose via the sucralase enzyme, yielding ~47% glucose and ~53% fructose, the fructose heading to the liver to be converted into glucose (and giving it a job to do rather than running on empty). There is also wheat flour in Panda licorice, which AFAIK turns mainly into glucose and a small amount of protein. So it seems that the the total nutritional profile for long distance events really is fairly appropriate.
Seriously, on a long ride, the stuff tastes so good that as long as you don’t overdo it on intake, what tastes good and goes down the hatch is the Right Choice. The Hammer gel approach loses its appeal after 5-6 hours; it just doesn’t work very well on that basis (appeal) for the long events, not as the only caloric source. (Each to his/her own of course). For an 11-hour or 14-hour or 24-hour ride, anything that tastes good, goes down easy, stays down and doesn’t upset the stomach is the right answer.
My favorite is black licorice (the only thing that honors the term), but the red is really good too. Or blueberry. But black is the only real licorice.
The inferior licorices (in name only) out there (most) just don’t cut it compared to the Panda stuff, which I’ll buy in preference over any other brand. Except that it's hard to find in most stores, though Amazon has it.
Another excellent black licorice is the Black Finnish Licorice at nuts.com (where I also buy my black walnuts and pistachios). It has a strong licorice flavor without the nasty ammonia taste of the Norwegian stuff.
The PandaLicorice.com web site uses Flash and so it doesn't work in any of my browsers (not very good marketing to be useless), but maybe it will work for some.
Since 1927 Panda has been producing licorice renowned for its unique flavor and softness. Panda Licorice is made from natural ingredients without preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or white sugar.
New and delicious Panda Blueberry Licorice is made with Real Superfruit Blueberries to create a mouth watering blueberry taste sensation.
Ingredients: Molasses, wheat flour, licorice extract, natural flavor (aniseed oil).
Special diets: Does not contain animal products | Does not contain eggs | Does not contain lactose/milk | Does not contain gelatine/ingredients from pork | Does not contain peanuts | Does not contain soy | Does not contain nuts/almonds
Actually, the nutritional info isn’t half bad for candy— it even has about 3% protein.
These pages updated, in particular the riding notes.
The Autobahn VR has not come off the bike because it has become my all-time favorite wheel. It performed brilliantly in the Solvang Spring Double.
- Lightweight Autobahn VR Overview
- Lightweight Autobahn VR Riding Notes
- Lightweight Autobahn VR Aerodynamic Performance
Prelude — the knee gets irritated
36 hours before the Solvang Spring Double I jogged up my driveway after taking the garbage out and irritated the rear of my knee (probably an old meniscus thing)... rushed down Friday at 11 AM to Health Logic, and by the time I was done at noon it was definitely feeling better (noon). It was not the first time the terrific staff there got me immediate relief for a sudden onset minor injury—highly recommended.
But one cannot expect a cure for an injury in an hour. I still could feel it, and no way did I want to miss Solvang, so I downed 1000mg of aspirin at noon Friday and another 1000 mg at 4pm Friday. By event day (Saturday) at 5:00 AM it was feeling under control and while it nagged a bit for 60 miles or so, it then just went away and I forgot about it. Still there two days later, but clearly healing up well.
My goal was to solo the event: no drafting (none!) for the entire course, a goal I stuck to pointedly to the temporary confusion of Nick (a rider I met) who very politely wanted to pull, which I refused. Times on such events are apples vs oranges when compared to riders who aim for the shortest time by drafting (even two riders is a huge energy savings). Different goals, but my goal was personal best effort metrics.
My other goal was to ride relatively pain free and at that I was shocked and amazed to have no right knee pain, no right quad pain, no foot pain. Just a little sore butt and a mildly tired back—all to be expected. With my recent history, that result alone is cause for me to rejoice: my season is launched with hopes of my best year ever.
A flat slowed me down, stopping to use Stan’s No Tubes plugged it enough to ride, but a goodly number of miles were spent with a ~40 PSI rear tire between pumping; it’s always a tradeoff between peeling off a tubular and just riding one, but the beauty is that 40 PSI still works (just don’t hit any hard edges and damage the rim!).
I’ll be analyzing the ride in some detail, but here is the all-solo-no-drafting effort:
Clock time: ~ 10:28"47
Roll time: ~ 9:52 (approx, exact splits were not recorded)
Conditions were quite different than 2012 (2012 wind was brutal, 2014 helpful) and the course was slightly shorter, but I did manage ~12 watts higher power in 2014 than 2012, a promising metric, since 2012 was my strongest season ever. Power did fade somewhat over the last 50 miles or so, as can be seen in the graph.
Bottom line is that the ride could not have gone better, and I look forward to a very strong season.
Click for larger graph.
I’ve applied and been accepted as a rider in the Four Horsemen of the Solstice, a 24-hour event covering ~250 miles and 30,000+ vertical feet.
The weather is looking very promising but I don’t rule out getting some unpleasant temperature and wind and a little precipitation, so I’ll be sure to take the Endura Helium jacket or if warmer the Capo Cycling LE Wind Vest, a wool cycling cap under my helmet to keep sweat out of my eyes and/or to add warmth, and perhaps mid-weight tights (or lighter version), depending on how the temperature looks in the morning. Always good to be prepared.
While I expect to start at daylight and finish before dark, I’ll at least mount the Lupine Piko and DiNotte 300R tail-light just in case a flat delays me. Reflective ankle bands are probably along for the ride too, but they can do double duty as straps for stuff perhaps.
For a double century a short-sleeve summer jersey under a long-sleeve jersey yields extra pockets to stash food, phone, tools, spare tire, sunglasses, etc. If the temperatures are not too warm, this works quite well and is nicer than carrying anything on back or hips (on a race bike a large saddlebag has few places to go, so I prefer pockets).
Bike and wheels
I’ll be riding my Moots Vamoots RSL road racing bike. The wheel plan barring high winds is the new Lightweight Autobahn VR because I expect it to save me 5 watts or so over the entire distance. But if windy conditions seem likely, the Lightweight VR8 might be pressed into service instead, for its reduced cross-section.
I considered mounting new Veloflex Roubaix tubular tires, but the there is good wear left on the Veloflex Sprinter tubulars on the planned wheels, so the Roubaix tires will have to get their testing in April.
As for the effort level, I am thinking of aiming for about 220 watts steady for the ride, roughly the same average as for the Death Valley Double.
The practice of drafting, or following another cyclist or cyclists and (usually) taking turns in the lead (“pulling”) is time-honored and highly effective. It bestows a huge energy savings— a power meter shows wattage reductions while drafting of 30% or more (25-30% closely drafting a single rider, and approaching 50% in a larger pack). That is of course huge, since aside from energy savings by whatever the numbers, it can drop one’s effort from anaerobic to aerobic.
Drafting in a race
In the Everest Challenge, drafting a competitor is legal so long as it s/he is in the same category. That doesn’t stop cheating, which is not uncommon, and some riders continue it even when advised as such. Indeed, I have more than once advised riders of the rules as I pass, and some choose to ignore them. But those are generally few. To win by cheating is so perverse that I just cannot understand it myself. If a guy does this for a long period and I see it I might report it; s/he should receive a time penalty to be sure.
I follow a simple rule: drafting in a race by taking turns “pulling” makes eminent sense. Drafting and not pulling is technically legal, but it violates the spirit of fair play. Pulling less long or often is justifiable if one is at perceived limits, but to not do it at all is lame. I speak of solo participants, not much more complex team dynamics.
Taking the legal drafting case, I recall the 2012 Everest Challenge effort on a steep uphill into the wind. A competitor was right on my rear wheel. I dodged and weaved in ways that made it plain I didn’t want him there, but this guy stayed on me like glue and would not take a polite hint (he knew exactly what was going on). When after some time I verbalized my displeasure, he finally took the lead and I noted a ~20 watt drop in my power demands (same speed), and that was up a ~10% grade. But the climb was mostly over by then. So his was in theory a smart effort, but at some point it’s devolves into cheating the sense of fair play. If someone does not want to draft/pull together, then I go around or side by side or drop back.
Drafting in an event
In many events, one might see groups of varying sizes from two or three riders pacelining to groups of 20 or even 50 riders. Consider a double century in particular: huge energy savings can be had by gluing oneself onto the back of a 10+ rider pack, to the tune of several miles per hour. Going that fast, when done you assuredly can brag how fast you did XYZ double century because most of the participants end up not drafting over most of the course.
Which is comparing apples to oranges. Comparing an event time based on drafting versus a solo effort speaks to luck or timing or both, not necessarily ability or skill.
Which is why I generally eschew drafting even in distance events (non race events): for me it’s about testing myself, my best effort against my other efforts. If I were to draft, I can’t say how well I really did, and that undermines much of the satisfaction of a fast time, and invalidates metrics against any other solo event. In short, it’s a ride that is degraded in aesthetic and technical value for my purposes.
That’s not to say I never draft in an event; there are times when it might be fun for a few miles. But to find some buddies and plan to draft each other in advance, well it just makes it a different experience. And since I like to do solo events like the Everest Challenge and Four Horsemen of the Solstice, my training schedule relies in part on getting a sense of my actual condition and that cannot be done reliably if drafting for a significant portion of the event.
The 2012 Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge is a case in satisfaction: it was a solo-effort event and I finished 2nd. I don’t have to wonder if I gained 20 minutes (or whatever) by drafting and thus “beat” some poor sap who did not have the drafting opportunity. Because I solo'd it. That’s worth a lot to me.
I traded in my Cannondale Hollogram SL power meter for the new SRM DuraAce 9000 50 X 34 unit. It will go on the bike within the next few days. The 3000 hour battery life makes it an install-and-forget thing.
The Moot Vamoots RSL is still running a 10-speed Shimano DuraAce Di2 drive train and 10-speed chain (as of Spring 2014, see notes on Lightweight wheels also). This combination is working just fine with the DuraAce 9000 crankset.
I’ve applied and been accepted as a rider in the Four Horsemen of the Solstice, a 24-hour event covering ~250 miles and 30,000+ vertical feet.
If figure that completing the Four Horsemen sets me up well for the 2014 Everest Challenge. My intention is to complete it, then ride the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge a week later. If I can do those, perhaps I have a shot at 1st place (men’s masters 45-54) in the 2014 Everest Challenge.
2013 was problematic, but my strong 2012 season I attribute to completing a variety of challenging rides during the season: Death Valley Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge (and Sequoia Century 200K and Trek to the Summit of White Mountain Peak).
Hence my focus on really hard stuff in 2014.
Click for larger.
With the Solvang Sprint Double Century only 2 weeks away, and fitness and power hitting new highs, I figured it was now or never to test myself, to prove out that my legs and feet and hands could handle it, knowing full well that risk of injury was non-zero given less than complete adaptation to my slightly modified cycling position. Still, there was no realistic alternative because jumping to a double century from ~2 hours training rides is a Bad Idea without at least one more strenuous effort to flush out issues.
So I took a day off to let my legs fully recover, and that felt great going out the next day, with what I term “high and effortless power”.
While it was only 3.5 hours, this ride was my longest and hardest of the year, and the climbs were at relatively hard efforts sufficient to force out any serious issues.
I learned a few things:
- Though peak power and anaerobic power need improvement (that’s a summer thing), cardiovascular fitness is already excellent and far superior to last year, to the tune of 20 bpm on the smaller climbs (10:22 and 11:01 efforts at beginning/end). It is also approaching 2012 levels, which was my best-ever year.
- Taking total riding weight into account, ascent times are far in advance of last year and approaching my best year, 2012.
- Leg muscles showed fatigue over the course of the ride, but in spite of this I was able to carry consistently high power even to the end of the ride. The feeling can be recognized as one that responds well to a few punishing rides over the course of the season, which forces adaptive gains.
- Some right leg musculature discomfort. It’s hard to be sure, but this might simply be weak muscles trying to adapt to a relatively new riding position. But it also seems that foot support is lacking and that has to be addressed with an orthotic perhaps (right foot shoe fit and support a longstanding challenge).
- Just a bit of “hot foot” in right shoe, which is perhaps most concerning for a double century. This occurred in 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and so is not new; it is probably related to need for better foot support (orthotic).
Click for larger graph.
I used the Marc Pro muscle stimulator for about an hour after the workout discussed above. The benefits were obvious when done; rather than very stiff legs they felt limber after the treatment, and next-day feel was surprisingly limber.
Normally my legs become very uncomfortable after a hard ride, because I sit down for some hours of computer work. But I’ve figured out how to sit and use the Marc Pro while I work (feet on the foam roller allows the quads to relax while sitting). But with the Marc Pro, no stiffness after these hours of work. A HUGE improvement over the alternative of achy legs I have been used to.
The foam roller after the Marc Pro is a great combination; the muscles are much more pliable and relaxed after the electro stimulation. Great combination.
A change to bike fit was discouraging and painful for the better part of a week, but it seems to be worked out now, involving saddle position and tilt.
The main issue remains my right leg, which over the years has always been the grumpy one, never entirely happy and always unhappy about changes in position or shoes. That leg has always liked to rotate outward (heel in, toe out), whether road or mountain bike, and sometimes it is grumpy one and fine the next. At present, the main issue is muscle pain and some patella achiness, but it all seems to be adaptation-related and not anything ugly like internal joint point. So I am cautiously optimistic.
Bike fit for me is an ongoing project, but I’ve gotten a lot of the twist out of my hips caused by an asymmetric crank in 2012 that resulting in a “windswept” riding position. Still, it is a complex challenge, relating to symmetry on the saddle, foot support and years of baked-in miles.
3DBikeFit.com is patiently helping me through this process. I say “patiently” because I myself am frustrated with my annoyingly reactive right leg. The issue being that neither of my legs likes significant changes all at once (significant for me means anything more than a few millimeters!), so that the “best fit” might mean “can’t handle the change all at once”. Very few people are likely to have my sort of reactive body, but with so many miles and approaching 50 and unrelenting training, that’s just my body to deal with. Moreover, my trouble is that I am attempting to train hard and adapt at the same time, which cannot be recommended for anyone.
Changes with a previous bike fitter a few years prior were equally challenging for me: my body is reactive to changes.
Since I don’t have six months to slowly adapt (aggressive training schedule), I took it upon myself to modify the 3DBikeFit position by taking an intermediate saddle position (e.g., backing out a ~12mm change to a ~5mm change), with the plan of making an additional incremental to the recommended fit with some adapter time in between).
A change to saddle position (~+12mm forward and ~2mm down) caused painful and very discouraging effects for a few days. Though it looked felt fine and good in the lab as per videos (my total agreement on the spot!), on the road my right leg seems to be highly reactive to changes. Something about the way I ride; I seem to weight myself differently depending on slope and power output.
So I backed-out out the change to ~+5mm forward (still ~2mm down), and that is now working very well, once I found the right saddle tilt (see below). That change might not sound like much, but has these measurable benefits:
- Cadence is settling in at about 5 rpm higher; it’s a smoother place to spin.
- Power is up by ~15 watts (probably saddle tilt benefits).
- Hip rotation and stability/support on saddle is now just about perfect.
The point is that position matters a great deal. The 5mm freed me up noticeably, though the saddle tilt was clearly the most critical thing.
The tilt of the saddle and the saddle itself allow the pelvis to rotate into (or not) a powerful position that allows fully (or not) use of the powerful gluteal muscles. If that hip rotation is blocked then the gluteal muscles cannot be fully utilized and power is sub-optimal. Moreover, the gluteal muscles resist fatigue and recover quickly, so using them fully is critical.
As I discovered, the complicating factor is that a bike in the lab (with video) is not the same as on the road for me. I have to tweak the position precisely to be comfortable. In particular, my long torso means that small saddle-angle changes are a big deal for comfort and power:
- Saddle angled down too much and my hands quickly get uncomfortable from taking too much weight;
- A change of 0.5° is significant for me especially in my hands; it has to do with the balance point of my long torso. With up/down/level terrain, there is no perfect position so I literally have to find the right spot to within about 0.1° to feel satisfied.
- Saddle angled up too much and I can’t rotate my hips for optimal power (“blocked”). This presumes a saddle that doesn’t itself block out hip rotation (which kills power from the gluteus, many saddles prevent this hip rotation).
- Saddle position fore/aft (reach) has to match the tilt for just the right balance/support point!
But I finally seems to have gotten the saddle just right:
- Specialized Romin EVO, 155mm width (I have sit bones that are 10-15mm wide than usual, standard saddles do not support my butt properly).
- 532 mm from tip of saddle to center of bar clamp.
- 2.5° downward tilt as measured by an digital inclinometer placed on a flat thin stiff board on saddle for repeatable accuracy of 0.1°. (don’t try to relate this number another saddle; mine looks to be close to level but the rear of saddle rises slightly and that is part of the measurement for this saddle).
As little as 0.2° of saddle tilt is noticeable for hand comfort or hip rotation.
The troublesome factor is that tightening the bolts can make the saddle tilt up to ~1.5°! So tweak and measure with an inclinometer.
Most drivers are prudent, but it’s clear that distracted driving is a serious problem too. Of those situations, some are aggressive drivers, a few are mentally disturbed malicious individuals*, but taking the troublesome minority of drivers as a group, most are simply careless or impatient (an “accident”). Hence my concern about iOS in a car leading to distracted driving.
Along comes Apple with the idea that iOS in the car is a good idea (Apple CarPlay). Since when are messaging and videos and similar distractions a good combination with driving, particularly with teenagers? Teenagers tweeting in cars and watching videos and status updates from friends with built-in iOS makes me nervous. As did a recent incident with two teenage girls gyrating wildly (including the driver) to “do you wanna be my lover” while tailgating the car ahead and passing me on my bicycle. OMG.
Though one might already bow in defeat to the reality of iPhone (ab)use in vehicles already, it is a fair question to ask how many people will end up dead or mangled as a result of inappropriate usage once the idea is accepted by virtue of it being a built-in part of driving. That number is not going to be zero.
To be fair to Apple, it is a general issue and someone is going to do it anyway. I don’t have the answers here, but driving and iOS-like technologies aren’t likely to ever be a good idea. Maybe a multi-way proximity sensor that shuts off functionality would make some mitigation sense, and while I abhor tracking, a “black box” recorder noting usage of messaging and similar features could be appropriate for determining culpability, including criminal culpability, so “accident” is not an excuse.
* In one encounter I was hit by a disturbed individual who the CHP neglected to even ticket in spite of a witness shocked by what he saw. That disturbed driver caused an indirect death (heart attack) in a road-rage incident ~2 years later.
A squirrel and a cyclist
This image was taken near my mailbox. I walked out to retrieve my mail, and I was shocked to see this alert creature full of life squashed right before my very eyes. Like a light switch shut off, only a one-way deal. I did not want to photograph it (a sort of awful feeling), but as an act of will, I did so.
About two months ago, it might have been me—literally 30 feet away. As I was about to turn left into my very own driveway on my sleepy 25mph street, an impatient driver (quite young) went by me at 35 mph or so, over on the wrong side of the road nearly hitting the left curb passing me (I was doing ~20 mph myself). Only a last backward glance kept me from being crumpled the same way, a glance-habit I have now ingrained, generally as a “double double” glance (two directions, twice). And it’s why I take a dim view of iOS installed in a moving deadly weapon.
My riding impressions of the Lightweight Autobahn VR in terms of power savings and aerodynamics are now online.
See also the Autobahn VR overview and initial impressions.
There are some things out there with regards to power meters, seemingly perpetuated by those who don’t own one, or who cannot separate cost from value.
Having used the SRM power meters for three years now (about 30,000 miles), I can vouch that they are reliable, and that includes the crankset and the PC7 head unit.
Specifications are not performance, and reliability is the total system over time. New stuff can sound good on paper, but my long experience with Stuff of all kinds makes me wary of paper claims.
Let’s take one downright goofy “issue” bandied about: user-replaceable batteries for a power meter.
- The new Pioneer power meter has a ~180 hour battery life, with user-replaceable CR2032 batteries.
- The SRM power meters have a 3000 hour battery life.
Consider that '3000' hours number fist: that’s two hours of training for 1500 days = 4.1 years training two hours a day. For me that would be about 37,500 miles and I would have long since worn out the chainrings. Yet battery life is an “issue”? It’s ludicrous to call that a legitimate concern.
Now consider the 180 hour battery life of the new Pioneer unit (claimed, to be proven out with real use). In reality, once usage goes beyond 130 hours or so, that nagging thought pops up before a trip or race: maybe the battery is further long than it ought to be?
So to be sure, it has to be replaced! And you have to do this 16 times over the same time span as that 3000-hour SRM, even if you took it to 180 hours each time, which you don’t because you start to worry around 150 hours, which is much more realistic.
Then the chances of not getting the Pioneer unit sealed up properly (a worn or damaged gasket, gasket not fitted in quite right, etc) means that the chances of a failure go WAY UP from water leakage. Moreover, the time wasted replacing batteries could be spent riding, or drinking red wine. And the batteries are neither free nor free of some losses over several years. And with two transmitters and two batteries (one in each crank), the risk of an issue is in reality doubled. That is the Way Stuff Works in the Real World.
The SRM approach is far superior in my book—long term trouble-free operation.
Pioneer Electronics has a new power meter on the market.
The Pioneer offering is intriguing “on paper”: it measures power from both cranks and there is a head unit can display the power from each crank independently. Moreover it supports a wide variety of DuraAce and Ultegra cranks.
- Total weight is hard to understand given all the parts and the two different head units. Mounting bracket for the head unit is another not-stated weight.
- Mounting looks relatively complicated, with magnets on both sides and two two transmitters. My concern would reliability over time as well as whether the 2% accuracy (no mention of precison) figure means no more than 2% between crank arms.
- The per-crank power readout is of keen interest to me in optimizing my pedaling, assuming the two measurements are as accurate as claimed. As is the stated 12-point measurement system (every 30° of rotation).
- Iit seems that it is a system has to be installed on a user-supplied crank, which makes its price closer to the SRM offering than one might otherwise realize.
- ANT based wireless.
- Battery life of ~180 hours at normal temperatures is about 1/16 as long as the latest SRM offering (3000 hours), but is a user-replaceable CR2025. I’m not thrilled about battery swapping; all my experience tells me that the risk of water leaks goes up every time something is opened (gaskets wear). 180 hours is only 90 days of riding for me.
- 2 year warranty vs 3 year worldwide warranty for SRM.
- Software support is online (Cyclo-Sphere “cloud” software “Robust and Effective Post Ride Cloud Based Analysis”). Which means an internet upload is required to make use of the recorded data. The analysis sample shows some promise in data analysis, but as soon as the window is refreshed, all my sizing changes (of a graph) reset back to the small size. The presented data also looks quite choppy even with smoothing.
My initial impression of support is not a good one, simply based on trying: I was frustrated in finding any means to inquire (press or customer) short of a detailed generic form for all Pioneer products.
A product is the total of the hardware, its track record of reliability, support, software, etc. As it stands, the premium for an SRM power meter still looks well worth it to anyone who values proven reliability with support. For me, a power meter is a serious tool. I’m not looking to save money by compromising the experience, which makes assessing such a new product quite a challenge.
There is a new SRM head unit and software coming in late summer, and I expect this will raise the SRM game in several ways. SRM support has been terrific and the reliability has been outstanding. While the software has its shortcomings, its simple and fast to use. It takes a lot to sway me in another direction.
As there is a hub-body offset difference between 10-speed and 11-speed DuraAce, this had been an open question. PAB installed an 11-speed freehub body onto a Lightweight-brand rear wheel and checked it out on an 11-speed DuraAce bike.
Conclusion from PAB: other than inner cogs being ~1mm closer to spokes, everything sits in pretty much the same place and there should be excellent compatibility.
This is excellent news for me, as I have four rear wheels, and I was very concerned that this would present a difficult barrier to ever moving to 11-speed DuraAce. While I’m in no hurry to switch, it’s nice to know that the cost of doing so won’t involved replacing four rear wheels!
I had an interesting conversation with SRM today, the SRM power meters having been reliable solutions for me over years on Moots Vamoots RSL and Moots Psychlo X RSL and other bikes prior (one bad Reed switch quickly fixed last year, nothing’s perfect).
I learned several things which might not be news to all, but bear repeating:
- The latest DuraAce 9000 / DuraAce 9050 compacts can take interchangeable crank arm lengths without any recalibration of the SRM needed, though these are a special crank arm made for SRM by Shimano (Shimano FC-SR70).
The rings can also be swapped out for another size.
- The DA 9000/9050 battery life is up to a whopping 3000 hours, which is good for many years of life (2 hours a day or riding = 1500 days = 4 years), which is a very long lifetime).
- A new PC8 head unit is due out in late summer which will support ANT and GPS and Stages power cranks, the latter being exciting to me so I can run power on my mountain bikes, which I’ve long wanted.
Nothing shifts like DuraAce and so maybe I will bite the bullet and get one set up with 172.5mm crank arms, but also with a set of 170mm crank arms because I want to try the 170mm size once my body (legs) settle down.
See also Pioneer Electronics power meter.
50 X 34 Praxis rings, 172.5mm cranks. $2000 / best offer.
Update: I’ve sent this crank into SRM to see if it can be updated to the latest model (looks like it can be, but confirming). If so, that's a big plus.
Praxis rings on it are new as of ~May 2013, and the SRM itself was serviced with new battery in July 2013, so it’s good to go for a long time (in other words, very low wear on the rings and not much run time on the battery). Parts used for installation in the PressFit 30 bottom bracket included.
You will need the SRM head unit or a Garmin or so on to get the power readings.
I’ve been feeling leaner, including the pinch test in key indicator places (hip, mid-stomach, inside thigh). All such thing pointed to notably lower body fat, and my legs have shown a big ramp up in power and endurance over multi-day periods.
But the scale stayed stubbornly limited in range. A clustering with downtrend, but one simply not reflecting the additive daily caloric deficit very well.
But about four days ago I sensed that I was poised for a bump down in weight—the way I tend to drop the pounds is frustrating with the nothing-happens-for-3-weeks thing, then a sudden drop, as if the body “lets go” of a “set point” and lets it drop 2-3 pounds down to a new set point (resistance level), all in the course of a week or so.
Well hydrated the past two days, this morning’s weight dropped below 175, a key area of resistance for me personally, as the 3-year graph shows. I am “pushing” on it hard now in training, my goal being to hit late spring at ~170 or so, so that I can do the Four Horsemen of the Solstice and Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge Double leaned-out. Because carrying even one more pounds up 30,000 or 20,500 feet really does matter.
For the Everest Challenge, I’d really like to hit a sea-level weight of 165, which would put me around 162 for the race, which translates to 15-20 minutes faster than 2012, all things being equal. Minus ~5 minutes for heavier bike parts this year (DuraAce SRM crank) = 10-15 minutes faster just by being leaner.
Click for larger graph. Notes below.
Notes on the graph above:
- It’s much easier to maintain a large caloric deficit when relatively overweight, so long as fitness allows a substantial calorie “burn” each day. As the body get leaner, it holds onto fat stores more and more stubbornly. Losing 2 pounds at 20% body fat is far easier than doing that at 8% body fat. This is seen at left of graph where your author started at about 22% body fat in 2011.
- If hungry too much of the time, you’re either over-efforting (starving yourself) or eating too much or eating the wrong foods and/or eating food the wrong way. Starving yourself in particular is hugely counterproductive, because the body burns off muscle and goes into survival mode.
- Body weight can fluctuate as much as 5 pounds for a ~180 pound male: hydration, 3 pounds of bulky food in the gut, fluid retention after very hard workouts, etc. That is why graphing is critical, it lets you be rational about the trend, which is all that matter.
- The “set point” effect is readily seen in the sideways clustering of many points. It can be very frustrating to break out of such patterns. Two things can help. First, maintain an average caloric deficit of 300-500 calories and track your weight properly and graph it. Eat more when the body cries out, but do not eat much beyond +300.
Second, throw in days that do not allow you to “eat it back”: a century will burn off 1/2 pound of fat for sure, a double century a full pound. It won’t come back and you wont’t be hungry, because you can still eat enough to feel full.
- The deep plunges in Sept 2011, Sept 2012, August 2013 correspond to acclimatizing at 10,000 - 11,000 feet just before the Everest Challenge.
My body always and without fail sheds ~3 pounds and stays there at hour ~36 or so after going to altitude. It is not dehydration in the normal sense; it is a physiological adaptation probably associated with the “spleen dump” of red blood cells; urine is clear and fluid intake is ample, peeing is a nuisance for the first 48 hours. Returning to sea level, the effect reverses just as quickly. See Acclimatizing for the Everest Challenge and Acclimatizing to Altitude.
Sometime training goes on and it seems interminable, with good days, mediocre days, days that just suck overall. And then there are days that show that all the effort has paid off. Today was such a day for me, after two solid months of disciplined effort.
My legs were toast yesterday, with achiness and suffering from 4-5 days of moderately-high wattage but 2 hour rides, taking a steady toll. Following my rule of “ride every day but cut to 1/2 or 1/3 duration when flagging”, I cut my workout to 1/3 of normal, but I also did the following:
- Used the Marc Pro muscle stimulator for about 20 minute on my aching quads.
- Did my usual daily foam roller bit (reduces some of the achiness, relaxes tight muscles).
- Got ~11 hours of sleep. I’m finding that sleep is critical at my late middle age. Still strong, but if I get 8 hours instead of 10 hours after a hard workout day, my body cannot cope with more than 2-3 good workouts before getting cranky quads and gluteus.
Holy cow. The combination worked, as I had the strongest workout of the year, what I refer to as “free flowing power”: it takes an effort, but a moderately hard effort seems easier than the day before with 'toast legs', and yet the power was ~70 watts higher (e.g., ~270 watts vs 200 watts). The power of sleep and recovery and perhaps, the Marc Pro, which definitely made those aching quads feel much better the night before and the next day’s recovery (after several days of achiness) were pretty awesome.
I’m rather excited: things are lining up for a very strong season because the feeling is that I’ve just nudged into Tier 2 (see below), and it’s only late February. While my right leg musculature remains a little cranky, I think it will sort out, and unlike last year, no knee issues or shoulder surgery to kill the training season.
Training has its seasonalities and setbacks. I bucket my fitness into four groups:
- Peak condition (Tier 1): just before the Everest Challenge: high power output, everything can take a beating for 4 or 5 days and feel decent, double centuries or similar feel decent, leaned-out to 7-8% body fat. Awesome place to be, very hard to stay there.
- Tier 2: sub-peak condition, very strong, endurance very strong but not yet at its peak, peak power not yet there (off by 5% or so); abusive workouts less well tolerated, times 5% or so off best. Carrying 3-4 pounds extra body fat, which is still very noticeable vs leaned-out Tier 1.
- Tier 3: late winter/ early spring: endurance very good, but 3-4 hours at moderate intensity is still a solid workout. Carrying 5-8 pounds extra body fat, which sucks when ascending.
- Tier 4: winter / off season: up to 10 extra pounds, reasonably strong but endurance well off the mark, reduced peak power by 15% or so, recovery not so great after moderately hard 2 hour workout.
SRM power graphs
Entire workout: 258 watts @ 139 bpm (includes downhills section pedaling, excludes a few minutes of begin/end nothing).
Click graph to view larger. All power figures are smooth at 1% in SRMMac.
The first 86 minutes: 269 watts @ 142 bpm.
A sort of negative split with power increasing slightly to end.
The next day
I used the Marc Pro muscle stimulator for about half an hour for recovery the evening after the workout discussed above. I was impressed with how good my legs felt the next day, and I am sure that the Marc Pro helped. They were not recovered fully (an unreasonable expectation), but but how did they do?
Here is the next day’s workout. A warmup into a 22:00 climb of OLH felt like a hard effort with legs not at full spec, but remarkably doable. That was followed by an aerobic spin, though a flat tire interrupted it as I nursed it home*. I followed that workout up with the Marc Pro again, and it really made my legs feel more relaxed and less achy. The Marc Pro works.
* A glass cut meant that the Stan’s NoTubes didn’t get me far; I had to peel the tire and use my spare tubular). See Stans NoTubes Sealant for Repair of Tubular Tires. The sealant had saved this tire twice before in weeks prior, but this 6mm long cut from glass was just too big a gash. May there be a Dante-ring for the dirt bags who drink and throw bottles out the window.
Click for larger graph.
And the next
Using the Marc Pro muscle stimulator on the 2nd day’s workout, I could feel the ache disappear when done. And I’ll be darned if a 3rd solid workout did not follow in turn. The legs were not fully recovered, but they could make good power and keep it turned on. The Marc Pro is a very beneficial recovery aid, and this can be felt in relief from achy muscles as soon as the session is done.
Shown below is the Lightweight Autobahn front wheel with a Lightweight Standard (Lightweight Mielenstein) on the rear. The Autobahn VR is similar to a favorite of mine, the Lightweight VR8, though the VR8 has the rim depth of the Standard.
|Rim depth:||81 mm|
|Rim width:||19.5 mm|
|Tire width:||19-27 mm|
|Max system weight:||90 kg|
With about 200 miles on the Autobahn front wheel, I’m really liking it:
- No hard numbers, but it feels fast. Glances at the speedo suggest that I’m not going slower by any means. Hazarding a guesstimate based on power meter, I’m estimating a savings of somewhere around 5 watts or so at 25 mph, and maybe 10 watts at 32 mph or so (versus my already good other front wheels). Very rough guesses based on power meter readings.
- It’s a terrific wheel on descents, such as upper paved Alpine Road in my local area; I can rip down with great confidence in supremely precise handling with the Autobahn.
- It requires more attention to cross winds, and no riding with hands off the bar (!), but it is much more stable than I had thought it might be, meaning it can be an everyday choice. Its mass of 840 grams is 85% that of a the set of Obermayer wheels (figures without tire or skewer). Which gives it enough inertia to resist buffeting much better than I had expected, so much so that I’m riding it every day. I have yet to experience a strong side-wind, but wind in my face or a angled cross winds are A-OK.
- Comfort is excellent.
It’s a terrific wheel that is far more versatile than I had imagined. Probably hugely undersold for its capabilities based on what I’m feeling on the road. I’ll probably just keep riding it every day, because so far no wind conditions have been problematic.
The Everest Challenge is a 10-month training effort, at least to be competitive. But for me to have a chance at the podium (Men’s Masters 45-54) this year requires not only disciplined training for endurance and power, but maximizing the power-to-weight ratio for those grueling climbs. Well, and my right leg has to cooperate and it’s being cranky at present, but no joint issues at least.
It means getting my body weight down to a stretch goal of 165 (sea level), 168 being acceptable, but no higher. Those figures mean body fat of around 6%, which my body finds quite unappetizing and fights all the way down, getting more and more efficient at utilizing calories (steady-state for me is around 12% even with a good amount of exercise). It means breaking through 2 or 3 “set points”; weights which the body does not like to drop below. For me that’s generally 180, 174, 170 pounds. And it means doing so while losing fat and minimizing muscle loss.
Recording weight every morning and graphing it is essential to ensure staying on track because 2-3 pound variations can occur, which can be discouraging. But with daily recording a trend emerges and this is a psychological boost and motivator. Or a chance to correct course: I had a devilishly hard time losing any weight in December/January though maybe my body was trading some fat for some muscle (so I hope). But I saw that it wasn’t working, so I dropped the red wine which was wrecking my daily deficit.
So I’ve refocused my efforts, which means counting calories (weighing to the gram for accurate intake figures), using kilojoules => calories from my SRM power meter for highly accurate energy expenditure figures, and most challenging, always being a little hungry. It took me a few weeks to refresh this skill which does not come easy: it means constantly being aware of whether it’s real hunger or busy-eating.
Click graph to view larger.
Cleaning out the garage. Lightly ridden tubular wheel in great shape.
- ZIPP 404 rear tubular wheel with mounted tire.
- Shimano DuraAce 12-27 cassette, lightly used, little wear.
- Included glued-on tire (several years old, recommended to peel tire, but has very little usage).
Asking $700 off as shown. See also SRM Hollowgram for sale.
Click for larger image.
So much for warm weather—off the bike for two days amid the drizzle. Tomorrow, it’s a ride day whether its pouring rain or not.
I’m mapping out my 2014 rides to prepare for the 2014 Everest Challenge.
I had a strong season in 2012 that I attribute in good measure to completing a variety of challenging rides during the season: Death Valley Double, Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double, Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge (and Sequoia Century 200K and Trek to the Summit of White Mountain Peak).
So this year my plan is to emulate that approach, though Death Valley Double has been cancelled by employess of the NPS jobs program.
The one ride I am unsure of as yet (my right leg has to be in full agreement) is the Four Horsemen of the Solstice (invitation only, see also AntiGravity calendar). Essentially, it is the Everest Challenge+extra in one day.
Check out the mid-winter temperature gradient (purple line, which hits 81°F). The colder temps are in the shade/canyon, but still 60° F and above. Summer jersey riding in late January.
This is by far the best winter training in 30 years. But the hills are still brown like summer.
1/2 mile from home, my tire was slashed open in the same spot as a few months ago. Tubular or not the tire was toast. But a pinhole leak in the front tire was plugged nicely by Stan’s No Tubes; see my Tubular Tires and Punctures.
As I’ve aged, I find that I am less and less tolerant of late-nighters, a situation I too often find myself in from my 80 hour work week (many years now). Not that all-nighters ever felt good even in my 20's.
Hence this article from the BBC that resonated for me:
The human body has its own natural rhythm or body clock tuned to sleep at night and be active during the day.
It has profound effects on the body, altering everything from hormones and body temperature to athletic ability, mood and brain function.
Blood tests showed that normally 6% of genes - the instructions contained in DNA - were precisely timed to be more or less active at specific times of the day.
I’m always skeptical of small or one-off studies, and this study involved only 22 people, so by itself it should be greeted with skepticism. However, it certainly meshes with “feeling lousy” if I stay up a bit too late.
Three strong days in a row bode well when getting lousy sleep and having had a private celebration last night in which a bottle of champagne* was consumed for refueling. :;
Check out that mid-winter temperature gradient!
* Translation for French readers: sparkling wine.
My heart rate readings (red line) have bene showing these annoying spikes lately. I’m unsure if its interference or something else. My max is ~175 bpm.
Winter here in California is the warm and unfriendly kind.
Check out the temperature gradient (purple) in the graph below: 30 minutes into the ride the sun has set over the hills and I’m wearing a summer jersey and not cold at all. I’ve had colder rides in the middle of July. But this is the dead of winter.
And so it goes for weeks now—a terrific drought from a high pressure blocking ridge which is delivering absolutely perfect riding weather.
There will be nasty consequences for California (and the nation) this year if the blocking ridge doesn’t move aside and let some torrential winter storms roll in. Fields will have to be fallowed, rationing becomes a certainty in many areas, fire risk is already serious, maybe even the trout in my favorite Yosemite creek will be killed off as the normally dry watercourse goes entirely dry.
The graph below is 68 minutes of an 81 minute workout; it shows a strong effort (for me) this time of year (231 watts at heart rate of 134 bpm).
The training effects are already showing up as higher wattage at a lower heart rate; I typically see a 10-15 beat drop in heart rate for the same wattage from poorest to peak condition over the course of the year. So far, things are looking positive for a very strong year, though I’m having real difficulty losing any weight. Hopefully that’s fat loss and muscle gain trading places! But my body just hates being starved in the winter; I think it’s hormonal and tied to seasonal cues of sunlight and similar.
Note on graph: my heart rate readings have bene showing these annoying spikes lately. I’m unsure if its interference or something else.