New Biking Equipment for 2016

Even though 2016 has been a slow year for cycling (see my previous write up, Getting Back to Business in a Slow Year), I did do some upgrades to the bike earlier this year. I was in the market for a new power meter and I decided to go with the PowerTap C1. Besides the new power meter, I’ve been checking out the Wahoo Elemnt and waiting for it to become available for sale. The specs look great and looked to be just what I needed (or wanted). Finally it became available on-line, so I dropped some plastic on it and had it delivered.

POWERTAP C1

I may have talked about this power meter before but I’ll go over it again anyways (see Things to Come). After my last Conquer the Coast ride, my previous power meter failed on me on the harsh chip seal roads of the Corpus Christi area. It only came to life over the smooth sections of the route, but that vast majority it didn’t work because of the mount I was using and the excessive vibrations. What’s the big deal you ask? Well, if you do all of your training by power you become dependant on it on the long rides to pace myself. The last thing I want to do is to blow out your legs early in the ride. You gotta make your legs last till you make it back to the finish line.

What I should have done is establish the intensity zones with heart rate as a backup system and ride using the heart rate as a guide. Either way, I made it back but I was struggling. I had to force myself to slow down and conserve my energy but in the meantime I wanted to stay ahead of certain cyclists. It’s that competitive spirit that we all have. I knew then that a new power meter was in order.

Knowing that I wanted a new power meter gave me an incentive to research the options and price points. To help narrow the list I excluded any of the built-in pedal types. They are both expensive and require me changing my shoes to the kind I don’t like. I love my mountain bike shoes and the ability to walk normally off the bike.

Then there are the power meter like the Stages, PowerBeat and 4iii. While they are at a good price point they measure the output of a single leg. This might be a personal preference, but to me I’d rather stick with the whole power measurements and not worry about left only or left/right combo. Seems like more problems to deal with.

Looking at DC Rainmaker’s list, I narrowed my list to the PowerTap system. I just had to decide the Hub or the Chainring (C1). I figured the Hub version would take longer to install and/or cause problems since the wheel would have to rebuilt. With that in mind I ordered the C1 unit and had my local bike shop (Bicycle World RGV) install it for me.

With over a thousand miles on the C1 I can say that I made a good decision. At the 1087 mile mark the unit started to get erratic with my bike computer. The output would all of a sudden drop out and after a few minutes it would then reappear. As the days went along the problem got worse until I couldn’t pair up the C1 with my bike computer. The only thing I could do was to change the battery with a new one and see what happens. Ten minutes later and it paired up again. Two days later it dropped out. Bummer 🙁

An email to tech support got a new C1 mailed to me. All I had to do was to replace it and send the old one back with the enclosed shipping label. When it arrived, my bike shop had it installed in less than thirty minutes! I now have over 200 miles on the new system and it’s working perfectly.

Gasket photo IMG_6708.png

Battery Gasket

Some observations on the C1 unit. The power meter is set it and forget it. You only need to calibrate once and that’s it. There are no settings, switches or buttons to mess with. Changing the battery is easy but you have to be careful putting the cover back on. Being sloppy when installing the battery cover can lead pinching the gasket or worse cutting it in half. I got it right once, but messed it up when I replaced the battery a third time to troubleshoot the problem I had and ended up tearing it. To me, placing the gasket as part of the cover would have been a better method. Perhaps that was tried out first and it didn’t work out. In any case, changing the battery is not something one does often.

I still think I made a good decision on the PowerTap C1 power meter.

WAHOO ELEMNT

Wahoo Elemnt - Boot up photo Elemnt_Bootup.jpg

Wahoo Elemnt – Boot Up

My other major change is the switch from my Magellan Cyclo 505c to the Wahoo Fitness Elemnt bike computer. The Magellan unit is a great bike computer that I really like but the new Elemnt is way better. The software development cycle alone shows that Wahoo is serious in squashing bugs and adding enhancements. With the Magellan we had to live with bugs for at least six months before a new update is finally released. Not so with Wahoo, they are on monthly schedule for updates! Gone are the months of waiting for an update that hopefully fixes an issue.

Besides the timely updates, the Elemnt is so easy to configure the pages with the data you want to see. Forget about using the bike computer and clicking through menu after menu, what a headache! Now, you use an application on your phone to go to the page, see the current list of sensor outputs and rearrange, add/subtract as you see fit. It automatically updates the Elemnt on the spot, even if you are in the middle of a ride. Why other manufacturers haven’t thought of that is beyond me.

The Element supports ANT+ and BLE protocols and you can mix and match as needed. If your device supports both, pair it up with ANT+ first. It just works better that way. So far I got my PowerTap C1 (ANT+), Wahoo Tickr (BLE), Shimano Di2 (ANT+) and the basic speed/Cadence combo (ANT+) all hooked up and working fine.

Wahoo Elemnt - Main page photo Elemnt_Front_Main.jpg

Wahoo Elemnt – Main Page

That wasn’t the case last month when the Elemnt began dropping sensor readings in the middle of the ride. My power readings would just blank out for a few seconds then it would reconnect and start working again. Same thing for all the other sensors. This was also the same period that my power meter failed so that added to the confusion. Normally, a bug like this you would have to wait for months before the manufacture came out with an update but as I said before, Wahoo is on a monthly update cycle so I didn’t have to wait long for a fix to be issued. There were a lot of moaning and groaning on the forums about this but that was put to rest with the latest update.

People are used to waiting for six months to a year for a patch to be released, so I think their first instinct is to moan and groan because they are expecting a dead product for many months to come. I think they forget about the fast turnaround on patches and have forgotten how to be patient. Then again, some people will not be happy unless the president of the company personally calls them up on the phone to discuss the issues. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

Wahoo Elemnt - Back photo Elemnt_Back.jpg

Wahoo Elemnt – Back

I’m happy with the Elemnt. It has tons of features such as, easy to use, easy to configure (using your phone), easy to read the display during mid-day, water resistant, good battery life (could be better though), pair it up with iPhone (Android coming soon) to display text messages and phone calls and regular monthly software updates. After a ride you can use your phone to upload the workout to your favorite site or have it use the built-in wi-fi connection. It even reminds you to charge the battery if the battery drops below a certain charge. The bike computer has so many features that it’s hard to list them out, so I encourage you to go check out the Wahoo Elemnt for full details.

One thing I want to point out, you only pair the Elemnt up to your phone when making changes to the display, performing a live feed (follow me on the map while I ride) or uploading a ride to Strava or some other site. These are the only tether to the phone, otherwise, it can run wild on its own.

So there you have it. Only two major biking equipment changes for this year. I must be slowing down or something. A new power meter and a new bike computer are the changes worth chatting about so far. Who knows what the future holds for me, but for now, I’m happy with what I got.

Drop me a line if you have questions about either item.

Getting Back to Business in a Slow Year

It’s been a long time since my last post and a lot has happened. I’ve been mostly off the bike ever since my Mom got sick and passed away. Afterwards, I thought I could get back on and start riding again but life got in the way once more. Prostate biopsies, a cardiac issue forced me off the bike again.  It was a period of Dr after Dr after Dr visits that I went through to get where I’m at now.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer was a real surprise for me but I always that of it as a nuisance issue that got in the way of my cycling. I was extremely lucky that it was caught in such an early stage. It was so early that it barely registered as cancer. Nevertheless, I still had to go through the procedures of biopsies and PSA tests on a regular basis (they call it  Active Surveillance). That meant many Dr visits for tests, test results, biopsies, biopsy results which leads to time off the bike. Nothing consistent. A week here then time off then another week or two before anther Dr visit. My last biopsy turned out to be negative for cancer so I’m happy!

A Cardiac Issue

During one of my regular scheduled doctor visit she noticed a murmur in my heart! Yikes! “What now?”, I thought to myself. Well here we go again, another doctor to see. I swear there is a doctor for every part of the body. So far I have the family doctor, urologist, Gastrologist and now a cardiologist. I’m not a happy camper at this point.

After several visits and my conversations with my nurse friend my cardiologist says I’m fine. The final test, the stress test, showed no issues with my heart or vascular system. What a relief that was!

Current Time

So here I am in late June with only 1,487 miles on the road and overweight. I’m on track to reach 3000 miles for the year, far short of the 5000 miles that I originally planned for. Currently, I’m in the middle of one of my training plans from TrainingPeaks and is going well. This will help me establish a rhythm and start cycling on a regular basis. Usually, I take off right after work around 5:30ish so that I can get used to the heat. By the time I get back to the car it has cooled off a little bit but I do get in a sweaty workout. During the week the ride times vary from 1 hr to 1.5 hours with my longer rides ramping up to 3 plus hours. For those, I’m starting to get up early so that I can get most of the ride in before noon time. Long rides still gives me the hardest time. It’s all physiological nothing more. That’s one hurdle I’ll have to work though as the year progresses.

I still ride alone and I find it the best way to actually get in proper training on the bike rather than group rides. I tried a group ride last weekend. My training for the day was a 3:15 Endurance pace ride so I said, “What the hell, let me try the group ride.” While it was a fun ride it had no training value for me. Way too much stop and go and slower pace. I even tried to go to a big gear so that I can get the prescribed intensity level and while it worked for a bit, I always ended up backing off because I was over taking the group. When ever I could I would fall back so that I can ride alone and not get a draft. Way too much trouble. I’ll leave the group rides when I just want to have a fun day that way I’ll enjoy the ride better.

Eating is still a big problem for me and I need to focus on lowering my food intake, especially in the evenings. That’s when I tend to over eat. What can I say, I love food! Hopefully things will start falling into place after several training plans to jump-start myself into a better me.

So yes, it has a been a slow year for me but I see things turning around the second half of the year. I just need to get back into a rhythm of cycling, planks and eating better which will result in losing weight. My clothes will fit better and I will feel better about myself. That is certainly worth looking forward to.

My next post should be about the Wahoo Elemnt (yes, it is spelled that way) bike computer. See you then!

In Memory of my Mom

Marfa ID Booklet

Mom’s ID Card at the Marfa Airbase

Last Monday, my Mom passed away early that morning. She lived to be 90 years old and was closing in on her 91st birthday. She lived a long fruitful life raising six children.

During WWII she contributed to the effort as a Rosie the Riveter working on aircraft landing gear. She was very proud doing that and it always brought back memories when I showed her pictures of aircraft of that era. She talked about how she used to get rides on the planes and how thrilling it was. After meeting my Dad and getting married they moved down to the Valley to live and raise their family. Later she started going to school to get her degree in Education so that she could become a teacher. She started as a teacher’s aid at the Jr High school in Mission. Later, she went on to teach at Cantu elementary and in Alton as well. Eventually she got her Masters degree in Education at A&I in Kingsville. She did all of this while maintaining a full house, and working at the same time. She was a student, a teacher, a great mom and a faithful wife all rolled into one package. Overall, she was with the Mission CISD for 19 years! It is rare these days for someone to commit to one employer but, that’s the way it was back then.

I mention her being a teacher because as I was cleaning out a file cabinet, that she used to store documents, I ran across a handwritten essay that she wrote back in 1984 while she was going to school. I read the title and found it interesting so, I proceeded to read it. I went ahead and copied the essay and now present it here unedited.


The Least Age I Would Like to Be

 
By Ella Garza
Ed. 593
Dr. Manual Salinas
February 20, 1984
I can just picture myself an elderly woman eighty years old. Isn’t that the age when most people, who have otherwise been healthy and independent, start declining in health and mental capability? On the other hand, I would say yes. By then I will have been admitted to a so called rest home where your life style changes completely because of all the rules that you have to abide by. Where they tell you when to wake up, when to eat, when to bathe and when to turn off the light at night. Life in a rest home is so different and so strange that I am just having a terrible time getting adjusted to it.
Why am I in a rest home? I am in a rest home because my retirement check of a mer $300.00 a month is not enough to make me self-supporting. My children who are all grown up, married and with a family of their own are financially unable to support me and to care for me at home. There’s also the problem of my health which has been deteriorating very fast the last few years. The strokes that I suffered recently has required that I get special medical attention which is available only at rest homes for the price that I can afford to pay. However, this place that I am confined to is so crowded and so understaffed that you do not always get the attention that you need when you need it. My illness has deprived mess much of my independence that now I have to rely on the medical staff to help me with my personal needs. But, of course, this is one of the consequences of being old and is the price that we have to pay for being part of the human race.
Sometimes I feel that I have been neglected and not being loved anymore by anyone. Days seem like weeks and weeks seem like years when my children don’t come to see me but, of course, this is only a side effect of my illness and my feebleness. My children do come to visit me often, even those that live far away, and so do my priest and members of my church. They do visit me every week and bring me flowers or some other gift to perk me up. Then tire’s the social worker that comes at least once a month to see that I’m getting the proper services that are available to people like me.
In concluding I might say that life is not what I would want it to be, but again it is not all that bad. Thanks to all the friends and concerned people that surround me.

For her efforts, my Mom got a B+ for the assignment.

It’s an interesting perspective of what she was thinking back in 1984 and how close she was in her prediction of the future. We never put my Mom in that rest home she was writing about, there was no need to. She stayed active and lived in her house for as long as her 90 years of life would allow. It was her decision to go to a Hospice Facility and we supported her on it.

We all love our Moms and I’m no different. She will be missed by many and by me.

Bye Mom, I Love You!