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 ūüôĀ

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.

Wahoo Kickr: How I setup mine

Old man winter has visited the lower Rio Grande Valley and while it’s nothing like those in the Northern states it does affect me. Cold, windy and rainy days has kept me indoors for the past several months. I have managed hop out on the those 60+ degree days and put in some relaxing miles but otherwise, I’m indoors on my trainer. Oh no, the dreaded trainer you say. Not for me, I actually like riding my trainer and I’ve seen the improvements already on a couple of rides. Today, I’m going to describe my setup and what I do with my Wahoo Kickr.

What is a Kickr? Sounds like some car speakers or something but it’s not. It’s an indoor trainer for your bike from Wahoo. When I first saw this I knew I had to get one. It was a little pricey but I saved up for it and purchased one and it has been worth it. What makes it so great? ¬†There are several reasons:

  • Sturdy
  • Power Based
    • ERG Mode
    • Manual Mode
  • Quiet
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth support
  • Incredible apps to control it

There are many ways to use it and any other trainer but this how I settled on taking advantage of it.

EQUIPMENT

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

Wahoo Kickr Setup

There is more to it than just having the Kickr and a bike. You need a plan and support tools to go with it and or any trainer to be successful. Here is a rundown of the software and other equipment that I use to get my business done:

  • Kickr
  • Bike
  • Music Stand
  • Fan
  • iPad
  • ANT+ Dongle
  • cable for ANT+ dongle (depends on what iPad you have)
  • iMobileIntervals iPhone app (no iPad version)
  • TV
  • Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime (all optional of course)
  • Headband / Water bottle
  • Training Plan of some sort

The last item is real important. You need a training plan to follow. It keeps you focused and it’s part of the motivation to continue. Without it what are you going to do? Hop on and start pedaling? How long can you do that before you get bored and quit? My guess in less than a week you will stop because it’s boring. That’s why you need a structured plan for you to follow. They tell you what it is you are going to do that day, how fast/slow your cadence will be, what your power level/heart rate should at each step of the workout. You will learn to warm up, do your workout and then cool down. Structure! For beginners that is very important.

Training plans are based on one of three measurements, power, hear rate or perceived exertion (how hard you felt the work out was). Depending on the equipment you have you choose which method you want to train with. Since the Wahoo Kickr has a built-in power meter, I chose to have my workouts based on power. I’m not going to go into the details of training, but¬†basically, the intensities are¬†broken up into zones and you are to workout in the zone for the prescribed time. The higher up the zone you are in the harder the workout. For an understanding on how to train in either of these methods I suggest to checkout these books:

As for the plan its self, it doesn’t matter where you get it as long as you have one. I chose a plan from TrainingPeaks and from that I use iMobileIntervals to create the workout on their website. Then I use the app version to download it to the iPad and run it to control the Kickr and tell me what I need to do on the current interval step. I need the ANT+ dongle and cable because my speed and cadence sensors are of the ANT+ type. If you have Bluetooth type Speed/Cadence then you can do away with the dongle.Once the workout is complete, I uploaded the workout to both Strava and TrainingPeaks for review and record keeping.

The music stand is used to hold the iPad and TV remotes. I like using Netflix because it automatically loads the next episode and plays it. No Netflix? Anything else will do. Music, talk radio will work too. I use the TV to catch up on my programs. Be careful not to forget about your workout! I sometimes catch myself glued to the TV more than the workout. Great thing about iMobileIntervals is that it announces the next step or every minute countdown so it snaps me out of the TV trance. Agent Carter anyone? How about The Flash or The Arrow? Now that The 100 is back on, I have even more choices.

The fan and head band are a must. You will be sweating a lot and you will need to control it some how. Some use a sweat catcher for the bike. I will probably end up getting one of those. Let’s not forget about a water bottle. I have a full water bottle within reach and drink regularly during the work out.

To me I like doing intervals. It’s the best way to pack in a great workout in a short amount of time. My workouts have been around the 1 hr mark.Sometimes they extend to 1.5 hours but not often. To facilitate this, I need software that does three things. One, keep track of my intervals. Two, control the Kickr by setting up the correct power levels, and three, send the work out to my favorite sites (Strava, Facebook and Training Peaks). iMobileIntervals fit my requirements nicely.

I really like iMobileIntervals because of its flexibility in controlling the Kickr, the way it announces the interval, the ease of creating workouts, the ability to share workouts with others, and the ability to send the results of the workout to multiple locations such as Strava, Facebook, TrainingPeaks or an email with the TCX file. One of the special predefined workout is a fitness test to get your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) number and record it in your account. Your FTP is very important because all the training zones are based on a percentage it. That is the first workout you should do. It should also be repeated every month or so as you progress and get stronger. This ensures that the workouts don’t become too easy.

Being that I run it on my iPad and I have an Apple TV, I can put up the display on my TV and use it that way. I’ve done it several times but I lose the ability to watch something. They have released an update to use ChromeCast and overlay the workout over YouTube. Looks interesting but I don’t have ChromeCast.

There are other applications such as TrainerRoad that does all the above except the direct export of the workout to other sites. It does send you the email but it’s up to you to manually upload it to your favorite site. It too has a website to pick a workout (even more than iMobileIntervals) or create your own. They also have training plans depending on your goal. Either program will work for you.

Wahoo also has their app for the Kickr called Fitness, but it doesn’t support intervals. They may in the future but why wait when you have others ready to go. You do need the app to check for and upload firmware updates to the Kickr and other of their products. It’s worth having in your toolbox of bike apps.

In case you haven’t noticed, all the software mentioned here runs on iOS or on the web. I don’t have an Android phone so I can comment on software for that OS. Although, I do think Wahoo Fitness app is also on Android.¬†I’m sure that there are apps for the Android phones. If there isn’t any, there should be.

RESULTS

So far the results has been positive. There is a ride that I do that is about 27-28 miles called the Penitas Loop (check my Routes page) that I used as a benchmark. The ride is out in the country with very little cars. It’s mostly flat but it does have a small steady climb (remember that the Valley is pretty much flat so anything that resembles a climb besides a strong headwind is a big deal for us) and some rolling hills at the twenty-mile mark. The last time I did the ride was in late December. On the twenty-mile mark I really had to push it hard the rest of the way to raise my average mph to 15.4. By that point my posture was bad as I was leaning heavily on the handlebars resulting in sore triceps.

After nearly a month of more indoor intervals and incorporating planks into the regimen, I decided to do that same ride again. I had done a 30-mile ride the week before and felt a lot stronger and faster but I wanted to compare it to a known ride, in this case the Penitas Loop. Halfway through the route¬†I was already at the average speed from when I finished it back in December! I could have gone faster but didn’t and worked on steady power pace. By the end of the ride I was at nearly the same average speed with no issues with posture or soreness in my triceps.and I had a lot of energy left. Wahoo! I couldn’t be happier with the results. I checked on the variability index (VI) and it came out to 1.05. More good news!

I completed one week on the new training plan from TrainingPeaks and they are rough but doable. My plan is to use the trainer on weekdays and on the road for the weekends. Let’s see how that works out.

Well, there you have it. Using the Wahoo Kickr has been fun and hard but well worth the price. Check their website for refurbished units that they have on sale, you might be able to pick one up at a discount price. I’ve had no issue with sturdiness or being excessively loud. Definitely not as loud as the turbo fan types. I do have it in my room and I can fold it up and put it aside when not in use. I do have to unplug it when I need to repair my bike sensors to the bike computer (Magellen Cyclco 505). That is how I use the Kickr in my training. If you can afford it, get it. If not, you can still have a structured workout plan with what you have.

If you have a Kickr, let’s hear from you and share your experience with it. Drop a comment about it.

2012 Specialized Sirrus: A Commuter Bike

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden my Sirrus. Not because I don’t like it but because I now have the Roubaix as my primary ride. For a long time, the Sirrus sat in the shop with the wheels removed waiting for new rubber to be put on them. Pretty much just collecting dust. What a shame. I’ve always wanted to convert it to a commuter bike so I could ride to work on casual Fridays, but I always put it off.¬†Well not anymore! This month I got the ball rolling on making the Sirrus a good commuter bike and this is what I came up with.

First of all it needed new tires so off to my LBS and picked up some Continental 4000S II. I love these tires. They have a good balance between low rolling and puncture resistance plus long life to boot. For the rear I used 25 mm and 23 mm for the front. It’s the same setup on the Roubaix.

After a good wash and lube I went out for a quick spin around the block to check things out. No issues. Brakes and shifting were great, just as I remembered it!

For the pedals I left them as is. They were the Shimano A530 SPD pedals and since they had a platform side I figured I could use them and not have to worry about hauling a pair of regular shoes when I commute. At least that was the idea.

Sirrus_Before

Next, I needed a rack for the bike. I didn’t want to do that song and dance of taking a change of clothes the day before and pick them up the day after (or in this case on Monday). I wanted to be able to haul my clothes with me to and from work. For that a rack is needed. This posed a problem for me because the 2012 Sirrus didn’t have any eyelets to mount a rack. A coworker suggested to look at Old Man Mountain for a rack. Sure enough there was one designed for bikes like mine. The Black Rock rack was suggested for bikes with out eyelets. After emailing them and asking specifically about using it for the Sirrus they assured me that it will work fine and told me where on the seat stay to mount the clamps.

Sirrus_MountThe Black Rock rack is designed to mount on the outside of the hub dropouts. They also provide a longer skewer for you to use to clamp it down. The bulk of the weight that it supports is supported there at the hub. The attachment to the seat stay is needed to position the rack horizontally and hold it there. The loop clamps that attach to the seat stay are coated so that they will not scratch the bike and they are contoured so that it is not squeezing on the frame. Once completed I again went out for another spin. Solid! No rattles of any kind.

Sirrus_Rack_InstallWith the rack in place I now needed some panniers for it. Another trip to my LBS and I came home with something to try out. Not the most expensive one nor biggest but something to¬†put in my clothes and zip it up. I wasn’t sure how big they needed to be in order to take a change of clothes. I would have to stuff it and see if it can hold it all. That was the first thing I did when I got home. Doing this made me think as to what I had to take with me and how to pack it. Not only do I need clothes but I also need wipes (to clean up when I get there), deodorant, tire pump, my keg (holds spare tube, patches, tire levers and some cash) and my iPad. After I gathered up everything I proceeded to pack. Yes! Everything fits with room to spare.

Knowing that I got the right size bag, I went ahead and installed it on the rack. Installation is straightforward with hooks on each side that clamps to the bottom of the rack. As usual I took it out for a spin to check it out. Uh oh. Problem. The back of my feet hits the corner of the bag on the up stroke. Yikes, I don’t want that.

After doing some research I found out that you should try to get panniers that are tapered on the front so that your feet won’t hit the bag (you can also tilt the rack back a little). I looked at mine and they were the squarish type. Time to take them back and look for something else. Luckily a different LBS had the kind I was looking for so I got them. After installing them and going out for another spin, all was good. I’m ready to go.

Friday’s ride to work was good. The road was a little wet from the night showers but I didn’t get rained on going or coming back from work. The 14 mile ride was a lot faster than I thought it would be. The last half of the ride I was pushing 18 mph easily. It must have been the wet roads or the thrill of cycling to work because it was a different story going home. Going home was a lot harder but enjoyable once I changed my mindset that this is not a race.

Some lessons learned from this one ride. Fenders. I need fenders for the wet roads. Either that or I don’t ride on wet roads. Finding fenders for this type of bike is going to be difficult since it has no eyelets for them¬†either. I think I’ll go with the option of not riding on wet roads until I can find a system of mounting some sort of fenders. Around here that is not a high priority so it can wait.

Sirrus_PedalsThe other issue I had was the pedals. I always had to flip them around to get the flat side up plus my shoe slips while cycling. I’m constantly readjusting my feet position as I ride for a bit. New pedals are in order. Checking Amazon I see a lot to choose from and I see that the majority have those pins on them. I remembered that the LBS had some pedals like that so I went to check them out. Sure enough they had the Specialized Bennies Platform pedals, also in red. Perfect.

Sirrus_TargetMy next ride was out to Target to pick up some groceries. It’s been raining a lot recently so I had to wait for the right day to do it. The trip was 4.5 miles one-way and the pedals were rock solid. No slippage and stuck to my shoes like glue.

One aspect of the bike was the use of lights. Riding to work starts early morning and I need lights to see and be visible. My front light is the same one I use on the Roubaix, the CygoLite TridenX. Super bright and can easily moved from bike to bike. For the rear I also reuse the same light on my Roubaix. It has a nice band strap that I can take off and move to another bike. I also had two ankle cycling lights that I’ve got from several charity rides. I put one on my left ankle and the other strapped to the top of the panniers. One last set of lights are the spoke lights from Nite Ize See’Ems (Yes that’s the what they call them). They add visibility from the side. I’m basically all lit up for night riding.

Can you convert a 2012 Sirrus Limited to a commuter bike complete with panniers? I showed that you can sans the fenders. Doing this modification was a fun, learning experience for me. I’m still looking to find a way to add fenders for those days that the roads are wet and I’m sure I’ll figure out something. Now that it is done, the bike will see a lot more use with trips to work, groceries and social rides with friends to local markets.

Comments/suggestions/concerns? Drop me a comment let me know what you think. Will my the carbon bike hold up? Time will tell. Pedal on!