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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cycling Apparel Basics

            One of the first things a beginner cyclist wonders is what do I wear to cycle?  Do I really have to wear the Lycra shorts and the jerseys and such?  Well the truth is no you don’t have to but you should want to.  Cycling apparel has evolved to help (or at least not hinder) a rider on a bike ride.  All of the pieces serve a purpose, yes especially the shorts.  So with that said today I am going to talk about basic cycling apparel.

Cycling Shorts

Yes those very revealing shorts serve a few very important purposes.  One they are tight to reduce friction and rubbing with between your body and the saddle preventing rashes and soreness.  Being skin tight also helps the shorts wick away moisture and keep your body cool.  The key component of bike shorts is the Chamois (pronounced shammy) which is a pad that helps to cushion your butt for long rides on the saddle; which is the reason you never see road cyclists using a seat pad that you can buy at Wal-Mart as their shorts have them built in.  The big thing that surprises new cyclists about cycling shorts, other than the cost, is that you do NOT wear anything between the shorts and your body; period no exceptions.  Putting clothing between you and your bike shorts completely undercuts their purpose so just accept it even if it sounds weird you’ll be way more comfortable.

Cycling Jersey 

Now this is probably the most flexible piece of cycling clothing when it comes to choices.  The standard cycling jersey has t-shirt like sleeves, is pretty close to skin tight, has a full length zipper in the front, and three pockets on the back.  There are also sleeveless jerseys and full length jerseys; other types of athletic tops are also pretty common but do not wear a cotton t-shirt please.  Again, like shorts jerseys are made the way they are for a reason; short sleeves give you a pretty wide range of temperature wear options, being tight allows the fabric to wick moisture and it also does not flap in the wind, the full zip allows the jersey to be partially unzipped on climbs giving your body more air when your not moving quickly, and the pockets in the back are awesome places to store snacks and other goodies for your rides.

Sunglasses

This is commonly an overlooked piece of gear at the beginning of a cyclist’s journey and it most definitely should not.  Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and reduce glare improving vision which really does matter on a multiple hour ride; but they also protect your eyes from dirt and debris that can be thrown up at you.  Most cyclists wear traditional athletic sunglasses yet this is one area you can save money by going with a cheaper pair as long as they are UV protected and instead not just really dark so they seem to work but fail to protect your eyes.

Cycling Gloves

Are usually half fingered and have a padded palm to dampen road vibrations and reduce soreness in the hands and palms from riding for an extended period.  Cycling gloves don’t vary a huge amount, mostly in the amount of padding, so this is a good area to save some money when you first start by going with some cheaper but still decent Pearl Izumi gloves for around $20.

Cycling Shoes

Now this is actually a pretty expensive piece of equipment that is combined with cycling pedals (pedals will be a whole other article).  Cycling shoes have a hard sole so as to transfer all of the energy from pedaling through to the pedal and not lose energy in the bending of the sole.  They usually have vents on the bottom to allow air into the shoe to keep your foot cool.  Most importantly of all they have holes in the bottom where the cleat that goes to your pedals can be attached with bolts to them.  Needless to say this doesn’t make sense to you right now but it becomes extremely important as you progress as a cyclist and can be one of your biggest early upgrades to your bike (Clipless Pedals).


I am not going to cover helmets because that is an article in and of itself yet it is the most important part of your cycling attire and NEVER EVER ride without it!!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Week in Runs & Rides

For the record I don't consider Sunday to be the start of the week, I am solidly in the Monday camp, but because I publish my week in runs & rides on Sunday that kind of means anything I actually do on Sunday gets kicked over to the next week.  Just wanted to clarify that real quick like.

First Swim of the Year (Sunday)

So how did I start my week?  With a run? or a Ride? Nope, a swim!  Yeah it actually is my very first swim of the year.  I am most likely going to do the AIM High in Bryan sprint tri (400 meter swim, 13 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) on June 10th.  Yes in case you are doing the math that is just a short 5 weeks away.  Which probably leads to your next thought why on earth am I just now starting to swim if I want to do a triathlon in 5 weeks???  The answer is that I just got kind of lazy post half marathon.  That was a solid 4 months of working towards a goal through a time of the year that I normally am pretty relaxed so I kind of petered out.  But not to worry I am back and remotivated so I will make these 5 weeks count.  Luckily I don't have the AIM High tri as a serious goal so I can just use it as a benchmark.

As for my swim it wasn't much at only 500 yards but that is a LOT when you haven't hit the pool in over 6 months!  I used the Misfit Shine to time my total swim time at 15 minutes.  Using the Shine in swim mode is pretty cool because it is one of the only if not the only activity tracker that has a swim mode.  My swim took 15 minutes (yeah it might have included a few breaks) but it was pool time so mission accomplished.

Longest Swim of the year (Tuesday)

I am not sure if it is much a feat to have your longest swim of the year be only your second and it is April but hey whatever, take your victories where you can get them.  Yes also you see 2 back to back swims in my Runs & Rides post because I am a little behind the ball for an upcoming triathlon.  I don't believe there are too many training plans out there that recommend waiting until 5 weeks out from your triathlon to hit the pool for the first time but hey it'll work out.

This swim was MUCH longer that my previous swim at 1200 yards in 37 minutes.  I tried to follow some sort of workout-ish method by warming up with 4x50 easy (with 25 yards backstroke), then 2x100 sets, followed by 2x200 yard sets, and then another set of 2x100 yards.  I then did a cool down set of 4x50 yards during which I practiced bilateral breathing and pulling my head out of the water for sitting.  My Misfit Shine clocked the whole workout at 47 minutes which seemed a little long.  Luckily I sent texts before and after and when I checked that against those and I was right the time gap between the texts was 45 minutes and they were pre-changing and post changing so I am just estimating with my 37 minute figure.  Either way it was good to get in some longer sets and more total distance even if my shoulders groaned a little bit and my form got a little sloppy towards the end.

First "Real" iBike Newton Ride (Wednesday)

I took the iBike Newton+ out for its first real ride today a 19 mile loop around the River Trail with a short jaunt over to the Two Rivers Park Bridge.  Riding with a power meter quickly taught me that it is a hell of a lot harder than riding without.  There is not cheating when you are going fast but without a lot of effort that power meter will call you out and make you keep pushing....Continued Here

It's 86 Degrees Out???

Yeah so in case you can't guess from my title it was 86 degrees out today!  Yes I am glad to see that the shackles of winter have been thrown off but what the hell happened to spring?  It was 65 the other day for my bike ride and gorgeous!!!  To be fair 86 is normally gorgeous in Arkansas but not so much in April!

Aside from an un-seasonably warm day I decided to take a completely different route for my 3.75 mile run.  I headed off straight down Main Street and just kept going South.  I crossed over the I-630 interstate and got to watch all of the miserable commuters stuck in bumper to bumper traffic; then I made my way through South Main.  After running up a slightly large hill I turned around and came back the same way before breaking off to go to MacArthur Park (Named after the WWII general Dugout Doug, yup he's from Little Rock) where I had planned to circle the whole park.  I ended up getting a little "fatigued" so I did a short 30 second or so walk then cut through the park to make my way back home.

It was a solid run that took me 33:52 which was a 9:04/mile pace.  It would have been nice to have managed a slightly higher speed or run a little bit further but for my first run over 70 degrees I'll call it mission accomplished.

My own Arkansas Roubaix Course (Saturday)

What better way to celebrate Paris-Roubaix tomorrow then to go on a ride of my own, a sort of ode to Paris-Roubaix.  Well stunner that this might be to you there are no cobbles in Arkansas; I know I'm shocked also.  So I used the next best thing a mixture of farm roads, chip & seal roads, and then some in just plain old disrepair to make an Arkansas version of the Hell of the Northeast (my ride was in the Northeast part of Little Rock...Continued Here

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Thursday


Saturday

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Own Arkansas Paris-Roubaix Course...Kinda (Not Really)

What Chip & Seal roads look like
What better way to celebrate Paris-Roubaix tomorrow then to go on a ride of my own, a sort of ode to Paris-Roubaix.  Well stunner that this might be to you there are no cobbles in Arkansas; I know I'm shocked also.  So I used the next best thing a mixture of farm roads, chip & seal roads, and then some in just plain old disrepair to make an Arkansas version of the Hell of the Northeast (my ride was in the Northeast part of Little Rock.

My route started from downtown Little Rock as usual from there I headed across the Clinton Bridge to North Little Rock.  However, instead of taking the left to head onto the River Trail I went right which is on to Harper's Loop.  It starts by winding through some back paths in a rough part of North Little Rock, pot holes and blatant disrepair were the obstacles here.  I then took Hwy 165 East until I got off on Colonel Maynard Road.  I passed some riders who were doing the Tour de Cure which I had no clue was today!

On Colonel Maynard I turned into a STIFF headwind, hit 14mph at points.  The road changes name a few times and with each change there was usually a road surface quality downgrade as I was getting further away from town and into farm country.  The path was generally South and I got a pleasant views of some oxbow lakes but the scenery was in general pretty dull, just fields.  Towards the end of the road I was on some rough Chip & Seal without any stripping and I think I only passed 1 truck for miles.  From there I took Honey Bee Rd (yeah that is awesome) to catch Hwy 161 back North.  With that turn I was onto a much smoother road surface, just lots of cracks that would give you a good jar for inattention, but more importantly it swung me back around for a tailwind.

This section was some of the most fun I've ever had cycling as I could fly along at speeds as high as 27mph on completely flat roads!  Yes, the tailwind was that strong.  Through this section I carried an AVERAGE speed of 22.9 mph which even included coming to a complete stop to cross a larger highway, it was glorious!  I have never ever even come close to that kind of speed by myself, on a completely flat stretch of highway.  It was an awesome 9 miles during which I even got to pass quit a few Tour de Cure riders who were not using the tailwind for as big of a speed boost as I was.  It is kind of fun to just fly past whole groups of cyclists solo style.

After my short lived fun I turn West onto Faulkner Lake Rd which brought me into a head/crosswind that wasn't a whole lot of fun especially as my legs where definitely starting to tire.  At this point I was just trying to keep up a speed of around 17 mph so I didn't crush my ride average.  I limped back along in this style for the last 11 miles or so and just babied it up the Clinton Bridge as I just didn't have the motivation to put in an actual effort.

The whole ride was 42.3 miles and took me 2:25:19 to complete which comes out to an average speed of 17.4 mph.  Power wise I road with a weighted average of 146 watts and hit a max of 598 which to me isn't particularly impressive, a power meter can cause some sobering honesty.  The total elevation gain was 451 ft like I said it was a pancake flat course.

So how do you celebrate a momentous victory in the Arkansas Paris-Roubaix?  A big ass glass of chocolate milk which makes me think that the chocolate milk lobby should be the new title sponsor of my semi-annual Arkansas-Roubaix course so when you all read this send me a message and we will get that paper work going.  After the temporary relaxation of a yummy glass of chocolate milk it was on to a rushed shower and out to the dog park because Lilly the Husk was getting impatient for her weekly ritual of the puppy park, oh the life of a Arkansas-Roubaix winner.  Helps the odds to be the only man in the race!!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

What to Wear Cycling App Review


Home Screen
 Sometimes things just work and work well which is exactly what the What to Wear Cycling app does.  Some people might question if it is necessary but I think it is an extremely useful tool that gives great suggestions, especially in spring/fall conditions where what you should wear isn't so clear.  But let's back up a second this is my review of the What to Wear Cycling app.  I was provided a download code for the app (aka I didn't have to pay for it) which is normally $2.99.  Unlike my normal policy of returning review samples I will be keeping this one just because it is kind of impossible to return software.  Yeah, I could delete it but it is a useful app and furthermore it wouldn't prevent me from redownloading it for free.  So I think I'll just keep it but trust me my reviews can not be bought for a mere three dollars!  SRM we can talk though.

In Depth Look at the App

Location Screen
So the basic premise of the app is super simple which is to look at the current or future weather conditions and make a recommendation on what to wear for a bike ride based on them.  At the Home Screen pictured left you have the options to select Riding Now (current weather conditions), Riding Tomorrow (tomorrow's weather), or I'll set my own conditions along with some settings buttons at the bottom.  If you select either of the first 2 buttons the location screen will appear pulling your GPS location and asking you to confirm that location.  On the Location Screen it will have you GPS location at the top as well as a list of Favorite Locations below; which is really useful if you ride in a different locale than you live/work.  By default it provides a bunch of other awesome places to ride but this feature just makes me really jealous because I live in Arkansas.  That means I am rather removed from said "awesome" places to ride.  This list is customizable using the edit and + sign buttons at the top right of the screen.

Once you confirm a location either by GPS or from the favorites the What to Wear Cycling App provides you the weather data at the top including: temp, wind, & precipitation.  Below that will be the recommended clothes divided into the areas of your head, upper body, lower body, hands, and feet.  As you can see in the example screenshot to the left it was raining in Little Rock when I wrote this so it recommended a rainproof outer shell and other cold weather gear because it is miserable out right now!!!  Which also explains why I am writing this and not out riding.  Also, on this screen you can refresh the data or "Tell the Peloton" which is just a cool way of saying email your friends the What to Wear Cycling app's recommendations.

The I'm Riding Tomorrow page works the same way but it uses the projected weather data for tomorrow so it will provide the high and low temperature.  The set my own conditions allows you to completely customize all of the conditions.  You can set temperature from -5 to 105 degrees, the breeze from from calm, light or breezy, and general conditions from sunny, cloudy, or rainy.  This will then spit back out recommended apparel based on those conditions.

Back on the home screen there are some options buttons down at the bottom.  The most important is the preferences screen which allows you to tailor the app to you personally.  At the top of the preferences screen is a slider that allows you to tell the app how hot or cold you personally get while riding.  For example, I don't tend to get overly hot while riding and can actually feel kind of cold so by sliding the slider to the colder section the app will spit out recommendations that are tailored with the knowledge that my body tends to run cold.  So by default the recommendation for 55 degrees and no wind might just be a jersey with a base layer but because I have told the What to Wear Cycling app that I ride cold it might add arm warmers to that recommendation.  In case you are confused I took this screenshot after playing around with the slider some so that is why it shows me riding hotter where as I just said I tend to be on the colder side.

Also, on the preferences screen you have the ability to change the distance and temperature measurements between Fahrenheit vs Celsius and Miles vs Kilometers.  I would like to point out that this is how to correctly handle different systems of measurements.  You should not be stuck with all Metric or all Imperial measurements.  I know quit a few cyclists who measure temperature in Fahrenheit, because I live in the States, but do distance in kilometers just because that is cycling language.  It isn't a huge challenge to allow customization for each measurement so companies should always give more choices and I'm glad the What to Wear Cycling app did here.

Back on the home screen there are two more buttons to talk about The Clothing and The App buttons.  The Clothing button just gives you a basic rundown on what all of the different pieces of cycling clothing that are referenced by the app are.  It is a nice little touch in my opinion just in case anyone has a question on what exactly knickers are (you don't see them too much in Arkansas).  The App button is just basic app info like version number, a common sense warning (accurate way to phrase that one), some other basic info like contact, social media, and copyright.

Suggested Improvements

I really do think the What to Wear Cycling app ticks all of the boxes but I do think there are a few small improvements that I would like to see.  The bigger of the two is adding an I'm Riding this Afternoon feature.  It would work the same way as I'm Riding Tomorrow currently does but obviously for later that same day instead of tomorrow.  I think the tomorrow feature is useful but honestly I don't personally get my gear ready 24 hours in advance.  On the other hand it is quit a bit more likely that I might pack my gear in the morning for an after work ride.  Currently you can still use the Set Your Own Conditions screen to get that info but I think just building in an I'm Riding This Afternoon feature would be a cool and useful condition.

The second addition I would like to see is Twitter & Facebook integration.  The Tell the Peloton feature is pretty cool and allows you to share the What to Wear Cycling apps clothing recommendations with your riding buddies.  To me Twitter & Facebook integration would take that feature to the next level.  Also, on a side note it would be good exposure for the What to Wear Cycling app on social media!

Summary

I am not going to do a pros & cons section on the What to Wear Cycling app because the pros are pretty straightforward and I have no cons at all.  At the end of the day this app works.  I have found no bugs whatsoever and the weather data matches my other phone weather sources (Yahoo and The Weather Channel).  I think the recommendations are pretty much in line with what is optimal for those given conditions and the preferences allow you to dial in the recommendations based on your personal preference to be warmer or colder.  Personally I will wear a headband to keep my ears warm (they get cold really easily for some reason) and won't wear shoe covers when the app suggested them but other than that, really spot on, which is what the app set out to do.

So, I strongly recommend the What to Wear Cycling app!  I find it really useful especially in those awkward conditions (55 but windy) and most importantly accurate.  I think the app is well built without any bugs and the user interface is easy and intuitive to use.  If you would like to know more about the What to Wear Cycling app you can visit their website here at whattowearcycling.com.  Also below is a link to the app in the Apple iTunes store (No Android app yet) to download it.  Also, I would like to point out that 3 dollars on this app will probably do more to improve your cycling than spending a whopping $600 on the new Garmin 1000!!!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First "Real iBike Newton+ Ride

I took the iBike Newton+ out for its first real ride today a 19 mile loop around the River Trail with a short jaunt over to the Two Rivers Park Bridge.  Riding with a power meter quickly taught me that it is a hell of a lot harder than riding without.  There is not cheating when you are going fast but without a lot of effort that power meter will call you out and make you keep pushing.  That is probably why I carried an average speed of 17.3 mph around the trail which is definitely above average.  If I cut out the downtown sections it actually jumps my average speed all the way up to 18.7 mph which is WAY above normal.

For my ride I had an average power of 144 watts which is much lower than I thought it would be.  Guess it just means I have more room to improve.  I hit a max power of 666 watts which is you know kind of creepy, don't really like the devil power meter wattage.  I think I have a lot of learning on how exactly to utilize a power meter like the Newton+ during training.  Also, as you can see from the PowerStroke screen above I also can improve my pedaling efficiency significantly.  That isn't exactly a circle up there!

I definitely think a power meter is going to be a tool that will push me to be a better cyclist but I will reserve my judgement for awhile.  As for the iBike Newton+ specifically I am pretty impressed without it so far, especially from a power meter perspective but less so from a head unit point of view.  I don't think it delivers a lot of over the top features of a quality head unit but it really does deliver the basics and well.  As far as a power meter seems to be pretty accurate and responsive to increases/decreases in power.  I do wish it displayed more metrics than just 3 at a time on the screen but to be fair it displays what you really need (speed, power, and cadence).  To me the package is still a killer deal at $499 for a head unit and power meter, nothing else even comes close.  But I definitely feel that as a head unit it suffers compared to the competition.  But to me it seems that a non-direct force power meter can definitely be useful and more importantly accurate.

For some reason I am having a difficult time uploading the GPX file from Strava to Garmin Connect so it'll be like the old days where my embedded activity files are from Strava.  Hopefully the issue gets fixed quickly with Garmin Connect because that is where all of my other activity files are.