Power meters, what’s the point?

You may be forgiven for thinking that power meters are just another toy that some people add to their cycling arsenal so they have something else to brag about at the coffee shop…

While this may be true for some, power meters do serve a training purpose and may be just what you need to take your cycling to the next level.

In simple terms, a power meter is a device which measures the power output of a cyclist. There are a number of different types of power meter that use different means of measurement and some are better than others, but that’s a subject for a different post.

So what do they actually measure? Power meters measure the force that moves the bike forward multiplied by the velocity. So, the point of a power meter is to provide an objective measurement of real output, allowing training intensity and progress to be measured accurately.

But, how does a power meter improve your performance? Let’s start at the beginning and work our way up.

echowell-echo-u4w-bicycle-computerA lot of new cyclists are flying blind – they either use a basic computer that measures their speed or they use nothing. Consequently, they have no idea what their body is doing other than propelling their bike forward at x speed, and as speed is influenced by so many factors (terrain, wind conditions, other cyclists) it’s almost useless as a measure of performance.

The next step is to start using a cycling computer that measures heart rate, speed and cadence. So now we have an input measurement – heart rate – and output measurements – speed and cadence. Put together these measurements form the basis of Cyclo505-10heart rate based training and are the first step in improving cycling performance. As fitness improves, you can pedal at higher cadences, achieve greater speed and your heart rate recovers more quickly. These measurements can be used to guide training, improving fitness and speed.

Introducing a power meter is the next step. Your body is the engine that drives your bike; improving engine performance improves overall performance.

Because a power meter allows you to focus on muscle performance, combining power measurement and heart rate measurement removes the guesswork and allows you to focus your training on improving overall engine performance. Once your training intensity can be accurately measured you can optimise your training and work on the areas that need improvement.

While a power meter may not be much use to you when you’re starting out, as your performance improves and your cycling goals change, power meters become more relevant.

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European Cycling – An Italian Experience (Part 2)

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Finish line

19th Bianchi Felice Gimondi Gran Fondo – 10 May 2015

Unlike the mass participation rides we’re used to in Australia, a gran fondo is actually a race, which some people take more seriously than others (more of that later). For a full definition & description of gran fondo racing click here.  This type of ride originated in Italy so what better place to try the gran fondo out?

There was the usual wait at the start line, with riders divided into groups according to their registration number.  In the best Australian traditions our contingent all rode together despite some of us being entitled to start further forward – egalitarianism at its best. It was exciting to see familiar faces in the crowds as most of the Bianchi crew started in our group although it was interesting to note how few women were competing.  The general consensus in Australia seems to be that there aren’t enough women riding but in comparison with Europe we seem to be doing pretty well.

Start line

Roll out was a little slow as you’d expect with so many people (3800 registered) but once we got into the main thoroughfare it was on for young and old. This was definitely a race, very male dominated and very full on. As is usual in a mass participation ride there were lots of slower riders on the hills but so many faster riders it was difficult to get past the slower ones.  Again, in a marked difference to Australia, it was amazing how many people were there only to do the short route (90km).  They, in turn seemed pretty amazed that they were doing the ride at all and totally amazed that we had travelled all the way from Australia to do the ride and were doing the middle or long distances.

Fortunately we had already done a recce of many of the climbs so we knew what we were in for as compared to so many of the people that we met along the way. The feed stops were well patronised and had great snacks – slabs of chocolate were particularly welcome as was the Italian soft drink as we got further into the ride. As the turn off for the short distance loomed, numbers started to thin out – another interesting as in our Adelaide ride groups it’s more usual for everyone to ride the longest distances not the shorter ones, but then we don’t have too many mountains on our rides!

Gran Fondo Collage

Highlights – gorgeous scenery, just wished we had time for photographs to prove it but think of the stuff we only see in fairy tales – mountain villages, snow-capped peaks and you’ve pretty much got it; fantastic climbs that were hard but not so hard they were unenjoyable; lovely friendly people.

Low lights – some scary descents, very tight corners which took a lot of attention to navigate, and the unfortunate accident involving a pedestrian and a cyclist which stopped Gillian from doing the long ride

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, which I would happily repeat, hopefully next year!

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European Cycling – an Italian experience (Part 1)

The opportunity of a lifetime – an invitation to participate in the 19th Felice Gimondi-Bianchi Gran Fondo celebrating the 50th anniversary of Felice Gimondi’s 1965 Tour de France win and Bianchi’s 130 Anniversary, who would pass that up?

Not me, so here’s the story of my Italian cycling experience…

SciConFirst things first, how to get the bike to Italy? Turns out travelling with a bike is pretty easy – let the airline know that you will be travelling with a bike, pack it in a bag, turn up at the airport with the bike, leave it at the oversize baggage reception, done!  What bag?  We’ve used the SciCon Aerocomfort Plus for years because it’s easy to use, requires very little bike disassembly and allows plenty of room to pack the rest of your kit.  It seems that baggage handlers are more gentle with a soft bike bag than a hard case and bag and bike both made it to Italy and back in one piece.

The next distraction was the whole ‘riding on the wrong side of the road’ experience.  As it turns out this is nowhere near as scary as anticipated.  Reverse the give way to the right rule and you’re pretty much there.  European drivers are also far more tolerant of cyclists than Australian drivers (in 6 days we only encountered two unpleasant drivers) and if you get lost there always seems to be someone on the side of the road to point you in the right direction or a friendly cyclist to tell you the best places to ride.

On to the actual cycling;  Bergamo, where we were based, is 40km northeast of Milan, and very easily accessible.  The foothills of the Bergamo Alps are just to the north of the town so there are plenty of climbs to experience.  For our first ride we decided to head to Citta Alta (the upper city) which seemed to be a popular ride for locals – it had the added bonus of some beautiful piazzas with wonderful restaurants.

Citta Alta Climb view

The view from the top of the Citta Alta climb

Top of Citta Alta climb

The house at the top of the Citta Alta climb

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The Classics

What is a classic cycling race?

The basic description is a one day professional road race, generally held in Europe throughout spring, summer and autumn.

Why classic?

Most of the European versions have been running for decades with the oldest races starting in the 19th century. The five most revered of the classics are known as the ‘Monuments’. The Classics season starts with the first of the monuments, Milan-San Remo, which is run on the Sunday closest to the first day of spring.  The Giro di Lombardia is the last of the monuments each season and is currently held in September.

The Monuments 234px-Milan_–_San_Remo_logo.svg

Milan – San Remo – the first of the classics is often known as the ‘sprinters’ classic. At 298km, this is the longest classic race on the UCI Pro Tour. Eddy Merkx holds the record for the most wins (7).

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Tour of Flanders – Flanders is held one week before Paris – Roubaix every year and is the most important race in Belgium. Characterised by multiple, short, sharp climbs, the race route changes regularly. Six cyclists share the record for the most victories (3), Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara being the most recent.

250px-Paris–Roubaix_logo.svgParis – Roubaix – known as the Queen of the Classics and The Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix is infamous for its multiple cobbled (pave) sections. Seen as one of the toughest professional road races, teams often ride special bikes and require significant mechanical support. The winner’s trophy features one of the infamous cobblestones which give this race its awesome reputation.  Two Belgian cyclists hold the record for the most wins (4) – Roger De Vlaeminck and Tom Boonen.

260px-Liège–Bastogne–Liège_logo.svgLiege – Bastogne – Liege is known as La Doyenne having started in 1892. Following different routes to and from Bastogne and with multiple climbs this race often rewards the most aggressive riders. Eddy Merkx holds the record for the most Liege – Bastogne Liege wins with 5.

Giro di Lombardia is one of the last UCI events every year. Known as a ‘climbers’ classic, the route changes regularly, although Lake Como and the Ghisallo climb are 200px-Giro_di_Lombardia_logo.svgsignature features. Fausto Coppi holds the record for the most wins with 5.

Winners

Three riders have won all 5 monuments – Rik Van Looy (1950s – 60s), Eddy Merkx (1960s – 70s) and Roger De Vlaeminck (1970s). Eddy Merkx is the only rider to have won 3 monuments in the same year and he did it 4 times, just to be sure.

Australian Winners

Australian cyclists have achieved only four wins in the European Monuments – Stuart O’Grady won Paris Roubaix in 2007, Michael Goss and Simon Gerrans have both won Milan-San Remo in 2011 and 2012, and Simon Gerrans also won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2014.

Gerrans Liege

Care for your Kit

So you’ve had your bike serviced ready for the summer but what about the rest of your kit?

Helmet
That thing that protects your head in an accident… yes, it probably needs a bit of TLC.

If it looks like this, you need to replace it

If it looks like this, you need to replace it

First things first, you sweat in it so make sure the pads get a wash every now and then (it will improve your comfort and prolong their life). You can either pull them out and give them a rinse, or give your whole helmet a rinse under the tap (lukewarm water is best) and then air dry it. Next, make sure it’s still going to protect your head – straps still work, the outer shell hasn’t received any ill-treatment and everything is still where it should be. UV exposure degrades the lightweight materials that helmets are constructed from so if it’s showing signs of wear you should replace it. Most manufacturers recommend replacement at least every 3 years, some more often. The major rule however is that if your helmet has had any impact at all, replace it.
Check out our Which Helmet? Blog for tips on the right helmet for you.

Glasses
Sunglasses, apart from topping off your ‘look’ have their own purposes – protecting your eyes from glare and from foreign objects and allowing you unobstructed vision. Obviously if the lenses are scratched you’ll have difficulty seeing out of them but also the UV protection will be compromised and therefore less protective. How about giving them a clean as well – you can use a proper lens cleaning solution or again run them under a lukewarm tap. Make sure when you dry them off you use a lens specific cloth so you protect the lenses from damage.

Northwave gloves

Gloves
YES, gloves are designed to be washed so if you haven’t been washing yours hop to it. Again, washing will prolong their life (as long as you adhere to the washing instructions) and they’ll be more comfortable if you get rid of all that sweat, sticky energy drinks and any other substances they may have come in contact with. Stick them in a wash bag to protect your other gear from velcro fasteners.

Shoes
As your major connection with your bike, maintaining your shoes is super important. We don’t mean that you should be getting out your nugget and brushes and giving them a shine, but we do recommend that you ensure that the closures are working properly, whether they are Velcro straps, ratchet buckles or laces; check your cleats and make sure they are free from obstructions that could prevent your from clipping in or unclipping, that they are firmly attached to your shoes (in the right position), and are in good working order, make sure your heel pads are still there and aren’t too worn and while you’re at it why not give your shoes a wipe down so you continue to look the part?
Get the lowdown on how shoes maketh the cyclist.

Bibs/Nicks

Lycra needs special attention when washing and is susceptible to degradation from UV exposure so make sure you follow the washing instructions.  Look after them and they will look after you.  Saggy worn nicks not only look bad, but they’re uncomfortable and not doing their job of protecting your delicate nether regions from chafing and ensuring you get the best ride. Replace them!

Essential JerseyJersey

Jerseys protect you from UV exposure, wick away your sweat and provide you with a place to keep your phone, coffee money, spare tube, etc.  You’ve probably got heaps of old ones that you don’t even wear because they don’t fit or they’re ugly…  For the ones that you do wear, make sure your jersey is a good fit so it will wick moisture away from your skin, make sure if provides UV protection and that it’s comfortable.

Happy, comfortable and safe cycling!

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Cycling Etiquette

On our regular bunch ride over the weekend a couple of things occurred that made me think about cycling etiquette and how we should all be making the world a better place to ride. Here are some thoughts.

Be friendly – say hello if you’re passing another cyclist. Give them a wave (one finger is generally enough) or a nod if you’re travelling in the opposite direction.cycling_16_keep_waving1

Indicate obstacles – if you know there’s someone riding behind you or you’ve just passed another cyclist, make sure you let them know if there’s an obstacle coming up by pointing it out.

Ask to join a group – don’t just jump on a group and assume it’s OK. Make sure the other riders know you’re there and that you conform to the group norms like calling last rider, indicating obstacles and riding as the group rides. If you’re not sure what to do, ask someone.  If you don’t like the way the group rides then don’t ride with them.

Share the roadTell other cyclists that you’re passing – particularly if they’re on their own and you’re part of a passing bunch. And while we’re at it make sure you give other cyclists room – just because you race A Grade and are a confident rider doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable being passed at speed or really close.

Bikie blow down low so the rest of us don’t have to ride through it or wear it – personally I prefer a handkerchief but I’m old-fashioned like that.

Ask stopped riders if they need help – if you see someone stopped on the side of the road, check that they’re OK and they have whatever they need to get back on the road.  If they do need help it’s your opportunity to do your good deed for the day!

Be predictable and considerate – to everyone. Don’t give cyclists a bad name by pissing off motorists and make sure you look out for other cyclists too.

Finally,

Obey the road rules. Obey the road rules. Obey the road rules.

Feel free to add anything I’ve missed in the comments section below.

Roxanne

Safe-Riding-a-bicycle

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La Vuelta a España – A Rough Guide

On 29 April 1935 50 riders left Madrid to travel 3 425 kilometres over 14 stages in what became the first Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain). The last of the grand tours for the season, 2014 marks the 69th edition of the race. The Vuelta generally incorporates 3 time trials and numerous mountain stages; 13 of them in the 2014 edition.

Roberto Herras holds the record for the most wins (5), while Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have won all three grand tours. Tony Rominger won the race three times, consecutively from 1992 to 1994 and in 1995 Laurent Jalabert became the first, and only, rider to win all of the classifications. In recent years the race has been won by Chris Horner (2013), Alberto Contador (2012) Juan Jose Cobo (2011) and Vincenzo Nibali (2010).

Jerseys

La Vuelta JerseysRed Jersey – just as the Giro d’Italia has its Maglia Rosa and the Tour de France its Malliot Jaune, this is the jersey awarded to the rider who leads the General Classification (it has been yellow, orange and white; red was introduced in 2010)

Green Jersey– awarded to the rider who leads the Points Classification.  Laurent Jalabert and Sean Kelly share the record for victories in this competition with 4 each.

Polka Dot Jersey as per the Tour de France Polka Dot jersey this one is for the leader of the King of the Mountains Classification, although in Spain the polka dots are blue

White Jersey – is for the leader of the Combined Classification, basically it’s the consistency prize

 

2014 Stage Highlights

Stage 1 is the only Team Time-Trial for the Vuelta and is a snappy, but technical 12.6 km route through Cadiz.

Stage 3  is noteworthy because it leaves from a ship of the Spanish Armada, if you can believe it…

Stage 6 provides the first big challenge of the Tour with the 5km climb to Cumbres Verdes.

Stage 14 is one of the harder ones with the final 3 kilometres featuring climbs of up to 24%

Stage 20 provides the last Mountain showdown before the final stage – 2 Cat 3, 1 Cat 2, 1 Cat 1 and 1 Hors Category climbs; this one could be decisive

Stage 21 is the final stage of the tour and will see the tired riders complete a 10 km individual time trial in the arrival city of Santiago de Compostela

Contenders

Nairo Quintana may have thought he had this one in the bag, but with so many of the big names withdrawing from the Tour de France the battle for Vuelta victory will be hard-fought.  Contador and Froome have both signalled their intention of riding the Vuelta and with other big names such as Bradley Wiggins set to contest it, there are more late nights ahead for cycling fans.

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