Thursday, 28 December 2017

Should I Buy a Wattbike Pro or Wattbike Atom?

Wattbike Atom
Uprgrading my Wattbike Pro to a Wattbike Atom in October, a large number of people contacted me via social media to better understand the differences between the two products.  

Having owned a Wattbike Pro for three years with around 1000 hours of riding on it, I guess I know the product quite intimately and having done some hours on the Atom now, can better understand the reasons why you would or would not buy one and this initial article is to help anyone who may be thinking about which way to go.

What's the difference between a Wattbike Pro and Wattbike Atom?

Below I've highighted a few questions or considerations which may help you narrow things down.

Are you Zwifting?

If you want to invest in a smart trainer which links with new on line riding applications like Zwift, then the answer is pretty straight forward, buy an Atom.  The Wattbike Pro doesn't connect to online virtual ride applications.

The Atom when connected to Zwift can replicate hill climbs, road undulations and descents in your pedal resistance which makes indoor riding very engaging.  You can log on, do an iconic hill climb, a rolling route, ride with a group of others or bash out a flat route riding around the streets or London.

With the spate of poor weather, it offers a really viable alternative to a ride to jump onto Zwift and feel like you're riding with undulating cadence and power as you roll around different routes in the app.

Sat on the bike the cockpit replicates a road bike with time trial extensions and a new holder fan iPad or device which you'll need for your screen (the Atom doesn't come with any screen, the Pro comes with a basic mono screen).

Do you have a coach?

If you are a pretty serious rider with prescribed power intervals or a specific training plan from a coach where your heart rates, power zones and general performance numbers need to be spot-on, then a Wattbike Pro really nails that well.  When pedalling a Wattbike Pro, the pedal stroke sensation feels very similar to a bike. If you're not too bothered about joining Zwift and simply want to bash out internals, then the Pro is likely the product for you. 

Gear Changing/Power Changing

The Wattbike Pro uses two ways to adjust resistance.  A white lever on the left side which adjusts resistance against the air output of the bike and a magnetic resistance adjustment on the right.  Power adjustment is almost instantaneous and it's very easy to find your sweet spots the more you ride the bike in terms of where you slide the left lever.

The Wattbike Atom uses firmware in the application to deliver magnetic resistance which is controlled by buttons on the right of the bars, similar to a road bike.  One button sends the gear harder, the other makes it easier.  

One issue that the Atom has had is the early firmware editions were making the delay between clicking the button and the gear change around 3-4 seconds.  We're used to riding on the road, clicking a button on a groupset and having an almost instantaneous movement of a derailleur (less than one second), so it does seem strange to click the button and then wait.  I had a lot of discussion with the tech support desk at Wattbike as the power measurement also seemed out.

Three firmware updates or so later, things are much improved. There still is a delay between clicking for a gear change and the change of gear (a couple of seconds) but the upsides of the interaction with Zwift etc outweigh this.  You soon get used to it.

Intervals

Due to the issue described above, if you're doing specific HIIT intervals, sprints or bursts where you want to see your numbers, then the issue with the Atom gear change will prove frustrating for you in my opinion and you'll likely be better with a Pro.  

Set-Up/Position

In my opinion, the Atom has a better fit and more options for adjusting the bike to your ideal riding position, particularly if you are replicating your road bike position.  The cockpit looks more like a bike, with bars like road bars and tri-extensions with elbow rests.  From a design point of view, it has a modern look/design.

The Pro is built like a Tonka toy, fit for purpose for the many rugby players and sprinters that use the product to bash out big numbers.  If you buy one, ditch the saddle it comes with straight away and put the same saddle you have on your road bike onto it.  My beef always with the Pro was that the moulded bars didn't allow you to really get into any other position other than on the drops.  

Nevertheless, I happily rode for over a thousand hours on the Pro so it certainly is not a show stopper.

Wattbike Pro
Displays

The Wattbike Pro comes with a basic mono LCD display and I mean basic (think of a large 1980's digital watch).  Still, it only really has one job to do which is to deliver your numbers which is does more than capably.  Switching between screens is pretty easy and data is instantaneous.  The screen has no backlight so if you're training in a place where the light is poor, then you can find yourself adjusting the screen angle a fair bit.

The Wattbike Atom relies on you using a device of some kind, smartphone or iPad for example, with the latest Wattbike app.  This sits in a holder on the tri-bar extensions and is in full colour obviously.  There are a number of pre-installed workouts in the app for you to do.

Both screens deliver the now legendary Wattbike pedal stroke efficiency data alongside the other information you'll need to train.  One thing I have noticed is that the Atom only shows speed data in KM/H, not MPH for UK users.

Working with a Garmin

If you use a Garmin to capture your ride data and want to use it with either product then my experience thus far is that the Wattbike Pro nails it, does the job and captures everything.  What you see on the Wattbike is what ultimately end up on your Garmin (there are some variances but didn't plan for this article to be technical).

I've experienced a number of issues with the Ant+ protocol not working too well with Garmin via the Atom.  In the early firmware updates, speed was permanently being recorded as 18.6mph on the Garmin, the second update reset that to 170mph, which meant nothing was being recorded correctly in Garmin connect where I upload my ride data too.

Knowing my power numbers intimately having being doing intervals for over eighteen months, all my numbers seemed they were down 15-20% when switching to the Atom.  More communication with the Wattbike tech desk and advice than firmware updates would resolve the issue.  Chatting with another owner who attached his Garmin vector pedals to the Atom to validate his numbers highlighted that - in his opinion - the Atom was under recording his actual data.  Wattbike have been improving the issue with firmware updates and whilst I don't think everything is fully resolved yet, progress is being made.

Conclusion

If it's about Zwift and indoor riding then buy an Atom.  The integration with Zwift is superb and if you are a social rider just wanting to put some miles in indoors using a social riding app, it's a great buy.  The drawback of the product for me is the delayed gear change albeit it has been improving with each firmware update.  At present it's improved a lot in three months and I'm sure will continue to be improved.  Looks wise the Atom has it.

If it's all about the intervals, buy the Pro.  The Pro is like a muscle car, it does one job really well without any of the electronics used in many of the most sophisticated speed machines.  It's built well, has a lovely feel on the pedal stroke and tells you what you need to know in real time. 

You can see more information on the Wattbike Atom here.  From £1,499.
You can see more information on the Wattbike Pro here.  From £2,250.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

15 Product Recommendations for a Road Cyclist


Having been road cycling for nine years now, from absolute novice turning the cranks for the first time in twenty years to riding around 400 hours a year, I've purchased a lot of products.  Some have been poor, some to expectation and some outstanding.

There is a such a wide variety of clothing, products and services to choose from it can be difficult to distinguish good from bad.  Here's 15 products that I've used which I rate.

Items (Below £50)
  • Pocpac Phone Covers (waterproof case for your phone and money).  Around £10.  Link here.
  • One Life ID - Emergency ID (wrist band in case of emergency when riding alone).  From £22.99.  Link here.
  • Veloforte Natural Energy Bars (so tasty, natural ingredients) -  £6.99 for a pack of 3.  Link here.
  • SRAM Out Front Garmin Mount (makes your Garmin easier to view when riding).  Around £13.00.  Link here.
  • Veloskin Products - (Moisturiser, Soothing Gel, Post-Shave Lotion, Chamois Cream).  From £12.00.  Link here.
  • Condor Pro Socks - (Simply the best, been wearing these for years now. Super comfortable).  £14.99 for a pack of two.  Link here.
  • DeFeet Oversocks (Ideal for those days when it's a bit cooler and there may be some road debris which might risk marking your shiny white shoes.  These just slip over your shoes and keep everything looking smart and your feet with an extra layer of insulation if needed).  Around £13.00.  Link here.
  • Continental Four Seasons Tyres (best all round, all weather tyre).  From £31.99 each.  Link here.

Items - (£50+)
  • Rapha Deep Winter Training Hat - (Warm winter wear for under your helmet when it's cold out there).  £60.  Link here.
  • Pro Vision Storm Tech Rain Jacket (Got this off their stand at Eroica Brittania.  Great protection for light rain, just wicks off).  Can't see anywhere to buy it on-line but you'll often see the Pro Vision chaps out at exhibitions and cycling events.  Speak to Steve or Ben ask them for their Gabba equivalent jacket.  Around £100.00
  • Oakley Jawbreaker Prizm Glasses.  (Best glasses I've owned.  Comfortable with lenses which adapt to the light conditions.  Worn by lots of the pro's).  Around £165.00.  Link here.
  • Le Col Pro B5 Winter Jacket Arancia. (All you'll need on those cold, wet days.  Fantastic design, highly visible and warm).  £250.00.  Link here.
  • Pianni Hand Built Wheels by Pete Matthews (Legendary wheel builder.  Got a set of bomb proof, 32 spoke winter hoops for around £400.  Wheels are built to your order, specification taking into account your weight, style of riding etc.  Not the lightest but built for anything).  Link here.
  • Campagnolo Zonda Wheels. Phenomenal performance when you want to ride fast.  Around £315.  Link here.
  • Pro Tools Cycleworks 50mm carbon deep section wheels (Built on DT Swiss Hubs with Sapim spokes, these wheels are super light and quick.  Ideal for triathlon, Ironman, TT'ing or just going fast).  Around £1300 from Beacon Bikes in Clitheroe.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

How to show value to your sponsor....


Brother Neutral Support Vehicle

With over 15 years of experience of being chequebook side of sponsorship, I'm often approached about potential sponsorship opportunities from individuals, events or teams.

Having seen investments in Formula One, Premier League football and other sports you get to see how well different sports activate agreements with their sponsors, some better than others.

Being part of a multi-national, people assume (wrongly) that you have a bottomless war chest for commercial sponsorship.  It’s just not like that.  

Like any business, we have finite resources, strategic goals and a target audience to play for.   We have to be selective about what we back/don't back aligned to our strategic objectives.

Having seen hundreds of requests over the years, there is a common theme that runs through the ones that go straight in the bin or the junk mail folder– a poor business case communicated in a generic proposal. 
 
No benefit, no sponsorship. 
Time after time we've seen poorly thought out sponsorship proposals which are standardised, non-specific and asking for chunks of money. You may aswell stand outside a train station shaking a bucket.

So having identified what a poor approach might be.  Here’s five tips to get your approach improved and increase your chances of success: -
  1. W11FM.  This is an acronym for “What’s In It For Me” (or us).  If you 'we' all over the place and take no time to think about what the upside for someone spending/investing their money then your doomed to fail.  Walk in the shoes of the company you are approaching and really think through the upside then get that well articulated in a succinct way that someone can absorb quickly.
  2. What evidence can you bring of the audience that will see the sponsorship? Viewing statistics, visitor numbers, participants.  “We’re hoping,” “we’re soon to have, ” “we estimate,” don’t give a potential sponsor a lot to work with.  Talk specifically about what you do have.  Industry data, demographic data, supporting evidence, opportunities to influence.  If you have athletes, how are they going to support the sponsorship?
  3. How are you going to activate the sponsorship?  It’s not enough to say we have XXXX followers on Twitter and XXXX facebook likes – so what?  What specifically are you going to do to get the audience engaged and how are we going to get value for the money you are requesting?  Make a clear proposal as to your proposition. It's no good have a high social frequency for example if your reach is low.  Or a lot of followers with a low frequency.  Spend some time codifying your digital reporting to really demonstrate how you might add value for example.
  4. Research the company you are approaching.   A blanket bomb request for sponsorship will fall over.  Understand the business you are targeting. Download their corporate report, look for clues about their target market and see if there are any crossovers.  Bring your proposal to life with well researched information which makes the business feel special.
  5. Think words and pictures.  Mock up a logo, an image, an advertising hoarding.  Bring it to life.  Many people are visual and prefer to see things rather than read things and vice versa, so make sure your proposal is also worded well and not too long. 
The summary is this.  Personalise the approach, back it with some numbers and make it relevant to the audience of the business you are targeting with good research and you'll definitely increase your chances of success.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

2016 Mileage and Training Roundup





So, 2016 is over and it's time to count up the hours of training and see how it's gone.  It's ended up being a record year for mileage overall.  Around half the hours have been done on my Wattbike, mostly doing prescribed sessions from retained coach Propulse.  

Key gain this year has been in heart fitness and recovery.  Overall average speed has increased but average heart rate has decreased to achieve that.  Towards the end of the year I did a power test, results shown below which have created a benchmark to improve on in 2017.

Average Heart Rate - 130bpm
Max Heart Rate - 188bpm (my actual max).

Continuous Power - 275W
12 Minute Power - 312W

Total Hours in Saddle: 452 Hours
Total Distance Covered: 8,506 miles/13,689km


Jan -22 activities/29 hours/572 miles
Feb - 23 activities/34 hours/656 miles
Mar - 26 activities/37 hours/720 miles
Apr - 31 activities/41 hours/822 miles
May - 28 activities/50 hours/897 miles
June - 25 activities/43 hours/794 miles
July - 27 activities/45 hours/865 miles
Aug - 32 activities/43 hours/800 miles
Sept - 18 activities/33 hours/595 miles
Oct - 24 activities/35 hours/666 miles
Nov - 21 activities/26 hours/480 miles
Dec - 19 activities/34 hours/637 miles

H1 totals - 155 activities/234 hours/4461 miles
H2 totals - 141 activies/216 hours/4043 miles

Highlights
  • Riding Mt. Teide in November.  Blog here.

Lowlights
  • Having a virus during the back end of November and first three weeks of December (you can see from the reduced ride activities in November and December).

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2017 Womens Road Racing Calender


With a significantly smaller race calendar than mens cycling, below are the main womens road races being held in 2017. 

Personally I'd like to see more stage racing being introduced alongside the Tour de France and La Vuelta, similar to that of the Giro D'Italia.  As the sport goes from strength to strength, with new sponsors and TV coverage this is something I hope we'll see in the future.  I'll continue to keep this updates as and when new information becomes available. 

March 2017
  • Strada Bianche - (4/3).
  • Womens Worldtour Ronde van Drenthe - (11/3).
  • Trofeo Alfredo Binda- Comune di Cittiglio - (19/3).
  • Gent - Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (26/3). 
April 2017
  • Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) - (2/4).
  • Amstel Gold - (16/4).
  • La Fleche Wallonne Feminine- (19/4).
  • Liege Baston Liege Femmes - (23/4).
  • Tour de Yorkshire - (29/4).
May
  • Tour of Chongming Island - (5/5 - 7/5).
  • Amgen Breakaway from heart disease womens race - (11/5 - 14/5).
June
  • Philadelphia International Cycling Classic (4/6).
  • The Womens Tour - (7/6 - 11/6). 
  • Giro D'Italia Internazionale Femminile - (30/6 - 9/7).
July
  • La Course by Le Tour de France - (20/7).
  • Prudential Ride London & Surrey Classic - (29/7).
August
  • Crescent Vargarda TTT - (11/8).
  • Crescent Vargarda - (13/8)..
  • Ladies Tour of Norway - (17/8 - 20/8).
  • GP de Plouay Lorient Agglomeration - (26/8).
  • Boels Rental Ladies Tour - (29/8 - 3/9).
September
  • Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta - (10/9).

2017 Mens Road Racing Calender




Before the TV gets booked up at home, here's a handy guide to when all the major mens road cycling races are planned for during 2017 including the classics season and the major grand tours.  Get that Sky remote in your hand and book your holidays at work before someone else does!  

Highlighted in bold are the three major grand tours - the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and La Vuelta plus the two major races in the UK calendar, the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain.

January 2017
  • Santos Tour down Under - (17/1 - 22/1).
  • Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - (29/1).
February 2017
  • Tour of Qatar (6/2 - 10/2) - NOW CANCELLED.
  • Abu Dhabi Tour (23/2 - 26/2).
  • Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite (25/2).
March 2017
  • Strada Bianche - (4/3).
  • Paris - Nice (5/3 - 12/3).
  • Tirreno - Adriatico (8/3 - 14/3).
  • Milan - SanRemo (18/3).
  • Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (20/3 - 26/3).
  • Dwars door Vlaanderen - (22/3).
  • Record Bank E3 Harelbeke - (24/3).
  • Gent - Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (26/3).
April 2017
  • Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour of Flanders - (2/4).
  • Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco - (3/4 - 8/4).
  • Paris-Roubaix - (9/4).
  • Amstel Gold - (16/4).
  • Tour of Turkey - (18/4 - 23/4).
  • La Fleche Wallonne - (19/4).
  • Liege Baston Liege - (23/4).
  • Tour de Yorkshire - (28/4 - 30/4).
  • Tour de Romandie - (25/4 - 30/4). 
May 2017
  • Rund um den Finanzplatz eschborn - Frankfurt (1/5).
  • Giro D'Italia - (5/5 - 28/5).
  • Amgen Tour of California - (14/5 - 20/5).
June 2017
  • Criterium du Dauphine - (4/6 - 11/6).
  • Tour de Suisse - (10/6 - 18/6).
July 2017
  • Tour de France (1/7 - 23/7).
  • Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian - (29/7).
  • Tour de Pologne - (29/7 - 4/8).
  • Prudential Ride London & Surrey Classic - (30/7).
August 2017
  • Eneco Tour - (7/8 - 13/8).
  • La Vuelta - (19/8 - 10/9).
  • Cyclassics Hamburg - (20/8).
  • Bretagne Classic Ouest-France - (27/8).
September 2017
  • Tour of Britain - (3/9 - 10/9).
  • Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec - (8/9).
  • Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal - (10/9).
  • World Road Championships - (17/9 - 24/9).
 October 2017
  •  Il Lombardia - (7/10).
  • Gree - Tour of Guangxi - (19/10 - 24/10).

Sunday, 20 November 2016

El Teide Tenerife - Tips for Road Cyclists

El Teide in the Distance
Cited as 'Europes longest continuous climb' - the volcano El Teide on the island of Tenerife is on the bucket list of many a keen road cyclist.  Standing some 3,718M tall, its imposing figure dominates the skyline of the Canarian island.

Returning to Tenerife to ride up the East side route recently, I thought it worth noting some tips about the climb if you're planning to head up that way on an upcoming cycle holiday to Tenerife or just taking a day out from the family to shoot up there and tick it off the list.

Each way up offers a different ascent and length profile.  So if you plan to ride El Teide you should study the different routes up.  

Road Cycling Tour Guides - Club Activo

I rode with an organised ride, booked through Club Activo cycling.  Club Activo is a fairly new business, formed around a cycle cafe and hub up in San Miguel.  I'd discovered them by accident whilst riding up to San Miguel from Las Americas (a lovely 10 mile steady climb at around 6%).  

With a friendly welcome, good English speaking staff, a bike rack outside and obligatory espresso machine, they had all the ingredients of a place I'd be going back to time after time on my holiday.

Cost was €55 to join the tour, including the transfer, bananas, water, energy bars and a rather nice two course meal when we returned to the cafe after the descent.  If you want to hire a bike too, it's around €80.00 all in. 

Our guides for the day were Estonian - Anti - (a body double for Peter Sagan) and Lorenzo, assisted by Edward in the mini-bus (who was a good laugh).  The guides were very competent cyclists, who rode at the front and back of the group enabling everyone to ride at their own speed.  Group size was around 15 people all of varying capability.

Setting Off

We set off from a point up on the TF-24 road where the junction of the TF-523 meets it in the forestThe mini-bus groaned as Edward went up and down the minibus gearbox to cope with the gradient which undulates between 6-11% on the way up.

I climbed up this part (the bit we drove) last year from a place called Cosme on the TF-523, it is a real tough climb of switchbacks and steep ramps. The route that I took last year you can find here on Strava.  Was 11.3 miles with 3,930 feet of climbing, roughly 347ft per mile which is a tough first leg

Arriving in the forest you are already at around 5,500 feet in terms of altitude.  It was cold and we were all soon shivering and putting layers on keen to get off.  A cold mist enveloped the area.


As we rolled, you could notice straight away that the thinner air disrupted your normal breathing pattern.  My heart rate was running around 3-5bpm higher than normal.  I'd already determined that I was going to sit around 152-156bpm on the climb, so I was keen to find a tempo/rhythm as soon as possible.

The road is a pretty steady 6% gradient for most of the way (27.6 miles).  Interestingly there are a couple of quick descents within the ascent.  They are potential flashpoints as the shade hides some pretty nasty road conditions until you are right on top of them at 40mph, it's very much a case of hang on!! 
One of the descents on the way
As you come out the forest and out of the low cloud, you get this magnificent viewAs you look over the edges you realise just how high you really are.  You need to stay focused as you could quite easily ride off the side if you lose your concentration.

Looking back to the Clouds
Temperature wise, you're now beginning to strip off all the layers you put on before as your work rate collides with the warm weather. As we climbed up it was around 23 degrees, which was absolutely lovely.  It was a clear day and you could see for miles.  As you look ahead you see El Teide in the distance (see photo at top of blog).

Keeping a steady tempo was definitely easier given the temperature and altitude.  Around half way up I took a quick pic of the Garmin screen (see below).


Garmin Data after the 12 mile climb - took 1 Hour
After passing the top of the Volcano on our right (you can't ride to the absolute top) your not far from reaching the top of the road where you'll eventually get to see this sign indicating that you've done it. At this point, you'll have covered 27.6 miles and 3,750ft of elevation (135ft of elevation per mile). You can see the climb here on Strava.


At the Top of El Teide
After all that climbing, of course you get to go descend and what a thrill that is.  Just shy of 14 miles of twisting roads where you're generally doing 40-45mph on the straight bits, slowing down for the bends and switchbacks.  

My average on this stretch was 29.7mph and it was brilliant fun.  You may need to take a gilet with you if the conditions are cooler as it can get cold.  At 23 degrees we were OK on the day.  

Eventually we reached the cafe at San Miguel, racked the bikes and tucked into a two course lunch of soup and salad with bread, then some grilled chicken (washed down with a well earned beer), followed by coffee.
Post Ride Lunch in the Cafe
Conclusion

It's a stunning climb, I'd recommend anyone to do it.  If you climb up from Cosme (adding on the bit that I did the previous year), then it will around 39 miles of climbing with circa 7.7K of ascent (roughly 197ft per mile). I'll be back next year to do that.

Thanks to the guys at Club Activo cycling for a well organised tour and some great grub when we got back. Would definitely recommend them if you're considering a ride up El Teide or one of their other tours around the island of Tenerife.

Kit List

One of the upsides of booking through an organised tour provider was having a support van where you could chuck a bag in.  On the day I wore, bib shorts, base layer and short sleeved top.  I did however take a cap and arm warmers, plus a gilet due to the cold conditions setting up and also in case of need for the descent.  I also had a rain cape as it can be known to suddenly heavy rain given the height you are at, didn't need it though.

The support van had plenty of water.  I took some Zero tablets with me and ensured I had regular fluids as we went up, keeping the electrolytes going.

Bike

I hired a bike from Bike Point Tenerife in Las Americas.  This is the second time I've used them.  They have a nice range of bikes which are well set-up in a well stocked shop which has everything you need if you've forgotten to bring it.  I hired this Focus Izalco which was very well set-up.   

 

Gears were tight, rubber was new and brakes very sharp.  I took my own saddle out with me.  Gear ratio was 52/36 on the front with a 32 tooth cassette on the rear.  Hoops were nice with DT swiss hubs which rolled very well.  Overall the bike was superb, ideal for climbing and very predictable on the descents.

Pedals I hired too plus helmet.  They supply a saddle bag with inner tube and levers.  If you let them have your measurements in advance, they'll get the bike set up to your dimensions too, which is very handy.  

If you do a tour with Club Activo, they have a fleet of Ridley bikes which you can hire for €25 or so a day.