What GPS should I use for bike riding

If you’re not using a GPS device to record your ride then you’re missing out on a fun aspect of cycling.  Keeping track of routes and ride data can be interesting and help make you a better cyclist.  I used to manually enter all my ride data into a website so I could keep track of my mileage, it wasn’t very time consuming but very prone to error and forgetfulness.  Now it’s nearly automatic thanks to wild inovations in technology that seem almost like magic to my early 90s brain.

So I’ve assembled a small collection of various GPS devices that correspond to the major types available and I’m going to give what I believe are the pros and cons of each type.

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GPSmap 60CSx, Handheld

The grandfather clock of GPS units.  This is actually a great unit, very high end for its time but the technology is definitely dated.  That being said it’s by far the most capable GPS unit I’ve ever used and is still great today.  The color screen is easy to read in daylight, the unit is very accurate and can be used in just about any capacity, dedicated geocaching, all kinds of maps via a microSD card, it’s even got turn by turn directions if you install Streets and Maps.  Probably the best feature, extreme durability, trust me on this, I’ve really abused this thing and it still works perfect.

So why don’t I use this all the time?  Size, bike mount, and connectivity.  The Garmin bike mount for this unit is horrible, I’ve had the unit pop out and hit the ground on small bumps.  I’ve never even tried it mountain biking.  The large size of the unit means that it takes up alot of space on your handlebars.  Another issue is this unit lacks compatibility with Garmin Communicator meaning that all rides must be manual downloaded from the machine then uploaded to Strava.

Finally there is no wireless connectivity in these kinds of units, no heart rate or speed/cadence sensor, pretty much breaks the deal for anyone using it for training.  I’ve mainly used it in a camelbak or rear pocket on rides when I need the mapping.  The maps on this thing have saved me many times.

Edge 500 Cycling

The Edge 500 is the gold standard for bicycle GPS units.  It’s light, small and has lots of features that make it ideal for training.  Ant + heart rate, speed and cadence and power meters for the really serious.  I bought this unit because I wanted a great cycling computer with sensors for indoor training and that’s what I got.  The custom screen setups are great when you’re doing intervals and want a page for lap times and heart rates.  Its small size is just right for handlebar mounting, and it works flawlessly.

It’s not perfect though, there is zero mapping function, not even a track map, which is usually not to useful but can be really handy in the woods.   The buttons are on the small side and not always easy to hit.  Probably the biggest complaint is the stock mount.  The rubber O rings are super easy to install, but the unit isn’t firmly attached to the stem making it kind of squirm when you try to push buttons.  Many custom mounts are available though.

Lastly I do not use this for mountain biking, it’s just too expensive to have hanging there on the front my handlebars.  Way to much chance of getting knocked off, lost, and destroyed, plus the dirt and water is a bad idea.

Forerunner 205 Running

The Forerunner is a watch style GPS and my most recent addition.  There are many options available in this category from the stripped down 205 to a fully fuctional Fenix.  The watch style is by far the most versatile, the wrist mount can easily adapted to a handlebar mount that is very secure.  The forerunner 205 can not connect to a Ant+ devices which is a big letdown for training, but for a bit more money there are models available with full Ant+ like the 305.

The biggest drawback is probably screen size, which is not really only small compared to the full size models.

Iphone or android and Strava

Perhaps the cheapest and easiest option is using the Strava App on a smartphone.  I have an iphone that is not connected to cell provider but it still makes a great cycling computer, and lots of other stuff.  There are all kinds of mounts available for these, I’ve never bought one, but they range from totally crap to really great depending on how much you want to pay.  I used the iphone in a pocket or camelbak while mountain biking for a long time and it works great in that capacity.  Using it on the bars would has problems with battery life and durability.  THe iphone isn’t ant+ compatible without additional hardware so don’t plan on using for your indoor training.

For awhile I used a 30 dollar android phone that someone gave me and though it wasn’t to responsive it would run strava for about 4 hours, probably the cheapest way to get GPS records of your rides.

So what should you get?

The simple answer is the Edge, since it’s designed for cycling, but there is more to the answer than that.  The edge may not be the best for you.

In my mind the ultimate Sport GPS is the wrist mounted unit.  Wrist mounting is the most versatile since you can wear it for swimming, running, walking, and mountain biking. With an simple handlebar adapter you have an excellent cycling computer.  If I could have only one GPS it would be a wrist unit with Ant+

B00EWJQ0X6_img2If mapping is a concern Garmin has finally released an affordable solution with the Edge Touring.  A dedicated cycling computer withing maps like the Edge 800 and 1000 series was way to expensive.  Now the Edge Touring and Touring plus offer great mapping and routing capabilities at a good price.  the 250 dollar Edge Touring is a fantastic value.

I highly recommend tracking your rides on a GPS, it’s fun and having the data collected on a service like Strava is amazing and just keeps getting better as you add more data.  If you can’t afford a dedicated GPS then use your smartphone and strava app!

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Mountain BIking, Reviews, Rides, Running, technology (geek) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heat Treating Shoes That Aren’t Suppose to Be Heat Treated

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years back I bought some Bontrager RXL road shoes at the St. Louis Swap Meet for 10 bucks.  I’ve never really used them because from day one they felt too narrow and caused pain on the outsides of my feet.  If you’ve experienced pain on the outside of your feet while riding you may be like me and need cleat shims to correct a Varus tilt in your shoe to pedal interface.  I’d highly recommend checking out Lewedges or some other kind of pedal shim on the market.

With pedal wedges the shoes were better but still felt too narrow and uncomfortable and didn’t get much use.  I decided to start using these this winter while riding the trainer just to see if I could break them in a bit.  After a few rides that we were uncomfortable I got an idea, I put the shoes in the oven and baked them at 250 degrees for about 5 minutes.

Some shoes are designed to be heated up and worn to get a custom fit around your foot, its very common in the world of inline skating and becoming common on highend cycling shoes.  I’m certain that these Bontrager shoes don’t have that feature, but I thought, “What the heck.”  After the first heating they felt incredibly comfortable for the next ride.  A few days later I wore them again and the left shoe felt tight and constricting again, while the right shoe felt much better.

I’ve now given the Left shoe 3 more heatings and am finding it 90% as comfortable as the Right shoe.

So what’s going on here?

Either the mostly plastic materials of the shoes are stretching a bit and forming a better fit while they are warm on my foot or I’ve just worn them enough to stretch them out naturally.  I think that the heat treatment helped alot and they shoes felt really good while they were warm.

If you have a pair of shoes that you just have never been able to get to fit, you might try heating them up.   The procedure couldn’t be simpler. Turn on the oven, place the shoes in the oven for about 5 minutes, then put the shoes on your feet and go ride.  Only thing to really watch out for is if any kind of metal would be touching your skin, it may burn you.

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I Can’t Even Pretend to Be Fast and Skinny on the Internet…

So this winter I’ve been doing a fair amount of indoor training using Zwift.  Just in case you missed it Zwift is a virtual riding environment that computes the power you’re generating from your trainer and converts that into a speed.  There is currently one course to ride and usually between 20-50 riders online to ride with.  It works with many common trainers or the less common Computrainer and Wahoo Kickr which it can control.

If I can't look like this in real life, I should at least be able to look like this in a computer game!

If I can’t look like this in real life, I should at least be able to look like this in a computer game!

So anyway, I’ve always thought that it would be real cool to see riders compete based purely on Watts generated with weight having no impact on the outcome.  The closest real life environment would be track racing I suppose which I’ve always thought a rider like me would excel.  When I started using Zwift I thought this dream I had was realized, then I discovered I was missing a key part of the equation.

During my first few rides on Zwift I won the King of the Mountain jersey nearly on every ride.  When I approached the hill climb segment on the course I would give it 100% and typically get a small lead on the previous winner.  I was like, “I knew I could be a great rider if I wasn’t so fat!.”

One day I checked out my profile on the game to set my nation and I found that the game asks for weight.  Then it hit me, the computer had been calculating my speed up hills using a default weight which I found out was 75KG or about 165 pounds.  No wonder I was so fast uphill.

10418879_317735208411961_5243630001674878678_nFor some reason I had just assumed that Zwift would just have a default weight for all riders.  I put in my real weight of 230 pounds and hit the game.  There was a noticeable difference.  I was dragging so slowly up the hill that I nearly came to a stop.  After about 20 minutes I changed the weight back to the original 75KG and went on beating everyone up the hills.

zwift-screen02The next night I saw that Jason, my friend from Ohio, was on the island.  I caught up to him and then we rode together for a few laps.  I took it easy up the hill but kept dropping him, he would strike back and force me to work harder to keep up, but I was never really going all out.  I knew this wasn’t right.  The few times I’ve ridden with Jason I was pretty much maxxed out to just to hold his wheel.  The guy is a beast.  We did the Bike Ride Across Georgia together one year and I killed myself trying to hang with him.  Jason is no featherweight hill climber and I knew that he must have entered his real weight.

After the ride I looked at his ride data from Strava and saw just how horrible it was.  His heart rate was peaking out in the mid 180s on the climb while mine was right around 140.  He was turning himself inside out to keep up with me on the climb while I casually rode away without even breathing that hard.

The next time I rode I changed my weight to 200 pounds.  That’s still 30 pounds too light, so I’m cheating, but at 200 pounds I can keep the bike going up the hill at a recovery effort and I can’t beat the KOM on the hill climb.

I voiced my opinion on the forum that I felt like riders adding their own weight to the game was just a headache since you never really know if the person you’re racing up the hill with is honest or not.  I was immediatly shot down. people really want the rider weight feature to be in the game so that they can get realistic climbing speeds and Watts/Kilogram figures while they ride.

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Winter Strikes Back

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a very mild winter so far, last weekend we were riding in near 50 degree temps.  This weekend was a different story.  We had 7 folks turn out for a mountain bike ride with temps just barely 20 degrees and a strong wind, it was cold.  Before the ride I loaned my trusty 5mm hex wrench to another rider and forgot to get it back.  When we arrived at the trail head I found my wrench sitting on the bumper of Tom’s truck.  This is amazing, it sat there for the 15 mile drive, and I really like that wrench.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ground was frozen but the riding wasn’t easy as it had frozen with all the muddy horse hoof holes intact.  Still it was way better then riding through mud.  I was on the 26 inch Cannondale Beast of the East, which performed very well.  This was the first time I’ve ridden it at the more technical One Horse Gap trails and the 26 inch wheels were a bit scary.  Even more scary was the super narrow racing type handlebar I’ve got.  It takes awhile to get used to the steering and its no where near as a comfortable downhill, though I love the bar-end position for climbing.

We woke up this morning to snowfall overnight, not a huge snowfall it looks like maybe 5 inches but it is our first actual snow of the year.  At 19 degrees its not the kind of snow that is much fun to be outside in, but Shanua and I went out to do a bit of shoveling and take some bird pictures.

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Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, lifestyle, Stories | 6 Comments

Fixed Gear Mountain Biking… The Real Thing

I have written in the past about a Southern Illinois rider who rides exclusively fixed gear bikes.  I knew he raced track bikes at the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis but what I didn’t know is that he had recently taken up fixed gear off road riding as well.  When I first heard this I was sure that his off road rides were probably the rail trail or something completely tame, I just couldn’t comprehend riding a bike on real trails and being unable to freewheel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen mountain biking the ability to stop pedaling is very important, often times you need to set your cranks horizontally or stop pedaling for just a second to avoid pedal striking big rocks and obstacles on the trail.  Technical or fast downhills require control and balance which is much easier with the pedals horizontal.  I just didn’t see how it would be possible to ride real off road trails and never stop pedaling.

I’m always keen to meet new riders and I was extremely curious to see if this fixed gear rider was for real so I invited him on a group ride.  I found out just how for real he was.  First off his bike had no brakes, his only way to stop the bike was through his direct connection to the rear wheel.  Secondly he had a 16 tooth rear cog.  Most single speed riders around here are on 20 or 19 tooth.  I couldn’t believe that he was going to survive, if he could manage to keep that thing moving he would end up in a tree or something because he couldn’t stop.

Mr. Fixed Gear hung a SLR camera on a wide strap around his neck as we were about to disembark.  I was like, “No way man, that camera is definitely not going to survive.”  I found out it was not digital but shot 35mm film.  I should note that Mr. Fixed Gear is 16 years old so I was surprised that he knew what 35mm film was.  He bought that camera super cheap at thrift store and didn’t mind if it got destroyed.  I took a photo for him later in the ride, it was the first time I’ve used a film camera in over 10 years and hearing the electric motors whir and click to fire the shutter and advance the film was nostalgic.

I started off leading the ride and kept things moving at a decent pace through the first couple of miles which are all downhill.  Every now and again I’d check to see if the fixed was still there and it always was.  At the first regoup spot I moved to the rear and things really took off when the fixed gear took the front, after a fast and furious downhill section, we did some climbing and I found myself being dropped by Luke and Mr. Fixed Gear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the ride I followed him down a fast and somewhat technical downhill, he was bunny hopping obstacles and locking up the rear wheel to slide it around corners, it was an impressive bit of riding, it would have been impressive on any bike but on the fixed gear it was doubly so.  The amount of work that he was doing was even more impressive, controlling the bike and keeping speed in check downhill had to take an enormous amount of leg power.

I learned a valuable lesson from this ride, first riding a fixed gear mountain bike on trails is possible, but more importantly I learned I shouldn’t be dismissive of something or someone just because they don’t follow the norm.

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Dirty South Ride Series Kicks off

The first ride of the 2015 Dirty South Ride Series went off today in Massac County.  The ride was welcomed in by unseasonably nice weather.  I was unfortunately unable to attend because of work, but I sent Luke there to represent the 62946.  He reported back a massive turnout of riders coming from up to 5 hours away, a really excellent course, organic brownies, and lemonade.  He told me that the Dirty South Massac has set a new bar.  I’m not afraid to admit that I’m intimidated.

The next Dirty South Ride will be held on March 1st at Harbison’s General Store in uptown Herod IL. The route is going to contain a bit more trail then previous editions, but also about 12 miles of paved highway.  At least one part would be super sketchy on a road bike, I would suggest having some kind of tread on your tires.

dirty south 2015 flyer

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To Base Miles or Not Base Miles, That is the Question

If you start researching cycling training you will undoubtedly discover base miles training.  The idea being that before your specific, “crazy fast” training starts you need to do a whole bunch of miles at an easy pace, like say maybe 75% of your max heart rate, though that number varies.  Exactly how long you do this is also up for discussion but I remember reading the magic number is 1000 miles.  Once you’ve accumulated 1000 miles of base training then you’re ready for the serious stuff.

You may also discover those who say base mile training is unscientific “traditionalist” nonsense.  These folks will recommended to go straight into the “ride until you pass out” high intensity intervals.  They will throw out the phrase, “junk miles” and also “quality vs. quantity.”  They will say 1 hour of high intensity intervals is just as good if not better than 3 hours of just riding tempo.

Scientific studies seems to suggest that High Intensity Intervals will make you faster faster.  The traditionalist base miles camp like to use a great pyramid analogy, your base miles are the foundation that the pyramid is built on, the larger your foundation, the taller your pyramid.

I think it ultimately comes down to tailoring your training to the type of events you want to excel at.  If your goal is to race hour long criteriums then you probably don’t need 1000 slow tempo miles before you begin speed intervals.  If your goal is to ride longer endurance events then I’d say get in the big base.

zwift_base_miles

The last few winters my rides on the trainer have been following Sufferfest videos, lots of high speed intervals, lots of soft-pedaling to recover.  Lately I’ve been using Zwift, the virtual riding software where you’re riding on island with lots of people.  The last few rides I’ve tried switching to a tempo style of riding, using the on screen information to keep a heart rate around 135.  After an hour of this I’m pretty tired but not completely zonked like I might be after an hour of killer intervals.  My current thinking is to do a training block of tempo for the next couple of weeks before returning to the killer intervals.

On an interesting side note I’ve found that some of the people I’m riding with on Zwift have taken to following me Strava, one rider who I managed to stay with for a lap last night before my heart rate went too high is now following me.  I checked his stats…

comparison_strava

I thought I liked to ride, this guy’s got over 1500 miles in January, in Vermont.  Good Lord.  Maybe he should be writing the article about base training.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, lifestyle, Racing, training | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments