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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

RevBox Erg Review - June 2016




Inertia. Let's talk about that right at the start.

"a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force." - Wikipedia 

Let's say someone throws you a balloon. It's easy to catch. It weighs next to nothing. Now have the same person throw you a bowling ball. That takes a little more effort to grab and slow down! That's the difference between riding the RevBox Erg (the balloon) and almost every other ergo out there (bowling balls!). The RevBox Erg flywheel is extremely light and comes to a halt within a few seconds when you stop pedalling. More on what this means later... 

The Unit 


Closely modelling the BT Advanced Training System, the RevBox Erg does things smaller and lighter, and sheepier (first and last NZ joke, I promise!).



Weighting in at only 9.5kgs with a cassette is a welcome change from having to haul 20kg+ around the workshop for reviewing purposes.



The overall build is what I'd call industrial looking. Fitting for the purpose of it being a training tool rather than a showpiece (Neo, I'm looking at you and your flashy lights!).



At 645mm high and 670mm wide (the feet) it isn't overly portable. Although the feet do come off making the unit only 120mm wide (and as wide as the axle at the maximum point). The rear axle sits at 330mm, the same as the Wahoo Kickr and LeMond Revolution. 



As-is the RevBox erg itself has no sensors or electronics. It's a standard trainer, or 'dumb trainer' to use market terminology. There's an add-on sensor kit for an additional cost (covered below).

This unit I have was purchased around 12 months ago and has had approximately 90 minutes of use. There have been minor revisions in the latest models - all cosmetic I believe. 

The RevBox Erg is listed at NZ$1,380 (US$964) as a base unit with no cassette. 


The Background


According to KickTraq, RevBox failed to meet their goal of raising NZ$50,000 in their Kickstarter campaign, reaching only 33% of that target in the required 45 day timeframe. 

Admittedly the ergo space will never be an easy market to enter, going head to head with well established global players such as Tacx, Wahoo, Elite, who all have an array of trainer choices.

The Kickstarter video comes across as a little over-scripted, with a number of quotes I'll follow up below... 


RevBox does have a unique value prop though, the low inertia 'windbrake' flywheel.


The Ride


After the first few pedal strokes I experienced exactly what low inertia meant. In an low gear the crank will accelerate and decelerate through the pedal stroke as the flywheel changes speed. This was definitely a change up to the normal muscle firing patterns I'm accustomed to on ergos and out on the road.

It took a few minutes for me to smooth out my pedal stroke as I took it for a spin around virtual Richmond on Zwift. 

I found sprint efforts on the RevBox are different to sprinting on the road, track, or other ergos. Normally when you hit out in a sprint you'll wind up the RPMs throughout the sprint effort. The RevBox will to peg you bang on your peak power for the duration and won't spin up higher cadences. You'll never get 'on top of the gear' or spin out on the RevBox.


Note the initial spin up with lower power than a standard 'kick' sprint, and a very flat-line cadence. 


Standard spike and gradual rising of the cadence as the gear winds up.

That's the effect of an 'windbrake' trainer. It feels like trying to walk forward with someone pushing back on your head. This is good for keeping the power to the pedals, maybe for building strength, but is a very different to sprinting as I know it. The video below might demonstrate this better.





So it's hard work, is it better work? That's a rabbit hole I won't chase. There's a ton of science both supporting low inertia and equal amounts saying the results are inconclusive. 



The Pitch

The noise. This up there with the LeMond Revolution to when it comes to banging out the decibels! On a scale from 1 to 10, this unit sits at 11.



Now the other pitch. One quote I'll have to pull out from the Kickstarter promo video is that the RevBox provides a "more constant and realistic cycling motion". My experience is the opposite. The pedalling motion feels inconsistent and the low inertia isn't anything like cycling outside. 

Let me explain visually...


That wave along the bottom is the audio track from the sprint video. The 'windbrake' resistance means more noise = more speed. So there was change in speed on every crank push during my sprint efforts. This is not smooth. Let's call it what it is - bloody hard work! :)

This isn't a criticism of the unit. Just a clarification on exactly what this unit does under load. 


RevBox Power App 


RevBox have a free app available for Android (IOS soon) that when paired with RevBox Bluetooth sensors gives you stats from the unit such as power (estimated power based on calibrated speed curve with quoted accuracy of -+5W). Along with the stats there's a swag of training features we've come to expect with similar ergo apps.

The app is a nice value add for the unit. Having to buy their specific speed and cadence sensors (NZ$199) and HR strap (NZ$129) is going to be one hurdle too high for some. Especially given the installation of the sensors and magnet isn't all that easy either, requiring a 14(!) image installation guide. 

My thoughts on this? They need to open up the app to allow any Bluetooth sensor. You're already a RevBox customer if you're loading the app. If not, maybe you'll love their app and use it for training. That's a win-win, well close.

BT have allowed more user flexibility with their ergo by supplying ANT+ sensors and USB sticks for use with third party software such as TrainerRoad.

Ideally I'd like to see RevBox take the same path as LeMond and produce a "WattBox" that did all the legwork and sent an ANT+ power figure to whatever app/head unit you liked. This would remove the virtual cuffs and universalise things a little more. User choice is a good thing!

Note: Estimating power based on speed curves means peak power during acceleration may not be within the specified accuracy estimates (-+5W). With strain gauges it's a no-brainer getting peak power values. With speed curves and estimated power, it's a mathematically difficult problem to solve (sensor frequency into play... another rabbit hole).


Support


The team replied to all my queries during this review in no time at all. This might have been a benefit of them being only a short hop over the Tasman Sea in New Zealand. Regardless, two thumps up there. 


Summary 


I see this unit as a training tool with specific application. Be that rehabilitation after accidents and injuries or maximal power low cadence sprints if that's what you need to work on to beef up your cycling. 

If you're looking for an everyday trainer that replicates real-world riding, there are smart trainers packed with technology in the same price bracket that will outperform the RevBox Erg for that task.

As always, let you legs decide and try one yourself.

*Update* - When I went to return the unit the owner mentioned they no longer had a use for it and asked I put it up for sale. So make an offer! What you see is what you get. 10spd. Melbourne area. Pickup preferred.


www: http://www.revbox.co.nz



------------

Changelog

June/8/2016
- Initial publication.

June/9/2016
- Unit age/usage information added.
- Owner requested this unit be put For Sale, has no use for it ongoing.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 User Review - June 2016




This review has been a long time coming! The Neo has been available for close to eight months now so there's already a ton of reviews detailing the technical specifications, low noise, and general build of the unit. All important things to cover, but there isn't many that dive into the actual user experience.

What are the ins and outs of the Neo? What's the ride really like? And the #1 question, how does it compare to the Wahoo Kickr?

I haven't set out to do a head to head comparison between the Neo and Kickr, however I'll be making a lot of references to the Kickr as it is the #1 competitor. To assist Google search indexes I'll include the keywords "Neo vs Kickr" and "Kickr vs Neo" in this paragraph. :)

To get the standard things out of the way first, here are a few links:

Tacx: Neo Official Product Promo Video. Lots of polish. Everything you expect to see and hear.

DCRainmaker: The Tacx NEO Smart Trainer. Covering unboxing, technical specifications, and a few quotes I'll revisit in further detail below.

James Gill's TitaniumGeek: Tacx NEO Long Term Review.

Tacx Official FAQ - Tacx Neo Common Q&A.


Quickstart Guide


- Unboxing and setting up was straight forward and simple. No assembly required.

- Cassette installation on the Edco MultiSys freehub (Shimano and Campagnolo compatible) was straight forward. Shimano lock-rings are now supplied with newer Neo units.

- The unit is heavy. That's ok with me. I don't plan to move it around on a regular basis.

- Some people mention the plastic shell looks cheap. I really like the look of the unit. Star Wars meets Tron with some Fast and the Furious neon lights for effect.

- Owning a Neo means you're inducted into the The Flat Earth Society, like it or not. There's no 'feet' to adjust or level the unit. You'll have to get creative if your floor isn't level.

- The glowing lights under the Neo are nice visual for the pain cave, but are of no real use. I could imagine them being more interesting in a spin room full of Neos where you could tell how hard other riders are working (blue = easy. red = in the red zone!).


- The unit can be used without power. The energy you're putting into the Neo from the bike will power the unit. That's pretty cool. As for using this unit outside for warm ups? That idea isn't all that practical. The unit is too big to haul around, it's heavy, and it isn't waterproof. I'll be sticking to my LeMond Revolution or CycleOps Fluid2 trainer for warm up duty.

- The Neo will not accomodate all bike frames. Tacx have templates to print and measure your frame available here. My Shiv TT bike is reported as being incompatible. Looks like it'll work with the 135mm spacer and a front wheel prop. Check your own bike(s) before purchasing!



- The height of the Neo cover makes it a little trickier to put your bike on/off than other direct drive trainers. Not a huge drama, just something that's not the same as the others.


The Sound


If your number one priority is low noise ergo sessions then the Neo is your answer. It is perfect for apartments or those who don't want to disturb the family at 5am. There is a low level hum that comes from the Neo. It's so low your drivetrain and the fans in your pain cave will mask it.



DCRainmaker also has a video up on YouTube that demonstrates the sound of the Neo vs the Kickr perfectly.





The Height


You'll be a full 25mm (~1 inch) higher off the ground on the Neo compared to the Kickr or LeMond Revolution. The supplied front wheel block from Tacx goes part way to propping up the front wheel enough to feel natural. Telephone books are my wheel prop of choice.



Power Accuracy


This could be a seperate post in itself. I'll keep it short and sharp.

My testing showed the Neo lining up within a few watts of my Quarq (calibrated with a 20.000kg certified weight). I got a second opinion from the doctor - Dr Stephen Lane from HPTek who performs step-tests on athletes more regularly than I have hot dinners. Two thumbs up from him too after testing with Power2Max, SRMs, and SRMs with oval chainrings (out by the estimated offset using those, data junkies you know the deal).

Not having to calibrate or perform a regular spindown is win with the Neo.


Road Feel


Nothing will beat the buttery smooth feeling of the LeMond Revolution. As for smart trainer road feel the Neo is pretty good, and getting better with recent firmware updates. User TarmacExpert over on the UK TimeTrialling forums has performed some detailed analysis of the Neo that is well worth a look if you want to dive deeper into this topic.


Downhill Drive - Not so fast.....


A much talked up feature of the Neo is the downhill drive simulation, where the Neo turns the freewheel on simulated descents when plugged into a power source.

"when the NEO Smart is plugged into the wall – the trainer will even ‘propel’ you forward if you’re on a virtual downhill grade." Bike Radar. August 2015.

No it won't. It'll turn the freewheel but this has ZERO EFFET on 'propelling' you forward.

All training apps calculate your virtual speed primarily from your power and the virtual gradient. This is completely independent of how fast your ergo flywheel is spinning. If anything, Downhill Drive is a slight hinderance if you need to keep your wattage up on descents as there's less resistance to push against. Setting the 'Trainer Difficulty' in Zwift to 50%-75% goes a long way to assist in this area. For full details of Trainer Difficulty feature within Zwift, see this ZwiftBlog article.

Under the right conditions the Neo will happily spin the freewheel indefinitely while your Zwift avatar has come to a halt on the side of the road.



This isn't a bug, or an error with either the Neo or Zwift. Zwift will apply a slight braking effect to your avatar when you're not pedalling to assist with bunch ride dynamics. If your virtual speed and downhill inertia isn't enough to overcome this braking you will come to a stop, but the Neo keeps spinning away like it's on a downhill. Again, not a bug, this is by design. It also proves that Downhill Drive does not itself propel you anywhere.

The Kickr does a good job of simulating descents by significantly reducing resistance and letting the heavy flywheel spin up to carry inertia. Downhill Drive provides a similar inertia feel for the Neo. It propels the flywheel forward so you have to get on top of the pedals, as you do outside on a real descent.

In summary - "In case that you don’t plug it in the wall, it won’t drive when going downhill and the cycling feeling is a little bit less good." - TACX Neo Questions and Answers


.... a little bit less good. Um... What? :) 

That Green Jersey Smell


The first three green jersey sprints I tested the unit with on Zwift (~900W 20 seconds) resulted in an electrical odour coming from the Neo. The unit gets pretty hot under normal operation, so I suspect this is simply some bedding-in from the factory taking place. Maybe some excess glue on the heatsinks inside the unit? I'm not sure. It hasn't occurred in other subsequent short sprint tests.


Virtual Tyre Slip


The Neo is a direct drive unit with no drive belt. It should be impossible for any tyre slip issues. Right? Under certain conditions I encountered issues with the Neo resistance backing off for a fraction of a second at the bottom of each pedal stroke immediately after maximum torque. I suspect there's some kind of resistance protection kicking in. I'm not able to quantify this with data as the sample rate of the Quarq isn't high enough.

This is a noticeable anomaly when doing low speed hill attacks, and green jersey sprints. The uniform  resistance of the pedal stroke is interrupted. It has been described over on the Tacx forums as the resistance becoming "mushy".

Discussion Link of this issue over on the Tacx Forums

I've been told this "mushy" issue feels like you're running oval chainrings. I'm sure this similarity is a coincidence and isn't by design.

This issue has delayed this review as I've spent a days researching this issue, testing, testing, and more testing. I've spoken to a number of Neo owners about their experience and there's a general consensus with the latest firmware updates the Neo has become troublesome for high torque sprint efforts. I have an ongoing channel of communication with Tacx direct at the moment looking into this issue and I'll update this post as things progress.

Update June 7th 2016 via NEO Owners Group Forum:

We have analysed the problem and experienced variance in braking force in an area where we did not expect this. We were looking at higher speeds because in this area we have made changes. With feedback from users we are now looking in the right range and will analyse what causes this effect. The neo should be able to reproduce the correct and stable braking force in this area and we will let you know when we have a solution.

Stay tuned....

User Support


The local distributor has been excellent, and the team at Tacx have responded to my queries within a few hours. This has been extremely helpful as I've worked on this article.

The Price


Here's the real sticking point in Australia. The Neo has an RRP of $2199 AU$2499 (RRP updated recently), and can be seen as low at AU$1999 from online stores (beware of import duty and taxes!). You'll have to supply your own cassette with the Neo, so factor in another AU$50-$100 on top.

Wahoo Kickr has an RRP of AU$1599 (with cassette supplied). Rumours of multi-buy discounts can bring this down below AU$1500 if your local store is willing. The going price for a 2nd hand Kickr is from $800-$1350.

In Europe the Kickr and Neo are both the same price. I'm not sure why the Aussie market is so different. Tacx will need to review the Neo price here in Australia if they're going to move anywhere near the same volume as Wahoo with their Kickrs.


Levelling the Battle - The recent Wahoo counter punch!


"What differentiates the NEO though from something like the Wahoo KICKR are two main aspects: Downhill drive, and noise. Or rather, lack thereof. First, the noise from the unit is pretty close to silent." - DCRainmaker, September 2015.

Knowing what I know now about the Downhill Drive feature of the Neo, and taking into account the recent update by Wahoo to Kickr firmware 1.4.47 that incorporates acceleration power and better simulation mode operation - The head to head battle between these two smart trainers is closer than I first thought. The only feature of the Neo that differentiates the two at the moment is the noise. And the Kickr isn't too obnoxious when it comes to that.

Straight to the Point Q&A


Is the Neo bad for my carbon frame? No. Ergos don't break bikes. Misuse does.

Is the Neo a good trainer to buy? Yes..... as long as you're not a sprinter, or like to regularly unleash the mongrel within when racing on Zwift with blistering attacks.

Is it the silver bullet of smart trainers? No.

Will I be selling my Kickr? No.

What's single main difference between the Neo and the Kickr? The noise.

Kickr or Neo - With the Aussie price difference? Kickr.

If they were the same price? Kickr unless noise was a concern. The torque slip issue still has me rattled with how I ride indoors. An analogy would be TopGear putting a regular family sedan on the race track. Unfortunately the Neo is up there in the Ferrari price bracket for indoor trainers.

Whatever Lama, I want to try one for myself! Excellent! I really encourage this. Find a Dealer Here

You didn't cover X or Y about the Neo! There's a ton of things I haven't covered, I'll add them in if there's a lot of queries. Fire away in the comments section!

Will these answers change? YES! Just as Wahoo released a game-changing firmware for the now three year old Kickr only a few weeks ago, I'm certain Tacx have a few tricks up their sleeve in the near future. I'll keep a changelog at the bottom of this article.



--------------
Changelog

2/June/2016
- First post publication.

3/June/2016
- Updated AU $RRP.
- Import duty and taxes if buying overseas.
- Find a Dealer link added.

7/June/2016
- Update from TACX via NEO Owners Group Re: Virtual Tyre Slip

Friday, 27 May 2016

Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ Smart Trainer Review - May 2016




In the last week I've acquired smart trainers from both ends of the pricing spectrum. The TACX Neo Smart (>AU$2000) and the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ (RRP AU$659).

I was primed to write about the TACX Neo until I rode the Elite trainer for two hours yesterday. For the price, I was so impressed I had to write this up first. It isn't all roses though. There's a few shortfalls to deal with if you're looking to buy one of the cheapest smart trainers on the market.

DCRainmaker has covered the specifications of the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ here. But how does it ride? How does it compare to direct drive trainers? What's the overall experience like on Zwift? Can a trainer 1/4th the price of the Neo provide the same indoor experience?




The Good


The good news is that it works. It works really well. The experience of "oh, did that just... wowa" is there when the road heads up and down on Zwift. The automatic resistance changes are there. On instinct you'll flick down a few gears and stand up out of the saddle on the hills. You'll be immersed. Something I didn't think possible on an entry level smart trainer. Ask anyone who's upgraded from a standard trainer to a smart trainer and they'll tell you it's this immersive experience that brings ergo sessions to life.


If direct drive smart trainers are outside your bike budget, this is a brilliant alternative. If you can find a bargain one of these around AU$400-$500 then it's a no brainer purchase. If you can only find the unit at the RRP of AU$659, then I would hold off and budget a few $100 more for the Wahoo Kickr SNAP, for reasons discussed below. It isn't all about the hardware! 

The power readings from the unit were pretty close to my Quarq from 0-250W. From 250W+ it read 10-20W low for sustained efforts. That's a pretty good ballpark for the price. If you've already got a power meter then you pair that as your Power Source in Zwift and use the Elite trainer as a Controllable Trainer for a cheap and accurate solution.

Quarq for power & cadence - The Elite Qubo providing smart resistance.

The Bad/Interesting


The roller isn't screwed in or locked into the tyre like most other trainers. The design uses the weight of the bike and rider to push back on the roller. The only issue I encountered was when jumping forward on hard hill attacks I was robbed a few watts compared to what the Quarq reported. I put this down to a small amount of tyre slip.

I thought this design would have been a showstopper when sprinting, but it wasn't. Once the roller was spun up to speed the unit worked extremely well in sprints.



Due to the design there is a small amount of forward/back movement of your bike when you ride as the tyre 'bounces' on the roller. Your milage may vary, and it'll depend on how smooth you are on the bike. You'll also need to have the trainer on a grippy surface to stop clocking up real kms into the walls at home.

The noise level isn't too bad, it's no LeMond Revolution neighbourhood blaster. The small 35mm roller and light flywheel give a higher pitch sound than a fluid trainer. I'll do a video comparing my collection of trainers under sustained load and sprints in the near future.

The roller will wear tyres. There's no getting around this on these types of trainers. The best thing you can do is to clean your tyre before every ride if you've been outside. This will keep the roller surface in good condition so it won't chew your rubber too quickly.

Four hours of build up from a Specialized Roibaix Pro rear tyre.

The Elite trainer range is extensive and the names can be confusing. The Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ is a different product to the Elite Qubo Power Smart B+. Beware when shopping!


The Ugly


The Elite software for firmware updates, calibration, and their own training programs can be confusing. There's one EXE to update the firmware, another to get calibration values, another to set them. The calibration speed test tool was a little unintuitive, but I got there in the end and recored the three 'p' values. I then entered them into the other calibration tool to write them to the unit. This was just a test to see how that process worked as the unit was already pretty accurate.

Elite need to take a leaf from Wahoo and Tacx on this one and allow full unit management (firmware/calibration) from within the one mobile app.



Locating the iPhone app isn't easy either. Search for 'MyETraining' is the tip if you want to use it.

Documentation and user support information online is thin. Once you locate an answer it'll likely be for their other similarly named trainers with different features. It's not the same as searching for Wahoo or Tacx and having a goldmine of posts on SlowTwitch appear. Having said that, there are two  Elite Qubo posts on SlowTwitch raising the exact issues I have here.

The ANT+ speed/cadence sensor the unit broadcasts needs to be configured with a tyre size of 47mm (0047). This will give you virtual speed/distance on your paired device identical to the Elite apps. It won't be one for one when it comes to Zwift, but it'll be consistent. Maybe play with a few mm higher or lower for better alignment with Zwift.


Customer Support


Elite have been good in responding to my queries. Their support comes out of Italy so beware of a slight corporate communication barrier.


Conclusion


The good thing is that out of the box this unit just works with third-party apps over ANT+ FEC or Bluetooth, so my gripes with their software are of no major concern. I hope they're addressed in the next few updates (both firmware and mobile apps).

This unit would be a good entry point for anyone wants to experience Zwift with a smart trainer with a limited spend budget.

If you're in Australia, the best place to start for Elite products is http://cassons.com.au. They'll be able to point you to your nearest stockist.



Changelog 

May/2016
- First publication.

June/6/2016
- Speed sensor details update.
- Sprint video added (11 sec reverse Watopia for green!)
- Photo of tyre wear.
- Comment on support.

June/17/2016
- Updates from Elite of the Calibration Tool

June/22/2016
- Aussie distributer details added (http://cassons.com.au)

June/25/2016
- RRP updated to Cassons AU$659
- PBK purchase link removed from main article at request of Elite.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Winter is Coming - Upgrade Your Bike Cave!



Here's the rundown on the equipment used at the May 2016 Zwift Australian event nights, plus additional items I use in my own indoor bike cave. Hopefully there's one or two things here you'll spot that will make your indoor sessions more enjoyable.

Let me know if you'd like more info about any of the content below and I'll do my best to get back to you and update this post with the information.



Flooring


Starting from the ground up. Wahoo Kickr Trainer Floormats were used on the hard flooring at Rapha CC in Sydney and at Bilia Volvo in Melbourne. The solution I use at home is custom cut rubber backed marine flooring from Clark Rubber. Thicker floor mats dampen vibration and trainer noise which is always a good thing in close quarters. Yoga mats are a cheaper alternative if you're looking for a cost effective solution.




Items:

Wahoo Kickr Trainer Floormats ~AU$100
Clark Rubber ~AU$35/m
Yoga Mats ~AU$5-$100+



TV Screen Tripods


Having a large screen at the right height in front of you really helps with the immersion into whatever you're watching on the screen. The Allcam TR940 were the tripods of choice for screens ~40inches in size that we used. They're an expensive solution to by locally in Australia as they're shipped from the UK. Let me know in the comments section if there's something similar locally people have seen.



Item:

Allcam TR940 AU$350 (much cheaper from the UK direct!)



Side Table


Somewhere for your keyboard, remote controls, additional drinks, food. I use a conductor stand from a music shop, along with a bar stool from Ikea for any extras.



Items:

On Stage SM7211 Conductor Stand AU$60
Ikea Stools AU$x



Fans - Move that air!


Anything that moves air is good in this department. I've used a number of different fans over the years, my #1 is now the Sunair 30cm High Velocity Turbo Fan. These are brilliant for a number of reasons: They're cheap, small, quiet, and move a TON of air.


Item:

Sunair 30cm High Velocity Turbo Fan ~$AU30-40



Computing


Dell Alienware Alpia i3 - These are mid-range computers with beefed up mobile components to keep the unit size down. I run one of these units at home with a few hardware modifications. They're compact Windows 10 machines so they're great for other everyday use, or multitasking while on the ergo for YouTube playlists, Spotify, etc.

Note: The i5 and i7 versions of these units will run Zwift at exactly the same frame rates as the i3, so the cheaper i3 model is the best choice.



Items:

Dell Alienware Alpha ~AU$799
i3 Alpha Custom Upgrade Guide (with GPU overclock info!)



Keyboard/Mouse Combo


Logitech K400R, available at Officeworks. We've had 6 working in the same room with a lot of other wireless signals flying around.



Item:

Logitech K400R ~AU$39



Headphones


Over-ear noise cancelling headphones are fine for indoor work as long as you've got enough air moving around. I use a wired Audio Technica set that I take everywhere with me. They're great for air travel too. They don't fill up with sweat, and they're wiped down with baby wipes (see below) after every use.



Item:

Audio Technica ATH-ANC9 ~AU$229



USB ANT+ Sticks / USB extension cables.


Required kit for your computer to talk to your ANT devices (smart trainers, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc). As ANT is low power it is susceptible to interference. An extension cable is a really good idea to ensure 100% signal from your sensors to your computer. Cheaper USB extension cables can be hit and miss, stick with premium known brands for best performance.



All four in the photo do exactly the same job. All four are difference prices. If you want an in-depth review of these devices, I wrote this last year: Garmin USB2 ANT Stick In-Depth Review

Items: (only ANT stick one required per machine)

Garmin USB ANT+ Stick ~AU$59
Generic ANT+ Mobile Stick ~AU$42
ANSELF USB ANT+ Stick Cheap! (Watch this space. Shipping is slow. I've ordered a ton!)



Internet


Good quality Internet in the bike cave is critical. ISP supplied modem/routers are usually sufficient, but if you're looking at getting the most out of your connection go for the best wifi modem/router your budget will allow. The Billion range are brilliant and allow for some back end tinkering if that's your thing.

If your bike cave is tucked away in your back shed, you might need to go with upgraded wifi antenna or wifi range extenders.

Tip: There have been reports of users encountering a Bermuda Triangle of dropped ANT signals if their wifi is using channels 9-12. If you're having issues, switch over to channels 1-6 and see if that resolves the issue.




Misc (everything else)


QuadLock Phone mount - Quick and easy access to phone with waterproof case. My review of the iPhone6 Bike Kit. AU$70 (30% off with "zwiftlama" discount code!)



Baby Wipes - Great for keeping things like headphones, heart rate straps, and bikes clean after an ergo session. AU$2.50/pack






Putting it all together

 




Friday, 29 April 2016

A Weekend With The Maven (and our girls). ANZAC Long Weekend 2016

With the never ending dramas high up in the stratosphere of professional cycling, it's always good to see the sport at our level being championed by people who are doing it different. People carving their own path with nothing more than the intent of sharing their love of cycling with others.


Mark 'Cycling Maven' Ferguson is doing just this. His rapid rise in popularity via YouTube proves that if you're passionate about something, and have a platform to share that passion, people will jump on board for the ride.

I've known Mark for a few years now, back to before his five year cross-fit adventure (don't hold that against him), and recently via his Cycling Maven YouTube channel. His channel covers everything from race tips, cycling adventures, interviews, and everything in between. Each video gets people more and more invested in his story. People are adopting 'The Maven' as their friend. That might sound bizarre, but if you're a regular subscriber to YouTube vlogs, you'll understand.

     A cycling tragic sharing my love, knowledge and opinions on the sport. Among other things depending on my mood. - Cycling Maven YouTube channel description. April 2016.

I believe this philosophy of sharing the experience above all else resonates well within the cycling community. The Internet is the world's best bullsh*t filter. If you're trying to sell people something that doesn't work, or pushing out over produced polished content then you're at risk distancing yourself or your brand from your audience by trying to place yourself high up in that stratosphere mentioned above. No matter how much time Mark spends editing his videos for the perfect shot, it's the rawness and honesty that makes his work a welcome departure from the norm.

Anyhow, that's enough of my polished introduction. ;) Here's a few behind the scenes stories, photos, and videos of our recent trip to Bright, Victoria with Mark, his better half, Hannah, and my wife Von.



Day 1 - Mt Buffalo (The Horn on sunset) 

I'd promised to take the crew the best place I could think of to see the sunset on Saturday night. My confidence remained high while we made our way up Dingo Dell, past the Mt Buffalo ski field, and up the windy dirt road. Truth be told, I had serious doubts if it would be a good location or not. It was years since I'd been up there. Turns out it was a good location to place my bets on. It was amazing!

Preparing for launch... DJI Phantom 4. 
The drone master in action, and Hannah 'gramming. 
Get that shot!  

No selfie stick? No worries. The Maven takes care of the shot.



And the final production....




Day 2 - Mt Buffalo (sunrise) then onto Mt Hotham 

While scoping out the view for the sunrise we'd been paparazzi'd by Instagram user IngGa (we only found it a few days later by chance)

Photo: IngGa (Instagram)
The next morning we returned to the mountain hoping it was a clear morning.... it was.






Nothing sus... looking for 240V. (See the VLOG for what's going on here) :) 
I'm not sure about those pilot pants..... 

After lunch it was off to Mt Hotham on the bikes!







The Maven giving me "Lance eyes" before attacking! 
King of the kids again at the top!





The daily VLOG.....





Day 3 - ANZAC Day. Bright Canyon Walk

We attended the 6am dawn service at Bright. The number of people at the service surprised us all. 3/4 of us went back to bed following the ceremony, with Mark staying up to edit footage for the next vlog. A few hours later we headed back into Bright for breakfast and to the little known Canyon Walk that starts right in town. 




Reflections - As seen though my polarised Foakleys. (yes, I got a pair too)
Tourist guide Von!



Daily VLOG....




A story I didn't tell Mark was that while he was filming with the drone along the river on our last day, someone threw a large rock at it from the bushes. At first I thought it was a fish splashing near it, then out popped some grumpy bastard from the bushes mumbling about video privacy and telling us to delete the footage. He didn't know we were close by and thought he'd have a shot at taking the drone down. Had he actually taken it down, I might have given him the same fate, with a similar rock. He wasn't a good human. We agreed not to put any of 'his footage' online, that kept old mate happy. A minute later and were met by the lovely lady who's in the vlog saying she wants to see and share the footage. She was a good human. See the video for our chat with her.

Regarding the above - I can see how people might think drones are obnoxious. Going by our experience on the weekend, 99.9% of people were fascinated by it and wanted to see the footage. Mark welcomed anyone and everyone to look over his shoulder as he flew it around for a few minutes. All while answering questions about it, and generally being a good human. The novelty of drones is still there for people, I guess if every man and his dog had a drone it could become annoying. For now, it brings the crowds and entertains the kid in all of us.


A few quick observations as this post is getting long.....

I realised on the weekend was that there's simply not enough hours in a day to do everything. I have a real appreciation of what goes into a 10-12 minute video, and it's a lot more than 24hrs.

Mark might be the one with the cameras, doing most of the talking, and telling the stories. However like in most relationships, the level headed sounding board / creative genius / sub editor is the other person. Hannah is AWESOME! Even I can't wait for the couples Q&A people have been asking for. Someone please ask her about her rabbit. ;)

Making a difference. The comments on Mark's vlogs are pure gold. There are literally 1000s of people loving his work, loving the stories, and soaking up the energy he puts into his work. This is inspiring people all over the world. This is the difference that makes the work all worth the time and effort. 'The Maven' is firmly at ground level with the rest of us, true grass-roots, with the only thing in the stratosphere being a little drone, looking down capturing the moment.