r

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

How to do a STEP TEST on ZWIFT p/b HPTek

Thanks to Dr Stephen Lane from HPTek.com.au for taking us through the step test procedure he's put 100s of athletes through over the years.


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Below is how you can perform this test yourself using Zwift to calculate your MAP and an estimate of your FTP. This is an excellent task to complete prior to doing your 20 minute FTP test.





1. Download this ZWIFT workout file. Right click and save it to your /Documents/Zwift/Workouts folder.

2. Open Zwift and go to SELET WORKOUT (or press 'E' when in the program) and select this workout.





3. Set your FTP to 100W *IMPORTANT*



4. Start the workout and proceed through the 25W steps......



5. As per the video. Record the following information

- Final Completed Stage:___________
- Uncompleted Stage:___________
- Duration of Uncompleted Stage:___________

Example:
- Final Completed Stage: 375W
- Uncompleted Stage: 400W
- Duration of Uncompleted Stage: 120seconds


6. Calculate your MAP with the figures from No.5.

- 120 seconds completed / 150 seconds steps = 0.8
- 0.8 * 25W (increments) = 20W
- Final completed stage + % of uncompleted = 375+20 = 395W


7. Calculate your estimated FTP

- 82.5% of MAP = 395W * 0.825 = 325.8W ESTIMATED FTP


8. Calculate your estimated 20minute FTP value

- 105% of your FTP = 325.8 * 1.05 = 342W


342W is the number this athlete should attempt to hold for their 20 minute FTP test.

Flipping this around - 95% of this figure gives you ~325W and should validate the step test and/or your 20 minute power test, which ever order you did them.

Now keep training, repeat, and check your progress!


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

TACX Neo Road Feel - The Game Changer


The industry is taking note of how their indoor trainers are being used in more immersive environments with VR or game/simulation software.

Wahoo recently released a firmware for the ageing Kickr to bring it up to speed regarding its response to how we're riding it in the new virtual world (specifically acceleration power calculations). After Neo user feedback Tacx also recently updated the Neo for better sprint performance.

With these updates, there's always a chance the next update just might be a game changer ......

This is one. Literally!






Pros:

  • ANT+ and BlueTooth - We're all good there.
  • A more immersive experience - There's some "WOW" factor there, even for people who've used smart trainers for years. 
  • Something to push against, to fight against, something to wake you up from the norm.
  • That rough to smooth 'arhhhhh my butt' feeling after a rough section. Indoors.. who'd have thought that was possible indoors? 
  • Ability for different training modes: Isokinetic and Isotonic - I'll discuss those in another video.
  • Support from Tacx themselves, Zwift, FullGaz, Kinomap, etc..... 


Cons: 

  • Only active during pedal stroke, so dead-spots and coasting are not 'road feel'. That's a limitation of the units, it isn't shaking the ground! 
  • Will it shake Neo too much and cause hardware problems? Unlikely, but time will tell.
  • Customer support may be inundated with - "It rattles....HELP!".... Well yes, yes it does! :)



Future Application:

  • Mario Kart style banana throw... rider in front or behind rides on ICE! Or cobbles! 
  • Training modes 



Summary

  • Is it a game changer? YES. It changes the experience of the game - and THAT's COOL!
  • Could the Kickr do this? Technically I'm not sure. That unit is ageing, ageing well, but still ageing. Also possible issues with the belt and how it measures power.



Head over and subscribe to the channel for updates of new videos.




Wednesday, 6 July 2016

....As Seen on YouTube!


A side step over YouTube has proven to be more successful than I could have thought. I've been tapping away on the blog here for many years, hitting over a few thousand hits with every post. The numbers over on YouTube far exceed that reach - so - that's where a lot of my content will be uploaded.

Detailed reviews and tales will still appear on here, so keep dropping by!




I'm almost on episode 30.... so head over and subscribe to the channel for updates of new videos.






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.


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.

July/24/2016
- Unit sold!
- DCRainmaker has a pending review of the RevBox coming...

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.


Road Surface Simulation - Feel The RUMBLES! 




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. (*A recent Zwift update stopped this entertaining effect from happening)



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?

A Tacx representative has posted the following statement after others reported the same,

The smell is caused by the power resistors which converts the energy from the sprints to heat. The resistors have been burned in at a high constant power level but in sprints the peak power can be much higher and this causes the smell which will reduce after repeating the same power levels. - Martin Smits 


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. 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.

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..... if you can get a good deal on one.

Is it the silver bullet of smart trainers? No.

Will I be selling my Kickr? No.

What's single two main differences between the Neo and the Kickr? The noise. The road surface simulation.

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

If they were the same price? Kickr unless noise was a concern and/or you want the road surface simulation of the Neo.

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

6/July/2016
- Zwift updated to stop infinite flywheel spinning under certain conditions.
- Quote from Tacx representative about the SMELL!

25/July/2016
- Road Surface Simulation video added