Archive for the 'Training With Power' Category


Want to know why Indoor Cycling Training Works so well?


Specificity, Specificity, Specificity.

Superfly 100

I recently began, after a roughly 12 year hiatus, riding mountain bikes again. Now, Dallas isn’t really terribly vertically challenged, so the term “Mountain Bike” is probably the wrong term, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it on-topic with that title. One of  the reasons I moved OUT of the mountain bike realm and in to road racing, and this is really just one reason, was because of the fact that, despite my great climbing abilities and decent descending skills, when I moved to Texas, I SUCKED AT TEXAS MTB RACES!!! However, it wasn’t until this summer that I actually began to understand just why.

Lots of speed, wattage, and cadence variations.

Mountain bike racing is definitely requires different training than standard road racing, but I didn’t really understand just how distinct TEXAS mountain bike racing was, until I started going to local DORBA trails again, this time armed with a Quarq power meter. Now, while I knew that Texas trail riding and racing was unique, I had NO IDEA that the demands were until I got this data. Look at the chart above, and watch how stochastic the data remains as I sort of randomly zoom in.

The first image was a 2hr overview. This next one is about 57 minutes…

It’s still stochastic in watts, cadence, and speed…

And here it is, zoomed in to 30 minutes…..

It’s STILL pretty stochastic for the 3 metrics…

And as we zoom in further, you start to see where I may be going with this…..

Still stochastic, but you start to get an idea of the cadence range…

Notice how many short, medium-cadence 'bursts' there are...

regardless of terrain.

19×5-10sec intervals with roughly equal coasting or zero-load pedaling.

So, if you think about it, zoom back up and out, and look at the macro, 2 hour ride, and then scroll down until  you get here. I’ll go in to WKO+ (I’m writing this on my Mac, and will upload the relevant graphic later), to do a ‘Fast Find’, but I’ll bet that in that 2 hour ride, there are probably, oh, let’s take a guess…. what, 300 of these 5-to-15 second intervals, in zones 4, 5, 6, and even higher? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??????

Believe me – it’s actually twistier than it looks.

Well, for one thing, it means that I have a LOT of Specific Training to do, if I’m going to show up for next year’s DORBA races, and even TMBRA races, prepared. I need bike handling practice, I need to dial in my suspension, but probably more importantly, I need to have the ability to do 300, 400, or maybe more, intense intervals, at 60-80 rpm. Try doing THAT on a CompuTrainer! Ugh!

I just wish I had data from my old days, racing in the 90’s in the Northwest. That was a COMPLETELY different beast, and it fed more in to my abilities as a solid Vo2-max and Threshold Racer, and NOT, as a punchy, crazy-accelration-to-the-next-hairpin-where-you-had-to-brake-only-to-punch-it-again-times-400-efforts type racer!!

Let the challenge begin – Hopefully I’ll be ready!!!


2012 Texas Time Trials – 12 Hour review.

ImageOh kay. Where to begin?

I know it’s been a while, and I know I have a lot to write up and discuss, but the three or four main events in my life this year have left me sort of scrambling around, trying to work, live, love, train, coach, and race. I think I’m doing okay now, but it was a serious summer, nonetheless.

I’m going to start at the end, because while there’s a lot to fill in, and my memory will hopefully remain sharp, a complete writeup that  I did on a significant race in Wisconsin, was erased when it wouldn’t save, and I didn’t have the energy to re-write it. I will, hopefully this weekend, but right now, I’ll focus on an event that was so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding, that it merits my attention.

Two weekends ago, now I guess three, I participated in the 12-Hour Texas Time Trial Challenge, run by veteran Randonneurs Dan Driscoll and Pam Wright. Earlier in the year, I had coached Michelle Beckley on a crazy 384-mile effort through the Hill Country, and she convinced me to try a 12 hour myself way out in Amarillo. Unfortunately, we were literally rained out right before it started, when a flash flood destroyed the State Park where the event was going to be held. This time, though, we weren’t going to let a little rain get in our way.

Michelle and her boyfriend convinced me to sign up for the State 12-hour Championships, held down in Glen Rose. Now, I need to tell you – I am NOT in prime shape right now. I won that race in late June, rode in July a few times, did maybe one rally (the Goatneck), and basically rode and mountain biked while I figured out how best to handle my midlife crisis, my divorce, and my new relationship. But here it was, September already, and  I am about 5 to 7 lbs overweight, I’m maybe riding about 3 to 5 hours a week, and I’m going to compete in the 12-hour Time Trials. Good Lord!!!

I prepped my bike and car with all the wheelsets I could find, brought cold weather and wet weather gear so that I wouldn’t be unprepared, carried lights and reflective vests, etc., brought along my TT bike and aero helmets just in case, and bought a  box of Bonk Breakers and Stinger Waffles so that I could try and stay on top of my calories. Oh, and I brought 16 ounces of Fish Oil concoction, which I’ll explain about later. I arrived late in the day, got my bag and numbers and instructions, and went to the hotel. Dinner was Sonic – 800 Kcals of crap. I went to bed, slept a few hours, and woke up to a steady drizzle. This was NOT the ideal way to break myself in to Ultra-Marathon Racing!!

So, the alarm goes off at 4am, I eat more bad hotel food, along with some egg concoctions left over from last night’s dinner, and get to the parking area, which is wet, muddy, and about 60 degrees. I have no flashlight other than the lights on the bike, which I put in my mouth, which then subsequently heat up and burn my mouth, so I’m stuck using the reflected light from the hotel parking lot. In the process, my numbers get soaked, I don’t drink enough coffee, and I lose track of Michelle and Martin, who is providing us with SAG support. I basically run in to them about 10 minutes before the start, and we agree that every lap, I’ll stop at the tent for 2 minutes, where I’ll drop off my water bottles, take on two new ones, and get three Bonk Breakers or four Waffle Stingers. Then the horn goes off, and we’re off!

Michelle and I ride together for about seven miles before we somehow get split up. My lights are a Dinotte 400L up front, and I’m using some CRAPPY Serfas 30lumen  lights in the rear. I think they may have lasted about 4 hours, while the Dinotte lasted the entire freaking race. But in the dark, it’s impossible to see who has a blue ribbon on their helmet, denoting the 12 hour racers, and I quickly realize that my own blue ribbon has flown off in the rain that just won’t stop falling. We have to squeegee our brakes a lot earlier because of the weather, and while I know the roads out there pretty well, it’s a completely different feeling to ride, in the rain, with limited visibility, in the pitch dark, with about 100 yards of visibility ahead. Seeing the red blinkies ahead of me is helpful, but at about mile 6 I do miss the only left hand turn, and that happens to be the one turn that is most poorly marked and manned by volunteers direction traffic.

When I was a kid, maybe 10, we got our first real PC, an Apple 2 with a cassette tape for a drive. There was one game that we played over and over, and it was a night driving simulation, where you had to keep your ‘car’ between the advancing white dots. The course would twist and turn and as you got faster, you would outrun your ability to predict which direction the event horizon would slide in from , left, right, or straight. At the end, you were given a score and a title based on your time and number of crashes, and I was always called “Parnelli Jones” after a historical race character I knew nothing about. Racing in the dark, in the rain, on a bicycle, on empty roads, was similar. The light would show the county road reflectors in the center and left edge, and the white fog line on the right edge, with some periodic reflectors on the right, along with road signs that stood out rather well. That, and the odd blinkies ahead, were my only companions. It was sort of like racing in space. It was surreal. There was just the sound of the rain hitting my aero helmet, my own breathing,  the tires making their way along the chip-seal, and the odd rider passing me or me passing them. There were minutes and even hours when I spoke or saw no one.

Finally, on lap two or three, the sunrise behind the clouds ended up making roads more distinguishable, and sight lines better, and I ended up picking up some steam, and getting in to a good, solid rhythm. I had a great conversation with one of my earliest coaching mentors, and Ultra-Cycling enthusiast, Paul Skilbeck, about a week before the race, and he made some recommendations on my caloric intake per hour, and my estimated power output intensity. Now, here’s where things get pretty interesting.

Based on  conversation with Paul, I was prepared to hold about 60% of my estimated Threshold Wattage, which I’m still calculating to be about 290w/60min, even though I haven’t been training much at all. Call it empirical assumptions, but my FTP really only changes when I either take time off completely, or train at high volumes. I know where it could go, but the status quo is about 290w, plus or minus 2%. So, to be conservative, and focus on lower Kcal consumption and hold off while ingesting as many Kcals as possible, I looked for a Pnorm of about 175w.

Boy, was I wrong….

The first lap showed a PNorm of 209, or about 70% of FTP. Skiba’s xPower score, which I can’t see on a Garmin, was a 196. I burned about 884 Kilojoules, and the lap time was a 1hr26min effort.  I’ll put all of this in the chart below, along with the Kcals I consumed each lap. It’s pretty revealing!

Lap Time Normalized Power Kilojoules Expended Kilocalories Consumed Bottles of Osmo consumed (120Kcals/bottle)
1:26:11 209w 884 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:23:43 208w 932 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 2
1:20:43 218w 927 750 (3 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:22:43 212w 911 640 (4 Waffle Stingers) 1.5
1:28:41 199w 889 500 (2 PB&J Bonk Breakers) 1.5
1:26:21 198w 887 480 (3 Waffle  Stingers) 1
1:28:18 204w 912 8oz Fish Oil and a 5hr Energy. 1
1:42:00 148w 743 8oz Fish Oil and one Waffle Stinger 1

The result???? Well, I won. I won by over an hour, and I did it averaging .702 IF!!!! Had that last lap been a consistent lap with the other seven, I would have set the record on the course! 211 miles, averaging 18.1 miles per hour, burning 7089 KiloJoules. I think if I had trained somewhat, and done a few 12 hour efforts prior to this, I might have been able to hold that 200w Pnorm or better for that last lap, and maybe kicked it up a bit. But it was the fueling and hydration strategy that really worked to my advantage. For five laps, I was able to eat 750 Kcals per 80 minutes, and drink Osmo at the rate that Osmo inventor Stacy Sims recommends in her chart on their website. I followed her mantra of “Food in the pocket (in this case, it was tucked inside my skinsuit, against my leg, to stay warm and soft), sports drink in the bottle. I was surprised at my higher wattage, but it had to be some combination of the temperature and my own determination to make this as scientific an expedition as I possibly could. It wasn’t until lap five that my food consumption, which I had previously timed at about 3 minutes per bar, began to slow down, and I was eating more slowly, reacting more slowly, and breathing through my nose more. The last bar I ate on Lap 6 ended up taking me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was yo-yoing with a recumbent 12 hour rider who kept me on my toes, feeding the competitor in me.

ImageSome other notes: I think this is the PERFECT race to study aerodynamics. I rode as aero as I dared, while trying to hold on to some safety. Every lap, almost, I ended up switching wheels out, before finally settling on a rear HED disc lenticular wheel in the rear, and an Aeolus D3 50mm up front. I tried my 90mm wheel, but it was too twitchy in the light but gusty winds, and on the areas that were not chip-sealed. In fact, the chip-seal road was the safest part of the course. The area that was not chip-sealed, maybe four miles total out of a 26.2 mile route, was not safe, and I ended up losing time to the recumbent rider on that section, only to gain on him during the ensuing climb. The wheel setup, plus the KED track-style solid helmet, my skinsuit, and the S5, probably made me about 2-4% more efficient, which I’m calculating probably saved me about, oh, idunno, 50-100Kcals per lap? I think it was enough to make a difference, though, because that’s one less Waffle Stinger you need to eat.

Here’s a shocker – I learned to relieve myself, multiple times, while riding. The rain washed it away, but I’m afraid my shoes may never be the same. I intentionally used old shoes for this reason.

I had no cramps whatsoever. I credit this to a ton of magnesium, and the hydration strategy, which I think kept me out of the red zone for cramps. I also, of course, ended up avoiding Vo2 and Anaerobic  Capacity zones, climbing with force and then cruising in the 180’s and 200’s. A snapshot of my wattage chart shows about 9-10 hours of good wattage, followed by a steady drop. Eventually, Paul was correct – I lost my ability to eat. Drinking the fish oil DID work on the seventh lap, but on that last lap, I ended up dealing with a sour stomach and wretching, while not quite puking.

It turns out, I missed the record (set in fair weather), by maybe 5 minutes. Rest assured that had I been able to pull out the TT bike, it would’ve fallen. But those who rode their TT bikes almost inevitably ended riding up on their aero pads, thus negating any benefits. I also know how to eat and what to eat, and I think I’ll actually work and train for this better next year, and will focus on those last three critical hours.

ImageMichelle won her overall 3 race GC, and I need to send a special shout out to her boyfriend, Martin, who was simply awesome. He was prepared every lap, he measured my splits, and counted my food intake precisely. He had wheels ready, and ruined a pair of shoes in the process of standing out in that awful weather for the whole day. I am really grateful for his contribution, and though he’s a non-meat eater, I’m going to buy him some EXPENSIVE wine soon!

That’s it – let me get back to the blog for a recount of June’s race in Wisconsin, and I’ll try to do that this weekend, while I’m away. Lots to report. I’m living the Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.”


2011 Turkey Roll Bike Rally Review

I really wanted to call this review, “2 Minutes”, because when I look back at the 3 hours of the overall ride, there was one, single, two-minute segment that made the ride. It reminds me that with all the riding and training we experience and enjoy, that it’s frequently one moment, be it 8 seconds here, or half a minute there, which defines the rally or ride or race for yourself, and everyone else involved.

The 2011 Turkey Roll was held on a mild but windy day, and I guess it had been two years since I had last participated, because the venue had changed from the Fair Grounds to a Catholic Church parking lot, making departure to the traditional 100K route a little more neutral and controlled. Once we hit FM 428, however, we were working on a broad, smooth shoulder with a 20mph tailwind. Several of the better riders were in attendance, and we took longer, but equal pulls for the first 8 miles. However, it was right after the turnoff at mile 8, on to FM 2153, that the defining moments of the rally were established and set in my memory.

The turn North meant that what had been our helpful tailwind was now a brutal, steady, left-front crosswind. The road, which had been wide and with a shoulder, was now narrow, pitted from heavy use, heavy with chip-seal, and had zero shoulder. This is where experience, knowledge of the course, position, and honestly, wheel selection, made a huge difference.

I immediately went in to the red zone when I came to the front and put in what must have been a 450-watt effort for one-minute, riding perfectly in the left wheel-well. There was space for about four riders to ride off my right hip, but anyone else would be forced to either ride along the white line, or attempt to form up on a second echelon. Matt Stephens, Colnago Chris, Chris Powers and myself all took equally good turns in rotation, but at roughly the 10.5 mile mark, I went to the front for my turn, and between the four of us, we put in a solid 2- to – 5 minute effort above 25mph and between 356 and 320w that, when we made the short hop onto Running Bear road, then on to FM 455, well, there was absolutely no one behind us. And by that I mean NO ONE.

We went on to ride at very solid, very high paces, talking, drinking our bottles, pushing but not too hard, for about 2 hours. Finally, at about mile 45 or so, Matt, Chris Powers and I unfortunately lost Colnago Chris, and we would not see him again until the finish. By mile 60, the three survivors had declared détente, and we rolled back through the neighborhoods and in to town, finishing in an official 2:53, without the pit stop at mile 40. We later learned that the trailing cyclists, around mile 10, had NOT formed a second echelon, and had instead suffered a crash that broke up the peloton, leaving us as the undisputed leaders whom no one could possibly catch in that wind. No one was seriously injured, but several bikes and wheels were totaled.

If I could summarize the work and the success of the break, I would say that it was those critical 1, 2, and 5 minute efforts, at high cadence, with equipment that was literally built for those types of conditions (aero bike with aero wheels that actually reduce drag or flutter in crosswinds), at high cadence (95-110rpm), at intensities which were well in to the Anaerobic and Vo2max zones, that made the ride. When you look at North Texas rallies and races, and the perpetual wind, it’s THESE efforts that determine success more than any other type of effort. Train this way, do similar intervals, and your chances of looking over your shoulder to see… no one, grow tremendously.


2010 State Road Race Review – Copperas Cove

I guess it’s been what – two weeks now since the State Road Race weekend? Sheesh, time flies.

I don’t think I have any good photos unless they shot some on Sunday when I was in either a group or solo breakaway. Yes, once again, it was that kind of weekend.

The weather was perfect, and I mean PERFECT, both days. The temps were on the cool side, but the sun came through and warmed things up, while also keeping the wind at almost ZERO on Saturday, and mild on Sunday. Mirage entered the event with fewer participants than last year, but we still had a good game plan, and we knew that the hills would take their toll.

Immediately some riders got off the front, but while I was near the front, I did everything I could to try and keep my emotions reined in. However, it just wasn’t meant to be. In the first 60 minutes, I rode a Normalized 295w, or 4.3w/kg, which was close to my season high. It’s kind of hard to remember, but I know I was involved in several attacks, and did engage in a solo break or two, one of which I think lasted about 8 miles. Idunno, maybe I’m getting the races confused. I think I tried for the 1-lap prime, but was again denied. As the race went through its’ second lap, the whole tempo sort of died down, and while I had some teammates come up for conversations, we all knew it would come down to Shawn Hodges in the sprint. With about 1 mile to go, I remember giving it my all, and then suffering from system shutdown. My legs started cramping, and I went backwards.  Hodges went on to finish 6th, and several other teammates did really well, cementing our place not as winners of the State RR, but as winners for the 2010 season in Cat 3. While I contributed very few points, it was something of an accomplishment, and I took some solace and pride in that result.

Sunday’s race was the 40+ men, with a different cast of characters. Again I rode hard, rode strong, but the race itself was much more controlled. It was definitely a better team event. One breakaway that I launched lasted about 45 minutes, and I did get maybe 1 or 2 minutes up the road, but it was eventually reeled in, and the counter-attack that sprung from my catch led to the break that actually got away and stayed away. That break, with two McKinney Velo riders, two Mirage riders, a San Jose and one other guy, made it stick, shelling an Austin Bikes rider, and the rest of us played defense, mostly keeping the “Joe’s Pro” riders from attempting to bridge.

When the race was all but over, a teammate and I tried to set up some attacks that would or could possibly crack the rest of the peloton and fragment it so that there would be no sprint, but I kept getting shadowed by this rider in pink and blue. He was AWFUL! Once again, though, when Mike Brown of Velo McKinney went out and launched a serious attack, later joined by his teammate, it was perfectly timed, and the two got away in the last 3 miles. It was textbook. In the end, once again, I missed the pack finish, ended up well out of the top 60, and sort of struggled in. I DID receive some recognition and took a share of the team payout (the team took 2nd), which was gratifying, but in the end, I raced with my heart, not with my head, and the penalty was to sort of struggle in after 2.5 hours of aggressive riding.

I’m not sure what I want to do next year. I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to ride away and stay away in the 3’s. I like riding in the 40+, and there may be a new category in TXBRA next year – 40+ 3,4, but in a way, it seems sort of like sandbagging. Three weeks before I turned 40, I suffered a heat stroke, and took most of July off, gaining about 4-5 lbs in the process. Honestly – it hasn’t gone away. I know my power is there, I know my strength is there, but I don’t know if I can make another investment like this again. I probably will, but I know there are other challenges out there, and coaching is more of a determinant than anything.

That’s about it right now – not much else to say. I’ll try to post about the USA Cycling Coaching Summit in the next day or two, but right now, I think I just want to go for a ride.


Joule 2.0 review, Part 2

To continue the thoughts before I get distracted with a couple of other projects and essays, let’s get back to the bullet points that were not commented on during the original blog post. I covered the first 3. Now, let’s continue.

Here are the bullet points yet to be covered. Honestly, I’m sure I’ll remember some more things at some point in the future. It’s hard to write thoughts down or read them in to your iphone when you’re rolling along, no?

  • A Barometer to read elevation and feet or meters climbed.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable.
  • GPS
  • Cost below $500
  • Weight below 200g
  • Either USB upload/download and charge, or wireless upload/download and charge.
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Let’s cover the points.

  • Barometer – CHECK. The Joule definitely covers current elevation and feet or meters climbed, and while I haven’t tried it, I’m pretty sure it has an elevation calibration protocol. Now, one of the REALLY cool things that the Joule does, that other head units don’t yet do, is that it measures VAM, or “Vertical Ascent Meters per Hour”. This was a measurement of climbing put together by the nefarious Dr. Ferrari, to basically come up with a way to look at how the best climbers fought their way up mountains. At the time of this writing, however, the VAM feature measures VAM for the entire ride, and it does NOT reset with intervals, even though you can see it on interval windows. I’ve brought this to the attention of Cycleops, but have not heard a response from them at this time. It should be an easy fix, though you never know with these firmware developers.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle. – CHECK. OH HOLY COW I CAN NOT BELIEVE HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME THIS FEATURE IS! SET OFF THE FIREWORKS AND LIGHT THE SPARKLERS! THIS FEATURE IS AWESOME! CYCLEOPS, I CAN NOT THANK YOU ENOUGH!  Now, while I calm down, let me explain why this is sooooo critical. There is a subset of the power meter crowd, and even the non-power-meter crowd, who have more than one bike. There are also folks who have more than one power meter. I know, I know, that’s a seriously small subset, but honestly, when you get in to these things, you start to realize that you may need different cranks or wheels for road cycling, time trials, track, and even mountain biking. The only other head units that are worthy of use right now are the Garmins, and it definitely takes time to ‘find’ the new and unique codes every time for the ANT+ protocol that is the common wireless language for all of these power meters, speed sensors, chest straps, and cadence meters. Heck, even the foot pods for runners use ANT+. Me? Well, you have to look at this in the context of someone who is constantly measuring power for all cycling applications (YES, THAT IS MY JOB… SORT OF), but I have 3 quarqs and two powertaps. All wireless. Until recently, I had a Garmin 705 for the road and TT bike, a Joule 3.0 for the Gary Fisher Simple City, and a Garmin 500 for the mountain bike. So, it’s a lot of hardware and sunk expense to get the convenience I wanted… Probably close to $12k. But the Joule 2.0 (I’ll discuss the 3.0 in some PS or epilogue at the bottom of this or another post) allows you to record the unique speed, cadence, speed/cadence, HR straps, and Power Meters for each of those bikes, and then pull them up for ‘activation’. It takes about 1 minute. I now have 1 unit for four bikes, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I’m still keeping the other units for other reasons, but yeah – for now, the Joule 2.0 is a universal data trap.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration. It’s there, it’s doable, and once you know how to navigate the menus, it’s easy. I’ll leave it to the Wattage forum to correct me on the esoterics of things, but suffice it to say that my multiple PM’s show very little drift after the first two weeks of break-in. I’m happy.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable. CHECK!!! Again, WOW and WOW and WOW! I love it. I probably should try to shoot some photos to include on this screen, just to show you what can be done, but again, HOLY COW. The OPTIONS are awesome. I can switch the amount of information presented from 2 things to over 8, and I can actually cycle instants, averages, maxes, and other stuff so that the information I want to see can be dead-center on the screen, OR,  on the bottom of the screen in a divided area. I really ought to pull up SnagIt and build you some images, but I wanted to get the words written first. So in a nutshell, HECK YEAH you can modify and alter this thing to no end. You also get options on the amount of time you want the backlight on (don’t laugh but mine’s permanently on,and that’s got a lot to do with why my battery doesn’t last as long) , and how you want the contrast set.  This is a great feature list.
  • GPS – “XXX”. Now, NOT having this feature is interesting. I think it has more to do with cost, with complexity, with weight, and with battery duration issues. And with all the new websites and features coming out that highlight just how awesome GPS is and why it’s God’s Gift to Cyclists of All Ilks and Trades… well, I was sold and thought that it was the absolute best thing to have on a cycling head unit. BUT, there are some real limitations to GPS… First, it doesn’t tend to accurately display “Z” values in terms of altitude, especially when the changes are so minute. Second, it tends to work best at speeds above 25mph, from what I can tell. Third, Anyone using GPS in an attempt to be accurate on distance traveled is going to be disappointed when every time you go over that same piece of road or trail, you’ll get a different value. It’s just not that accurate (nothing is, really. Go read James Gleick’s “Chaos Theory” about how surveyors looked at a border between two countries, at the same time, using the same instruments, and ended up with wildly different values.). So, I’m actually going to hedge my answer here, and say that it’s MOSTLY unnecessary. The only reason I DO still like having GPS is that the Joule is dependent upon Speed or HR to begin and maintain its’ recording. That’s kind of a weakness, since we do stop and sometimes walk away from our bikes while leaving the head unit on the bars. But overall, it’s okay not to have GPS. I would love to have that, but I think I understand why they didn’t…. Though I’m still not sure and I’m definitely a waffle on this one.
  • Cost below $500 – Hmmm. Barely. Internet listings show a cost of $450-$500. ALWAYS add the cost of the head unit and interpretive software when you buy a powermeter!
  • Weight below 200g – Nailed it. The head unit is about 75 grams, the mount is less than that, and the GSC10 is about 50, so you’re in for everything at <200g. Those riding integrated ANT+ kits like those found on TREK bikes and maybe a few others. Needless to say, you won’t feel the weight on your bike. It won’t affect balance or anything else, and the unit can be mounted on the handlebars, the stem, or the frame if that’s where you want it.

Okay – I’m getting the itch to actually break out the Descente kit and go ride. I’ll keep plugging along on this review and will make a solid effort to shoot some photos of the features. My parting comment right now would be to suggest to Cycleops that they duplicate something they did a LOOOONG time ago, with their LYC, and build a Joule 2.0 and Joule 3.0 simulator for their website. It might overcome one final bit of stigma associated with all these new head units – their complexity.

Part 3 to come.


Long Promised Joule 2.0 review

Well, man, this has been tough. I decided a while back to purchase and try a Joule 2.0 from Cycleops, and it basically took me most of the summer to really get my head around it. I’ll go in to more detail as we go, and I’ll try to post some photos, but in a nutshell, it is ALMOST my favorite on-bike Power Meter head unit. I’ll explain the almost as we go along…

After over a decade in which Power-Tap used their now-ubiquitous “Little Yellow Computer”, it became obvious as technology progressed that a more capable bike computer was a necessity. Other head units have added features and functions, and the Little Yellow Computer (from hereon called the “LYC) just wasn’t cutting it. Savvy cyclists needed more memory, more windows, more multifunctions, longer lasting batteries, backlights, uploads, downloads, and all sorts of things. Based on my own experiences, the following is my own list of wants and needs for the Ultimate on-bike Power Receiving Device.

  • Gobs of memory – the ability to store weeks and months of rides, if not years of rides, in one location. You can NEVER have enough places to back things up.
  • Long Lasting Batteries. Something that would last at least 6 hours while recording everything, and including a backlight for indoor use, as well as cloudy days.
  • The ability to read TSS, IF, and PNorm, not JUST on an overall ride basis, but also on a per-interval basis. I know this may cause some controversy, but way back in 2002 and 2003, when I was learning about TSS, I believed that  PNorm was probably more important on a per-interval basis (especially for longer intervals), than it might be for overall ride purposes, because it yielded a more realistic ‘physiological effect’ that would account for things like rolling terrain, traffic, road conditions, and the like.
  • A Barometer to read elevation and feet or meters climbed.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable.
  • GPS
  • Cost below $500
  • Weight below 200g
  • Either USB upload/download and charge, or wireless upload/download and charge.
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Well, you know, this is a tough list, but honestly, I think the Joule almost made it.

Let’s start by going down the list of features for the Joule 2.0, based on my own list above, okay?

  • Gobs of memory – CHECK. Joule offers over 20 hours of memory in 1-second recordings, and can store summaries for up to a year’s worth of rides. This one was big, and it helps a ton.
  • Long Lasting Batteries – CHECK, SORT OF. My own experience with the Joule was that it definitely lasted the necessary 6-8 hours per ride, but that if you keep the backlight on, which I’m prone to, it’ll run down in less than 5 hours. Comparing it to the 705, I don’t think it has as long a battery life, but I think they must be using either smaller or cheaper batteries. The Joule also just has a mono-color screen, so the battery life sort of puzzles me. Still, it’s worked for just about every ride I’ve been on for any duration, though the battery signal does drop about every hour or 90 minutes.
  • The ability to read WKO+/Coggan/Allen Metrics. OH HALLELUJAH I THINK WE FINALLY GOT A GOOD ONE HERE! YES! But wait…. The formula used by the Joule is ever so slightly different than the one used on WKO+, and, well, if anything, the Joule’s on-screen TSS scores tend to read a little high at the end of the day. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and I suspect it has more to do with the way the Joule is recording or not recording zeros and stops when I’m in traffic, but comparing the Joule’s downloaded TSS scores with the exact same data from a Garmin 705 that is just kept running, regardless of stops, always reveals that the Garmin’s values are higher, and closer, to the numbers read on the Joule’s head unit itself. It’s a bit of a mystery, but honestly, I think I can handle it. I just have to ride about 2-5% harder or longer to get the desired TSS scores on WKO+. IF for an interval is nice, so that you know how hard you’re riding in each interval, as is the ability to reveal wattage zones, and Pnorm, all on the same screen as time. TSS for intervals isn’t as important for me, but the Joule presents just about all the information you need to know on a per-ride and a per-interval basis, which is VERY helpful.

I figured I better post this. More to come.

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