Zwift Wars

In a galaxy far far away there were a race of superhuman athletes all travelling fast enough to complete the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. Ok so that may be bullshit, topical, but bullshit. What I am talking about is the speed of almost everyone else on Zwift.

Now I’m not unfit, I’m no pro either, but the speed some of the guys chuntering about on Zwift makes me feel like the fat lad at the back.

There’s various different reasons why I reckon and a few are down to my setup. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not going out of my way to be competitive on Zwift, nor do I believe that getting my bike right will make up for my fitness levels, but it seems that certain setups give you an advantage.

I’m using a basic Bluetooth cadence and speed sensor, eBay special, that Zwift essentially uses to mock up power output. Zwift samples the output on both every three seconds and goes from there. This is not the most accurate of Zwift connection methods but beggars can’t be choosers at under a tenner for the sensor! Because there is no direct power measurement my output is all hypothetical and this is where I think Zwift favours the expensive turbo trainers.

So I started to look into this subject on the web and cane up with quite a few other people having the same issue. Relatively healthy and fit guys who can average 18mph over a 20 mile distance in the real world yet struggle to bust a 14mph average over ten on Zwift. So I looked into getting my setup right. Firstly I looked at my turbo trainer, my Elite force mag, it’s was all good but the rear wheel needed to be secured a little. Resistance set on three as suggested by Zwift. They have allegedly mapped the power curve of the trainer meaning that resistance would give best real world comparison. Then I checked my settings on Zwift, now this is where a big difference can be made to the performance of your on screen avatar. My weight was set incorrectly so I corrected it and dropped 5kg having an almost instant effect on ride speed, but it still didn’t seem right. I seemed to be running out of strength in no time at all (like the turbo was wound right up) and smaller gears were my only option. I had completely overlooked one simple setting, tyre size. When normally connecting to Bluetooth I hurriedly accepted the connection to my speed and cadence sensor without checking my tyre size. It was out, I was using a 23c tyre on the bike and Zwift was calculating for a 25c. So my Wheel was spinning faster but Zwift was slowing the output down. I was getting somewhere.

Anyway from my last ride:

A lot better….. too good in fact… then I checked the resistance on the turbo and found I had it set on 1. I was so happy at first! But there were massive improvements from my changes to reflect my real world numbers. So I’m looking forward to my next ride.

What are my tips for getting your Zwift results accurate for a dumb turbo trainer then?

1. Get your bike secured in your turbo trainer correctly, with correct tyre pressure.

2. Set your turbo trainer on the correct resistance.

3. Ensure your speed and cadence sensor is reading correctly from both pickups.

4. Check your Zwift settings, get them right. Especially weight and wheel size.

There you go, that should go a little way to making your cheap Zwift setup more realistic, don’t get me wrong I still believe that using a smart turbo trainer with power output is the best way to connect if you are serious about your numbers. I’m not so as I’m not on a strict training schedule, Zwift just takes the boredom from turbo trainer time.

Suppose I should be back on it now I guess trying to earn my place in a galaxy far far away…….

Winter bike drivetrain upgrade

With the charge now out of hibernation (there’s no way I’m riding a brand new carbon bike over winter!) I thought I’d treat the old girl to a few choice upgrades.

I’ve had the bike 4 years and certain parts were starting to age a little. The drive train was one of them. There’s only so much you can do when it comes to removing chain slack! Removing a link, winding back the chain tensioner, and chucking as much solid type lube on in a vain attempt to stick the rollers in place can only stop a chain from sounding like a plague of squealing mice temporarily.

The Charge’s Middleburn cranks were also cracked, had a massive q factor, and creaked on the bottom bracket ISIS splines, therefore leaving some nice room for improvement. So bit the bullet and started looking into the price of replacement cranks, rings, and chains. And that’s where this tasty little combo came in……

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My new setup of Shimano 5800 105 cranks, external BB, and Absolute Black oval narrow wide chainring.

Someone had ruined a set of 105 cranks by well and truly rounding off a pedal into the drive side crank arm. Then instead of giving up they cut the pedal off in a vain attempt to give them something to grip, tried their hardest and finally succumbed to its seized position and chucked the crankset on ebay. Me being the have a go type bid on them and picked them up for just over a tenner, thinking to myself ‘yeah i’ll get that pedal out no problem’. Well, optimistic at best, it wasn’t the easiest of removals. But with a couple of days worth of lube soaking, mixed with a few heating and cooling cycles from the heat gun, I worked the stump out with some water pump pliers. Bingo 5800 105 cranks for next to nothing.

On the scales for the cranks/chainring/bottom bracket there was a nice difference of 140g.

 

I also took the opportunity to replace chain and freewheel so hunted for some upgrades there as well. swapped out my old KMC rustbeater chain and Sturmey Archer freewheel for a Halo Clickster and KMC 8 speed chain (i bought the Clickster in compatible chain width). Not exactly a huge saving but i’ll take another 30g! It all adds up. 170g from the whole drivetrain is a nice touch.

Now I’ve ridden the bike a couple of times since installing the new parts and have probably covered about 50/60 miles. Initial impressions were good, the chain ring gives a nice feel through the pedal stroke and feels more powerful on the climbs. The freewheel engages super fast as it has double the amount of pickup points over those in the Sturmey. The most noticeable difference is in the reduction of the Q factor of the crankset. The bike feels lots more comfortable and less like a mountain bike!

Since last week the bikes also received a bit of a wheel upgrade. I’ve just had the new Mavic Open Pro UST rims built onto the Profile Racing hubs using Sapim Laser spokes. I reckon I’ve made a saving of around 180g per wheel with this upgrade so looking forward to giving the bike a proper thrashing about in the forest over winter.

I’ll let you know what I think of the Clickster/Abolute black chainring/Open Pro rims when they’ve had a few more miles on them!

 

BC

Winter wind down starting at Velo Domestique

It’s been a busy year. Big changes and projects at work and getting to grips being a home owner. All with a super intelligent two year old wanting to know the ins and out of everything.

I sit writing this at the start of a week off, no rushing, no racing, no constant bombardment from staff, in a seat at my local cycle cafe Velo Domestique. Tucking into some pancakes, and boy they got em nailed.

Super fluffy with bacon cooked just right, could have done with an extra slice though! But maybe that’s just me being greedy.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here (see above!) and I can see that this little business is really taking off. Bikes, accessories, clothes, and coffee guru gifts galore. It’s nice to see, I sincerely hope this is a sign that the local community is changing its attitude towards cycling. Its a realistic way forward, but Bournemouth wake up!

Have also ridden the charge on its new wheels today, and it’s definitely different. Who would have though a 4mm extra internal width on the rim would have made such a change. Initial feeling is that the bike feels a lot surer footed, a bit more confidence inspiring. But I reckon ever so slightly less nimble, time will tell though it’s only been two miles!

So with a further 8 days holiday in December I’m making my plans for as much bike time as possible. But first I need to wind up all those little jobs at home to get onto the slow train…. oh and off to see Jamiroquai at the O2 Wednesday so maybe I have a few more days before I really switch off……. pancakes and bicycles is a good way to start though.

Ride on and Merry Christmas all!

BC

Primera expo 2017

Today was the Primera Sports expo at the BIC, the shops opportunity to work with its suppliers to put on a totally free event showcasing new product for 2018 and clear out 2017 gear. Now I have been a little critical of Primera and this expo in the past, understandably so as well. I have received less than complementary service in the store before, when my road bike was slagged off by one of the members of staff, but as I grow older I realise that that’s just people and you can’t watch your staff like a hawk all the time. No business is infallible. I know this now, I have nearly 60 staff!

Actually on the couple of occasions I have visited Primera this year I have received very helpful service, and I will say it was good enough to change my mind.

We are very fortunate to have a free show in Bournemouth with such variety and support from importers and suppliers on the south coast. For example if you are looking at purely Bournemouth based distributors and companies you have Cycle sports group (Cannondale, sugoi), muc off, kitbrix, and precision hydration. Then further along the south coast you have Orro Bikes and Windwave (colnago). In addition great support from brands from all over the world (but hey they all just want to sell you kit though eh!), it really just adds up to a great event for bike nuts whether on road or off.

Here’s a few bikes that took my fancy:

And here’s my bargain of the hour (yes we did have to push in and race to the sale stuff straight away to nab these!) a castellated perfetto long sleeve jersey for £44. £131 saving over retail price…… bonkers.

Well my attitude has changed towards this show, yes I’m fully understand it’s just a way to clear out the old and bring in the new but, it’s free and it showcases some great product. The cycle industry needs to keep its momentum and shows like this do that, they make great kit affordable and grow interest in the latest tech.

See you next year!

BC

ZWIFT! Finally…. via Firestick

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at getting my Zwift on I’ve found a super simple, and relatively cheap, way of accessing the online cycle trainer. Oh I forgot, wire free to boot!

Want to know more? Here’s how!

So you will need:

  1. A turbo trainer
  2. A tv
  3. A Bluetooth cadence and speed sensor
  4. An Amazon firestick
  5. A phone/tablet to run Zwift on
  6. A zwift account

Turbo trainer

You can use almost any turbo trainer, it doesn’t have to be a smart turbo. All you need to be able to do is pedal! I have used my Elite force mag elastogel.

Tv

Well the bigger the better I suppose? Mine was an old 32” Samsung I had kicking around. Tv must have a hdmi input to run an Amazon firestick.

Bluetooth cadence and speed sensor

Less than £10 will get you one of these from eBay. This will provide the ride data for the Zwift app.

Amazon Firestick

For £40 these things have to be one of the best little inventions in a long while. All the catch up tv and live free to air tv you want with a load of other handy apps alongside. And that’s what we will power the Zwift connection with.

Zwift account

Possibly the most expensive part of the whole affair. In honesty I did balk at the cost initially, £10 a month, but soon got over it after a quick trial seeing how it would reduce turbo boredom!

Phone/tablet

I’m running this all on an iPhone 6, but you can run on an iPad or on android compatibles as well. They must have Bluetooth capability and have it switched on.

Ok so you have all your stuff, here’s how you put it together.

1. Setup your turbo trainer in front of your tv at a sensible enough distance and height that you can see it when on the hoods.

2. Fit up your cadence/speed sensor as instructed.

Mine without zip ties cut!

3. Setup your amazon Firestick on the tv as instructed.

4. Install Zwift on your phone or tablet and setup an account.

5. Start the Firestick and go to the apps section. Download the app Airplay/DNLA received (this costs £1.84) as this is the app we will be screen mirroring to.

6. Run AirPlay and turn on screen mirroring on your phone/tablet. You should be able to select FireTV_99 in mirroring. You should now have your screen mirrored on the tv!

7. Start your Zwift app and login. On the paired devices screen select speed sensor and cadence sensor and follow the setup for turbo trainer and personal details.

8. Go zwifting!

Hope this is a help for anyone reading! I can’t say exactly how it would work for android devices but I can imagine it’s pretty similar.

Zwift mirrors smooth enough intro the big screen, I can imagine that it’s not as smooth as direct cable connection but it’s more than good enough for me!

Maybe I’ll see you around the cyber cycleways!

BC

Back from the dead

Seeing as actually cycling has been a bit of a non entity in my life at the mo I’m having to get my bicycle fix in other ways. And oh did I find the perfect way to do so recently.

Whilst at my parents house searching for a tool I found the frame from my first proper mountain bike. My first decent spec one at least. My Saracen Dirt Trax 2000 (you can guess the year now eh!).

17 years ago this bike was my world. It took me everywhere, to work, to friends, and out on regular cycling adventures to Hengistbury Head, Iford BMX track, and St. Katherine’s hill. It was awesome.

It was the first bike I owned that had suspension and a front disc brake. They were both just for show though, the forks were Zokes units and the brake was an unbranded cable job that made more noise than it provided in stopping power. But hey it had an A-Headset! And that was kind of a big deal back then.

So what do you think went through my mind when I found it? (apart from mentally skipping around with glee), the instant thought was gravel bike. I’ve been mulling over my next purchase in my head (obviously the C60 is still top of the pile) and a gravel bike has been up there. To convert this though I had a think about how suitable the frame would be, what I would like for the spec, what I had lying around, and what I would need to buy.

Starting with the wheel size it should have been my first pointer to stop, the dirt trax runs 26″, and this has never really been a mix with drop bars. These two together are normally a cardinal sin but the lines between bicycle disciplines and designs are being blurred more and more nowadays and I had some mavic d521 on lx hubs so I thought let’s go for it. I also wanted rigid forks, don’t forget the bike was specced with shocks from new, so to accommodate I needed to look into the frames geometry and see if it was all possible.

According to Saracen in 1998 (only catalog I could find) for the 17″ frame the head angle is 73′, top tube 55.5cm, and BB height is 29.2cm. All of these angles are pretty similar to a CX bike so it didn’t look like I was in for any nasty shocks. What I would have to re-evaluate is the fitting of a rigid fork, I needed to get a suspension corrected model to maintain the above figures. A quick hunt around eBay found some super light ones from China. Yes they were £50 delivered but were the correct geometry and 770g. So a bit of a bargain, biggest surprise was the delivery speed…. here in just over a week! Another eBay bargain in the puzzle were some race face evolve cranks and new Bottom bracket. Under £20 for the lot, I was well on my way.

Arrival of these allowed for the first mock up, letting me see exactly how the bike would feel to ride. Dropping it out of the stand and swinging my leg over made me feel all nostalgic, taking me back to the times this thing was hucked off of drops, forward hopped like a trials bike, and wheelied down the high street. Although in this incarnation I don’t think it will be seeing so much of my lairy side.

First thing I noticed was the drop and distance to the bars. Checking the stem out it was 120mm long! So that had to go and be replaced with something shorter with a little rise. The seatpost also looked awful, it needed a new headset, bar tape, cables, tyres, and brakes. I had a 10 speed 105 group set, but the rest was on the order list. Wanting to keep it as on budget as possible eBay was my friend again. Tyres and tubeless setup for £40, brakes for £30, cables £5, stem/seatpost/shim/seatclamp/bar tape £40, chain £10, headset £20. £210 spent on everything to rebuild. Peanuts really.

So what does it ride like? Well, last Sunday I gave it a baptism of fire and decided to take it on the woods cyclery gravel ride. Would it be uncomfortable? Would it fall apart? Would it want to throw me off at every opportunity? Would the tyres come off?

All answered with a no! In fact it out performed a few much newer bikes. No punctures and felt really solid but playful.

Only a couple of tweaks needed, the saddle and post position, and the bar height/angle. Maybe a wider set of bars?It’s a bit aggressive at the mo, it’s not far from my road bike! But hey this was a bargain build and if I can keep up and ride with the modern kit I think it’s fine for now……. but what about that paint…..

Flouro yellow? Neon pink? Matt black? So many options……

But for now let’s just ride it! More this weekend please!

The cycle show 2017

Last weekend saw the return of the cycle show at the NEC. I’ve been a regular attendee since my teens, have seen my tastes change and bicycle technology advance vastly, plus the flavour of the show change with that years latest fads.

This year really saw a healthy swing to inclusivity. Just getting everyone cycling. Because of that there was no real dominating discipline, and I thought that was great. The ebike section was bigger than before and had a myriad of manufacturers dying to shove their latest tools between your legs, and this was the only test area i tried out this year!. whats that saying about my age and family situation!

Anyway here’s a few shots…

Cinelli had a great looking selection of bikes, they are a manufacturer that make preformance and style mix.

Awesome paint job on this Deda frameset

Starley stainless bikes, rust free winter bike anyone?

Sort of breaks my heart to see Ferrari on anything other than a Colnago. This Bianchi was kinda cool, but i’d rather have a V1-R

The Light Blue had a nice selection of steel, very popular too!

One of the bikes of the show for me, a Riese & Muller cargo ebike. Great advancement in engineering.

Some cool looking cruisers from these guys, although we did test an ebike version. It wasn’t the finest ride, but hey its designed for looks not handling!

The finest collection of frames in the show went to Colnago for this

When i was told about a flouro orange colourway for the C60 I kind of scoffed. But I was wrong, this was the bike of the show.

Really happy with my BBB fullview glasses. You should get some!

On the Vitus stand we had a panorama of one of my regular Sunday routes across the forest, near the red shoot inn.

Some really tasty wheelsets on the Vision stand, Metrons please!

And my technical highlight had to be the FSA Kforce WE wireless groupset. Superlight and fully programmable because its geared, not sprung. Yes that means you could retrofit to a three speed Brompton if you wanted!

All in all a great show with some great new kit. one of the more interesting I’ve been to due to the sheer advancement in materials and manufacturing filtering down into the cycle industry. Ebikes are fully here now (get over it) and they will change the way we all cycle. Electronic groupsets seem to be the way forward, carbon is just getting even more mainstream, and everyone seems to have respect for all disciplines now. The cliques are gone and the fences down, just get out and ride!!

Now to get that C60 piggybank setup……..