Monday, August 29, 2011

What's the catch?

Swimmers often talk in hushed tones about the "catch", and it isn't when you get a guppy in your mouth. It's an elusive feeling of balance, comfort and (dare I say it?) oneness with the water, that comes after acquiring good balance and when working out at least three times a week.

Back when I used to swim under coaching, I used to get it... hmm that makes it sound like a disease... I used to experience it, and it was a good feeling. But as I said, it's elusive. Take two too many days off and it goes away. Or some days you're just tired and the catch just doesn't bite.

Catch must exist with any oft-repeated motor-activity. I remember reading a quote in Readers Digest that was attributed to Pandit Ravi Shankar and went something like this: If I don't practice for one day, I notice it. If I don't practice for two days, my accompanists notice it. If I don't practice for three days, the critics notice it. If I don't practice for four days, the audience notices it.

Runners also talk about days when they feel they're just flowing over the ground. And yes, I definitely think there's catch with cycling. Some days, you and the bike are one and the pedalling just flows. The more you ride, the more frequent these days become, until days without the catch are the exceptions. Until you run into a bad week that is. It's not quite as elusive as the swimming catch, but it is hard to pin down. It needs a different word though, and unless I've missed reading about it somewhere, it seems to have been left up to you and me to come up with one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Get the gutter onto your head

Even as I nursed guilt for spending nearly $20 for a product whose function I probably could have replicated for $5 with stuff from Home Depot, I saved $38 on a Speedplay Grease Gun by using a plastic syringe I had lying about at home.

That the syringe was from a little kit that saved me much money on printer cartridges was even more satisfying, especially considering how HP changed the sponge in their cartridges so they could no longer be refilled using a syringe, those capitalist, cheapster-hating bastards.

When we were kids and fiddling around with our bicycles, I remember how we thought it a sign of excellent lubrication if pedals whirred around for several minutes when batted at with a hand. I was surprised to learn that if this happens, your pedals were probably shot about a month before. If pedals are properly greased, they should make about half a turn and stop.

If you're relatively new to being a velokundi, as I am, you might read stuff like, "Re-grease every 2,000 miles" and go, "Two thousand miles? That's YEARS away" and promptly move on to better things. So I was pretty dismayed one recent day, to find my Speedplay Zero pedals spinning freely when bapped at, especially the right-hand one.

It's still hard for me to remember that since I'm cycling regularly, maintenance tasks that are annual or even bi-annual events in my head now come up every few months. Tyres and brake pads wear before my eyes, cables sag like clotheslines every few weeks, and the chain dries up every few days (and I NEVER remember to oil it until after the creaking drives me to near axe murder while climbing a quiet state highway into national forests).

But as the title of this thread suggests, it's actually about that Sweat Gutr thing. (Image from

As I've written before, I'm a sweater, and I don't mean a sheep-based upper garment. On hot days, little reservoirs fill up above each eyebrow and every so often, the levee breaks and all that salty water comes cascading down into my eyes and onto my glasses. And since I'm a velokundi, rides don't stop for tiddly things like that, so my glasses gradually become little salt flats through which I can't see shit.

One recent day, I was pretty sure I didn't want to attempt a climb of nearly 2,000m without eyes, so I sprang for one of those stupidly spelled Gutr things. I liked it because it didn't have an absorption element to its design (though the Halo headband uses a gutter concept as well). I knew that anything absorbtive (is that a word?) would be sopping in about 30 minutes. Some people on BF talked about using one band for an hour and then hanging it on the bars to dry while they used a second. Thank you but I want to ride my bike, not be a bliddy dhobi.

It worked. There were times when my 99% perspiration overwhelmed it a little, but it worked. I took a little while working out how to best fit it, because it all gets a bit busy in the above-ear-al area if you wear glasses. Also, all the sweat it channels away runs in a little stream off your chin, so you start to look like a rabid, slavering loon. (More than is usual for a roadie, that is.)

Recommended, but note that someone on BF tied a soft rubber pipe around his head and achieved the same result for about $17 less. I just didn't have time to experiment, so my mind... ah my mind went into the Gutr.

(Could. Not. Resist.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I say, “I'm tired”, you say, “My PE is high, but HR is low”

I've had a lot of trouble understanding this idea of HR “running low” when you're tired, but have finally sorted it out. This post is more to keep it sorted for me than anything, but if it helps you, I'm happy.

The reason I was confused is that I've made the wrong assumption all this time, the one that's the complete opposite of reality. It seemed logical to me that when you're tired, your HR rises quickly and goes too high. After all, that's what it feels like right? You get out of breath in no time, your heart seems to race, and you feel like you're putting in a lot of effort.

But at these times, if you look at your HR on a monitor, you'll probably be surprised by how low it is. All that huffing and puffing and yet the ticker's clattering along at a relatively sedate 140bpm (Perhaps you were expecting 150). In other words, your perceived effort (PE) is high, but the actual effort is low (since HR is indirectly a measure of the amount of work your muscles are doing). In still other words, and back to our first words, you're tired.

At this time, it's vital to remember that it's actual muscular effort above a certain level that triggers training adaptation, not perceived muscular effort. So just because it feels like a hard workout, doesn't mean it is a hard workout. (In another post I mentioned that when you have the flu, just getting out of bed tires you, but that doesn't mean you got any fitter.)

And so, the opposite is also true: when you're well rested, your HR rises quickly and easily. You might be riding along your usual route, feeling good, look down and see your HR is 160 when you were expecting 150. If that sounds wrong, don't forget your average speed for the section will be higher. You're doing more work, but it feels like less work.

I don't know about you, but these concepts are totally counter-intuitive to me. But if you think it through, you realise they aren't counter-intuitive, it's just that it's a shifting POV.

So imagine you ride exactly the same route, same weather, same gearing. You do it on three days—the first day you're well-rested, the second moderately rested, and the third you're tired.

If you keep speed constant over the three days, you'll find that on the first day, your PE will be lowest and your HR lowest. The second, PE will be higher and HR will be higher. The third, PE will be highest, HR will be highest. That follows the intuitive pattern, that more tired you get, the harder it is to hold a certain speed, the higher your HR at that speed.

But we rarely keep speed constant. We usually ride by “feel” or PE. So assume we keep PE constant, i.e. the amount of effort we put into the ride feels the same, no matter what our level of tiredness. On the first day, speed will be highest, HR highest (we feel good, so we push). On the second day, speed will be lower, HR lower. (To feel as good as yesterday, we have to slow down.) On the third day, speed will be lowest, HR the lowest. (We have to go really slowly to feel as good as we did on the first day.)

So it's pretty much the same thing, just seen from a different point of view. When we talk about HR “running low” when we are tired, we are simply leaving out the part that we are also riding slowly, and yet feeling as if we're putting in a lot of effort.

Phew, I think I've got it. Zhu?

Here's an analogy that just struck me that makes this whole HR low when tired concept a lot clearer.

Imagine a car engine running on good fuel with clean fuel lines. You push the throttle and it revs quickly to a high RPM. That's you when well-rested. You rev up quickly and can rev really high.

Now imagine the engine is "tired" i.e. it has adulterated fuel and clogged up fuel lines. You push the throttle the same amount, but it takes some time to rev up, and doesn't get to as high an RPM as when everything was good and clean.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Take it slow. No really. Take it slow

“I know I'm supposed to build up slowly, but I'm so unfit right now that I'll just hammer for a few months, get some basic fitness and then start following a plan.”

Bad, bad idea. Especially since--you corner-cutting basstid--you'll just get too lazy to do the whole plan thing and just ride hard all the time.

So stop it right now. Unless of course you want to waste two or three years riding hard, getting a little better, still riding hard, getting a cold, recovering (barely), riding hard, getting another cold with fever, recovering for longer this time, riding hard, JAYUS ANOTHER COLD??? Not to mention the untraceable general malaise that seems to follow you around like a dark cloud. And most important, that you stop getting better and just fluctuate between being average and recuperating.

Thinking back now, I can't believe what an idiot I was. I so badly wanted to be fast on the bike that I'd just jump on and after a token 20-second warm-up, I'd hit redline and stay near it for the whole workout (as much as I was able). I'd rest a day, then I'd do it again. Another day's rest, and I'd do it again. I'd feel like shit and wonder why. After all, I'd rested in between workouts right?

If you ride like this and finally get on to a training plan, the first thing that'll hit you is how easy the plan seems. A hard day or couple of hard days is always followed by rest or easy days. Workouts with periodic elements (intervals, sprints, hill repeats) always end just as you feel you could do one or two more. It's very rare, if ever, that a workout is designed to “kill” you—staggering home on dead legs is almost never a goal.

You've heard it from the experts over and over. Now hear it from your friendly local idiot. If you want to get fitter, faster and ride further, don't get on the bike and ride like a demon with diarrhoea. As they keep telling you, you don't get fitter on the bike. That's when your body is just coping with all the screaming demands you're making. You get fitter when asleep in bed at night, when the elves come out and start repairing tissue and making it stronger, drilling out more capillaries, rewriting the fat burning code to make it more efficient, bracing ligaments and the many other little changes and improvements that are what we collectively call “fitness”.

The other aspect of rest is that you approach the next workout with enough energy to make it count. Without it, you gradually do less work (the physics one) during a workout, and therefore gain less, even though you feel as if you're driving yourself very hard. Never forget that just because you're panting and tired, doesn't mean you're doing a quality workout. When you're ill, just getting up and walking to the bathroom is tiring, but that doesn't mean it makes you fitter.

Whenever you do a workout, you should do it with the rest of the week in mind. If you know you must get five quality workouts in a week, you're much less likely to murder yourself on Monday. Also, play an even longer game. Remember that once you start exercising, you'll feel so wonderful that you'll never want to stop. What sort of schedule can you (and will you) sustain for the rest of your life? One where you push yourself to exhaustion five days a week? Not bliddy likely.

Burn baby burn: Getting out of the 'all or nothing' mindset

I was due for 7x300m sprints today, but after the second sprint, my legs started to smoke, heading for a spectacular RD-350 style seizure.

The legs were tired from the start of the ride, but I managed to post a higher speed than last time on the same section on the first sprint (50.05km/h). The second sprint burned like crazy towards the end, and as I rolled into the rest lap I was surprised to find the legs just burned all the harder. After several minutes, I started to get a bit nervous, wondering whether my legs were cramping. I could practically feel the lactic acid boiling in there, and nothing helped, not stopping, not walking and not riding slowly.

I instinctively kept moving though, and cut off the Santa Fe dam for home. The boil soon subsided to a simmer and in five minutes my legs felt as if nothing had happened. I felt guilty, wondering whether I should have finished my sprints, just at a lower intensity.

This leads me to the mistake I made, and one that I think is quite common. The belief that the sprint or interval workout should be all or nothing. Instead of monitoring whether the LT is running low and scaling accordingly, my tendency is to think, "If you're tired, take the day off, else just get out there and kill."

Expert feedback on my day has told me that I was simply tired, and probably didn't heed the signs. Indeed, I knew that my HR was running high for a given level of effort (and I guess my LT running low), but instead of scaling down my sprint effort, I just thought incorrectly that "sprints are sprints, you either blow up with them or you don't do them".

I'm reminded here of another exercise I've been given: to climb out of the saddle for 15 minutes. When I first heard that I laughed derisively. Fifteen minutes? Just 10 seconds out of the saddle makes my HR bounce off the rev-limiter in a most uncomfortable fashion.

Again, it was a matter of recalibrating. Of understanding that just because you're standing, doesn't mean you have to piledrive up the hill. As soon as you start working on standing and yet keeping the HR down, it's pretty surprising how far you can go. I'd have hit 15 minutes by my second workout, but ran out of hill. For my third go, I found a long enough climb and didn't touch butt to saddle for the entire 15 minutes. (Okay, I dabbed once to be able to get my hand off the bar to wipe some sweat off the brow. Reminder, drink water before you start this workout!)

There's much depth to the training wisdom that "it's hard to go easy" and it's true that the more you train (no matter how old you are when you start), the more maturity you gain. I think back with a shudder to my days when I applied "all or nothing" to every workout, not just the short, high-intensity ones. It seems so stupid now, but it's frighteningly easy to get caught up in the belief that if 70% effort is good, 90% must be better.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In the heat of training rides

While I do ride out in some beautiful parts even when training, here's an early post from Bikeszone of a kind of ride I haven't done in a long, long time.

I post this as a reminder to myself to hurry up and get the Volpe back in action (cable upgrade, stalled at derailleur adjustment) and do something like this again soon. I've had a plan for a while to take pictures all the way down Sunset Blvd from its rather gritty start in Los Angeles to its end at the ocean in Santa Monica.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why a stable?

Many non-cyclists are astonished to hear I have three bicycles (this is actually a small number of bikes to own, trust me). On hearing this, there's the inevitable, wide-eyed, slightly disbelieving, “But why three?” With an unspoken hint of, “I'm pretty sure you're insane, but let me make you say it so I'm justified in throwing this quiche in your face and running out of here.”

The answer is simple. I own more than one bicycle because there is more than one kind of bicycle.

You could, in theory, have one large pot in your kitchen in which you make everything, from tea to rice to fried chicken, but most cooks understand that different tasks need different tools. And if you don't, I really don't want to come to your house for dinner, thank you. Oh, I'm sure your one-pot chicken stew will be fantastic, but I'm not so sure I'll want the chicken-flavoured payasam. And the chicken-flavoured-payasam flavoured tea.

Different spokes
I think everyone understands the basic bicycle divide: mountain and road. Even the uninitiated can see that one has fat tyres, suspension and a flat handlebar. The other has thin tyres, no suspension, and, usually, the infamous “racing bars” or “curved bars”, known as drop bars. Those who look closer will see that the frames are different as well. Road bikes and mountain bikes have different stances, and put the rider in different positions relative to the bike itself.

But just as under frying pans there are saute pans, omelette pans, cast-iron pans and so on, there are different kinds of mountain bikes (MTBs), each designed for a certain kind, or intensity, of off-road riding. Some MTBs are cheap and meant simply to ride around the park on unpaved roads. As you go up the range, they can take more and more beating, and eventually you end up at the downhill bikes—heavy, extremely strong machines that can barrel down mountains chomping 30-foot drops with ease.

Road bikes tend to look very similar to the untrained eye, but sport differences that make some suitable for touring, others for long, fast rides, and still others exclusively for racing. Many of these are in the geometry of the frame, others are in the features available. For instance, a touring frame will have attachment points for racks, while a racing bike won't. A touring frame will put the rider in a comfortable, stable position, while the racing bike will have the rider bent over in a more “aggressive”, aerodynamic position. And there are a range of bikes that are the grey areas in the middle, and yes, the differences between some of these sub-castes can be subtle.

Imagine if cars weren't as expensive and damaging as they are and that we all lived on big estates with tons of garage space. You can see how we might have many kinds of vehicles. Perhaps a good 4WD for off-roading. A large people-carrier for family runs. A plush, quiet car for commuting. A hardcore sports car for track days and Sunday drives in the mountains. A vintage car to tinker with in the evenings. A cheap runabout for quick errands.

That's the good thing about loving cycles, even motorcycles. You don't have to be a billionaire to have a stable.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Race Across America

This velokundi was on the crew for Samim Rizvi's attempt at the Race Across America, or RAAM. The article about the experience.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


With cycling, there are many, many things I wish I'd done from the start and one of them is having cadence information.

When I bought my first “good” bicycle four years ago, I thought $400 was crazy expensive (but had read over and over that about $400 was a line you must cross if you want something that lasts). Ah how fresh-faced and innocent I must have been. So I decided that a bicycle computer was an unnecessary indulgence, and even when I did come around, I bought the cheapest one I could find.

Looking back now, I want to beat myself upside the head and tell me to just pull out the dosh for the Cateye Strada Cadence, the wired one is fine. It's not expensive (I know now), but at the time, paying $40 for a bicycle computer when you could get one for $14 seemed just wrong.

But I believe that a new rider, perhaps more than anyone else, must get a computer with cadence.

There's lot of detail out there about whys and wherefores, but simply, cadence is a measure of how fast your legs are pumping. When peering at sports motorcycles, the first thing many people notice is that the tachometer, or rev counter, is the king of the dashboard. That's because it's a direct view of what the engine is doing, making you a much more informed and efficient rider. Same with cadence (and later, heart rate). It's a direct reading from the engine and is much more useful to the rider.

Many beginner cyclists ride at very low cadences—40 to 60rpm. For us Indians, one reason is most of us grew up with single-speed bicycles, and if you changed cadence, you also changed speed. If you wanted a higher cadence, you also had to be able to sustain a higher speed. So we learned to ride low and slow.

But one of the biggest advantages of gears is that you can vary how fast your legs are turning without changing your forward speed. You can ride at 20km/h with your legs slowly pumping up and down at 40rpm, pushing a big, hard gear, or you can change to an easy gear and ride with your legs flying up and down at 100rpm. The latter is your goal. Not necessarily 100rpm, but to ride at any given speed with your legs moving quickly and lightly on the pedals. A good early goal is 90rpm, but if you're used to slow hard cranking, and find that too fast, at least get up to the 80s.


Less stress on your knees. Imagine you have to move your dumbbell set upstairs. The low cadence approach is to load them into one big sack and struggle up the stairs, risking having your spine fly out of the top of your head. The high cadence approach is to divide the load into four parts and run up and down the stairs with them. Far less risk of injury.

Less tiring. Back to dumbell example, you can see how the low cadence approach will exhaust your muscles, and you'll need recovery time before going back for the barbells. But the high cadence work leaves you fresh, and you can skip straight back down after the last load of dumbbells and get started on the rest.

But, but, but...

“I want to develop muskulls! Shouldn't I do heavy weight, low reps, i.e. low cadence?”

There's a place for low cadence, high resistance work, but only in short, well-thought-out workouts MUCH later in your cycling career. Even then, these workouts come with warnings to stop if you feel any kind of pain or not do them if there's any soreness in the legs. They are also carefully spaced out. They are effective but potentially dangerous medicine, and don't belong in a beginning cyclists' cabinet.

“But won't I get tired running up and down the stairs four times instead of walking up once?”

Yes, but you will recover in just minutes since you're taxing only the aerobic system. With the low cadence approach, you're tiring the muscles (by using other energy systems, but let's leave that for later), and will need hours or even a day or two for your muscles to recover.

“What recovery? I'm pedalling all the time!”

Yes baba, that is why you must apply high cadence from the start and get your body used to it. You'll pant a little in the beginning, but very soon find that you can switch on your pedalling and run it effortlessly for as long as you need. It's a good feeling, so chase it now!

"Isn't it some complicated sensor system?"

Not really. You stick a magnet on the crank arm (the bit the pedal is fitted to) and a sensor sits on the bike frame. Every time the magnet passes the sensor it counts a rotation, displaying your cadence on the screen. If you have the budget, get a wireless one (quality is more important here, otherwise you'll get glitches from interference) to save the initial trouble of routing the wires along the frame. But even with the wired one, it's just a few minutes' work with a handful of Zip ties.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Playing wheelwright

The photo shows everything you need to build yourself a bicycle wheel. Missing from the picture is a guitar plectrum, an important tool that lets you use tone to equalise spoke tension. (You could use your nails or an old credit card of course, but a plectrum is far more fun, and makes a louder sound).

Shown, roughly from left to right, is a Park Tools TS-8 truing stand, a Velocity Synergy off-centre 32-hole rim, Wheelsmith 295mm and 296mm double-butted stainless steel spokes, nickel-coated brass nipples, Phil's Tenacious Oil, a Shimano Ultegra 32-hole rear hub, a Park Tools spoke wrench, a screwdriver modified to use as a nipple-driver, and a printout of chapter four of the excellent e-book 'Professional Guide to Wheel Building' by Roger Musson.

My first wheelbuild is documented on this thread on Indian bike forum, Bikeszone. This is my fourth build, and the first time I used a truing stand. Things are a lot easier now--the wheel comes together with very little play to start with, so there are relatively few final adjustments. I don't think I'd want to build wheels for a living, but I really enjoy it when it's spaced out like this. (Four wheels over two years or so.) I also take a day or two between lacing and final tensioning.

This is the wheel just after lacing. Then you plug it into the socket and zap all the spokes straight. It's a patented technique and demands great skill. Don't try it at home!

Here's the built wheel. Note the valve hole at the centre of the photo, and you can clearly see how much off centre the drillings are for the spoke holes. Follow the spokes to the hub and notice how small the dish is. That's the advantage of using an off-centre rim. (You'd use one on the front if you were building wheels with disc brakes.)

Roger Musson isn't too fussed about choosing off-centre (or OC) rims, saying that if there was something wrong with regular rims, we'd have heard about it by now. However, Peter White, well-known wheelbuilder, writes on his website of the Velocity Aerohead (and implying OC rims in general): "The OC rim is a big advantage when built on a high dish rear hub like the current Campagnolo hubs, but less of an issue on Shimano hubs. But if you're having a set of Shimano wheels built and want the Aerohead it's silly not to use the OC version in back. It only costs $1 more, and gives you a wheel that's close to ZERO dish!"

I've also written about wheelbuilding in an Off the Cuff, here.

Living with the Edge

Nope, I'm not shacking up with a member of U2, I've just acquired the Garmin Edge 500, a GPS-enabled bicycle computer. This is not intended to be a review of the device, there are lots of those online, but a chronological account of my use of it, and therefore, I hope, avoiding the "very nice, but what does this actually mean in real life?" questions I always have when reading comprehensive reviews of a product.

Up to now, I've managed my training with this set-up:

That's the Cateye Strada Cadence (wired), and the most basic Polar heart-rate monitor (HRM), the F1. And yes, that's a studly low heart rate for someone straddling a bike and taking photographs. Standing barefoot on the grass probably helped. It was an effective, easy-to-see set-up, and funnily, I never thought about its limitations until I actually started using the Garmin.

A big change in my training, one I'll talk about later, means that I now need to upload and share data easily, which is why I finally leaped at a Performance Bike sale and bought the Edge.

My first reaction was that it was a good size and of pleasing proportions. The blue and white make it look toy-like, and that actually appeals to me. Perhaps a reminder to not get roadie serious about the self? Because the buttons are well-shielded from the elements, they aren't too easy to press--a place where, no doubt, the touchscreen big brother, the Edge 800, shines.

This is what comes in the box:

I realise that a dark picture of lots of black components tells you phuck-all, but clockwise from top left is the HRM strap, lots of rubber bands for mounting, mounts for two bikes, wall charger with USB cord and various pluggies, Manuels, the unit, the cadence and speed sensor with an optional mount for narrow chainstays, zip ties and magnets, one to put on the crank arm for cadence, the other on the rear wheel for speed.

Mounting is easy, and I have it on the stem. Pictures in a bit, but all you have to do is rubber band the mount with two bands. To fix the computer you simply place horizontally into the mount and rotate into place. Such a blessing after the damn Cateye Strada which you have to unceremoniously rip out each time, skinning your thumb, accidentally resetting it and generally getting quite teed off.

Here's the cadence and speed sensor in place:

Because the Edge 500 has GPS magic, it can calculate speed and distance without this sensor, so I guess this is just back-up and correction? Cadence, however, needs a sensor. I have a magnet simply placed on the pedal spindle, where it stays in place from sheer magnetic will alone, so no ugly zip ties on my beautiful SRAM Force crank arm. No trouble at all getting the magnets close enough for the sensor to sense them, and no trouble getting the unit to detect the HRM strap and cadence sensor.

First draft of screenplay
The first thing that struck me about the Edge 500 is how much information can be displayed. There are 36 possible data fields (45 if you have a power meter) that can be displayed on three screens. Here's my first draft of the first screen:

That's too busy, so my current set-up has seven data fields instead of eight, giving heart rate pride of place on the top field.

My second screen is set-up for intervals, and this is the first draft:

And the third is a miscellaneous screen, with information for motivational purposes on climbs or on long rides. I've completely changed this one, so this picture is just for you to see what else the Edge has to show.

Charts, sharts
And if you think that the Edge itself shows a crazy amount of information, wait until you bring it home after a ride and plug it into a computer. (And do sundries like getting it to work with Garmin Connect, Garmin's web-based training log.)

Here's a link to my first logged climbing workout.

My assigned goal was to climb 3,000ft, so the 'total ascent' data field on the device was immediately useful. 'Grade' was also of interest to me, since cyclists are always talking about slopes in percentages, and I was keen on getting a fix on just what 6% or 8% meant in terms of cycling effort. Learning these numbers helps every kind of cyclist, from tourers planning holidays, to commuters plotting the shortest, yet least sweaty, route to work.

Also, the legendary Glendora Mountain loop, one of the stages in the AMGEN ToC is pretty much a backyard ride for me. I've done it a few times but always on the Volpe (with the moral support of its triple), and have always wondered what the total ascent is. I now know it's about 3,300ft, just over 1,000m. Interestingly, that's about the elevation of the home town, Bangalore.

So once plugged in, the elevation profile of the ride was my focus.

Yup, you can see why this is a beloved ride. You get about 14km of fast descent, down a nice bendy road that has almost no traffic on weekdays.

And don't forget that the Edge 500 has GPS, even though it doesn't have base maps and turn-by-turn directions. So once you upload a ride, you get a nice map, shown here with the laps I set.

Split 1 to 2 is a climb I've done often, and I want to keep a sharp eye on my times on it in the future. Once you ride a route and have the GPS path, you can set it as a course and transfer it back to the Edge 500. (Or you can create a new course on a site such as Bike Route Toaster.) Then when you want to repeat it, you select 'Do course' and get a trail on the screen to follow. More on that when I actually try it. I'm hoping it'll make my trips into LA a little faster. I always get lost when relying on what I called my Garmean, a paper clip Zip-tied to the bar, holding a printout from Google Maps.

Working out workouts
With my 3,000ft climbing goal for the week met, I had a set of sprint workouts ahead of me. I was required to ride a 1.25mi loop, doing a 300m sprint in my 50-16 gear, and recovering for the rest of the distance. No rinse, and repeat seven times. Imagine standing up and hammering, trying to monitor 300m on a tiny screen through a haze of sweat, blood and spit. (Okay, no blood, but if you've done a series of all-out efforts, you know exactly what I mean.) And that's why, my carbon clown buddies, the Edge 500 offers the 'workouts' feature.

Set up your complicated workout earlier, then just click a button and have the Edge do all the secretarial work of monitoring your distance or time, and even heart rate and speed goals. All you have to do is hammer and listen out for a beep. Or you could watch the Edge count back your time or distance to zero.

Once you get one of these I'll let you figure out (and tell me) why Garmin makes you use Garmin Training Center to create a workout, but let's not worry about that right now. Here's a screenshot showing my sprint workout in Garmin Training Center's workout creation dialog box.

So once I start the workout, it'll wait until I press the lap button and then start counting back my 300m distance for the sprint. Then it'll count back my rest distance, and repeat until I finish the seven sets or stop for a quick vomit. (As I almost had to when I did it recently.)

Let's look at the drop-down options in the dialog. (All of these can also be set on the device itself. It's pleasantly non-painful.)

So you can tell Mr. Edge, "I want to ride until I have 1cm needle depth numbness in my penis, and...

...while doing so, I want to keep my self-image in the 'smarmy' zone."

It's pretty cool actually.

Okay, so once your sprints are done, you'll want to come home and anal-ise. Elevation is of no interest, this time it's heart rate.

You can clearly see the spikes of the five sprints. But wait, there's six. A quick look at the corresponding speed chart...

...shows the first spike is accompanied by a sharp drop in speed. Oh of course, it's the steep climb onto the Santa Fe Dam where I did my sprints. You can see the opposite at the other end of the workout where there's a steep rise in speed, but a drop in heartrate, as I swooped back down off the dam. This is an obvious example, but just an idea of how you can start dissecting your rides. The heartrate and speed spikes of the sprints will be closely compared to the ones from the next workout, and over the months I'll have a great record of how I'm doing.

All of this is just from my first few days with the Edge 500, so there's more to come. If at the end of all this, you're asking, "Okay, all this is very well, but what's the use of it all? Are you racing? Are you being paid to sprint 1mph faster at an HR that's 10 beats lower than last month? You have graphs, so what?"

The answer of course is: if you have to ask, you're not a velokundi. Come back when you are.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sprint workout

Chung King fried chicken cubes with hot peppers for dinner + sprint workout the next morning = cloudy with a chance of meat chunks.

Finally did only five out of the scheduled seven.