Indoor Cycling: Making it less boring

If you’re trying to maintain your cycling fitness over the winter and it’s too cold to venture outside then you need to get creative with your workouts!  If you’re not able to get to a cycling studio that offers watts based training then get a power meter, setup your bike at home and start pedaling until the snow melts. This year I discovered Golden Cheetah, the power analysis software, and it has helped make my indoor workouts much more fun interesting and productive.

GC is highly customizable so you can display what you want, and within reason, where you want it on the screen while you’re riding.  I’ve opted for a workout profile to one side, a video pane on the other and have been playing with different metrics across the top of the screen: Average power, Cadence, Current Power, Speed, HR…

Golden Cheetah workout screen

Golden Cheetah”s workout screen

Set Goals

Workout profiles are easy to setup.  Create several profiles for different interval intensities and durations.  I’m using a Kurt Kinetic trainer, so for me, the workout profile doesn’t alter my trainer’s resistance, but my power, cadence, speed (from my Powertap) and HR data will be graphed across my workout profile as I ride.  Check out this quick video on how to set a workout profile to include laps and average lap power:

Add some Media

Choose some riding videos to keep things interesting.  Get the Sufferfest videos or find some riding videos from youtube to give you the experience of a group ride  – where you never get dropped 🙂

You can ride somewhere different every week.  Last week I rode with Team SKY in Mallorca, did a group ride in Germany and rode a section from a the 2014 Tour de France.

Track Your Progress

The best part of Golden Cheetah is the post ride analysis.  Compare intervals within a ride or from one ride to another.  Have a look at cadence, HR, power, speed and how one affects the other.  Below, in the Ride Summary window, I highlight my 2nd 20min interval to see all of the relevant metrics at a glance: Duration, Avg Power, Avg Heart Rate, Avg Cadence etc.

Workout Summary

Workout Summary

Golden Cheetah has a ton of features that I have yet to take advantage of.  Check out their site for more info: http://www.goldencheetah.org/#section-features

Happy riding!

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Suunto Movestick Mini ANT+ USB stick

“What the heck is ANT+ USB stick and how will it help with my indoor bike training?”. Great questions, I’m glad I asked.

Like Bluetooth, ANT+ is a wireless protocol to allow connected devices to communicate. It’s very much the standard for fitness devices, especially in cycling. It allows various brands of devices to work together so that, for example, you can wirelessly connect your Powertap hub to your Garmin Edge 510 bike computer.

An ANT+ USB stick will allow communication between your various sensors and your home computer.

For my indoor training this year I wanted to display data from my bike sensors onto my laptop in real-time. If you want to go with TrainerRoad or similar training software, and it’s not running through an iPhone app, then this is one way to do it.

Suunto makes the cheapest ANT+ USB stick that I could find – The Suunto Movestick Mini, priced at just over $40CAN.

Suunto's Movestick Mini USB ANT+ stick

Suunto’s Movestick Mini USB ANT+ stick

Suunto  markets this device as a way to upload your data from various Suunto watches to their on-line training software at Movescount.com. They don’t even have the ANT+ logo on the packaging, so you’d have to look at their website for even a hint that this is in fact an ANT+ device.  So despite the many assurances from my otherwise trusty retailer that this would not work with my bike sensors, I picked up the Movestick Mini and headed home to give it a try.

The first thing you’ll notice is how tiny this thing is!

Suunto's Movestick Mini ANT+ USB stick

The 2nd thing, is how easy it is to setup.  Plug it in as you would a flash drive and it is auto-detected immediately.  Windows will then auto-load the device drivers and it is good to go!

So now what?

Now you’ll want some training software.  I went with the free Golden Cheetah v3.1 training software.  Its setup wizard gets your device(s) paired with ease.  For now it’s just pairing with my Powertap SL+ hub and my Bontrager Heart rate monitor, but will pick up any ANT+ device.  According to DCRainmaker, this USB stick has 8 channels, so you should be able to pick up every sensor that you need.

So, during my indoor rides (on my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine), Golden Cheetah now displays my speed, cadence, heart rate and power data, saves my workouts and offers a dizzying number of power data analysis tools.

Your screen can look a little something like this as you’re riding, but it is customizable:

Interval training in Golden Cheetah v3.1 Connected via a Suunto Movestick Mini

…but more on Golden Cheetah in another post.

Happy training!

Why Recycling Day = Flat Tire Day

Cycling to work every day I averaged 1 flat per month through 2012. None of them took place on my long rides outside of the city and almost all of the punctures were from broken glass.  I’ve been riding year round for over a decade and it has never been so bad before.  This past year I have largely given up on my track bike as my daily commuter and started riding my old Kona Humu Humu nuku nuku Apua’a again, it’s 1.5″ Tioga City Slickers being that much more puncture resistant than my 23mm road tires.

What has changed on our city’s roads?  Well, picture this:  Last Wed was recycling day along at least part of my route to work.  The crews were out collecting recycling in the morning when I was riding home, the 1st of 2 commutes that day, and I could see the usual piles of broken glass that they left behind at every stop, usually ranging from a few tablespoons to a 1/2 cup worth of glass shards.  Eventually car tires, much more resistant to puncture, grind the shards into dust, and after a day or two you barely even see it.

Cyclists dreaming of a car-less utopia take note – we would quickly find ourselves waste deep in broken glass!

On my way back to work later in the day I decided to take a few pics.  Here are the leftovers from 4 recycling truck stops in a row (taken around 2pm along Blythwood Rd between Yonge and Mount Pleasant), several hours after collection:

Recycle1 Recycle2

This is what is left behind at every stop!  Please zoom in on that last one if you want to see why cyclists are riding so far from the curb.

Municipalities are struggling to get rid of the mountains of mixed broken glass collected every year, much of it ending up in landfills.  Perhaps this is their way of dumping the excess, kind of like in the old movie ‘The Great Escape’ where the POWs have to come up with a way of hiding all of the dirt from their tunnels.  I think we could save the City of Toronto a pile of money if we would all just smash our own bottles in the middle of the road and save them the trouble.

Or, if you’d like to register complaints until they finally fix their collection process you can call 311 every time you see these piles of broken glass.

Happy riding (be sure to bring a patch kit)!

DIY Leather toe Covers for cycling shoes

Count cycling amongst your list of hobbies long enough and you will eventually accumulate gear for every possible weather condition.  Arm and leg warmers, vests, long sleeve jerseys, full zip, 1/2 zip, bib-shorts, tights, gloves, glasses for every lighting condition, etc.

Your road shoes are very well vented.  Your feet will thank you all summer, but come fall, a heavier pair of socks just isn’t going to cut it.  Bring on the toe covers!

Having a look at AllSeasonCyclist‘s winter gear he writes that he has 12 pair of toe covers!  I was looking for my 1st pair to cover up my very well vented Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes that I picked up just a few weeks ago at the Toronto Fall Bike Show.  I do have a couple of pairs of shoe covers, or booties as they are known, for more extreme conditions, but was looking for something a little more civilized for those cool, dry fall rides.  After a bit of searching, I decided I would just make my own.

Let’s start with a look at the finished product:

Leather toe covers for Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes

Leather toe covers for Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes

My BMC Streetfire is black and red with white decals and bar wrap. My Diadora Speedracer 2 Carbon shoes are white with red and black accents.  I figured I would carry those colours into the toe covers.  I dyed the leather with Fiebings USMC Black leather dye and used a red braided nylon thread to really make the stitches stand out.

The whole process starts by making some paper patterns until you have an idea of how much leather you might need.  I then soaked the leather for about 40min and here’s where things literally start to take shape.  I worked the leather around the edge of the shoes, pulled the leather into position with cord, stretching and compressing it, before letting it dry overnight.  This part isn’t pretty…

Working and stretching the leather into shape

Working and stretching the leather into shape

By the next morning they were dry and starting to look like a toe cover:

IMG_5832

I cut off the excess from around the edges, made a piece for the bottom, shaped it slightly and dyed all of the pieces:

Dye Another Day

Dye Another Day

Oops, missed a step or two.  Use the stitch groover so that your stitches will be “counter-sunk”, mark all of your holes for stitching, re-dye that strip, mark and rough-up the sections to be glued, apply the contact cement, line the pieces up, fit them into place and begin stitching:

a Stitch in thyme

a Stitch in thyme

…and then it’s just a matter of cleaning up all of the edges, fitting some snaps to secure the cover around your shoe and applying some finishing products to protect the leather.  Here they are with my Time Espresso 6 cleats fitted into place:

IMG_5848

…and then it’s time to enjoy the finished product:

Voila!

Voila!

IMG_5850

Time to get out and enjoy them.  See you on the road!

The Ride to Conquer the Ride to Niagara

I was planning to ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls last summer after I’d heard about GO Transit’s bike train.  GO Transit offers, amongst other destinations, service to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls through the summer with a couple of train cars dedicated to carrying bikes.  For folks in Toronto it’s a great way to get to Niagara for a day/weekend of cycling and wine tasting.  I figured I would ride there and take the train home.  The problem for me was with the schedule.  I could start my ride at 4am and take the 1230 train home, or leave later, after the traffic and temperature had ramped up and then return on the 840pm train.  Neither schedule seemed appealing.  I had ramped up my riding to prepare, but I didn’t make it happen in 2012.

This weekend my wife and I were going to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a night for a friend’s birthday, so it looked like I could finally make this riding dream a reality.  Saturday morning I took the subway to High Park station and at 8am I was on my way.  The ride is 150-160km so I expected it to take around 6h30.  Here’s my approximate route, minus some washroom break detours (Toronto-Niagara Bike Map).

Looking back from the Humber River

I decided to capture the moment as crossed the Humber River and looked back at Toronto’s skyline.  I was about 10min into my ride.

Burlington Skyway

By 9:55 I had put 60km behind me.  I was slightly ahead of schedule and beneath the Burlington Skyway, crossing the lift bridge.  You’ll want to stop soon thereafter at the trail side rest stop and washroom.  This is your last chance to fill up on water for a while.  The temperature would soon reach 29C and I had already downed 3 water bottles.  I filled one, drank it and filled all three again before setting off.

There were more than a few stops that I wanted to make along the way.  From the QEW you can never get a good look at the sunken ship around Jordan Rd.  So, about an hour after my last stop, I stopped again and climbed down an embankment, around the base of the Jordan Harbour (because road shoes are perfect for climbing down embankments), to quickly snap this shot :

Sunken ship

…riding on I was rather puzzled by this:

Antique Factory Outlet??

How do you have a “factory outlet” for antiques?  Anyhoo…

Believe it or not I was already out of water again at this point.  Another 30km and another 3 bottles of water!  So I pulled into Charles Daley Park for a refill, only to find a sign saying “Water not potable”!!!  Ugh!  So hot, so dehydrated already, my quads were beginning to seize!  I think my 29kph average was about to take a hit!

It was 12pm as I rode on into the scenic town of Port Dalhousie and made my way to the nearest Starbucks.  Time to fill my bottles again and wash down an energy bar with a well deserved latte!  Setting off again, and anxious to make up for lost time, I was forced to stop minutes later as the drawbridge rose to allow the huge Algocanada tanker to pass along the Welland Canal.  I figured I might as well read this sign to pass the time…

IMG_5190

George Nicholson Trail Section along the Welland Canal

Once past the Welland Canal you’re out of St. Catherines and into farm country again.  It’s nothing but vineyards and orchards all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Vineyards through the Niagara region

Once through Niagara-on-the-lake you take the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara river  all the way down to Niagara Falls, for the last 22km of the ride.  Here you face the only significant climb on the whole ride, up past the Brock’s Monument.

Brock Memorial

The hard work is all done but there are still some nice views along the way.  The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge seemed like a worthy stop:

Lewiston-Queenston Bridge

…it’s 2pm, 6hrs have passed and I’m at the Falls!  Time for some cheesy tourist pics of the Falls and the downtown.

Niagara Falls by bike

My trusty Specialized Roubaix handled the ride with ease

Downtown Niagara Falls

So I was clearly riding alone here.  My wife rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls.  A one way ride is enough for me so I would be driving back to Toronto the next day with her.  I asked what she rented and she answered happily “a Fiat”.  “Oh no!” I thought. “A Fiat 500? There’s no way that will fit my bike”, “I’m going to be riding home tomorrow”!  Well, for all of the doubters, myself included, here’s a 58cm bike, plus our overnight bags in the back of a Fiat 500 (with the seats down of course):

Fiat 500

What a ride!  So much to see along the way.  It was getting a little intimidated by the loop as I began mapping it out but I’m now anxious to do it again.  Any takers?

Kona Humu humu Nukunuku-A-Pua’A, the retro ride

Seriously, my bike is called a Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua’A, but you can call it the Humu 1 for short.

Kona Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua'A

Back in 1998 I had a road bike and a nice mountain bike and I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving either of them locked up around town while I was running errands, so I picked up a red 19″ Kona Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua’A as a “beater”.  This retro ride is named for the state fish of Hawaii and styled on a 1950’s cruiser.

Here it is in the original catalog entry, borrowed from Konaretro:

Konaretro catalog 1998

For years I rode this bike to work, to get groceries, to putt around town, ride some light trails etc.  The paint job was pretty much destroyed after 6-7 years of locking it to a thousand different posts and bike racks.  Eventually I thought it would be nice to have it stripped down and re-painted.  A friend of a friend, who worked in a paint shop, offered to paint it for a low price and suppose I got what I paid for.  There were runs in the paint, inconsistencies in the coverage etc.  Long story short it was a bit of a let down so I put the frame and the parts aside and wondered what to do about it.  Through 3 moves and 7 years the parts sat in storage!  A few weeks ago, when I could take it no longer, I finally had it all put back together, although I was missing a few parts (anyone seen my non drive-side crank arm?)…

2013 and it’s back on the road at last!  This bike is a joy to ride.  It doesn’t exactly beg to go fast, it just wants to cruise around and help you soak in the sights.  Coast, don’t pedal down hills and stop and smell the roses once and a while.  If you see an orange Humu1 in town you’ll know it’s mine as I’m quite sure it is the only one!

Happy riding.

A beautiful day to Paddle The Don

There are two major events wrapping up right about now in Toronto, the huge Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon and the lesser known Paddle the Don event.

It’s not often that you see a canoe in the Don River.  Most of the time it’s just too shallow (and smelly).  Once every spring however the TRCA floods the river and offers a unique opportunity to ‘Paddle the Don’.  The current leads you about 12-15km from Earnest Thompson Seton Park (around Leslie/Eglinton) to the Don’s outlet into Lake Ontario at the Keating Channel.  Those who brave the cold waters, currents and portages are treated to unique views at the heart of Canada’s largest city.

I was out early for a relatively quick 80km bike ride to Port Credit this morning and took advantage of some of the quiet roads that were closed for the marathon.  Eventually the runners took over the streets and I had to re-route up the Don trail to make my way home.  So I stopped a few times to snap a some pics and cheer on some paddlers.

Don_river_canoe (5)

See the guy in the red canoe below?   Me neither.  These guys dumped their boat in some rapids.  The water must have been cold!  They looked well dressed for the occasion though and some fellow canoeists were quickly upon them to help them gather their gear.

Capsized canoe

Capsized canoe

Click on any of the pics to see them full size.  Surely no picture will do justice to the experience but each shot seems to put you into a wilderness far removed from the city.

Don_river_canoe (3) Don_river_canoe (4)

Go to http://paddlethedon.ca/ to sign up for next year or to sponsor a paddler.

DIY Leather card case

Leather card case for the essentials

Leather card case for all of the essentials

You’re heading out for a long ride and your jersey pockets are packed with a patch kit, a pump, an energy bar, perhaps even a spare tube.  Do you really want to stuff your ‘George Costanza wallet’ in there too?  Last year I made a card case to carry the essentials.  My:

Health Card
Driver’s License
Starbucks card (or other coffee card)
Key fob (for entry into my building)
$20 cash (in case something goes slightly wrong)
Visa (in case something goes horribly wrong)

Well, it would seem that my card case was lost, or unfortunately stolen (by a coffee shop employee – long story) last November, so I have been without one ever since.  Yesterday I thought it time to make a new one.  Here are the basic steps if you want to make one for yourself:

Wet mold a piece of veggie tan leather around your stack of cards

Wet mold a piece of veggie tan leather around your stack of cards

Trim off the excess leather and channel cut for your stitching

Trim off the excess leather and channel cut for your stitching

Dye the leather with the colour of your choice.  I went with a dark mahogany.

Dye the leather with the colour of your choice. I went with a dark mahogany.

Glue the edges using contact cement and saddle stitch.  I choose a braided nylon thread as its very durable and the red stitching adds a nice contrast.

Glue the edges using contact cement, mark and punch the holes and then saddle stitch. I use a braided nylon thread as its very durable and the red stitching adds a nice contrast.

Voila!  A card case to last a lifetime!

First (real) ride of spring

bike_shadow

First ride of the season – Toronto to Oakville (and back):
Total distance: 103km
Avg Speed: 28km/h
# of Red lights: 1 million

It’s great to see your winter training pay off on your first ride of the season!  I’ve been riding to work all winter but it’s only 5km each way.  I do this about 7x/wk over 5 days, amounting to about 70km altogether.  It’s better than nothing.  I’ve also been riding the Wattbike 3x/wk for an hour at a time.  It’s an over priced piece of crap (IMHO), but that’s another story.  Those rides add about 110 more km to my weekly total, depending on the workout, still not a lot, but I wondered if it would be enough to allow me to pick up where I left off last fall without having to ramp back up again.

So with the promise of temperatures rising to 6C I downed my espresso and set off on my fixed gear bike with the sun still low in the sky, casting a long shadow before me as I headed west along the shores of Lake Ontario.  The temperature was just below freezing, around -2C, and my fingers, just above freezing, just…

I traveled south through town, going briefly east down the very chilly Rosedale Valley Rd, eventually hopping on the bike path until around Ontario Place, and taking the Lakeshore the rest of the way to Oakville (and back).

Last year I felt the need to ramp up gradually to that distance, so this season is off to a good start!  🙂

See you on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

A winter ride (to work)

Luckily I’d left for work a few minutes early yesterday so I had time to slow down and enjoy the scenery as I rode to work.  Toronto had some more snow overnight and it clung beautifully to the branches that hung overhead along Blythwood Rd.  I stopped briefly to snap this shot:

a winter ride  to work

a winter ride to work

And here we are, March 1st at last.  Was that to be our last snow fall of the season?