My love for ZWIFT

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a lot of people in social media really hating on ZWIFT.

In my view, ZWIFT is probably the best thing to happen to bike racing since racing a bike. In a world where literally anything is possible in the technical age, why would you not get excited by the fact you could be a professional cyclist?

I see a lot of people saying ‘get out and ride your bike’ and ‘why would you sit staring at a screen pedalling when you can get out doors?’ Or ‘back when I was younger’ I’ve even seen a few old pros saying ‘when I started out racing…’ well, we’re not back when you were younger or even when you started out racing, we’re in the modern world with news, videos, the other side of the world and even unwanted opinions are at your fingertips.

The concept of eRacing and sports simulators are nothing new, tennis for two was created back in 1958 and was an incredibly simple game played on an oscilloscope. The first football game was in 1967 with Crown Soccer Special, followed by Grand Prix in 1969. The first cycling computer game was Cycling Manager released in 2001, today it’s called Pro Cycling Manager where you can pretend to be a manager of a cycling team, would you believe.

My point is, sports simulators have been about for a very long time. The biggest today would be FIFA or even Gran Tourismo, both of which you can still do in real life, if you were that way inclined. You can still go up the park or in the back garden and kick a ball around, I take my two year old to football classes each week. If you have a car you can go to a race track and drive it around for sport or leisure. Are you going to? Or is it simpler and easier to do it on a games console? Probably cheaper too if you bin your car in the gravel trap!

I saw a lot of people giving the World’s first professional eRacing team a lot of gyp, for what I could only understand was because they were not racing their bikes out on the road. I don’t get it? Why is that an issue? There’s so many eSports in which the winners are handed millions of pounds for just sitting and playing a simulator and you’re getting angry at someone for pushing their body to the limits on a bike and they’re not doing it properly because it’s not on the road? If these trailblazers inspire people to get on a bike and ride, indoors, outdoors, in a spin class, at the gym or just about anywhere they can, how is that a bad thing?

I wouldn’t want to go bike racing in real life because I would be nervous of not being accepted. Cycling can be so insular, so cliquey, so snobby that if you’re not dripping in Rapha or Cafe Du Cyclist on a bike you’ve had to remortgage your home in order to buy on finance then you might as well as not turn up. Then add to that the pressure of being dropped… No one wants to be dropped.

What ZWIFT offers me and many others is a chance to ride a bike an escape in a time and environment which suits me, does that mean I’m not a proper cyclist? Or am I just a person who likes to ride a bike as a form of fitness? I’m a dad of two who has a family life, I can’t commit each week to going out and doing century rides or even two hour rides in the saddle on the roads because sometimes, family life just doesn’t allow for that. What I can do though is get myself on the bike for however long in the garage and keep my fitness levels up, it offers escape without the need for leaving the house. I can put my kids in bed, have their monitors with me and still exercise knowing they are safe. It wouldn’t be the most practical to get out and ride for two hours after the kids are down. What I get from 45 minutes on ZWIFT, for me, feels like doing two hours on the road. Fair enough, I’ve probably not done the same distance, but I’ve not stopped pedalling, not stopped pushing and I’ve also not stopped for coffee and cake at any point.

Bradley Wiggins documented it in his book about his shed, heated the temperature of France in the Summer time pushing out 400 watts for 45 minutes was what Tim Kerrison believed Sir Brad needed to win the Tour, after months of training in his shed Wiggo achieved that goal and went on to be an Olympic Gold Medalist, again, this time on the road in the Time Trial. Fair enough, he did it on rollers but many professional cyclists can be seen on ZWIFT, Mark Cavendish is a user, Contador, Adam Yates, Alex Dowsett, Hannah Barnes, Danielle King and Leah Thorvilson who actually came through the ZWIFT academy, of course. All professional cyclists who use the platform. Tell them to go out and get on the road…

As I’ve mentioned the ZWIFT Academy, I might as well go on to explain for those who don’t know. Essentially, a competition in which the winner is handed a contract with a professional team. Which cyclist out there wouldn’t want to experience a professional team, even if it were just for one season? If I was told I was good enough just by riding my bike from my garage, what an experience that would be.

I’ve never known a computer based platform which offers someone so much freedom. Yes, you are confined to predetermined routes and can only go as fast as your legs will take you but what ZWIFT has done over its years is fantastic. I don’t know any other sport in the world which will allow you to get so close to being a professional. You can ride World Championship routes, with the pros or even, now, ride the prologue stage of the Giro d’Italia. The very stage which the professionals will be riding. You don’t even have to go to Italy for it, how amazing is that? How much of a fantastic opportunity is it?

If that doesn’t excite you and make you want to get on your bike and try ZWIFT out for yourself, then maybe cycling just isn’t for you.

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Train like a Pro with Wattbike

This weekend saw the return of Former Road Race World Champion, Lizzie Deignan. After one year out giving birth to their baby daughter, Orla, Lizzie returned to racing at the Amstel Gold Race.

Lizzie turned herself inside out with 40km to go with a storming break, her efforts were not enough, with Canyon-SRAM’s Polish rider, Katarzyna Niewiadoma the eventual winner, attacking on the final climb of the Cauberg and holding off Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) who was in hot pursuit.

In an interview with Lizzie published on this site, she said she would forgo all other races to win the UCI World Championships held in her home county of Yorkshire, in September. Lizzie hopes to do this with the help of Wattbike which she claims to have been her go to training tool during pregnancy and beyond. Helping Lizzie to squeeze in training around naps and after bed time!

“I’m really excited to rejoin the peloton and to race with my new teammates at Trek Segafredo, first at the Ardennes and then fittingly back on my home roads for the Tour de Yorkshire. I can’t wait to race in front of the home crowd again! It’s been a whirlwind year off the bike to have baby Orla and I’m looking forward to the new challenge of racing while being a working Mum! I couldn’t have done it without the support of my sponsors including Wattbike. Having the Wattbike to hand throughout pregnancy and for my return to cycling has been invaluable – allowing me to carry on riding safely in all weathers and with a big bump! It remains my go-to training tool.” Lizzie Deignan

Wattbike, who last year returned to track success with the prolific and inspiring HUUB Wattbike Test Team hinted at more sponsorship opportunities for 2019 that are yet to be announced.

“At Wattbike we are all really excited to see Lizzie’s return to cycling, we have been supporting her for three years now. It has been great to see her using the Wattbike throughout her pregnancy and her training as she returns to form. We’re really optimistic about the future and cannot wait to see how it progresses”.
Rich Baker

After being founded in 2000 Wattbike launched its pioneering indoor power trainer in 2008. It is now an industry-leading manufacturer of indoor cycle trainers, with a proven heritage in performance cycling. Wattbike trainers generate the world’s most accurate power, technique and performance data, captured through cutting-edge analysis and with unrivalled accuracy. With a desire to create the ultimate indoor cycling experience and a reputation for true innovation, Wattbike trainers perfectly replicate the sensation of riding on the road for professionals and beginners alike.

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Parenting and Professional Cycling – in conversation with Lizzie Deignan.

Finding the balance between work life and family life can be tough for just about anyone, but when you’re a professional athlete, performing at the top of your game, the training is hard, work is hard and often means much time away from your family in competition. In a new series on the Pusher of Pedals blog, I’m talking to professional athletes who are also parents, what’s it like getting back in to training, who does the night feeds and what’s harder, training for the next big race or leaving the family?

I’m very excited to say that opening the new series is former road race and track world champion and in 2016 was the reigning World, Commonwealth and National Road Race Champion, Lizzie Deignan.

  • What is your best advice for new parents who want to fit training around parenting? 

Good question! If you have the time and you’ve made the time in your schedule and when the time comes and you think actually I’m just too shattered to go out – ignore those feelings and go out anyway! Once you’re out you will love it – the freedom and the break from being a parent for just a couple of hours I think gives you the motivation and enthusiasm to return and be a better parent.

  • Women’s cycling really is doing something which seems arbitrary to add maternity leave to contracts in 2020, aren’t they? Shouldn’t this have been added sooner? 

Yes of course it should have been added sooner – there’s plenty of things that should have happened sooner but the main point now is to focus on the future and the positive steps going forwards. I’m delighted they’re adding the maternity leave clause and I hope that by having clauses like this and by me and other athletes being examples that there are more people who can hopefully combine motherhood and professional sport.

  • Rest is an important part of training, there must be times when you’re so tired from parenting and training? 

Yes absolutely but it is a funny one because I think most parents will tell you that there’s an extra energy reserve when it comes to your own children. Plenty of parents are at work all day and then come home to do the bedtime routine and the rest of it. You just find energy from somewhere.

  • We’re the same age – I’ve two boys Barnaby, who is two, and Elijah, just a month old. I’ve entered my wife and I in to the World Championship Sportive… she’s obviously thrilled at the idea… any advice? 

Well I look forward to seeing you at the finish line – I’ll wave you over as I’ll be there supporting Leeds Cares (the official charity of the UCI World Championships and sportive) all being well! My advice for you both would be to be realistic about the amount of training that you can do so that you don’t feel guilty or like a failure if you miss a session and just try and do some – even if it is just little and often. Just make sure you are doing some riding even just at weekends and make sure you enjoy it!

  • There are many things which I can use as an excuse to not train after we’ve eventually got the kids to bed! Fatigue, house chores, kids are down too late to train, not in the mood… list goes on. What mental hurdles do you have to get over to train or is it just something you want to do, no matter? 

No absolutely not! I don’t always want to train but I think I’m in the fortunate position that my job is professional cycling and I’ve never been someone who has skipped work or commitment. I have to be conscientious and the repercussions of me not training only impact on myself. Nine times out of ten you feel better for training anyway so I suppose it’s about avoiding the guilt of not doing it.  

  • I’ve read that you plan to retire after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, what’s the motivation behind this, if it’s true?! What’s the plan after retirement? Inevitable question… more kids? 

Yes that is the plan at the moment because I want to expand our family and also because hopefully I will have achieved everything I want to in my career by then.

  • Do you feel you’ve changed as a bike rider since Orla has come in to your world? 

Yes! I think the fact that cycling is not my sole focus anymore means that I can be a bit more balanced and motivated than before. I have a different perspective on it.

  • You must be sick of people asking if Orla is going to be as successful on the bike as her parents when she’s older? 

Not as sick of it as she will be!

  • What kiddie accessories have you already got for your bike? 

Yes we have! I’m actually really looking forward to using it – I think she will delighted. A friend gave us one of those chairs that you stick on the front and knowing her she will love it as she loves anything where she’s up and moving.

  • The world champs in your home county is exciting, are you chomping at the bit for the rainbow jersey back? 

Yes! I’d forgo any other race to win that race.

  • The first time we’re also seeing males and females competing together at the Worlds, do you ever think we would see a mixed gender peloton? 

No, I don’t think so.

  • What are your thoughts on the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad being halted because the men were going too slow? 

I think it was a shame that it go so much bad publicity because I think they’re an incredible organisation who do a lot for women’s cycling. It wasn’t great, there was obviously a mistake and they shouldn’t have been set off at that time but the logistics of stopping the men’s race to then have to stop it again potentially – you’ve got to think of the health and safety of the riders first and foremost and I think they made the right decision.

  • As a breastfeeding mother, were you ever worried than training could affect your milk supply? 

In my experience it didn’t have any impact on my milk supply. Things that had an impact were not eating enough, not drinking enough so you obviously have to account for the fact that when you train you need to eat more and drink more because you’re going to be dehydrated and under fuelled if you don’t but it’s definitely possible to do both.

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So there we go, Lizzie seems to be fitting in professional cycling perfectly with being a parent, sometimes I wish I had the ability to get on the bike after a day with the kids but I guess that’s one of the many factors which separates me from pro athletes!

As Lizzie herself mentions, she is an ambassador for the Leeds Cares charity which will be the Official Fundraising Partner of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, which will run from 21st September to 29th September 2019. As a charity dedicated to championing exceptional healthcare in Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond.

If you want to ride in the UCI World Championship Sportive then you can with Leeds Cares, these places are the first to be released, so by signing up you can ensure you’re guaranteed to take part  in one of the greatest cycling events in the world. As these places are the first to be released, you will be assured your place in one of the greatest cycling events in the world by signing up. Simply pay a deposit of £50 now and pledge to raise an additional £395 (£445 total) by 31st July, 2019 and you will be part of the action. You’ll also receive an exclusive limited edition Leeds Cares branded Santini cycling jersey to wear on the day.

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The challenge is set.

Last night saw the return of something to my life which has been missing for almost a year. Exercise on a bike.

I felt like my legs couldn’t turn the pedal, power was nowhere near what I used to be able to put out and I couldn’t manage very long at all. You can see my sorrowful attempt of a ride here.

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My terrible attempt up the brutal climb at the start of the 2018 World Championships, Innsbruck.

There’s a few reasons why I’ve been off the bike; work, raising a young family (a two year old and a one month old), moving home, laziness… I could go on but this would bore you to tears.

However, this week I signed up to the UCI World Championships Sportive. 100 glorious miles through the Yorkshire countryside, following some of the route which the World Championships will take place. Magic.

So what better time to start getting back to some form of fitness than six months before the big event!

I’ve done century rides before, Sportive’s also, but never with trying to fit in training around family time!

So follow on as I go through the training, riding and equipment which is going to get me there.

Oh and to add to the story, I’m dragging my wife along for the 100mile ride… the poor mite only gave birth last month, has never ridden a sportive before but those that train together, right?!

UCI 2018 Road World Championships
Alejandro Valverde winning the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck

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Hammer Time – The Hammer Series returns

With four days until the Hammer Series returns, the start list for Hammer Stavanger and Hammer Limburg is taking shape with some big names put forward by the competing teams. 

Racing for Quick-Step Floors in Stavanger and having one of the seasons of his life is former Paris-Roubaix winner and current Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra. With such a strong one-day racing pedigree, the Belgian team will be hoping to add Hammer victory to the successes they have recorded in the opening to their season.

For the following weekend in Limburg, Tom Dumoulin, Team Sunweb, returns, following his defence of the Maglia Rosa at the Giro d’Italia. BMC Racing Team will line up a full-strength squad including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and Richie Porte. John Degenkolb will lead Trek-Segafredo.

Roy Hegreberg, Race Director, Hammer Stavanger, said: “The line-up of riders taking part in Hammer Stavanger is fantastic. To have multiple national champions mixing it up with Classics riders in the forms of their lives should make for really exciting racing. I’m confident the riders will enjoy riding on the very best roads Stavanger has to offer and it will make a memorable experience for fans and viewers alike.”

I certainly think so! If you didn’t catch the Hammer Series last time it was awesomely amazing with a nail biting and very close finish which crowns Team Sky champs.

All three races taking place this year will be streamed live on social media, with Facebook, Twitter and DailyMotion all hosting video feeds. This means that unlike other pro-cycling races, fans anywhere in the world will be able to watch the Hammer Series live, on any device and without being charged for access. To watch the action from Hammer Stavanger, the first race in the season, head to https://www.facebook.com/hammerseries/, https://twitter.com/hammerseries and http://www.dailymotion.com/hammerseries

If you’ve never seen the Hammer Series before and want to know how it works.. well, you better get a cup of tea and read the below, if you have and you just want to see some nice photo’s just skip down to the bottom of the page. if all of that is just simply too much, here is a video explaining it all. Believe me, the racing is infinitely better than the video!

Teams are made up of seven riders, but they can field only five riders in each of the three races. While traditional cycling races have individual riders as stage and classification winners, the Hammer Series is all about teams.

The Hammer Climb and Hammer Sprint are points races in which riders will attempt to win points for their team.

Each team’s finishing positions from days one and two are combined to determine their starting place on day three’s Hammer Chase, a team pursuit against the clock.

HAMMER CLIMB

It takes place over multiple laps of a short circuit. On every lap, riders will earn points for their teams depending on their position when they cross the line. The higher the position, the more points. The team with the most points will win the Hammer Climb.

HAMMER SPRINT

Again, it takes place over multiple laps of a short circuit and riders can earn points for their teams by placing as high as possible at the end of each lap. The team with the most points will win the Hammer Sprint.

HAMMER CHASE

This is the decisive race. It is a team pursuit over several laps of a circuit. The participating teams will be ranked by adding together their positions in the first two races, with the lowest total being the top team.

For safety, they will then be split into two groups: the top half will go into Finalist Group, and bottom half will go into Runner-Up Group. Teams in the Finalist Group can challenge for both victory in the Hammer Chase and overall Hammer Series event. Teams in the Runner-Up Group can challenge for the Hammer Chase win, but not overall victory.

Teams in each group will set off at fixed time intervals decided by their ranking.

The team who complete the time trial in the fastest time will be winners of the Hammer Chase.

The team who cross the finish line first in the Finalist Group will be the winner of that Hammer Series event.

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Cafe Du Cyclist comes to London

Exciting news in the world of cycling clothes, premium cycling brand Cafe Du cyclist will be opening a store here in Spitalfields, London. The only other place you’ll find a Cafe du Cyclist shop is in Nice’s Old Porte on the Cote d’Azur. While Spitalfields is a far cry from the beautiful blue seas and high mountain climbs of the Cote d’Azure, Cafe Du Cyclist obviously sees something in the cycling boom of East London.

The wide-ranging collections, for both men and women, combine cutting edge technical fabrics, performance features and modern Gallic flair. Positioned at the forefront of the ‘new wave’ of contemporary cycling brands, Café du Cycliste has enjoyed rapid growth worldwide. The strength of the brand in the UK made London the natural choice for the next stage of their expansion. Before now the brand had only been available via Condor Cycles, Mr Porter, Matchesfashion, Condor Cycles and cafeducycliste.com. so to say it’s exclusive is a slight understatement.

The spirit of the brand comes from the founders shared love of riding, and its aesthetic combines inspiration from both inside and outside the sport. The outdoors lifestyle influences of Co-founder and Creative Director Remi Clermont’s background in world competition level kayaking are also evident in the DNA of the brand.

“My father was really into road cycling, so I grew up in a family watching the Tour de France around 20 years ago when it wasn’t cool – even in France” he explains “I saw an opportunity to create a brand that was serious about technical excellence but also relaxed enough in approach to capture the pleasure of riding for riding’s sake”

Since launching in 2009 Café du Cycliste has established itself as one of a very few specialist cycling brands able to effortlessly combine both high style and serious performance.

As Clermont says “Our clothing is designed as much to be worn 2,500 metres up, in some beautiful remote places where Le Tour has never been, as on the more familiar strips of kempt tarmac.”

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ZWIFT men’s cycling academy

Yes, that’s right. You’ve heard of the women’s cycling academy where ZWIFT pick the best women from their cycling platform and give the best one a place in the Canyon // SRAM pro women’s team.

Screen Grab ZA Launch 2

Well, ZWIFT have teamed up with Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, as they expand their mission to find the next best in pro-cycling talent. The overall winner stands a chance of racing with the Continental Squad in 2018.

On 1st September, all graduates of the 2017 Team Dimension Data | Zwift Academy will unlock charitable donations to Qhubeka, funded by Zwift. Top performing graduates aged under 22 years will then progress to battle it out for a pro-contract on the Team Dimension Data Continental Squad for 2018.

Phase 1 of the Academy consists of a six week structured training program designed by elite coaches and a roster of group rides and races. From an anticipated pool of over 5,000 successful graduates, ten top U23 riders will be selected to complete an additional two weeks of riding and training. From this group, three top finalists will continue to the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka November training camp in Cape Town, South Africa, where one will earn the opportunity to race with the Continental Squad in 2018.

Screen Grab ZA Launch

“Zwift has proven itself to not only be a rigorous data and training platform, but also a place where cyclists around the world can come together, engage, and become better riders,” says Doug Ryder, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Team Principal. “We want to take part in this unique experience to not only identify and discover talent, but also to educate others about our charity partner Qhubeka, an organization that works to bring rural communities across Africa closer to nutritious food, clean water, schools, employment, and health care by providing them with utility bicycles.”

“Zwift has built a track record as a training tool used by top professional talent but we want to go much wider than this” says Eric Min, Zwift’s CEO and co-founder. “With 2017 enrollment in the women’s Canyon//SRAM Racing | Zwift Academy already open, we know with this expansion, we can create the largest online training community in cycling, where every participant of every ability is trained and coached into a stronger cyclist.”

So if you want to be riding for Team Dimension Data in 2018, get yourself on ZWIFT and get yourself riding! Someone has to win, so why couldn’t it be you?

Screen Grab ZA Launch 3

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Zwift academy is a Go! ZWIFT! 

In 2016 ZWIFT led a very successful campaign to find the an emerging star and throwing them in to the pro peloton with a contract with the women’s world tour team, Canyon//SRAM. Guess what? They’re back at it again in 2017 and you can sign up here

DB1X6241For many this is a dream of a life time, the possibility of racing all over the world starting from your very own living room, or spare room, or garage, or just about wherever you could fit a tablet, phone or a laptop and hook it up to your turbo trainer and ZWIFT.

If you’ve not heard of ZWIFT before or familiar with how you can ZWIFT check out my blog here where you can read all about it and also read about the Wahoo KICKR too.

So what’s this all about and how do you win a pro contract? Well, basically, if you’re a woman and think you want to try your hand at being an elite level cyclist on one of the best cycling teams in the women’s pro peloton, you need to sign up to the ZWIFT

academy and get pushing the pedals.

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Winner of the 2016 ZWIFT academy, Leah Thorvilson

At the launch of the event on Monday the 12th of July, Leah Thorvilson, winner of the 2016 GoZwift academy, spoke about how she won and what life was and what life had become. It may surprise you that Leah doesn’t come from a cycling background but a running one. After four surgeries in three years and recurring pains and more injuries, Leah turned to cycling, more specifically ZWIFTing.

What followed was months of reality checks and surprise as she found herself progressing through the rounds and all the way to he final training camp where she won her pro contract. If this shows you anything, if you’re thinking you would never win, a runner who when on her Time Trial bike for the first time didn’t know where the brakes were won and is now about to enter her first National Championships. Still think yo’ve got no chance?

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Proof, I was there.

In 2016 each of the three rounds of competition, a panel of judges narrowed riders down by carefully analyzing data gathered during online rides and workouts. CANYON//SRAM Sports Director Beth Duryea, Professional Pursuit World Champion Mike McCarthy, and TrainSharp Founder Jon Sharples were part of the selection committee who chose twelve semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the final three.

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Discussing plans for next year over a beer.

“Finding talent in cycling is a numbers game, in terms of casting the net wide and drawing performance data back in. That’s what excited us about the Zwift Academy concept. Indoor training provides the accessibility for participants, a safe environment to train and a controlled environment to analyse data, then Zwift adds the social element build a community of riders and spur them on. It doesn’t surprise us that Leah is our winner. We’re looking forward to seeing how she can develop into a bike racer,” commented Jon Sharples, TrainSharp Founder.

“When you see an idea really become something, it’s an amazing feeling,” noted Ronny Lauke, CANYON//SRAM Racing team manager. “We took a chance with the Zwift Academy and we’re very pleased with the potential we saw not only in Leah, but in the other finalists as well. Watching and seeing all these women dedicate themselves to the sport, it makes one wonder how many more are overlooked.”

The 2017 academy is already up and running and you can sign up by clicking here. Who knows you may even end up like 2016 winner Leah.

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Strava – Join the Club

Hello,

I just wanted to write a quick update to let you know I’ve started a Strava club, you can find the link here if you would care to join in!

I’ve only been uploading my commuting rides on there at the moment – I’d like to be able to link people together from all over and hopefully bump in to fellow commuters along the way who also commute from East London in to the City and Westwards!

As the community hopefully grows then maybe we can start organising weekend rides and further on from there, who knows. The possibilities are as far as the miles in your legs! Endless.

It’s a place for all you bike-curious lot. New, old, seasoned cyclists to mediocre lycra lovers. All are welcome, all are accepted and absolutely no one is judged!

Look forward to you joining the pedal pushing club!

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Wahoo KICKR + ZWIFT Review

What’s the point? Surely cycling is all about the great outdoors, getting out there with other riders, giving them a wave as you go by, grabbing a cheeky toe every now and again all the wind rushing through your hair?

Well, I have to say, I am a bit of an indoor cyclist. I do my fair bit of spinning, my local is at Cyclebeat. They’re based in Monument/Bank and I’ve been a member for almost two years now. I find spinning a great way of maintaining a base level of fitness and helping you build technique as well as a higher average watt pushing power, which is what we’re all after right?

The reason I mention Cyclebeat is because they’re great – their instructors are great and what they do is unlike any spin class I’ve been to. They have a Beat Bored in front of the 50 bikes in the class (Basically two big TV screens), which shows your bike number, cadence, power output and converts that in to a total number, which builds throughout the class. You’re then ranked against your other indoor cycling buddies, “It’s not a competition.” the instructors always say at the start. It is. It always is. If bike number 17 is two points ahead, I’m chasing him down. If bike number 23 is coming up after me, I’m going to turn myself inside and out to keep them at arms length and try and break them before I do.

img_0855So I completely get the point of indoor cycling. What I like about going to spin is that I have to go there, I have to get on the spin bike and after the class I can then leave. So why do I need an indoor bike trainer coupled with what is basically a game? This is the question I asked myself. Now I’m not comparing the two because that would be worlds apart, however, could I replace spin with a Wahoo KICK + a ZWIFT account… hmm… That got my head itchy.

The guys at Wahoo were ever so gracious in sending me over a KICKR to try out, a bit of background on the KICKR, you’ve probably seen Chris Froome and his mates warming up and down on the turbo before they go out and kill it in a time trial? Well Team Sky are all riding on the Wahoo KICKR, the most advance turbo trainer in the Wahoo fleet. Basically with a fly wheel, electromagnets and some wizardry, it controls the resistance you feel and it’s your job to work against that.

I must state now, I only tested the KICKR with ZWIFT – I did not test it with the Wahoo app. So that was a ZWIFT test only.

  • What was the set up like?

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    Pram in the background is optional

Pretty easy actually, I pulled the full 28kg’s of turbo trainer out of its box and placed it on the floor, luckily enough the KICKR comes with a handle on it which makes it slightly easier to put it where you want. Unfolding the legs was simple enough and there’s even some adjustable feet on the bottom of the KICKR to make sure it’s as level as possible.

When it’s in position the KICKR puts it weight to good use and hunkers down so that it’s not wobbling all over the place as you ride.

Attaching your bike is as simple as replacing your rear wheel, which you’ll have to remove before you latch on to the KICKR, fret not, it’s 11 speed gear hub is very good and you’ll thank it for 11 gears when you’re pushing up a climb! Without teaching you to suck eggs, before you take your own wheel off it’ll be easiest if your chain is sat on the smallest cog so it just slots back on the smallest cog on the KICKR. The quick release skewer which comes with the KICKR fastens tight and secures the bike firmly in place.

As a side note, I have to admit I felt a bit nervous getting on first time as I wasn’t sure whether the bike would be nice and stable as I got on. In fact, as soon as I was on I was able to take my hands off the bars and felt instantly at ease.

  • Easy to pair with ZWIFT?

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    Solid blue light – you’re connected

Well, I have to admit, I was left scratching my head a little bit. I started by downloading the Wahoo Apps and fiddling about with that. I had to do a run down for the KICKR to make sure it was fully calibrated – sprinting up to 33kph and then letting the flywheel run down. Once that was done, I was clocking about on my laptop for ages wondering why, oh why, I couldn’t pair the ‘effing thing to my laptop. After about ten minutes the penny dropped. There’s a little cog in the top right corner of the ZWIFT screen, I had to click on that and choose my laptops internal Bluetooth. Once that was selected the KICKR paired instantly.

So yes, it’s very easy to pair with ZWIFT if you’re not an idiot like me.

  • What’s ZWIFT like though? Should I just ride my bike?

OK I get it, you’re riding you bike indoors, what’s the point? Plus you’re looking at a screen, who is that avatar there? It’s not realistic. The thing is, the ZWIFT avatars never claim to be realistic, they know you know you’re looking at a screen. Even the ‘gameplay’ reflects this, on the loop which I did I took a right turn ended up going down a tube station and cycling along the London Underground and ending up popping out near Box Hill… Now I need to try and figure out which those stations are in real life as I got to Box Hill in minutes!

Look – as long as you get that you’re effectively playing a game to test your fitness, you’ll love it. I did, I thought it was great, genuinely great. I couldn’t wait for my next ride. I didn’t want my ride to end but after eight weeks of being off the bike and no training (I have recently become a father and it becomes really quite tough to keep the training and riding up) I was in a pretty bad way, embarrassingly! I don’t know how Chris Froome manages it…

If you’ve not got the hours to ride your bike, ZWIFT it, you just have to.

  • So what’s the £999 KICKR like, would you buy one?

img_0870It’s amazing, when you hit a hill, you feel it just as you would in real life, the gradient builds on your gear, you feel the resistance in your legs, pulling for a lower gear. Tapping out a tempo. Brilliant.

Wahoo claim in their PR mumbo jumbo that at 61db it’s their quietest KICKR and that all you’ll hear is the pounding of your heart and breathing not the fly wheel… Erm, well… If your heart sounds like a World War II all clear air raid siren then I guess that’s true. The fly wheel does make a noise, a noticeable whirr as it goes around. However, when you’re in the pain locker you’re not hearing it, you’re focusing on your effort.

The only draw, is the noise. If your child is sleeping next door, like mine, I was constantly worried that a big effort would wake him up.

I absolutely loved riding the KICKR, it felt so realistic. It did make me think, I could cancel my spin membership and just buy a KICKR. Get my money back in the long run… However, I did find the idea of training in my living room a little bit uncomfortable, I kept glancing at the sofa thinking, I could just be on that. I lacked that extra little bit of motivation which you get from getting up and going to the gym.

As a fitness tool, I don’t think you could as for much better. The good news? There’s a cheaper option! Only £499 for the Wahoo SNAP. Bargain. Good job they do free shipping if you spend over £55!

You can buy a KICKR from the Wahoo website here

You can view the Wahoo Turbo Trainer range here

Checkout the ZWIFT website here

You can see about Cyclebeat here

You can read my other blog posts here

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