The loss of fitness and the gain in weight since my crash has been…quite obvious.

After two months of absolutely no saddle time, I decided to take matters into my own hands and reclaim what I lost.

It’s been roughly a month or so of slogging away at the turbo trainer. While I’m still nowhere near what I used to weigh, and I don’t realistically expect to lose any weight, I am feeling the lost fitness slowly creeping back.

Looking over my activity log on Strava reveals I’ve been repeating one particular workout. GCN has a workout set against the Passo Sella in the Dolomites, with erstwhile fan favorite Matt Stephens motivating you through twenty-eight minutes of intervals at 9/10 effort, at 100, 80, and 60 rpm.

This is highly convenient, both for days when I’m starved for time but still need training, and as a barometer of my fitness. The three screenshots below are a good track of my progress.

November 11, 2019.
Average speed/heart rate/cadence: 19.9 km/h, 153 bpm, 73 rpm.
November 22, 2019.
Average speed/heart rate/cadence: 20.8 km/h, 141 bpm, 75 rpm.
December 3, 2019.
Average speed/heart rate/cadence: 21.4 km/h, 138 bpm, 76 rpm.

In a nutshell, I am hitting faster road speeds and spinning at higher cadences, yet at a lower heart rate. Subjectively, I find that I can finish my sessions without feeling depleted.

This is tangible, measurable progress. And it all came to fruition on my first real outdoor ride, where JC Peralta and I hit the rolling hills and false flats of Alabang.

I’m still a heavy bastard, and still an easy target for fat-shamers. Very few people know or understand what goes on behind the scenes. Even so, the small wins need to be celebrated. If you cannot be proud for yourself and your achievements, nobody else will do it for you.

Indoor training, part 6: The flywheel effect

I’ve had the Minoura LiveRide LR340 turbo trainer for a while now and I’ve used it with both Hyro, my cyclocross bike with 700C wheels, and Bino, my 20″-wheeled folding bike. A few buckets of sweat later, shared between these two bikes, I started noticing a few differences.

At this point, I’ve documented numerous times the more rapid rate of tire wear from the smaller wheels – and the larger resulting mess that comes with it. It turns out that’s not the most telling difference between the two bikes.

With Bino, I find I can crank up the resistance and use much heavier gears. I regularly dip into the higher end of the gear ratio spectrum. I’ve gotten to the point where I can sprint in the 50×12 top gear combo at the final flat-out interval of a workout…and push as hard as an indicated 60.8 km/h on my cyclocomputer.

I have no idea how I’d sprint to this speed on a folding bike. My limit on the road is around 44 km/h, at which point I’d be pretty spun out.

Even in my 50×12 top gear, it’d take my legs a pedaling cadence of 154 RPM to get to this indicated road speed. Yes, that’s not sustainable for long periods, and most likely very hard to do out on the open road due to aerodynamic drag, but I’m mentioning it to illustrate my case.

On Hyro, though, it’s a different story. I use nowhere near half the LR340’s total resistance range, and despite using the same cassette and chainrings as Bino, I usually never breach the halfway point of the cassette. Beyond 50×19 or 50×17 are gear combos that are too big for me to push my pedals to on a turbo trainer. My indicated road speed also peaks at a significantly lower 52.5 km/h.

V-max on Hyro while on a turbo trainer.

It’s entirely possible that the two bikes are giving me slightly different workouts, and I pin this down to their rear wheels acting as flywheels of different sizes.

With Bino, the smaller 406 mm rear wheel acts as a flywheel that is much lighter and quicker to spin up with pedaling the cranks. The consequence is it takes much more resistance from the turbo trainer to give the training load called for by sprint intervals. Hyro’s 622 mm rear wheel, on the other hand, has more mass and needs more energy to get going…but requires less out of the turbo trainer to give roughly the same training load.

In practical training terms, I think that indoor training with Bino is more of a test of souplesse, or pedaling smoothness. With the smaller wheel size, I find it is much easier to accelerate and decelerate simply by changing my pedaling cadence. Peculiarly, with a change of bike, I find I could get the same kind of training coaches used to recommend getting a roller trainer for. Bino also has a slight edge for really high cadence work. Mounting Hyro’s bigger rolling stock on the LR340 will allow me the low-cadence training that replicates endurance climbing efforts, as well as getting used to holding low positions for faster riding.

Without hard data, and sharing just my palpable differences training between the two bikes, I feel like I may just be blowing a load of hot air. For that reason, I would love to quantify all this difference with a power meter. Unlike heart rate or speed, where external factors such as aero drag or physical condition can affect readings, power meters are more “insulated” and are better at actually quantifying your training load and output – a watt is a watt is a watt. Unfortunately, while they have been coming down in price almost constantly since 2012, they’re still too rich for my blood.

Indoor training, part 5: Turbo trainer tweaks for a folding bike

Previously I wrote about how Bino, my 20″ folding bike, interacted with my Minoura LiveRide LR340 turbo trainer. Officially, with the Z-adapter installed, Minoura says it can support a bike with 24″ wheels, and this became apparent when the threaded shaft on the adjustment knob simply ran out of room to squeeze against Bino’s 20″ x 1.75″ Impac Streetpac tire.

Another issue I ran into was the much greater amount of rubber dust particles generated by the smaller wheels. Because the circumference of the 20″ x 1.75″ tire is smaller, it goes through more revolutions at a given road speed compared to Hyro’s 700C x 28 mm or 700C x 32 mm rubber…which directly translates to much faster wear. The rubber dust particles themselves fly out over a larger area because the wheel is suspended much higher off the floor, making cleanup a chore.

So, I had two issues that need resolution.

I took a page out of Steve’s playbook and fashioned an extension for the adjustment knob’s threaded shaft, in order for the resistance roller to get more pressure against Bino’s rear tire. Basically I took a large brass dome nut and slipped it over the end of the adjustment knob shaft. It didn’t matter to me that the threads between these parts were incompatible with each other – all I needed was to give it a bit more length.

With the dome nut stuck on the end, I got more consistent and more positive pressure on the rear tire, and I was even able to reinstall the large cone spring that should have been there in the first place. This also opens up the option of using narrower tires for turbo trainer duty instead of being stuck with the 1.75″ width option. Schwalbe’s full-slick Kojak at 20″ x 1.35″, in particular, is a good candidate, although I might need to swap to a bigger nut.

See all that gray inside the box? That is all rear tire dust.

Addressing the problem of rubber dust particles was even simpler. All that took was a large cardboard box. Every time I use the turbo trainer, I basically put the cardboard box as close to the rear wheel and resistance unit as possible, so it catches all the rubber that gets flung off. The box flaps rest on the rear fender so there’s no rubbing anywhere.

These two simple hacks solved my problems. They’re not going to do much about the accelerated actual tire wear, though – that’s just a fact of life when using a small-wheeled bicycle on a turbo trainer, I guess.