I’ve officially finished the ‘core’ of my training. Can I get a “HELL YEAH”? It’s Tuesday evening the week before race day. This time next week I’ll hopefully be sound asleep ready to conquer the first slighty shorter stage of the ABSA Cape Epic.
I can’t believe I’m there. It’s been a lot of toil and sweat, but I’ve stuck to my coach Jaco Ferreira’s program like glue missing only 1 – 2 tops sessions in the 6 odd months since I started my serious training with him. You can see my fitness improvement in the Training Peaks graph I showed in my previous article Pain, Progress Perspective, which tracks very nicely upwards all the way up to my last big rides last weekend.
While I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on outrides, I’ve probably spent even more on my new trusty Wahoo Kickr Snap trainer, which I’ve grown to love over the last few months.
Training for an ultramarathon event involves considerable time away from family. If you want to avoid driving your wife completely dilly and be an active father, it’s imperative that you make your training as time efficient as possible.
After doing these ultramarathon / endurance events for a few years now, I can tell you definitively that there is simply no more time efficient way of training for cycling, than on a static trainer set up at home.
A lot of my cycling mates rag me for spending so much time on the trainer and not being outdoors more, but I simply can’t get away from the efficiency factor.
Compare if you will, the following training sessions:
1.OUTDOORS – Engen to Engen ride on a Tuesday and Thursday morning (I think it is), as a lot of my mates do. This involves:
TOTAL ELAPSED TIME: Anywhere between 1.5 – 2 hours (minimum)
2.STATIC TRAINER SESSION – involving
TOTAL ELAPSED TIME: About 1.15 tops
When I was training for IronMan back in 2014, I was made aware by my coach / training squad-mates of the efficiencies of power-based training sessions and how they ideally needed to be incorporated into one’s training program for maximum fitness gains.
The beauty of a static bike is that one can control the level of intensity at any given moment precisely, which makes it easy to follow a coach’s prescribed session. Outdoors, you are completely subject to the terrain you are riding on. If you are supposed to do a steady ride at a consistent average power output of 180watts, without too much climbing, it’s almost impossible to do that in Joburg.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions, an increasingly popular and essential type of training for endurance athletes, due to the fantastic benefits derived therefrom, are almost impossible to get right outdoors.
So some form of static trainer with a power meter becomes an essential training tool.
MY STATIC TRAINER EVOLUTION – WATT BIKE FIRST
With power meters being an expensive item, my power-based training initially involved driving to my local Benmore Virgin Active gym. They had just introduced Watt bikes, an advanced indoor trainer with a power meter built into it. As that was what I had access to, that’s what I used.
BUT in having to travel to a gym to get the session in, I was adding a wasted 30 minutes onto any training session for the 15-minute journey there and back. So that was my time efficiency ruined right there.
Compounding that issue for me was trying to setup the Watt Bike correctly. You arrive at the gym and if the previous cyclist was a one-legged midget with a hunchback, you had to really change a lot of the setup of the bike to match it to your body size. Try as I might, in the 30 odd rides I’ve had on a Watt Bike, I have not once had a completely comfortable ride. My ass and that saddle for one, seem to be incompatible and usually 30 minutes into a session, I just want to get off.
So when I finally got the opportunity to get a great 2nd hand crank-based power meter (Power2Max) off The Bike Hub from a young guy that had just been put on the MTN Qhubeka feeder team, I jumped at the opportunity.
And what a great decision that proved to be.
THE GIANT CYCLOTRON MAGNETIC INDOOR TRAINER SECOND
My wife had bought a static trainer when we lived in London a few years back so that we could train indoor during the crappy UK Winter. I don’t think I’d used it more than once or twice in total, but it seemed to do the job.
The trainer she’d bought was the Giant Cyclotron. It’s probably one of the most, if not the most well-known entry level trainer you’ll find on the market.
I was told by someone I needed to get a special Indoor trainer tyre (they’re made out vinyl) as the resistance wheel would chow a normal tyre, so after arming myself with the special tyre and syncing my power meter to my Garmin Edge 510 (the precursor to my current Garmin Edge 520), I started training at home.
And what an pleasure it was. It far outweighed even my best expectations. I could set it up in front of a TV / computer with my favourite series / movie (without that, boredeom can be an issue) in a room with some decent airflow (heat can be big issue too) and jump into a session.
I then discovered a brilliant web application called TrainerRoad, which has several preset programs (depending on the type of event you are training for), each containing a number of individual sessions laid out per day per week (depending on a length of time and weekly workload of your choosing).
On any given day, you just rock up at the bike, pick the prescribed session in your program for that day, load it up on the app and follow the power output and onscreen instructions for the duration of the session.
BOOM. Super easy, super time efficient, the perfect bike setup, entertaining (with the right series / movies) and incredibly efficient training-wise.
THE WAHOO KICKR SNAP
While the Giant Cyclotron could do the job, it’s the most basic trainer you can get. It works off a magnetic resistance wheel and it’s largely up to the rider to control the resistance by gearing up or down.
It’s not always the easiest to operate and at times very noisy – although to be fair I think that may have been down to the age and heavy prolonged use of the unit. It’s a great trainer that can more than adequately do the job.
But as one progresses in ability in a sport, you start to consider better tools and I knew there were better trainers on the market.
Some of the features of these newer “smart bike trainers” (as Wahoo Fitness call them) include:
- Power-meters built into the units themselves
- Quieter, motorised resistance that can be controlled through a bike computer / phone app
- The ability to sync with clever training apps (TrainerRoad, Zwift, etc.)
As Jaco’s training program was based on power and Sibusiso didn’t have a power meter, our urgent requirement in October last year was to get him one. After lengthy research and considering all manner of combinations and permutations from a power meter on a road bike (vs mountain bike) with a basic trainer through to a power meter built into the trainer
The best solution was eventually the latter and somewhat fortuitously the annual Standard Bank Cycle Fair was taking place around the time I was concluding my research. Knowing that a few of the leading trainer companies would have a stand there, I headed off to hopefully make my final decision.
I had already researched the different brands, and one of the frontrunners was Wahoo Fitness. I was familiar with the Wahoo fitness brand having seen their Kickr trainers in the flesh before and having seen that Chris Froome’s Team Sky use them on warmups in the Tour de France.
I bumped into Christiaan van Zyl, the head of iKhambi, the agency that brings them into the country and after a long chat and a test cycle on the Kickr snap (the less expensive baby sister of the Kickr), I was convinced that that was the best option for Sibusiso and that it was also time to upgrade mine.
Check out this great little Youtube video – Wahoo Kickr Snap
What strikes you first with the unit is that it is incredibly strong and sturdy and you can see that the build quality is of a high standard. Just opening the legs, fitting the bike securely onto the skewer and tightening the resistance wheel against the tyre you know you are using a quality product.
QUICK SETUP AND APP CONTROL
It only takes about 15 seconds to get the bike physically mounted on the trainer and the trainer unit plugged into the wall – remember it’s electromagnetic resistance (rather than magnetic) that the Kickr Snap uses so you do need a power supply.
The instructions suggest that you perform what is called a Spindown test every week or two (I think it is), which recalibrates the power resistance in the motor.
This is a simple task performed about 5-10 minutes into a session, so that the motor has warmed up. It’s performed through the Wahoo fitness app, which syncs quickly and easily via Bluetooth with the phone and takes about 20 seconds’ tops.
EASY RESISTANCE ADJUSTMENT
In its most basic format, resistance (and therefore the increased power output to combat that resistance) can be adjusted by simply running up and down through your gears and as my training programs require me to move up and down through different power outputs, this is what I tended to do the most.
You can also control the resistance through the Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer, a tablet or computer so you have multiple options to suit what works best for you.
What’s most exciting, is that you can have a compatible app control the resistance automatically, depending on the program / terrain you choose as described below.
WORKS WITH MOST TRAINING APPS
When using one of these, the app being used automatically controls the resistance according to the program or terrain. So if your program for the day dictates that you need to ride 3 x 5 minute intervals at 250watts, when you get to that part of the ride, the resistance will automatically increase to require you to ride at that wattage.
If you are riding a course on Zwift that comes to a climb, the resistance will increase as you start the climb and mimic whatever is happening on the course. And although I haven’t yet used it in practice, I’ve seen it in action and am super excited about the prospect of using that functionality during some more chilled training after Epic. I understand (and I need to verify it) that on Zwift, you can ride with / race against other Zwift riders that are online at the same time as you, thereby reducing some of the pain by making training fun and more like that of an interactive game.
So I’m sold. It is definitely one of my better cycling investments and now that I have power on the trainer, I’m even contemplating the sale of the power meter on my bike as I don’t reference it that much when I’m out on the road and so question the how much benefit I gain from it being on there.
And while my cycling mates question how I can sit on my trainer for so many hours on end, I quite simply can’t see beyond the ease of setup, simplicity of operation, time efficiency and massive benefits of dedicated interval training. The ability to catch up on TV / movies and podcasts is also a massive bonus. I don’t have to debate with anyone what I want to watch or listen to. It’s very selfish ME TIME.
The safety factor also can’t be scoffed at. I’d rather be safe indoors on my trainer most times than braving it on the dangerous streets of Johannesburg.
FINAL INDOOR TRAINER STATS – TRAINING 1 NOVEMBER 2016 TO 13 MARCH 2017
Number of sessions on bike – 54
Number of hours logged – 73 hours
Average Time per session – 1hr20mins
Calories burnt – 21,000
While that seems a lot, I was a little surprised as I thought it would be more. The 73 hours equates to an average of just over 4 hours a week. It certainly felt like longer than that.
Thanks Wahoo fitness.