Thursday, December 3, 2015

The beauty of a Power Meter for your bike

Getting back into shape is NOT fun!  It's demoralizing and embarrassing and it plain sucks (it hurts).  I can arguably say that at age 50 I was in the best shape of my life. At six feet tall, I weighed 170 lbs., my resting HR was about 50bpm and my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike was around 275 watts.  Thus, my power to weight ratio was 3.5 w/kg.  That's in the Cat 3/4 racing power range. Nothing to really write home about, but respectable nonetheless.  Six years later, at age 56, I'm probably in the worst shape of my life.  I weigh close to 200 lbs, my resting HR is about 68bpm and my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike is about ? watts.  I'm afraid to do an FTP test for fear of dying of embarrassment..or of a heart attack..whichever comes first.  (I'd be lucky if my FTP was 200 watts)  But, just like a scale tells you how much you weigh, the power meter tells you how strong you are.  Without a power meter you would have no way of knowing how strong you are.  You probably think you haven't lost that much strength.  I'll bet you lost more than you think.

So, if you want to know how strong you are on a bike..and how you compare to others..the only true way of knowing is to measure your strength with a Power Meter.  There are all kinds of Power Meters on the market right now..some built into the wheel hubs, some built into the crank arm, etc.  The important thing is to buy one that is accurate.  Yes, the more accurate they are the more expensive they are.  But, that doesn't mean you have to buy the top of the line SRM Power Meter for $4000.  There are less expensive models such as Power Tap Hubs that are just as good- in my opinion.  That's what I use.

I'm guessing the reason why most don't buy/use Power Meters (other than the cost) is that they truly don't want to know what their FTP is.  Kind of analagous to why most people don't jump on a bathroom scale..they just don't want to know.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lesson in rolling resistance

I got dropped on a ride the other night.  It's not like I haven't been dropped on a ride before, but when I did, it was usually to younger stronger riders, not a bunch of old farts (including a woman on a mountain bike that looked to be 60ish).  No disrespect to the old (fart) riders that dropped me because they were old "strong" riders (stronger than me..that's for sure).  My ride was a Tuesday night Central Bucks Bike Club ride on the canal path.  I rode my Specialized Stumpjumper Mountain Bike with big knobbie tires.  Not only were the tires "knobbie" tires, they were underinflated (25 psi).  I didn't realize they were so low until I got home and checked them with my tire pressure gauge.  Before the ride I asked one of the regular riders what speeds they normally rode and they said normally 16 mph and sometimes 19 mph.  I was thinking to myself that I didn't even average 19 mph on my road bike..but then again, that was on the road and that included hills.  The canal path is flat as a pancake.  I should also preface this blog by saying that I'm overweight and out-of-shape too.

Anyway, back to my underinflated knobbie mountain bike tires.  When I got home I uploaded my ride from my Garmin Edge 501 Bike Computer.  I couldn't believe that all I could manage was 12 mph average on my mountain bike before reaching my Threshold Heart Rate (175 bpm).  Yes, I admit, I was/am out of shape..but I think if I were on my road bike, I would have easily been able to maintain 16+ mph..if not faster.  So, I decided to look up the rolling resistance of Mountain Bike Tires on a Mountain Bike (on the canal path) compared to Road Bike Tires on a Road Bike (on the road).  The difference is dramatic..almost a 30% difference....just what I thought.  So, having learned this, I either bring my road bike the next time I ride on the canal path, or find a way to decrease my rolling resistance on my Mountain Bike.  I chose the latter.  In addition to increasing my tire inflation pressure from 25 psi to 45 psi, I'm buying new tires with a less agressive tire pattern.  After all, most of my Mountain Bike riding will be on dry hard pack with little climbing in wet/muddy conditions.

I purchased two (2) Continental Race King Sport Protection Mountain Bike Tires.  I'm a big fan of Conti's especially their Grand Prix 4000 road tires.  Conti's are made in least the tires I buy with the Black Chili compound are made there.  Once I mount them I'll do a comparison to the stock knobbie tires I have now.  I'm sure the new tires will be much faster. I wish I had a Power Meter on my Mountain Bike to give a more accurate comparison..but I don't, so I'm going to use my Heart Rate vs. Speed.

Here's a graph of rolling resistance (watts) of the different Mountain Bike tires on the market.  In addition to the rolling resistance of the different brands, you can also see that the higher the inflation pressure the less the rolling resistance.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Weight Loss...the right way!

Whether you're losing weight to be more competitive on the bike or whether you're losing weight to just look/feel good and be healthier...there's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.  I'll discuss both ways.

Here's the wrong way to lose weight: and that's through one of these so-called "New Diets" that promise that you'll lose x amount of weight in x amount of time.  I'm not doubting that they won't work, the problem with these fad diets is that you'll end up gaining all the weight back...sooner or later.  The other wrong way to lose weight is through one of the new "gimmic" exercise programs that are advertised at your local health/fitness club.  Again, I'm not doubting that they won't work, the problem with these new fad exercise programs is that they're NOT for life.  And, most of them do more harm than good- especially if you're overweight.  The reason why the health clubs need to advertise these new programs is to stay in business.  That's because everyone looking to lose weight is always looking for the magic that requires less work..and the fitness centers are advertising this.

Ok, now here's the correct way to lose weight...and that's through eating healthier and smarter and working out daily.  The best part is, it doesn't require any special foods or a fancy gym membership.  For exercise, I recommend three exercies..two of which you can do in your home.  They are: cycling (on a trainer or exercise bike), elliptical training and swimming.  The reason I don't recommend a treadmill and running is because it's too high impact and if you're overweight, you'll ruin your knees.  I'd recommend walking fast, but most people won't walk fast enough to do any good.  An elliptical trainer is a great piece of equipment.  There are plenty out on the market.  All I can say is buy a good one..a commercial grade one.  They start at around $500.  An inexpensive one will only break on you, rust or be unstable.  The second piece of home equipment is an exercise bike or a trainer for your road bike. Again, buy a good one.  If you're lucky enough to have a membership to a health club that has a pool...swimming is a great way to lose weight and get in shape- quickly.  Healthy eating is not only eating healthy foods but eating the correct amount.  I know people who are overweight from eating too much healthy food.  Remember, your weight is determined by the amount of food (calories in) you take-in daily minus what you burn off in exercise.

Just a note, if you're overweight, out of shape, or haven't exercised in a while, I HIGHLY recommend you visit your doctor and get a physical exam.  The last thing you want to do is engage in any kind of exercise program and have some underlying health/heart issue that you're not aware of.

After you have the right exercise equipment the next thing you need to do is: make a goal.  i.e. you want to lose x weight in x amount of time.  When you make a goal, make it realistic.  If you don't you're only setting yourself up for failure.  I recommend not losing any more than 1 pound per week.  Let's face it, you didn't gain more than 1 pound per week so why expect to lose more than 1 pound per week?  So, a good weight loss goal would be 20 pounds in 20 weeks.  If you start now, you'll be 20 pounds lighter by June..the time you start shedding your Winter clothes and revealing more of your body.  That's my goal: 20-in-20.  I know I can do it because I've done it eating healthier and exercising (with the same equipment I recommended above).

So, for now, get your equipment, gym membership, etc. in order and make a goal.  The next blog I'll be talking about "motivators" and a "support group" something that is essential for you meeting your goal.

Until then, POWER ON!  Coach Rob