Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cycleops Hammer smart trainer review

I've been using Zwift since early Sept 2017 and it's become a welcome addition to riding seeing winter is here. When looking to purchase a smart trainer I wanted to get into this the right way and not regret any equipment choice so after researching all the smart trainer choices I went with the Cycleops Hammer direct drive unit. There's a number of good smart trainers on the market but Cycleops has been involved with power meters for a long time, that with good reviews and I felt it was a good choice. Some smart trainers are wheel driven, meaning the tire contacts a roller that can be a little erratic power wise due to things like tire choice, temp, and air pressure so for consistency and a truer road feel I felt the direct drive type of unit was the proper way to go. The Hammer is in the same class of the direct drive smart trainers as the Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo, and few others and specs out closely with all the major players. I'm not going into detail as far as unboxing and assembly goes other than to say it was easy. I really want to give a rundown on features and how it's performed in the first 3 - 4 months of putting it through a lot of stress while on Zwift.
It has maybe the widest compatibility of all trainers available right now, software wise it supports dual BTLE & Ant+FE-C. It works with thru-axle frames of 130mm, 135, 142x12, 148x12 and includes all the adapters while some other brands offer them as an accessory.
It has a massive 20lb flywheel that and is rated for up to 2000 watts, simulates up to a 20% road grade and power accuracy of +/- 3% and internal temperature control.
It's heavy at nearly 50 lbs. but needs to be for stability. Sprinting out of the seat at 1000 watts it feels very solid with no limitations, and the foot print of 78cm with the legs extended out also aids in stability. I believe it's the widest in its class and comes with an integrated handle.
The freehub is a Shimano and compatible with Shimano 8-11 speed cassettes. For 10 speed cassettes it's supplied with a spacer. It comes with a small front wheel tray and under the tray is a small block for a rear disc brake if your bike is so equipped.... nice little detail.
Once the trainer is powered-up, there are LED lights located on the left side of the unit that change color based on its status. On startup the LED is blinking green and when connected to an Ant device it changes to white or if connected to BTLE it shows Blue.
I'm connecting to a windows laptop using an Garmin Ant + stick and a USB extension as to place the Ant stick directly next to the trainer. So far that’s worked out flawlessly.
There are firmware updates available and spin down calibrations to perform occasionally and Cycleops recommends a training app "Rouvy" formally Virtual training. You can download it on your phone - IOS, Android or computer and so far I've done a calibration test that worked fine. Zwift does offer a calibration test function but I'm hearing don't use it right now as there appears to be a few bugs with it. I'm sure by early 2018 Zwift will have it functioning properly as their pretty attentive with software issues.
Noise level at 20 mph is 64 decibels, that’s pretty quiet. I've read it's a hair louder than some of the other major brands but again just slightly. I have no complaints on the noise and was very surprised on how quiet it honestly is.
On Zwift the comparison to a real road feel is remarkable, occasionally there's a short lag in power when say shifting into the small front ring after a really hard effort in your large front ring. I'm hearing other brands have a similar issue but it's overall minor and the only negative I can come up with. Basically, if your keep hard constant power on the pedals after a hard effort when downshifting it's barely noticeable if at all.
The cost is not cheap at $1199 us dollars but the boredom it solves riding a trainer in the winter is a life saver.
It's wise to place your Ant + stick very close to the unit, that's 
if your using Ant +. Connections have been flawless. 

At nearly 50 lbs the handle comes in handy. It's not easy to transport
due to it's weight but it's extremely stable even at full gas. 
Legs fold out to 78cm wide. 

Mounts to trainer with ease.

Status light indicates green when on, white when connected
to Ant + and Blue when connected to BTLE.
Red indicates an issue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shimano S-Phyre RC900 road shoe

New shoe time is exciting but a little inconvenient due to getting the correct fit. The possibly returning or exchanging shoes due to sizing or just a bad fit is kind of a nuisance. I've been using the Shimano SH R260 since 2014 and they have served me well so I decided to stay with the Shimano brand.

First of all, the Shimano fit is good for me and the insole has arch inserts with 2 levels of pads to fine tune the arch of your foot which I found to be a big plus. So, when deciding on a new shoe I went with the top Shimano shoe the S-Phyre RC900 model. Their non-heat moldable unlike the previous line of Shimano top tier shoes but they really don't need to be as the duel boa setup is very precise. The heat molding material was a little stiff on the previous Shimano line has been replaced with a new dimpled and perforated Avail microfiber synthetic leather is noticeably more supple. The heal pad is replaceable, and the venting is excellent as is the whole Shimano line. They offer wide fit versions in the 37 - 47 size range. I'm in size 44 standard width and there is plenty of toe space from the top and sides due to the finite adjustments of the boa system. There's two IP1 dials for easy micro-adjustment in both directions, and a simple and incredibly fast pull-to-release tension for easy shoe removal.

One feature I really like is no separate tongue. I found a tongue can pull down or slip slightly to the sides affecting fit and comfort so with the RC 900 there is none providing for a more consistent fit during a ride. The inside of the heal has a one-way cat tongue like anti slip material which works very well. Heal retention is excellent. Cleat mounting provides for an additional 11 mm of fore-aft adjustment like previous models. Shimano says the sole stiffness is a 12 which means it's stiff, and yes, it's the stiffest sole I've encountered yet but not uncomfortable. Their approx. 60 grams lighter than the older R 321's they replace. The stack height is 3.2 mm lower than the R 321 and R 260 and come in 4 different colors.

They come with a pair of Shimano socks in the box but mine were missing (no big deal). I’ve already done some hard rides and so far I love these shoes, no hot spots or heal slippage and with these boa micro adjustments very easy to adjust on the fly.
A new dimpled and perforated Avail microfiber synthetic
leather is very soft and supple... comfortable and well

Heal cup has a rough cat tongue like surface to grip
your heal that's directional.... works very effectively. All out high
watt sprints and I never had a hint of heal slippage. 

IP 1 boa dials are very "micro adjustable" pull up to 
release all tension for easy removing. 

Inserts contain silvadur which controls odor. 
Inserts also have vents that line up with some of 
the shoes vents.

Arch inserts are great. You can use none, the yellow
which is medium or red for a high arch. 
I absolutely love this feature.

Shimano rates stiffness at 12-12 by their 
own scale. Heal pad is replaceable. Additional
11 mm of cleat adjustment.... nice. Plastic cover
for carbon sole protection. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hammer Nutrition Fully Charged

I generally don't do many reviews on supplements due to the fact I don't take very many and have found most not effective. Yes, I do gels and sometimes electrolytes mainly for the convenience and I mix my own recovery drinks in my Vitamix. The supplement business is huge are there are countless companies putting out such outrageous claims it can make anyone crazy. If I do a review it's because I found the product works and have done in what I feel is thorough research on the ingredient list, side effects etc. That being said, Hammer nutrition recently released a new pre-exercise product called Fully Charged. I spoke to a few of what I refer to as reliable friends or colleagues that have used the product and almost all the opinions were very similar in nature. In general, they felt their focus and level of exertion were taken up a notch. I've tried Fully charged a handful of times and my experiences mirrored what others have described. My focus or concentration was definitely higher, and it felt like my intensity level was higher. All in all, repeated hard efforts seemed to be a little easier and I was fresher when I was done. At this point, any "placebo effect" I could have possibly experienced is well over and the positive effect is as strong as ever. I have to say the higher level of focus is a great feeling and it makes all the training just seem to flow smoother. You just seem to be in the "zone" a little deeper.

I'll go over the primary ingredient list briefly and say there are no synthetic chemicals in the product. The small amount of caffeine (only about 10mg) is from green tree leaf extract and that's only stimulant I found, very minimal. Beta-alanine... a non-essential beta-amino acid, raises muscle carnosine levels and increases the amount of work you can perform at elevated intensities. Beta-alanine works best when exercise is of a high-intensity and lasts at least 1-5 minutes. Taurine... Among its many benefits, taurine is suggested to increase concentration and mental alertness. It is essential for the correct functioning of the electrolytic minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, helping to protect against muscle cramping. Fully charged contains 500 mg which is considered a good dosage for athletic performance. Without going into specifics Beta-alanine should be supplemented with Taurine for it to work properly and keep any side effects in check so it's smart of Hammer to combine both. Beet Juice Powder... A rich source of nitrates, which help boost nitric oxide (NO) levels. I'm a big fan of beets and I eat raw beets virtually daily in the Vitamix blender, a great addition to Fully charged. The taste is a little on the bland side but we're not at a Martini bar we're working out. I have 2 friends, one of whom has run 23 Boston marathons and both used Fully charged along with Hammer anti fatigue caps and both set PR's on a recent long training run. Needless to say, they’re both sold.

Overall, I really enjoy this product and will certainly continue to use it. Just for the record I have no affiliation with Hammer nutrition whatsoever or receive any form of compensation. Personally when I read a product review I want to know there's no influence coming from outside sources.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Selle SMP saddles after 7 years

We all know bike saddles are a personal thing, something that's comfortable to one person maybe uncomfortable to another. With that being said I wanted to do a post on Selle SMP's that have provided me with a very happy ass for years. A quick explanation of the science behind the oddly shaped saddle line is based around the bone that supports you when on a bike saddle. This bone the "Ischiopubic ramus" is on each side of the base of your pelvis is approx 6 inches long and angles in toward the front, much like the shape of a bike seat. The bone actually protrudes downward in its center which mimics the general shape of the Selle SMP line of seats. The shape of this bone varies from person to person so Selle SMP has a line of 12 road seats with varying widths and dips to find the perfect cradle for the shape of your ramus bone. If you want a sustainable aero position or spend time in the drops the curved rear helps rotate your hips forward for flatter back and more powerful glute activation. The full length cut out means you can stay lower with no discomfort. They also come in various levels of padding and solid carbon as well. I certainly admit it's a little tricky to find the perfect SMP (mainly due to so many choices) and get it set up right but the end result with most opinions is well worth it. I'll most likely never use any other road saddle again. I also use one my cross bike but I recommend one with more padding and less rise in the rear, same with the mountain bike. In addition they produce 5 TT specific saddles and number of Hybrid and Trekking specific saddles.
The dip in the seat is designed to cradle your ischiopubic
ramus shown here. One of the important keys is finding
the correct model that matches your bone shape.

The rear of the seat is raised which assists in tilting your
pelvis forward instead of bending at your lower back
that may occur with the positioning of many seats.
This helps keep you back flatter instead of rounded
and can assist with glute activation.

The wide cutout puts no pressure on soft tissue. Front tip is
bent down so your shorts never get hung up. Very comfortable
in the aero position for extended amounts of time.

Getting the correct saddle tilt is essential. A slight
tilt up in the nose and it becomes more
comfortable. Flat section of the rails are 95 to 100 mm
long and rail placement is such that it travels far up the
nose allowing for lots of adjustment.

Numerous widths available to fit virtually any

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Compressport TR3 Aero Tank

I personally love training / cycling in the heat just as long as I'm wearing a well vented hi tech top. In addition I much prefer a sleeveless top because short sleeves give me that restricted feeling. I've spent way too much money on top name brands that advertised how well they breathed, wicked moisture, etc. that left me feeling like I just worked out in a rubber suit. Just by chance while at the NYC Triathlon sports and fitness expo I stumbled across a Swiss company Compressport that makes hi tech clothing for cycling, triathlon and running. What really caught my eye was the TR3 aero tank. I'll list a few features that are basic and a few that I felt that really make a difference.
-Moisture wicking - pretty standard.

-6 pockets total 3 in front 3 in the rear, while a little on the small side still very convenient.

-The vented mesh varies and is more vented in area's that you retain more body heat.

-As you breathe heavier the mesh opens up more simply because breathing heavier means you’re     working harder and require more air flow. Basically, it adjusts ventilation according to the intensity of your workout.

-The V neck is very comfortable and prevents any chafing around the neck.

-The top of the zipper has a pocket so it does not dig into your neck.

-Ergo cut, longer in the back than front so it fits properly in the cycling position. The bottom has a silicone gripper.

-On the back of the neck "Compressport" is embroidered with the inside a microfiber like material so no irritation occurs.

-The interior has some silicone bits in places so the top really stays in place even if you have a heavy sweat rate.

-The TR3 comes in black and white and looks great.

The big test was wearing the black in the blazing heat and humidity this year, normally I'm fine in the heat but some black clothing really cooks me. I honestly have to say this is the coolest I've ever felt in the heat wearing black. Trust me I tested this in what had to be the hottest days of the summer, in fact I was equally cool in the white or black which is really saying something. I loved the six pockets even though a little small but very useful. Comfort level was excellent and truthfully the harder I pushed the more ventilation it provided. The sizing is a little on the small size so you might want to size up one size but the top does provide plenty of stretch so even if it's a little tight it's still comfortable. Pricing varies and is hard to find in the US but I found it generally goes for 80 to 125 US dollars. With the excellent experience I've had with this top I'm anxious to try some more of Compressport’s extensive line.
White and black

As you breathe your torso expands and the vents open
wider to provide more ventilation. The black kept me
very comfortable in the high heat. 

Compressport says the construction provides postural
 alignment. It does provide some structure without
being uncomfortable.

Six pockets in all. Three in front three in back, The back
outer pockets are angled for easier access.

Silicone gripper keeps it snug.

The Compressort label is lined with a very soft material
on the inside to prevent irritation. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sprinting and energy

Sprinting, it's a love - hate thing. The pain during a 100% full throttle sprint is deep and your mindset plays a huge part in your ability to tolerate the suffering. What's funny is in some twisted way that raw painful effort is somehow satisfying or even addictive in a bizarre sense.

But what actually propels your body in that effort, what variations does it go through to sustain that power? Pure sprints last from just a couple of seconds to around 30 and a number of compounds or chemical reactions occur in a very short time. The initial 1 or 2 seconds you utilize ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is a high energy compound which runs out quickly. After that and until around 10 seconds into the effort your body switches compounds to creatine phosphate to produce more ATP. Beyond this point ATP is produced by the breakdown of carbs using a process known as glycolysis. Then in turn produces pyruvate. During aggressive sprinting the pyruvate is then broken down into lactate and the burn begins. During this whole process energy is created without the need for oxygen or anaerobically. The last thing you’re thinking about during those hell bent all out sprints is these energy systems but it's kind of amazing what's keeps your body going in such a short amount of time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lifestyle direction

Have you ever actually stopped and thought about how your lifestyle has evolved? I mean really being honest with yourself about whether it's evolved in a positive direction. All of us change but how? In what direction? Over the years I find myself observing people around me whether through business or social interactions. Is there balance in their life? Are they just stagnant at this point and just coasting through life? I can't count the numerous people I've met whom think their successful because they've made a decent amount of money, but looking at all the aspects of their life they've become a physical disaster. Just how successful are they? Is there any balance? I generally don't voice my opinion about this very often because most take offense. They often have to realize it themselves before they are open to any change. People seem to take better care of their car than their bodies. Pretty amazing when you think about it, our bodies are the most valuable asset we have but we ignore it and then fuel it with junk. We all need to sit back take a moment and be totally honest with ourselves, where am I at?