When October comes and the clocks go back I tend to go into an annual cycling hibernation not emerging until April the following year. At that point I usually find myself carrying what I like to describe as my ‘winter plumage’. What that breaks down to is essentially an extra stone and a half in weight. Oooooops. I’ll explain – In November it’s my birthday and then we have Christmas, then it’s New Year and after that a combination of inactivity, not liking riding my bike in crap weather and laziness tends to spell disaster for my ever-expanding waistline (you can tell that these excuses are well worn and have been dealt out on numerous occasions!). Whilst I’m stuffing myself in such a carefree manner for 6 months it means that for the first two months of cycling through May and June I’m trimming that weight off and that’s the problem. It’s a waste of 8 weeks riding as an annual vicious circle of excess is followed by mad fat loss to get down to a decent riding weight.
So this year I decided that it was time for a change. Time to try something new. This winter I’ve invested in a new indoor turbo trainer and I’m going to be using a combination of Zwift and workouts on Trainer Road to keep getting the miles in whilst the weather turns even more apocalyptic outside. The added benefit is that, as I set my sights on the Rapha ride in September next year, I hope to be 2 to 3 months ahead of the training curve when the evenings get lighter and I can cycle to work again. There are also a few events in the short term which should help ramp up the training. In February and March we will enter reliability ride season when local clubs put on rides to build base miles, as well as the Velo29 Winter Series which I have got an eye on taking part in so if I put the hard miles in now I should be good to go come Spring 2017.
Anyway, back to indoor training and specifically Zwift as this was the main reason I decided to try a turbo trainer as I way of staying fit. If you’re unfamiliar with Zwift it’s essentially a training aid that immerses you in an online world where you can free-ride, race other users or follow a structured workout all from the comfort of your spare room, basement or garage. Clever eh?
To do this you’ll need a turbo trainer (smart trainers are better, but you can use a ‘dumb’ trainer with speed and cadence sensors), a laptop that meets the minimum graphics specs (a desktop PC and monitor will also do the trick), a fan (yes you will sweat buckets), a training mat to catch said sweat and a bike…..
There are loads of blogs, YouTube videos and forums out there to help get you set up so I won’t go into too much detail here, but here are a few I found useful:
Luckily for me it was a case of recycling a few bits and pieces I had lying around and I hoped to be up and running in no time. Wrong. My first stumbling block was my desktop PC. I had wanted to use my late 2011 MacBook Pro, but it just wasn’t up to the job so I had to fall back on ‘Old Faithful’. Since ‘S’ and I moved in together in May the previously ‘working just fine’ behemoth of a PC had sat in the garage awaiting a home. I brought it indoors and went to fire it up…….A reassuring beep was met with very little else. The fans and water-cooling fired up, but the screen was blank, nothing, nada. The monitor was displaying what I imagine the soul of Donald J. Trump to look like – dark and very, very black. Bugger…..
So that had to go in for repair before I could do anything. Thankfully I was helped out by Mick at MH Computers, a local laptop and PC repair company here in Leeds. He did a fine job diagnosing the problem (one of the graphics cards had gone POP!) and he also updated a few other internals (SSD and RAM) to ensure that I could run Zwift on the ‘ultra’ settings. I could have probably got away with just running it on high, but who wants high when you can have ULTRA!
PC and monitor – check, bike – check, fan – check, training mat – check. All I had to do now was choose a smart turbo trainer from the myriad of options on the market today. If you know me then you know I like a good review. I tend to research everything to the ‘nth’ degree as I like to make an over informed choice which is great in some respects, but leads to days or weeks of angst as I deliberate over my my choice usually swinging violently between 2 possible options. After weeks of pouring over online reviews, blogs, forums, YouTube videos I had narrowed it down to 2 trainers. The Wahoo New Kickr (or Kickr2/late 2016 Kickr or whatever they are calling it this week) or the TACX Neo. Both had their pros and cons, but in the end I went for the Kickr and ordered it from Sigma Sport who were brilliant and delivered it the next day albeit for a small charge.
I’m going to do a full review of the Kickr in a later blog post so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I will post some photos of ‘shiny’ things!
And here’s my set up in situ.
So that’s it. I’m now committed to a winter of indoor training blasting around Watopia in an attempt to get to January without looking like a beach-ball. Wish me luck people!