ShadowStand is an ingenious bike support from Peter Bodola, an architectural model maker based in Hungary.
Basically, it’s a triangular piece of recycled acrylic that fits under the pedal axle to support your bike while you take photographs of it. It’s small enough to fit into your jersey pocket, and saves looking for convenient gates or bits of wood for that perfect Instagram shot.
Wahoo's Elemnt Roam and Garmin's Edge 530 are both companies’ latest GPS bike computers.
I’ve had a Wahoo Elemnt Roam since September last year and used it extensively on my winter bike during the colder months. However, due to some problems with the Wahoo and my SRM power meter (see notes at the end), I moved to a Garmin Edge 530 when the weather got a bit warmer and my summer bike came of out storage. They’re both great products, but quite different in their setup and use. Here are some of my thoughts after a few months of using both.
Wahoo Elemnt uses a phone app to set up the device. This lets you choose which fields to be displayed, connect to the WiFi network, and configure any cloud services such as dropbox or Strava. Once the initial setup is complete, you don’t really need to use the app, although it does provide quite a good summary of each ride’s data.
The Edge 530 needs to be mostly configured on the device itself. This is quite a bit more fiddly than using the Wahoo app.
Adding sensors to be devices is pretty straight-forward. Go to the search for a new sensor, then add it once it's found. Renaming the sensors is an absolute joy on the Elemnt using the phone app, compared with the Edge, when you need to select each letter on the device screen.
The Elemnt also takes considerably longer than the Edge to power up, probably because of its Android roots.
The Elemnt has a set of screens that can be cycled through using the Page button. Each screen has the concept of ‘Zooming’ to show more or fewer fields on the screen, with the size of each field shrinking to allow more to be displayed. If you use different bikes with different sensor types (i.e. one bike has a power meter & Di2, while the other doesn’t), you’ll find yourself setting up separate screens for each one. This isn’t quite as ’clean’ as to how it's handled on the Edge.
The Edge has Profiles that let you have a set of screens for each setup, i.e., Road Bike, Mountain Bike, etc. Each profile can have its own set of display fields. There’s also a number of ‘screens’ for each profile that you can cycle through using the buttons on the size of the device or using the hood buttons on Di2 shifters.
Garmin also has CIQ fields which are mini-apps that run on the device and can read data – these range from novelty ones, such as the number of beers earned, or slices of pizza burned off, to more advanced, such as specialised training metrics beyond those built-in to the device.
Getting the Data off the Device
The Edge has several ways to access its data: the device has Wi-Fi and will upload to Garmin Connect as soon as it can connect to one of the specified networks after a ride; it can upload via iPhone app, or it can be connected to a computer and appear as a USB drive – Garmin Express software handles uploading to Garmin Connect, or the data files can be accessed and uploaded to cloud services manually.
The first two methods are great when Garmin’s servers are running, but, as millions found out recently, when they’re down, it’s really hard to access your data. If you use Strava or Training Peaks, for example, then your data needs to go to Garmin’s servers first before it’s sent onto the services. This isn’t the case with the Elemnt.
The Elemnt also has Wi-Fi built-in and can upload to a number of different services, including Training Peaks and Strava. It can also upload your files to Dropbox, meaning you’ve got a local copy of your data, something that Garmin doesn’t provide ‘out of the box’. As far as I know, there’s no Wahoo-controlled server element of this, so there shouldn’t be something to fail there.
The Elemnt can’t be connected to a computer to get the files on it – at least not easily. The Elemnt runs a version of the Android phone operating system. There are apps that will access the data, but that’s another step, compared with Garmin.
What Garmin needs to do is update their phone apps to save the data somewhere locally, so that it can be accessed and opening in other apps for analysis or uploaded to cloud services.
Both devices produce .fit (Flexible and Interoperable Data Transfer) format files which are pretty much universally accepted by most training software.
There’s not much to choose between the devices in use. Note that I haven’t used either of them for following a preloaded route, so I can’t comment on any differences there. Both are a similar size and have a decent-sized screen. Neither has a touch screen, relying on buttons along the sides of the Edge and at the bottom of the screen on the Elemnt.
As mentioned above, initially, I had problems using the Elemnt with my SRM power meter. This is an older SRM model, probably 2011 or 2012 vintage. Wahoo support wasn’t all that helpful, so I gave up with it and just used it on my winter bike which doesn’t have a power meter. Recently I discovered that some of the latest Wahoo updates addressed the SRM problem, and I’ve been trying it alongside my Edge on my road bike. I’ll report back once I’ve got a decent amount of data to compare. This isn’t an indication of issues with other power meters – my Elemnt works absolutely fine with my Garmin Vector 3.
Also, the Wi-Fi on the Element will only connect to channel 9 and below. Many Wi-Fi routers (mine included) will automatically assign the channel, so this may cause some problems. In my case the Elemnt would occasionally not connect – this was due to the router having switched to a channel higher than 9. Once I changed the router setup to use a fixed channel, all was good. I'm not sure if the Edge has the same limitation - I haven't come across it.
After the Methlick Cycle Challenge, I decided I wanted to replace my mountain bike. I’d really enjoyed off-road bits of the ride, but using a mountain bike (albeit quite an old one) slowed me down on the road and hard-packed gravel sections.
With this in mind, I decided on a gravel bike. There’re some good gravel routes in my area and it’d be good to use as a winter bike. I eventually decided on a Planet-X Tempest – I’ve long wanted to try a titanium bike, and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. I hummed and hawed about the size and eventually settled on an XL (I’m 6ft 2in, 188 cm tall).
The bike arrived well packed, and I only had to fit the front wheel, handlebars & drop the saddle in. Since this as my first bike with disc brakes, fitting the front wheel took a bit longer than expected. The fit seemed perfect, so I was glad I didn’t go for a large instead of extra-large.
For a first ride, I went around Fyvie Castle estate, a local sporting estate and stately home, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The route took in a range of road conditions from decent asphalt roads, potholed roads and rough landrover tracks. The bike handled well with the titanium seeming to absorb more road ‘buzz’, compared to my carbon Felt Z3. The SRAM ‘double-tap’ gears took a minute or two to get used to, and they’re not as ‘snappy’ as Shimano I have on my other bikes, although I may have been spoiled with Di2 on my Felt. The brake levers have quite a bit of movement before brakes bite, and I suspect these may need to adjust.
The Tempest seems to be a great bike and I’m looking forward to exploring more off-road stuff locally.
The Methlick Cycle Challenge has been going for a few years now, initially as a ride from Ballater to Methlick and more recently as a ride based in Methlick itself. The ride offers 66-mile, 44-mile and 20-mile options.
This was the first time I’d attempted the event, and I opted for the 44 mile distance. The event was billed as part on, part off-road, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking at the route map, there were few parts of the route I was familiar with, apart from 10-or-so miles on the old Buchan railway line. I’d opted to use my mountain bike, a 1992-vintage Trek 7000, later fitted with suspension forks (these weren’t a common thing on mountain bikes in 1992).
After arriving at the start a bit later than I’d have liked, due to car problems, I signed on and rushed down a bacon roll. After a quick toilet break, it was time to line up. After a quick briefing, we set off along a track that followed the south side of the River Ythan. At the end of the trail, we crossed the river back onto tarmac and climbed up to Gight Woods. On this climb, I released that climbing with suspension forks is a bit of a bouncy experience!
Once at the woods, we dropped down and turned onto some narrower roads towards Cairnnorrie. From there, we moved onto some gravel tracks and climbed past some wind turbines. On the gravel descent from here, I passed someone who had fallen off. I stopped to offer help, but several other riders had already stopped. It later turned out that they ended up in hospital, getting knee operated on.
From there, we approached a single-track section with a warning sign about a steep descent towards a pond! At this point I walked down to the pond, as I wasn’t too confident in my bike’s stopping power.
We turned onto the Formartine and Buchan Way (an old railway line) beside Auchnagatt and followed that for 10-or-so miles through Ellon to Udny. This was a fairly fast stretch of the route, and the surface was quite good with only a few puddles. There were two refreshment stops on this section as well, together with a bike mechanic for any mechanical emergencies.
Once off the old railway line, we followed mostly smaller country roads to Udny Green, and then off-road again on the Old Aberdeen Road, which is basically a grass track, into Tarves. The final part of this was a rocky descent shaded by trees. Here, I really thought I was going to come off my bike, but somehow managed to get to the bottom in one piece. From here, we passed through the centre of Tarves and onto another stretch of farm road. At this point, I became aware of a rattle somewhere on my bike. Looking down, I saw that the front quick-release has somehow come loose. Thankfully, the ‘lawyer nibs’ stopped a more serious problem, as that section of track was quite bumpy.
At the bottom of this descent, we crossed onto the hard-packed roads of Haddo House estate, a stately home owned by the National Trust for Scotland and home to the Marquess of Aberdeen. Once through the estate, we were back onto tarmac for the short stretch back to Methlick with a free beer and a barbeque at Laird’s Cricket Ground.
All in all, a well organised event that took in some interesting routes around Methlick. Will I do it again? Definitely! On the same bike? Probably not – talking to some of the other riders over a beer later, many of them had ridden Cyclo-cross or Gravel bikes, so I’ll probably go that route for next time. I’ll definitely be back next year.
Last weekend, I took part in the Suie Classic, a 54 mile bike ride that’s part of the Great Inverurie Bike ride.
The Great Inverurie Bike ride started out many years ago as a 25 mile sponsored event. In the last couple of years, a longer, 54 mile option has been added. The route follows most of the 25 mile course with and out-and-back loop added over the formidable Suie hill, a 6-mile climb, topping out at a 14% gradient.
I’d done this ride before, in 2017, so I knew what I was letting myself in for! The weather was nice at the start in Inverurie, with temperatures of about 15 Deg. To avoid congestion at the start, we were set off in groups of about 20 every 2 minutes-or-so.
I probably took it a bit too easy on the first couple of small climbs, wanting to save myself for the climb of Suie. The run out the foot on the climb was fairly uneventful, passing along the side of the River Don to Keig where we turned right onto the bottom of the climb. The first 4-or-so km are fairly easy, then the road ramps up for the final 2 km. Here the gradient hits 14% (according to Strava). Once at the top, I stopped to refill my water bottles and to refuel on Jelly Babies and a banana. From there, it was a descent down the other side of Suie (the steep side, with 16% gradients and tight corners), and along to Auchleven.
At that point, just as we starting to climb up Brindy out of Auchleven, the heavens opened and we were bombarded with torrential rain and hail stones. The shower only lasted for 10 minutes-or-so, but it was enough to soak my shorts and feet (I’d stopped to put my rain jacket when the rain started). After the descent, we turned back along the river Don towards Monymusk. After that point, I felt pretty miserable with wet feet.
As we approached Monymusk, it was apparent that they’d had no rain, and the warmer air meant that my jacket and shorts soon dried. The course looped around the back of Monymusk, and then passed through the centre of the village before heading back to the start through Blairdaff and Burnhervie. At this point, we joined the 25-mile route riders, and later the riders on the shorter, 13-mile family route. It was good to see families of all ages out on their bikes, although caution was advised as some of the youngsters were weaving over the road, with little awareness of cyclists approaching from behind. The final run into Inverurie was a welcome downhill past the hospital and back to the start.
My final time was 3:49:03 (moving time), a few minutes slower than last time.
Up in my part of the world, training outside in the evenings (and some days) is pretty difficult between October and April. During this period, I rely on my Turbo trainer for cycling fitness. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated room for my training, albeit in our outbuilding.
Late last year, I upgraded by mid-2000’s vintage Tacx Flow to a Tacx Neo. The Neo is a direct-drive trainer, meaning that the bike connects directly to it, rather than the bike’s rear wheel resting on a roller, like in a traditional turbo trainer. My last trainer did have controllable resistance, but it was from a time when few trainers had a computer connection. Having the trainer controller by the software has made a big difference to my experience on the trainer.
Since I got the Tacx Neo I’ve been using Zwift. Prior to this, for the past couple of winters, I’ve used the Sufferfest, first just the videos, then the app once that was released. While the sufferfest provides a good workout, it didn’t provide anything for unstructured, ‘just cycling along’ days. With Zwift, there’s the option to just cycle the roads of the worlds they provide.
Of course, the latest Sufferfest provides much more than just training sessions, providing yoga and weight training sessions as well.
There’s a number of VR-type cycling apps on the market now, including Bkool, Road Grand Tour and others. Zwift works well for me, and I’d rather spent my time training, then trying out other apps. For a good review of the various options, have a look at DCRainmaker’s trainer software review.
I’m using my main laptop, a 2018 Macbook Pro, along with an Apple keyboard (MB869LL/A). The keyboard has two USB ports, one at each end. Into one I’ve plugged a cheap mouse, and to the other, a Suunto ANT+ adaptor. The Macbook needs to have a keyboard connected to run in clamshell mode (i.e., lid closed). Although a Bluetooth one will work, I used a wired one as it allows me to use a cheap mouse and also provides a port for the ANT+ dongle. I’ve also got an additional power adaptor for the laptop to save having to drag one out every time I’m training.
I’ve got a BenQ 21” monitor (GL2250HM) that I picked up cheap on Amazon, and a stand to hold the laptop vertically so that it takes up less space on the worktop (the unit is an old kitchen unit from our house). A plethora of USB-C adaptors are used to connect these – I swear the adaptors cost more than the laptop!
WiFi is provided by a TP-Link PowerLine adaptor connected back to the Internet router in our house.
I’ve got Honeywell fan from Amazon which sits on the desk to provide some cooling airflow. To control the fan (only On/Off), I’ve got an Eve Homekit switch – this means I can turn the fan on and off without having to dismount from the training, using an app on my iPhone. In the winter, it’s a bit too cold to have the fan on from the start of the session, and I usually need 10 -15 minutes warming up before it goes on.
On the bike, I’m using a Tacx Sweat Cover with an iPhone pouch on it. In Zwift, there’s a companion app that runs on iOS and lets you control aspects of Zwift without using the mouse or keyboard. I also use the iPhone to control my fan.
The setup works very well. However, looking the zwift logs in zwiftilizer.com, it looks like the distance between the Neo and the ANT dongle might be on the limit, as the log files show some dropouts, although I haven’t noticed this either when using zwift or in the .fit files when reviewing at them later. This may also be due to the TP-Link WiFi base being too close to the ANT dongle as both of these work on the 2.4 GHz frequency. I probably need to check exactly what channel the WiFi is using as well, as it’s recommended to uses channels 1-5 to avoid interference with ANT+ and to definitely avoid Channel 10, as it’s exactly the same frequency that ANT uses. Using 5 GHz WiFi is also an option, although I don’t think my current TP-Link unit supports that.
With my 2018 Macbook pro, I’m getting 60 frames per second on average, using the 720 & basic settings in Zwift. I need to experiment with higher settings, but I always forget to do this before starting the Zwift session!
The change to using a Neo and Zwift has certainly enhanced my training this winter. If nothing else, it’s motivated me to training more often, which can only be a good thing. Getting the environment right also reduces the friction to getting going for a session.
On Saturday, I took part in the Brewdog Sportive. In its first year, this event is organized by Let’s Go Velo and based at Brewdog’s brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The ride has 30 mile and 60 mile options. I’d opted for the 60 mile, challenge, option, although leading up to the event, it wasn’t clear whether this was 70 miles, 60 miles or 104 km, depending on which website or Facebook page you looked at!
The weather was fine on the day, in the low 20s Celsius. Parking was provided at the near-by Ellon park and ride, a short distance from the brewery. Registration was quick and easy, and we were piped off in groups of 20, every two minutes.
Immediately after the start, most of my group shot off up the road, but I held back with a couple of others to get a bit of a warm-up. In the first 5 km or so there was a short climb of 12%, then the road levelled off. The course led East from Ellon along rural roads, following the river Ythan to the small village of Colliston. From there, we followed the coast up to Cruden Bay, with views over the North Sea and of Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We then headed North, before turning back towards Ellon and to the food stop at Hatton village hall, stocked with sandwiches, bananas and water and, most importantly, toilets. After Hatton, the route headed back to Ellon, crossing a couple of main roads. Once in Ellon, the 30 mile route finished back at the brewery, while the longer, challenge, route headed past Ellon golf course and North-West towards Methlick, where there was another food stop at the 75 km point. Again, there were ample supplies of bananas, sandwiches and water, plus a convenient public toilet.
Leaving Methlick we headed south into a head wind through Tarves. From there, we headed East through Udny Green, and then turned North to take advantage of the tail wind over a short climb back to Ellon, then rode through the centre of Ellon back to the Brewery.
As usually, I could have done with a few longer rides, leading into the event – I’d done 80km the week before, but prior to that, my longest ride had been about 50 km. Again, at the end, I was feeling pain in my neck and shoulders, so I think I need to tweak my position on the bike a bit more. Oh, and my bike’s still got the annoying click from somewhere that I can’t find.
The event was fairly well organized. The route mostly followed quiet, country roads with little traffic. And the route signage was fairly good, but could have been better, with perhaps some advance signing of the turns. For instance, at around the 30km mark, the was a T-Junction immediately after a blind corner – there was no warning of the impending junction, or advance warning of which way to turn until right on the junctions. At another point, we turned right on a busy road in the Ellon – however, again, there was no advance warning of the turn. Additional signage would have allowed us to positioning ourselves safely In the traffic before the turn. However, these are minor criticisms, and certainly won’t prevent me from returning next year.
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