By Rick Schultz
In Southern California, the “racing” season never ends. Due to cycling-friendly weather, “racers” go hard all year long. Creatures of habit doing the same rides 3-4 times a week. Same cyclists, same distances, same level of effort. After just a month or so, fitness levels plateau.
Due to the events of 2020, I have had to change my cycling and training habits as well mainly changing to indoor cycling to protect myself and my wife.
Long gone are the 60 mile plus Saturday and Sunday long distance group rides. Gone is the Wednesday AM Swamis ride where you can ride along-side current National Champions and World Tour Pros who visit SoCal during the winter months. Gone are the Tuesday and Thursday fast group training rides. While many cyclists have decided to ride alone, many others have continued with group rides (and the associated risks).
As stated earlier, I have chosen to stay safe and ride indoors. To do so, I purchased a top of the line trainer, the Elite Direto XR. I chose the Direto XR for several reasons.
- Elite includes a license to use their MyETraining application which includes high quality (for purchase) videos from Elite, hundreds of users ride videos, ability for you to create your own video rides, ability to create your own races, training tests, pedaling analysis and a real FTP test (i.e., the Hunter/Coggan FTP test).
- This trainer also works with every software app/training package. (More on that later.)
- Unlike most other brands of top of the line trainers which use algorithms to calculate power, the Direto XR uses a real power meter so the power output is more accurate and more utilities can be created such as pedaling analysis via MyETraining (sample screenshot below).
- Very sturdy and solid unit that has a +/-1.5% accuracy measurement, 24% slope simulation and 2,300w power output.
APPS: During the initial lockdown in early 2020, I downloaded and tested all of the various apps. During this time period, most apps were new and going through their own growing pains. Mid 2020 (after 6 months of debugging, updates and feature enhancements), most started running just fine on a Windows 10 PC. There are a lot of good ones out there, but I’ve chosen to stay with two, (a) Elite’s MyETraining and (b) Rouvy AR. For those who want to make their own videos and upload, both of these apps support this.
- MyETraining gives me not only training, but lets me calibrate and maintain the Direto XR.
- Rouvy gives me the option to race against others (like Zwift, but while viewing a real video instead of a cartoon), training and challenges such as climbing or number of total miles. Last week I completed 71.68 miles on some pretty epic climbs in ‘Italy’ and ‘France’, including Mortirolo, Teglio, Stelvio, Col de la Colmiane, Telegraph, Galibier, Tour des Stations/Croix de Coeur – 25,508 ft of climbing.
The Rouvy AR app also includes many workouts. There are workouts from CycleOps, Training Peaks, and even workouts from Hunter Allen Peaks Coaching Group. All included. Since I am a coach, Rouvy gave me a free 1-year license to use their product, try it out, see what works and what doesn’t, and if it can help others get fit by having fun cycling indoors.
Learn more about Rouvy or click on the logo.
My only complaint is how most of these apps handle resistance for races and other in-app competitions, especially climbing. For example, my trainer caps out at 24% grade. Meaning my trainer gives me full resistance up to and including 24% grade. There are only a very few climbs in the world that go beyond 24% grade. Even the mighty Mortirolo, with an average grade of 10% tops out at 24%.
Here is the issue, my trainer gives me full resistance at 24% and cyclists that only want to win pick and choose their interactive or smart trainers that simulate a slope of only 10%, or better yet, pick a lower end smart trainer that doesn’t simulate a slope at all.
For example, how else can someone ride Haleakala’s 36 mile 10,023 ft of climbing in 1:54 when the official on-road record is around 2:46? Lot’s of ridiculously fast times on most of these courses. Just something we have to live with I guess.
And here is where online training really differs from on-the-road group rides. Done correctly, online training turns out to be more intense, leading to an increased level of fitness. Let me explain.
If you think about it, during a group ride there is a lot of coasting. Sure, the cyclists pulling at the front are doing most of the work, but then when they rotate to the back, it’s coasting time. Even if you are near the front, there is still a lot of coasting.
With an indoor trainer, it’s constant pressure on the pedals. In many cases, using an app like Rouvy, even going downhills you still need to pedal.
Also, depending on where you live, you might only have access to flat rides. Indoor training allows you to explore and climb the toughest mountains in the world. For example, here are 2 climbs I’ve recently completed (I usually do at least 2 big rides a week). Last week, during the holidays, I only rode 70 miles indoors, but climbed over 26,000 ft. (7,925 meters). Coupled with competing with someone who is just about as good as you, you tend to stay full-gas the entire ride, and some rides last a full 2 hours.
On the Marcialonga ride below, there was a female cyclist that had started just before me and was 0.8 miles up the road. After about 10-12 minutes of warming up, she had already passed 3 other cyclists and was now 1.4 miles up the road. I knew it was going to be a long, 2-hour hammerfest, so I just matched her speed until the first climb started. She was averaging 2.8w/kg, I pushed mine to average 3.5w/kg and held that the entire first climb. I passed her within half a mile from the top.
ASIDE: In an app like Rouvy, every cyclist can see where every other cyclist is and can see how quickly they are being dropped or being caught. This keeps the pressure on.
During the first downhill, I tried to rest like I would have if I rode the actual course but noticed that my speed started decreasing. She was catching up! Speeds in Rouvy are topped out at 44.7mph and, in most cases, under 8% grade you have to continue to pedal to maintain that speed, so no coasting.
So, instead of coasting a lot on a group ride, I will be doing 2 hours at 90% FTP.
How did the ride, I mean race end? She pushed it on the downhill and I tried to rest as much as I could knowing that there was another large hill coming up. I tried to just maintain the distance, or let her close the gap a little. I had a psychological advantage in that as she closed the gap a little, she pushed even harder and half-way up the next hill she blew up. I ended the ride 3.5 miles in front of her.
Rides like this are fun and, since you are fully-immersed into the ride, a full 2 hours can feel like 15 minutes.
How has my fitness changed?
- I can hold a higher power for much longer
- I have lost 21 pounds in the past 6 weeks
- I can ride and/or train safely inside while the weather outside does not allow a safe ride
- I can ride with a group while I’m still training safely inside
- It’s actually more fun planning workouts, rides, routes, challenges using Rouvy
So, for 2021, it will be quality miles over quantity of miles. I hope you will agree and try Rouvy yourself.
Rouvy was kind enough to send RBR readers a link to free trial vouchers.
From Rouvy: Please, find below the link to the woobox that distributes the vouchers for an extra 14 days of free trial. In total, when a completely new athlete to Rouvy applies this code, he/she will get in total 28 days of free trial – 14 days of standard free trial + 14 additional from this code. Valid for one month until Feb 7, 2021.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he's a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He's the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick's full bio.