Sunday, November 17, 2013

Garmin--Its Strava Time (and Eventual Power Meter) (2013)

Cycling Babes Dig A Guy with a Garmin--or a Stack Grill Cheddar Burger  (Dr. Dave Android Phone-Oakland Peets Coffee Ride)

Oh god, I finally got dragged into the world of Garmin/ Strava.  Ward-Christine-Dr. Dave -Coach Toby were kudoing each other all last year.  I get my dander up when on the road and a cyclist attacks; and couldn't (still can't) understand racing on a segment of the road against an unseen opponent.  Do I have a headwind?  Does unseen rider X have a tailwind?  Are one of us riding in a pack and benefiting from a draft?  Who is this Freddie Rodriguez guy who is in all the top 5 segments of note?  Did I just beat some 300 pounder on a climb?  And then this (click here) The Garmin device itself, eh.  I now have a little Cateye wired that always works and tells me speed and distance.  Why do I want a mini cell phone on my bike whereas I often hear a Garmin person bitch "I just lost the satellite."

A power meter, however, is the ultimate goal, and Garmin is one of the devices that will do a power meter read.  I wish there were power meters 10 years ago when I started long distance cycling.  It would have been beneficial to ride 200 miles "in a zone" so knew I was working hard but not working so hard for a possible burnout.  Now, though on shorter rides, this is now very important.   I could mostly recover from my over exuberance a few years ago--but 2013 was too damn hard.

There are older model Garmin wristwatches on deep discount and I was ready to pick one up when I contacted Coach Toby--which will ultimately cost me $500.  (On Alta Alpina 8 he made sure we started off the first climb not exceeding 160 watts, which had me bitching we were riding too slow.   On the 8th climb it was thank god we started off slow that morning.)  He has the Garmin watch I wanted to pick up but indicated there is a new metric--Normalized Power--that Garmin was just incorporating to their newer devices.   Indeed, Garmin had given a big fuck you to people with their older devices--providing software downloads to just some of them for the Normalized Power measurement. 

(Normalized Power simple explanation why important--take two rides with the same average power.   The first where you are riding a consistent 200 watts and the other where hills or changing wind conditions have you yo-yo'ing between 100 & 300 watts, the second ride is much harder.  Normalized Power will reflect this unlike average power)

So I wound up getting a Garmin 510.  I think the mini-cell phone appearance bothered me more than the price.  Garmin, however, does make some nice mounts and it fit well on my 110mm stem.  For people riding shorter stems there is a mount that puts the device ahead of your handlebars--I'm using this on my fixie as I have a cadence chart on the top of the stem.  More on the Garmin later.....
Comparison of Cateye (L) and Garmin 510 (R) on the stem.   If I decide to do something stupid, again, and go down a mountain late at night, my two large baseball stadium lights (Exposure Lights) and Garmin all fit in the same area. 

For a power meter  the Stages Power crank caught my eye.  I don't want to say its an inexpensive item as it cost about $900, but it is one of the least expensive powermeters.   Coach Toby* cast a little doubt on it, saying that meters that just measure power from one leg are unproven for accuracy--and as I have a bum knee on one side there may be a real discrepancy between measured and actual power.   So I'm now looking into Power2Max crank sets that are more expensive and change the whole appearance of your crankset, but measure power from both sides.

(Bottom bracket power meters are more expensive, and you are stuck with it on only one bike, just like cranks.   In theory there are other power meter systems that are adaptable from bike to bike.  There are pedal power meters but then you have to change all the pedals and cleats you already like.    There are rear hub power meters, but as I have two 9 speed bikes, a fixed gear bike, and my next bike will be 10-11-?? speed, the wheel is only good for two bikes at most.)

Back to the Garmin.  I am impressed with the unit.  I used to hate riding with a heart rate monitor--if you passed by a power pole it would register 400 bpm, if your skin got dry it wouldn't register and start beeping as if you were dead.  I used the Garmin on my bike trainier and then an outdoor ride and it was very exact.  The Garmin display can be set in many different ways measuring many different things for your setting.  Eg.  On the TRAINER setting I don't need to know ALTITUDE GAIN, so its just on my RIDE setting.   (I did make a mistake on today's ride--6 measures were supposed to be on my primary screen and 3 on my 2ndary screen--I set it up wrong and 9 things appeared on one screen--so it was like trying to read the eye doctor chart--lowest line. 

Lesson today.  Today's ride was a fast 70 mile loop with two very short hills.  I blew up chasing someone on the first hill when my heart rate hit 174.  Later in the ride--on a longer hill--I was able to motor away while keeping my heart rate in a constant 165-169 range.   Live and learn.  All the post ride graphs and charts are fun to look at, but it is the feedback during the ride that I appreciate the most--and Normalized Power will add to this.

I did like that the Garmin said I burned 1337 calories on our 4 hour ride--this is over the 1064 I figured I burned (B/C pace**, 266 an hour=1064.)  I wonder if I can now eat more.

Oh, then there is Garmin's evil stepsister--Strava.   Strava is the 3rd party site where you download your information and get even more information--including how you did against the rest of the Garmin/ Strava world.    I'll admit I peeked after my first Garmin adventure last week, which is a Sunday recovery ride with my wife while on a fixed gear.  Half way into the ride is the only hill of significance--a reservoir climb to the top of the dam.   My fixed gear is overgeared for this climb.***     So when I get to the dam I have to try to chug up the whole way while standing (.3 miles, avg 9% grade)  So at the end of the ride I did peek at my Strava ranking on the Los Vaqueros Hillclimb--I'm sitting at 126/168.   I'll keep doing it on a fixie and my goal is to move into the top 100.  I just hope Freddie Rodriguez and his friends don't visit Los Vaqueros soon.  
Los Vaqueros Dam Climb- .3 miles, 9% grade

*Of course Coach Andy, who is Coach Toby's bizarro counterpart , (in realty a great older guy who rides with us and we watch out for--when I get to be his age I hope to ride like Coach Andy) would said forget the hi-tech training equipment, just enjoy the ride, and I should spend the money on fly fishing equipment and beer.

**A B pace is one where I have to work to keep up with the faster riders on our ride, a C pace is one where I'm going at my own pace, D is where I'm slowing to stay with another rider.  I get 300 calories an hour for a B pace, 200 for C, and 100 for D.  A B/C ride is mostly a B pace but some C pace.

***The fixie gear ratio was set to be one gear HARDER than the hardest one I could do the the dam climb on my racing bike--with the theory being I'd flip my wheel and an easier gear when I got to the dam, but I have never flipped the wheel.

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