As I mentioned in a previous post I recently upgraded to a pair of Giro Empire VR90 cycling shoes. I’ve had them for a few weeks now, and while old man winter has hampered my riding outdoors, they have been worn on all my trainer rides since their acquisition. I have nothing but praise for these shoes and could easily recommend them to anyway.
They are also very sharp looking, matte black with “glowing red” letters and laces. The only down side to that is I had nothing else in my kit to match their red color. So after pondering that dilemma, I figured that the two constants that I always wear, no matter that kit I’m wearing, is my helmet and my shoes. Since the box was already checked with the shoes it was time to go helmet shopping! I had a few on my short list that interested me, like such offerings from Kask or Lazer, but ultimately I went with another Giro product – the Aeon helmet, of course in Giro’s glowing red color.
This is a serious helmet that is top of it’s class. Prior to this year it was Giro’s flagship road helmet for several years. That top spot is now occupied by the Synthe, but that doesn’t mean the Aeon still doesn’t deserve accolades. It has some awesome ventilation and is super light at a claimed weight of 222g for the US version (actually lighter than the Synthe). Mine weighed in at 226g. In either case when it arrived I questioned if there was anything in the box it’s so light. It actually makes my old Specialized Propero feel like a boat anchor.
The fit of the Aeon is supurb. Like most helmets you need to adjust the straps around the ears to preference and then let the RocLoc 5 system to the rest. After a little while you almost forget the helmet is even there.
Most importantly the Aeon provides ample spots for me to perch my Oakley Radarlocks when not needed for sun shielding activities.
I’m not sure I could ask any more of a helmet. Well there is one thing, but lets hope that never needs to be tested.
Here are 10 of my favorite playlist songs (and my cycling related comments) I like to listen to while I’m using Trainer Road while on the turbo.
David Cook’s cover of Don’t You Forget About Me (This is what I envision people to be saying when I drop them on a climb.)
Lauren Alaina’s cover of Flat on the Floor (Where I am after a hard workout.)
Limp Bizkit – Rollin’ (Bikes have 2 wheels and they roll)
Korn – It’s On (You’re gonna try and drop me? I don’t think so.)
Metallica – Battery (What we all wish we had on board when that double digit gradient hits!)
Sammy Hagar – I Can’t Drive 55 (I wish I had this problem on a bike.)
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off (What you do when you get some numb fingers)
Tom Petty – You Wreck Me (Well I really hope you don’t)
Van Halen – House of Pain (Riding a trainer, need I say more?)
MC Hammer – Too Legit Too Quit (Shut up legs!!!)
It’s been a long winter this year in the northeast and I’ve been making the most of it with my Trainer Road workouts. As I write this post I’m in week 14 of using Trainer Road. The first 12 weeks were part of the “Sweet Spot” base phase and now I’m in the “General Build” phase. To say I’ve seen an improvement is an understatement. My FTP is up 15% from when I started back in November and I find it funny now that my tempo workouts are at/around that original FTP number. Finding Trainer Road has been a changer for me and I am always motivate to get on the bike and do my next workout.
Now to compliment my Trainer Road workouts I also have Zwift! I was accepted into the beta program a week ago as a Mac tester (there have been Windows testers since Oct/Nov of last year). I don’t think I can do the Zwift experience any justice here, but it is a lot of fun and even if you just want to take an easy ride around the island you inevitably will find yourself going for one of the jerseys, closing the gap or just dropping other wheel suckers! I believe they call this the Zwift Effect. The best part is that I can use Trainer Road along with Zwift. I just do my normal TR workout while tooling around the island – trying hard to ignore the “competitions” and focusing on the workout but it does provide some relief and distraction from just watching numbers on the screen. Plus I have a good playlist that keeps me motivated as well.
Here is a screen shot from one of my first rides on the island. There was a bug this session and it seemed I was all alone on the island so it wasn’t hard for me to capture the orange jersey!
Zwift has become so popular that people are scheduling group and century rides. Also keep your eyes peeled while you are on the island because you may see the likes of Jens Voigt, Laurens Ten Dam and several other pros riding the island!
I can seriously see myself Zwifting during the warmer months if the weather turns foul or for an after work ride if I don’t beat the sunset.
Last but not least, I got me some new cycling kicks! I’ve been on the hunt to replace my current shoes for a while, not that there is anything wrong with them but I was looking for something more “road” oriented and a bit lighter. I was currently wearing a pair of Pearl Izumi X-Alps that I had from my mountain bike riding days and I stayed with SPD pedals on my CX bike so I just continued to use them. I do like the 2 bolt SPD system, it makes it easy when all bikes use the same type of pedals, so I wanted to stay with that system but with a less aggressive sole than most 2 bolt MTB shoes have. After a long search and a lot of research I decided on the Giro Empire VR90 shoes.
The styling of these shoes drew me in and I couldn’t get away. This shoe is essentially the same as the Empire road (3 bolt) shoes with a Vibram rubber lugged sole attached. The original Empires were developed by Giro for Taylor Phinney and has essentially become their flagship model with several other pros now wearing them. I was a little skeptical of the laces, but after a lot of research I put those fears to rest. They shoes just form to your foot, the laces don’t loosen up and once tied I have never felt the need to stop and readjust. They actually seem to get more comfortable each time I wear them. Weight for a size 42 is 315g, which makes them pretty light among cycling shoes. Along with the shoes comes a nice carry bag, 4 spikes with a wrench and 2 pairs of different sized arch supports (a third is in the shoes) so you can totally customize their fit. I’m enjoying these shoes so much I only wish I could wear them off the bike as well!
I thought I should post and update on my use of Trainer Road and my progress since my first post on my beginning to use it.
Earlier this week I finished up my first 6 week training plan, the Sweet Spot Base – Mid Volume I, and have started on my second 6 week plan, the Sweet Spot Base – Mid Volume II. I have been fairly religious in my schedule and only had a few instances where I needed to shuffle days mostly due to holidays and other events.
To say that I have seen an improvement would be an understatement. Towards the end of the first 6 weeks I could feel things getting easier and sure enough when I took my second FTP test as the beginning of this week I made a 10% improvement in my power output over my first test! Of course now with an increased FTP the workouts just got that much harder and I’m definitely suffering more on the harder workouts but it’s worth it knowing it is making me stronger on the bike.
Now I can’t honestly say that all that 10% was done just on training alone since I may have left a little on the table during my first FTP test since it was my first time testing like that and really wasn’t sure what type of power I could put out consistently for 2×8 minutes or the fact that I have fine tuned my position on the bike ever so slightly – funny how 1-3hrs in the saddle will lead you to improvements. But the fact is that the majority of my gains came though my hard work and time in the saddle.
Some of you may ask what has been the hardest part of the training so far… Isolated Leg Training or ILT’s as they are referred to. This is where you unclip one foot and just work on pedaling with one leg at a time. It’s hard, trust me. My left leg is the weakest so that one always burns sooner than the right but like my FTP gains I am able to pedal 15-20 seconds longer than I was at the beginning which is almost at the same duration as the right leg.
What is my favorite part of the training you ask? Either it’s Form Sprints where you produce a very high cadence for a short period of time (and it’s been at low power so far) and watch your form. You don’t want to pedal faster than you can without bouncing or knocking. Or my other favorite is the standing drills where you practice getting out of the saddle while keeping constant power. This requires a slowing of your cadence, changing of gears and smooth transitions out and back into the saddle. Depending on the workout sometimes they are 10 seconds or upwards of a minute. On the real long rides these are my favorite just because it provides me some saddle relief.
So all in all even though I haven’t been able to get outside on the bike thanks to Mother Nature, I’m still getting in some quality saddle time thanks to Trainer Road. It has really transformed my off season riding.
For my whole life I have never been able to touch my toes. I have often been told that it was because of tight hamstrings but I never really thought much of it as it really didn’t affect my daily exercise and activities. In my effort to become a better cyclist I have been stretching after my rides to stay flexible but even after months of stretching my hamstrings I was no closer to touching my toes than I was on day 1. I started to research the subject and as it turns out my issue isn’t with tight hamstrings after all it’s with not properly bending at my hips and instead trying to bend at my lower back. The “fix” is easy as a specific set of stretching exercises that had me touching my toes in a matter of minutes. Basically the progression is retraining your brain/body into accepting it can do this. This video explains the progression very well:
In case you are a skeptic here is another video showing how it works on someone who could not touch their toes beforehand.
Now I still have some tight hamstrings but I can at least touch my toes now. I still need to do the progressions after a day or so but that should subside once I retrain my body.