Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review; Waterfield Club Cycling Pouch

Failing eyesight and the need for reading glasses was the primary driver for upgrading my iPhone at the tail end of last year. I moved from a 6 to a 7+. Of course, the bigger font came with a bigger screen, this meant there was a need for a bigger pockets on my cycling jerseys. Or at least more room being taken up in my pocket by my phone. The problem was further exacerbated by my desire to ride with a Wahoo dongle to capture my outdoor rides within TrainerRoad. The end result was a phone and cable sticking out of the pocket. Not want to have a $1000 phone eject out of my pocket on the road or trail I spent some time looking for an option for keeping it safe and secure. I came across a few possible options that had no problem housing the phone but the cables were always the problem. The cases were just not long enough to allow for the cables poking out the bottom, the opening was on the side and wouldn’t accommodate the phone and cable or they were just plain expensive, upwards or $100 for some.

Some weeks into my search I came across WaterField designs. They offered the Club Cycling Pouch which had the unicorn of phone pouches, a closure at the end rather than the side. According to their website it was large enough to hold the phone, a CO2 cartridge, multi-tool, credit card, cash and key. They offer two versions; the Black Ballistic and the Brown Canvas, I opted for the Black version as it was a bit less conspicuous. I placed my order and a few day later it turned up. It only had to come from San Francisco so by distance standards it was local

I was really impressed with the overall build quality of the Club Pouch. It’s very well made and has some very nice features;

  • The zip closure has a self-sealing water proof barrier
  • There is a separated phone sleeve within the pouch that is lined with soft material to not scratch your phone’s screen
  • It’s lined and the fabric has a great look and feel
  • The ballistic nylon exterior seems to be very resilient
  • It’s made in America and it looks gosh darn nice!
  • I have ridden with it several times now, including Strada Rosso, and I have to say so far so good.

It slips easily into a jersey pocket. It’s actually a perfect fit so it’s not sloping about. It does poke out some but unless you have super deep pockets that’s going to happen.

I have a saddle bag on my bike and so I don’t have any need for the items that WaterField suggests you carry. I have opted for the Professor Gadget version and carry an Anker Lipstick charger for my Phone and Garmin as well as cables to support that. I have cash in there too.

It doesn’t quite do what I need it to do. I am unable to zip it closed with the extra cable but I can get the zip far enough around so that everything is secure in the pouch. No doubt without my additional cables the zip would close without issue. That said this would something to consider if you are wanted to charge your phone and ride as the charging cable has some section that sticks out.

I decided to not remove my phone case while using it. I do stop and take photos and protecting your phone while riding only to drop it on the side of the road would be maddening to say the least. My phone case is not huge but it is a snug fit in the specifically lined section. I just use the other section without any issues.

So overall this is definitely one of the better cases out there. Protection and access are often counter point to each other and the Club Cycling Pouch  does a good job of balancing the two. In an ideal world, for me, it would be a quarter inch wider and a half inch longer but my use case is pretty specific so for most people I think this is a great option.

I purchased the Pouch directly from their website. It’s priced at $49 so it’s not cheap but as a percentage of a cost of replacement phone it is, in my mind, good value for money!

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The Club Cycling Pouch was purchased by me. See previous gear reviews in the tab above. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at quadrathon@gmail.com.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April FTP Test

Looking back at my TrainerRoad history it was November that I did my last FTP Test. Since then I have gone through the CX Training Plan and since the new year both of the Sweet Spot High Volume Base Plans. With hindsight I should have tested my FTP at the beginning of the year but I didn’t. Deep down inside I probably thought it was higher than I was riding at. I was coming off some long endurance months with Dirty Kanza in the Summer and my second Everesting in the Fall. Neither of these are ideal for working up to CX season where races last 45 minutes and you are in Zone 5 for most of it!

So in reality my FTP of 258 was too high through the Winter but I stuck with it through the Spring with the expectation that I would ride “up” to it during the base phases.

As I closed out the first 6 weeks of the Sweet Spot Plan Sweet Spot plan, TrainerRoad announced that they had revised the plans and had added more Sweet Spot rides that are shorter duration vs Endurance rides at the weekend. This didn’t really impact me as most of my weekend rides are outside, at least the Sunday one is. This is weather not withstanding and there have been a few weeks that the week has been sunny and the come the weekend it’s been raining. Not that I am a fair weather rider per se but I am all for making the best use of my time and 2 hours of quality on the trainer far outweighs 3 or even 4 hours in the rain!

So with all that said it was at the start of the next Phase; Build, specifically the Sustained Power Build plan that I sat down and geared up for a FTP test.

I have done enough of these to know what I need to do to make it as successful as possible. I was a couple of days past the Mulholland Challenge and I felt that I had recovered enough. I have a pretty stedy routine for days like this and the key to it to try and make sure every variable is accounted for; time of day, tire pressure, drivetrain cleaned, fluids and so on are all the same as the last time…or as close as I can get.

I use the TrainerRoad 20 Minute FTP test but I front it with my own designed warm up ride. This is simply a 15 minute ride with increasing power that is designed to get the legs spinning and get me, well…warmed up!

I completed my warm up and rode through the first 30 minutes of the test which is in itself a warm up. started the test. I break the actual test into 5 minute sections. I am pretty sure most people do this as thinking about the entire 20 minutes can be a bit overwhelming.

The target power, per TR was 265, I was aiming for 275 which was slightly over but based on recent rides I thought was achievable.

The first 5 minutes went well. I settled in nicely and was having no issues. In the second 5 minutes my only concern was my cadence which was up in the mid to high 90s, faster than I typically ride, I momentarily changed gear and my cadence dropped to 85 and my power shot up over 300 watts. I knew I wouldn’t able to hold that for the remainder of the ride and so I switched back. The net effect of fussing about with the gears was to unbalance the 5 minutes of target vs actual and so I was slightly down. The third 5 minutes is usually the trickiest. You’re past the halfway point and you’re counting down to the end but it’s such a long way to go. That said with the earlier fussing I focused my mind and cruised through. The final 5 minutes is a count down and during the last minute I dialed it up and increased the power. The last section of the ride is the cool down and this was something I needed. My HR had topped out at 170 which is high for me on the bike! 

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The calculation post ride is almost instant and TrainerRoad spent no time in telling me I had increased my FTP 2 points up to 260. I was a little disappointed but the extra 1 or 2 points I was hoping for were no doubt lost during the second 5 minutes’ interval and in future I need to look at the gearing to find something that lets me sit at the 90 rpm cadence. There is always something for the future.

So with all that said my new FTP is the highest it’s ever been. I do think that I was correct in my assumption that I have ridden back up to the prior 258 during the last 8 weeks.

The next step on the plan is the Sustained Power Build, this is an eight week cycle. L’etape and BWR will land on weekends during but that’s the way the plans roll out and it can’t be helped.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planet Ultra Mulholland Challenge

The Mulholland Challenge is the first in a three-part King (or Queen) of the Mountain Challenge organized by Planet Ultra. When the say challenge, they mean it. The ride is posted as 106 miles and around 12,000’ of gain. It actually came in at just over 107 miles and over 13,200’ of gain. It zig zags across the Santa Monica Mountains with ascents and descents up many of the storied climbs and a few that are less so.

My goal for this race was to ride it faster than last year. While I have had a big year in terms of mileage so far my overall elevation gain is a little less than I hoped. That said I was going off a serious block of training having completed the TrainerRoad Sweet Spot Base plan. More thoughts on my plan to follow in a later post.

The strategy for the ride was to get out as early as possible. The event had a relaxed starting policy that let you start anytime between 6:30-8:00am depending on your anticipated finish time. Becca dropped me off which was great as that ensured I wasn’t hanging or driving around looking for parking. After a quick pit stop in the host hotel I was on the road by 6:45am-ish. The morning was cloudy and cool and would make for a cold start but expected to soon warm up, even more so on when I started climbing.

The majority of the riders were more punctual than me and as is my modus operandi I had missed the actual start. No worries, navigating around or within other riders was one less thing to worry about.

As mentioned the ride traverses the Santa Monica Mountains. The first section was centered around the Topanga Canyon end, south of Las Virgenes (aka Malibu Canyon). After an uneventful ride out along Mulholland Highway, I caught up with the first of the tail-enders after 10 miles. A sharp right onto Topanga and a quick climb to get our climbing legs and lungs ready we were treated the first decent into Topanga Village. Nice and steady. The next climb was up Old Topanga. I settled into a nice steady pace, quick light spinning with a high output. As I got to the top I passed a few more riders. A twisty and wet descent dictated the easy pace as we rolled back down the other side. This proved to be a wise choice as close to the bottom several fire trucks and an ambulance were dealing with, what looked to be, a nasty accident with a tandem.

IMG_3148At the bottom was the first Aid Station. With cool temperatures, all I needed was a checkpoint sticker as proof of me passing through. A rolling section took us to the bottom of Stunt. This was the first of the major climbs. I have ridden it several times, most recently with Becca. It’s not long at about 4 miles with about 1300’ of gain. My ride up took 29:28, by far not my fastest time but there were traffic signals at the bottom where a construction crew was clearing dirt off the road from the overnight rain. For reference Phil Gaimon (former Cannondale Pro has the KOM in 16:03!).

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I picked up a few more riders along the way and at the top I was 2:40 in and had covered 37 miles. A little over a third in distance. The descent down Piuma was a little sketchy. The low cloud had decided enough was enough and to release its load. It was less than a minor shower but enough to make the road wet. I eased up and rolled down knowing that as the road unwound at the bottom there was a sharp right turn. The turn came and my caution proved a good move as there were plenty of cars at the bottom lining up for a local restaurant for breakfast.

Back onto Mulholland and we were riding back the way we came to the next section. Let’s call this the Rock Store section. At the bottom was the second Aid Station. Tucked away off the road there were bathrooms and water as well as some bars and bananas. I scoffed several bananas and left. This was about halfway.

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A quick word on my nutrition/hydration plan. My bottles were filled with Raspberry Skratch. I like it fairly strong and so there was a scoop and a half per bottle. I have also taken to cutting it with Base Aminos. This combination has been working well in replacing electrolytes and muscle fueling. It has been working really well. In terms of nutrition I had started with a handful of bars; Rx, Lara and Clif and then I would take whatever the Aid Stations had to offer. A bar an hour and half a bottle an hour was the rough consumption level, a little more fluid when the sun came out.

The ride up Rock Store was simple. Crossing over Kanan and then a little extra climbing up Encinal to get to the top of the Mulholland descent. This section is where I completed my first Everesting and so the ride down was very familiar. At the bottom, it was a right turn onto PCH and slap bang into a headwind! Well this sucks I thought and it did for the short ride to the base of Yerba Buena. I stopped at the base and stripped off my vest. The cloud had cleared and it was warming up. Yerba is a pretty climb, the views are pretty in the canyon, the road is pretty shitty and the climb is pretty steep! A steady 3 mile climb to the next Aid Station and then, at least in my mind, the worst section of the ride; Cotharin. The road is terrible, it’s only a mile long but you gain 500 or so feet. In the end, it actually wasn’t that bad and in reality the descent down Deer Creek proved to be much more challenging with a heavy side wind trying to blow you into the middle of the road. Back on PCH I headed South and had a nice tail wind which gave me back some of the time lost pedaling North.

IMG_3150IMG_3152I was left with the final climb, Decker, back to the finish. As with all the other climbs I kept a constant pace and a light spin. I caught a couple more riders. My reward at the top was the final Aid Station that had cans of coke! I drank half of one and departed. Of course, this wasn’t the final climb but it was the last “categorized” one. What remained by comparison were nothing but rollers.

IMG_3138Finally, back at base level all that was left was a quick flat finish to the finish line.

Digits from the day; 106.7 miles. No cruising round the parking lot to round up! 13,209’ in 7:50 moving time and 8:25 elapsed.

Overall I was really pleased, I rode a sensible ride and kept a solid work output through the day. I was reduced my ride time by 25 minutes from the prior year and my elapsed time by a total of 37 minutes!

IMG_3144There is no doubt this is not an easy ride. But it’s definitely doable with some preparation and training.