Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton
11:56

What the Heck is Rolling Resistance (RRC), and Why do we "Calibrate" at Cycling Center Dallas?

CompuTrainer Calibration Starts HERE.
One of the most important things that we can do at Cycling Ctr., Dallas is make sure that every rider properly calibrates their Compu trainer. If a is not properly calibrated, then the values on the dashboard are not accurate. We strive to give you information on screen that is both accurate and consistent, so that we can ensure that you are improving. Calibration is a critical part of that.
 
The first thing that you can do to properly set up and calibrate your CompuTrainer is to start back at the area where the tire contacts the load generator. Make sure that your wheel is mostly centered on that steel cylinder in the back. Then, as you twist the four star dial to bring the load generator closer to the tire, once it makes contact, try to achieve a contact patch that is roughly the size of a nickel, or perhaps the with of your thumbnail. It is always better to start light, then to& too far into the tire, and make the contact patch to large. Always check the air pressure in your tires, and keep them at around 100 psi. Two estimate proper press on force, grab the blue or silver flywheel, and grab a spoke from the wheel, and to see if the tire will slip when you apply pressure up and down on the spoke. If it slips rather easily, add half a twist. If it is completely immovable, back off about a quarter twist. This should put you roughly in the proper place for rolling resistance and calibration accuracy.
 
Secondly, go ahead and throw a leg over your bike and begin warming up. In a previous blog, I highlighted the importance of a good warm-up, both for the body and for the equipment. When instructed, or when you feel that you have performed an adequate warm-up of roughly 5 to 15 minutes, look at the handlebar controller which should be in front, at roughly handlebar height. It is either yellow or gray. If the controller has the word "PRO" or "PROe" on the screen, then we are plugged into either PerfPRO or ergvideo, and we can effectively calibrate. Here's the process for that:
  1. Make sure that you are in a gear that will allow you to speed up beyond 25 mph.
  2. Press "F3", or, the CENTER BUTTON on the BOTTOM ROW. You should see the screen on the handlebar controller change from the word "PRO" or "PROe" to a speed. Go ahead and speed up by pedaling faster until you see dashes appear on the controller screen.
  3. STOP PEDALING WHEN YOU SEE THE DASHES!!!! REPEAT - STOP PEDALING WHEN YOU SEE THE DASHES!!! Let the wheel coast down to a stop.
  4. Do not pedal! Instead, look at the handlebar controller screen. Ideally we want the top screen to read between a 1.8, and a 2.5. This is in pounds of pressure being placed against the tire. It is called press – on force. If the top number is above or below this range, call a coach over so that he or she may make adjustments to increase or decrease the force against the tire.
  5. If the top number is between the ranges of 1.8 to 2.5, press the bottom center button again, and look in the upper right-hand corner of your dashboard. The RRC value is interpreted as the rolling resistance calibration. If the value is green, and is between 1.8 and 2.5, then all is well. If there is a no reading, then you need to repeat the above process. If the top number is outside of that range, once again, get a coach to make the adjustments, do not hop off the bike and attempted your self, and repeat step three. Once you are in range, press that "F3" button in the bottom center row, and again, look at the dashboard in the upper right-hand corner.
CompuTrainer Handlebar Controller Press-On Force

Now, let's discuss the reason why RRC, or rolling resistance calibration is so important.
 
When you pedal a bike, you have to remember that rolling friction is always higher than sliding friction. This is what makes bicycles go forward. Without friction, we would all slip around as if we were on an ice-skating rink. When we ride outdoors, rolling resistance is much, much lower. That is because we have two contact patches of about 8 cm² each. The force required to move a bicycle wheel is somewhere along the line of I think 16 to 35 Watts combined.

When we are pedaling indoors, we are trying to get adequate friction against a small steel cylinder. That is why we have to set rolling resistance between 1.8 and 2.5 pounds of pressure. This actually sets your minimum rolling resistance, at anywhere between 60 and 100 W. Interestingly, if you notice during a workout that your minimum wattage when pedaling in a recovery, is higher than the minimum load being applied via the program, that is because of the rolling resistance calibration. It is nothing to worry about, and remember, we are there to burn energy and generate power. We are not there to coast.

Once you get comfortable with calibrating your you will begin to feel more confident in your ability to set up the bike and rear wheel properly. A proper rolling resistance calibration is critical to ensure good values, and a better workout. Sometimes we will ask you to calibrate twice, especially if you calibrate before warming up completely. And as a rule of thumb, you can assume that every .01 pound of pressure is worth one half of 1 Watt in terms of accuracy. Once Compu trainers have warmed up, they do not drift much at all, and their accuracy is within 1%. We have copy trainers in the studio's that are perpetually being rotated through to racer mate in Seattle for calibration with their machines. This is to ensure that your data remains accurate, consistent, and helps you improve your power output, your power to weight ratio, and measure your energy output.

Fore more in-depth information, I'm going to pull from the script itself, found in the CompuTrainer manual...

"An error during calibration of 0.01lb equates to a change in load of 1/2 W at a speed of 25 mph. You may wish to recalibrate more than once to confirm that your rolling resistance value is consistent to within .05 2.10 pounds. If the value continues to drop for two consecutive measurements, this indicates that the tire and load generator may not have yet reached a stabilized operating temperature. Continue to warm-up and repeat."

It is not necessary to have the same calibration numbers every time that you ride. Because rolling drag is always present, setting too much drag for a flat course can make your pedaling load feel like you are climbing a hill. Always set the press on force to a consistent range between 1.8 and 2.5. If you are dealing with a FTP that is lower, then you can get away with a lower RRC. The more fit you get, the higher we should probably set your RRC.

At Cycling Ctr., Dallas, when we use slope based intervals, we limit the grade 2 no more than 6%. If you are a fit cyclist, with a high FTP, then setting a press on force, or RRC, to about 3.00, is not inappropriate. Again, the lower your FTP, the lower you can set your RRC. Here's a table to help you out...

Fixed-Gear Workouts or Non-Slope Interval Workouts... Use an RRC of between 1.8 and 2.5lbs.
Slope Intervals up to 3% or Intervals with Sprints... Use an RRC that's higher, closer to 2.5lbs.
Slope Intervals up to 6%... You may set your RRC press-on force up to a 3.00...

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Coach Wharton
13:33

August Prep and Dry Run for the Texas Time Trials

At Cycling Ctr., Dallas, the mantra that we promote is all about improving stamina, speed, strength, and skill when cycling. Traditionally, this means spending time indoors, one or two days a week, and then using the results and improvements in fitness to enjoy longer rides with more challenges on the weekends. For most cyclists this is something in the realm of 2 to 4 hours, but the month of August allows us all to attempt and attend several rallies that are longer in duration. This begins at the end of July, with the 70 mile option for the bicycle rally held in Cleburne, and continues with the red river rally, a 75 mile option or a rally in Granbury, and of course it all culminates with the hotter in hell 100, held at the end of August up in Wichita Falls. However, all of these are bicycle rallies, and while they are as competitive as people choose to make them, there is nothing really official for the recreational cyclist.
 
The Texas time trials, held every year in Glen Rose, Texas, in the third weekend of September, allows cyclists to ride a safe, challenging, 26 mile loop with support, in a friendly yet competitive environment. The Texas time trials host a 500 mile option for the extremists, a 24 hour option, a 12 hour option, a six hour option, and finally a single lap sprint. Hosted by Dan Driscoll every year, this event continues to grow. I attended in 2012 and 2013, with my friend Michelle Beckley, and have grown to love this event as much as any other, because of its proximity, the support, and the incredible challenge that comes from managing energy and speed and power over the course of one hour, six hours, 12 hours, and even 24 hours.
 
I was lucky enough in 2012 to compete in the event in a very steady rain storm. The temperature never changed more than about 5°, and with proper support from Michelle and her boyfriend Martin, I was able to stay on top of my hydration and caloric consumption, and actually won the 12 hours. In 2013, because we were still in start-up mode with the cycling studios, I was about 5 pounds heavier, was far less fit, and ended up calling it a day after four laps. I realized that I was out of shape, overweight, and was to determined to try and ride 212 miles in the same way at higher temps and higher wind speeds than I had the previous year. So this year, this summer specifically, I pulled out my time trial bike, a 2007 aluminum P3 from Cervelo, and began to train on it and attempt to adapt my body position for the stress and duration of 12 hours in a near horizontal position.
 
I began training for the position in early August, when I tackled the Granbury rally in my aero bike, position, and kit. Then, I did the Red River Rally in the same way. Both times, I attempted to stay on top of my hydration by consuming over 3 L of water, sometimes up to five. This was mixed with Osmo, and it did keep me properly hydrated. However, heat is everyone's enemy, and you still have to burn a lot of energy in order to stay cool and fast. Two weekends ago I attempted to do a century out in Glen Rose on my own, and was unprepared for the heat and wind. So this weekend, instead of going to Hotter 'n Hell, I traveled back down to Glen Rose for some peaceful cycling and another dry run.
 
One of the things, besides heat, that matters the most when you are cycling, is the ability to overcome wind resistance. We are now at a place in time and technology where we can come up with some pretty close measurements that can help us better understand just how much drag we have to overcome at speed. The smaller the coefficient of aerodynamic drag, the more energy you can save when traveling. Things like helmets, shaved legs, skin suits, and aerodynamic wheels definitely can make a difference, and when you are burning about 800 kJ per lap, energy management and efficiency are critical. We cyclists spend a lot of time and money buying expensive gear, but how to put that gear properly to use, is a really important aspect that is often ignored.
 
Both last week, and this weekend, I performed my first lap right at the 6 AM time in order to get a very solid idea of how much normalized power was going to be necessary to average a one hour 20 minutes lap. I did this for at least two laps both weekends, and over the five full laps that I actually measured this, I came up with a normalized power of roughly 205 W. I also looked back at my previous laps from 2012 and 2013, and realized that the aerodynamic position of the P3 saved me roughly 30 W and 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the time of day. When you add that up over roughly 8 laps for a 12 hour event, which is my stated goal, it comes up to about an hour! Last year's winner averaged one hour 25 minutes over the course of eight laps, although his lap speeds varied by over 30 minutes, and so I decided to try and hold this average wattage over for an even six laps, just to see if this was feasible.
 
Interestingly, as the day warmed up, the time splits for the average power, which was around 170 watts, while PNorm was 205w, decreased. This is actually to be expected, because of the decrease in air density with the increase in temperature. Furthermore, I realized very early that with a very large Camelback on my back, I was not going to be able to ride in such an aggressive position while wearing my favorite aero helmet. I ended up reverting back to my more ventilated helmet, which is also been optimized for aerodynamics, but one has to assume that the TT helmet would probably make me anywhere from 45 to 90 seconds faster over the course of a lap. I need to restate that, we are not talking about speed, we are talking about conservation of energy. So at 205 normalized watts, I would probably be able to hold 1 hour 17 minutes, and not one hour 20 minutes.
 
The biggest issue that we must all deal with is that of consumption of energy. Even with more body fat on me than in previous years, I still am burning a majority of my energy through carbohydrates. Osmo is specifically designed not to provide that much energy through calories, and instead it uses the carbohydrates to help cyclists stay hydrated and cool. Therefore, according to Dr. Sims, who invented Osmo, food must be in the pocket, or in my case, the Bento box. I found that eating a real meal for breakfast, was extremely helpful, but that even after three laps, I am going to have to work on eating more. I believe I only consumed about 200 to 400 kcal every lap through solid food. This will have to go up, and I'm going to have to practice this for both taste and frequency.
 
Now, for an interesting exercise in air resistance, I am going to pull up the website www.cyclingpowerlab.com, and I will try and show you just how much extra work is required to complete a lap on my road bike versus my time trial bike. We also need to keep in mind that my time trial bike is not as advanced as it could be, were it a P5 or even a P4 or even a P3, like the new one. Mine is first-generation, and has basically been  'modded out', so to speak, as I tinkered with it over the years.
2014 P3 TT
I clipped out a segment of the power meter file from 2013 and from this ride in August, got the relevant data from Weather Underground, and plugged everything in. The results are above. 

Now - what does this all mean? 

Well, if you're rolling on flat terrain at 205 watts, it means roughly 2.5 miles per hour!!!! But perhaps more importantly, it means, for me, probably 60-100 Kcals per lap, saved. When you ride or race a 12-hour, every Kcal matters, and if you have less resistance, you can travel further for the same amount of effort. 

Anyway, I know it's a good bit of dorkdom, but it just goes to show you that studying this stuff makes a difference, in speed, efficiency, effort, and honestly, pleasure! 

More later!


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