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What to do now that the winter is upon us … Get ready for the new year

Beginning of winter is typically the time of year where training schedule is less rigorous, and you SHOULD break up the monotony of the rest of the year.

Winter should constitute a break and variation from the rest of the year, where you have no scheduled training sessions, don’t follow a rigorous pattern, have fun on the bike, do the rides you never do the rest of they year… you get the picture.

However, being less structured does not mean you are not training. It’s a good idea to follow some general guidelines, so you don’t arrive at after new year, ten pounds overweighed and having lost all the gains from the previous year.

These are the guidelines I follow at the beginning of the winter, typically from November to January, when I usually start picking up the training program again:

Intervals twice per week

To keep your muscles primed and ensure your body does no start losing muscle mass because you’re not using it, shoot for two interval days per week. The purpose of these workouts is to halt any potential decline in the most important component of your fitness: your lactate threshold power/pace. This interval workout is a great choice for December:

LT intervals: These are lactate threshold intervals. They are not complicated nor all that exciting, but they are incredibly effective.

Three 5-minute intervals at your LT intensity (100% of FTP/CP, or 100% of LT Heart Rate). Bonus points if you increase duration to 8 minutes, but not really necessary. Recover for about half the interval time.

 

One endurance ride per week

Trying to do one longer ride per week is desirable to keep you basic aerobic fitness in prime shape. One challenging 2-4 hour ride per week is enough

 

Don’t mess up (too much) your nutrition

During this downtime it’s critical not to put on too much weight. Having said that, please do relax, and make this time of the year a fun time of the year. Do eat what you like, but just don’t eat too much of it !!!

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Battle of tires… Michelin Pro4, Continental, Bontrager, Which one is best in the real world?

We’ve all seen the test, we’ve all seen the analysis of new bike gear and components and manufacturer’s claims to deliver better performance.

They all have a big problem… they may be done in wind tunnel, using advanced testing methods, but… do we really ride in a tunnel? When testing a new tire… does the wheel with the tire ride by itself, on a very smooth road?

Of course not.

That’s why I’m starting this new series of performance tests for bike components. These are comparative tests done in real world scenarios, on the roads we actually ride, with wind, potholes, traffic, all real world cycling, as we do it, not as engineers envision on a wind tunnel, isolated from real world conditions.

Welcome !!!

The first test of this series aims at comparing performance of tires. The performance of the tires is done on the road and not on the lab, so it aims at not only testing the rolling resistance of each tire but as well as it’s aerodynamic performance.

Change in Resistance forces (rolling resistance, aero drag, grade) on increasing moving speed

Do they really matter? Does using a high performance tire really worth the price tag, does it deliver a meaningful performance benefit?

Ultimately, only you can judge if the performance benefits is worth it to you and your rides, but you need to have the information on how it will impact your ride in the real world.

I’m doing these tests with actual components I have and I purchased for my own personal use, so obviously I’m not testing all possible combinations or all possible product on the market, but these are fairly representative of their classes and product category.

Today, I’m pitching two high performance tires, the Michelin Pro4 and the Continental Attack/Force package.

Both are rated high performance racing tires, and we’ll see who does best in our test roads.

On the other corner is a high mileage, ‘bullet proof’ tire, the Bontrager Hard Case X-lite tire.

Still a performance tire, but targeted at providing the highest possible puncture protection sacrificing performance, but… does it really? How much performance are you really sacrificing?

 

The contenders:

Contender #1: Michelin Pro4 Service Course Tires




Contender #2: Continental Attack/Force




Contender #3: Bontrager Hard Case Race X lite




The real world Segments

For this test, I selected a 12 mile loop, containing 4 segments where the comparative test will be executed.

These 4 segments were selected as representative of most road types where we spend our cycling lives.

Segment #1: Antioch Rd, 2.3 miles, normal pavement, slight downhill



Segment #2: Waverly Dr, 2.1 miles, smooth pavement, almost perfectly flat



Segment #3: Mill Creek Rd, 1.2 miles, normal to rough pavement, mostly flat



Segment #4: Berkeley Rd, 1 mile, smooth pavement, slight uphill



The approach to standardize the test and evaluate the tire and not any other factor was to ride the three loops consecutively on the same afternoon, on the same bike, same wheels, same tubes, same equipment, clothing… all the same. Just do the loop, change tire, inflate to same pressure (120 psi), and repeat.

This strategy helps isolate any other factors. Also since it is a complete loop, wind influence is minimized since it’s equally distributed across all segments.

Finally to ensure that the effort and energy put into each of the 4 timed segments on each of the 3 tires, power meter is used to measure how much effort is put onto each segment with each tire.

The power selected was moderate to ensure it is easily repeatable over the three 12 miles loop.

For the first two segments, the selected power average was 225 W, and for the other two segments, 250 W was selected.

The results

The results of this test were very clear… There is an objectively, real world, measurable difference for riding each tire.

As a reminder, each segment was done within 1 hour of each other, so weather conditions are comparable, and 4 distinct segments give us ability to isolate very isolated temporary events.

Over the 4 segments, the Continental tires saved 16 seconds on 6.6 miles of time segments over the other high performance racing tire of this test.

This was accomplished with the exact same power exerted on the pedals, so for the exact same effort, on the exact same bike and riding conditions, where the only difference was the tire… it delivered 16 seconds over the Michelin Pro4 tire and a staggering 48 seconds over the Bontrager tire.

This result was for the overall total distance (6.6 miles), but the advantage was very consistent on 3 of the 4 segments as it can be seen below:

Distance

Power

Seconds

Time

Gain

Gain/mile Watt gain
Antioch to fire station

2.3

225

302.2

05:02.2

-1.11

1

Waverly Dr

2.1

226

378.0

06:18.0

9.22

-6

Up Mill Creek

1.2

249

199.1

03:19.1

3.60

-5

Up berkeley

1

250

244.9

04:04.9

4.90

-5

Michelin Pro4

6.60

233.5

1124.2

18:44.2

00:16.6

00:02.5

-4

Antioch to fire station

2.3

225

303.3

05:03.3

Waverly Dr

2.1

225

368.8

06:08.8

Up Mill Creek

1.2

250

195.5

03:15.5

Up berkeley

1

249

240.0

04:00.0

Continental Attack/Force

6.60

233.2

1107.6

18:27.6

Antioch to fire station

2.3

225

320.9

05:20.9

17.63

-13

Waverly Dr

2.1

225

372.4

06:12.4

3.63

-2

Up Mill Creek

1.2

250

205.7

03:25.7

10.24

-13

Up berkeley

1

250

257.1

04:17.1

17.14

-18

Bontrager HardCase

6.60

233.3

1156.2

19:16.2

00:48.6

00:07.4

-10

 


Further analysis of these results, reveals that the Continental Attack/Force combo tires deliver, on average, about 2.5 seconds advantage over the Michelin Pro4… for every mile ridden.


Does this matter to you? You are the judge, but the result is clear. Comparing with the Bontrager Hard Case tire, the advantage is 7.4 seconds for every mile. Naturally you have to weight the advantage of riding a tire that is virtually puncture proof (for all the years I used this tire, I can’t remember single instance where I punctured using this tire), and … the same cannot be said about the Continental or Michelin tires, and here the advantage goes to the Michelin which has proven to be more puncture resistant than the Continental.


In hindsight, these results were obvious, and could be felt just by riding these tires, as you immediately feel fast riding the Continental, a feeling that is totally different than the Bontrager, but… the conclusion is an obvious one: The better puncture protection a tire gives, the worse it’s performance it will be. And this is not just something observable under laboratory conditions, it can be felt, measured objectively on the real roads where we ride. Is it enough? It will depend on what and how you ride. The results are in, and you can make your decision.


Finally, the other calculation done with this test, was answering the question… ok, I lose performance, but what do I have to do to overcome the tire handicap? The last column on the chart evaluates how many watts of power would you have to produce extra to match the times of the fastest tire in the test. In this case, on average that was 4 W for the Michelin and 10 W for the Bontrager. In other words, ahd you put down an extra 4 W on the Michelin, the performance advantage of the continental tires disappears. Some would say, train more and it doesn’t matter and you get better puncture protection.


So, here it is, objective difference between tire that will hopefully help you choose your next tire, depending on what you prioritize and what you consider most important !!!


Have fun out there, and let me kwon what you think

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Cross bike: Most versatile bike ever

Hello All !!!

I was asked what is the best bike to use in an urban environment that can be used as a commuter bike, ride around town but also as a training bike bike to go fast and get a good workout. That is a difficult question, but it so happens that there is one type of bike that meets all this criteria: The Cyclocross bike, the most versatile type of bike on the market today !!!

When talking about bicycles, there are almost limitless types of bike, built for very specific types of riders and rides, not unlike the types of cars you can see on the roads, where they all have 4 wheels but are very different in terms of capabilities, target utilization, and target buyers.


road bike
 

Still, I’d venture that most bikes can be divided in ‘road bikes’ (meant to be ridden on paved roads or paved surfaces) and ‘mountain bikes’ (meant to be ridden off-road, trails, gravel roads, town paths).

This is simply meant to say that when using a ‘road bike’ it will perform very well on the road, paved surfaces, but when taking off-road you are making a huge compromise in terms of performance, stability, comfort and general effectiveness. The same applies to mountain bikes when taken on the road. Taking a mountain bike on the road you are making a huge compromise in terms of performance, speed and overall capability.

What to do then when you want a bike capable of going around town in a relaxed ride, take it on the road for a fast workout ride, and also being able to go on a rough road, with cobble stones, an unpaved road or town path along the river, or in general any type of unpaved surface?

Enter the cyclocross bike !!!

IMG_1120w

This type of bike merges perfectly the best of a road bike, and the best of a mountain bike.

They will allow you to ride fast on paved surfaces, but also be able to tackles all types of rough roads and surfaces, unpaved gravel roads and even off road trails.

The bike shown is a van Dessel, Full Tilt Boogie extra-light but resistant carbon frame.

The cyclocross bike achieves this by starting with a typical road bike, but allowing a wider clearance on the frame for a larger wider tire and replacing the road bike brake with a wider brake that can accommodate the wide tire.

Unlike a mountain bike, this bike does not generally have suspension, but by mounting a wider, bigger tire, you can tackle all road and off-road obstacles saved for the most extreme.

Like a road bike, this bike will have a geometry that allows for comfort and performance on the road, as well as speed when coupled with appropriate tires.

The picture above shows my cyclocross bike assembled with general purpose versatile tires, but the bike also allows for two other more targeted configurations:

IMG_1117w IMG_1124w

The first on the left, features larger, wider tires with deep threads capable of handling rocks, gravel, mud, rough roads, jumping curbs, going up or down stairs, roots, and any type of off-road trails.

The configuration on the right features aero wheels, with narrow profile tires, capable of achieving high speeds and very high performance… on the road.

The pictures below show the difference in the three configurations, shown in order of capability from optimal off-road to optimal road:

IMG_1118w IMG_1121w IMG_1125w

The first shows the bike with 38mm treaded tires, that will turn this bike into a very bike bike for mountain course, gravel or unpaved roads and generally a great off-road experience. The tires are mounted to robust, heavy-duty impact resistant wheels capable of tackling any obstacles.

The second shows the bike with 32mm kevlar reinforced slick tires, which is the most versatile configuration for this bike, as it will allow faster performance on the road, while retaining capability to tackle rough roads and unpaved gravel roads. The tires are mounted to light, stiff, robust wheels capable of resisting most impact cause by curbs and rocks.

Lastly, the bike shown configured with narrow profile 23mm tires turning this bike into a veritable rocket capable of very high speeds and very high performance on the road. The tires are mounted to a set of very light carbon aero capable wheels, optimized for road performance.

The pictures below show more detail on the used tires, the cross specific brakes and the tire clearance allowed by the bike frame:

IMG_1119w IMG_1122w IMG_1126w

Note, from left to right, we go from a wide treaded heavy tire to a narrow, very light tire that illustrates the target surfaces and capabilities allowed by the configuration.

Also note that the most versatile combination is the middle configuration.

In this setup, the bikes has 32mm puncture proof (reinforced with kevlar) slick tires that, by virtue of being slick will allow for great on-pavement performance, but by being reinforced with kevlar and wider will allow for comfort on unpaved, rough surfaces as well as confidence with puncture resistance capabilities.

Finally, a word about completing your ideal bike experience, the cyclocross bike will (like any bike) support a wide range of pedals, ranging from casual riding to performance riding:

As with the bike configuration you can choose from platform only pedal that you can use with any shoes, snickers or MTB specific shoes, to versatile pedals combining a platform pedal with clipless capbility where you can use walking shoes with SPD cleats to the full-on road bike experience, light clipless only pedals.

Whatever you choose… with a cyclocross bike you will never go wrong, you will never face a road or trail you cannot ride or a fast where you cannot go fast and pass everyone.

Enjoy you cyclocross experience !!!!