Thursday, December 19, 2019

Zwift ride setup progression

My Proflex 856
I have used an indoor bike trainer ever since I started biking in the 90's, but only occasionally. I started off with my mountain bike (Proflex 856) on an old Travel Trac 3 trainer by replacing the knobby tires with smooth commuter tires, but I never found any way to make it fun. I have tried by listening to music, watching movies and reading books, but none of these were enough to keep my attention for long, so I never used the trainer regularly. In 2011, I bought a road bike (Mercier Corvus AL, purchased from BikesDirect.com) so I would not have to swap the tire on the mountain bike, but this did not get me on the trainer any more frequently--it just made it easier to get on.

In January 2017, I found something that actually worked to keep my attention and make the whole experience a lot more fun, and it turned into a rabbit hole that I am still trying to dig out of. I heard of this application called Zwift, and started looking into it. The price was right, and I very quickly determined that this was something that had a lot of potential. I was immediately drawn in deep. I already had enough gadgets to make everything work--a Garmin ANT+ heart rate monitor, and Garmin GSC 10 ANT+ speed/cadence sensors. I just needed a way to get my computer to be able to receive these signals so I ordered a generic ANT+ USB receiver and off I went. I think there were only three virtual worlds when I first started--Watopia, London and Richmond. I really enjoyed just exploring Watopia and time flew by. I was not doing any specific training--just riding to enjoy the scenery and test Zwift's limits.

Indoor setup with the Fluid2
Eventually, I upgraded my trainer to a CycleOps Fluid2 (purchased with gift cards from REI), still a wheel-on trainer, but at least this one was officially supported by Zwift, supposedly providing more accurate power information. Along the way, I picked up a tall stand for the computer keyboard and mouse, a remote controlled pedestal fan, various riser blocks and all sorts of other accessories to make the experience more comfortable (USB extension cables, wireless keyboard and mouse, etc.) I even outfitted my garage with a wall-mounted fan for the warmer months when I use Zwift out there because it is too hot to ride inside. Yes, I have two Zwift spots--my second-floor home office being my primary location.

After a year or so on the CycleOps Fluid2, I figured out that I wanted to see more accurate power information, so I started looking into power meters. I had a lot of choices to make--did I want a simple power meter, or something a little fancier that could measure left/right power so I could get more data? Being a data junkie, I opted for the Assioma Duo pedals, which measured left and right separately. I saved up and eventually found a deal to get them for 20% off from Clever Training. I needed to get a bike computer to actually read the left/right power data, so that led to another search, ultimately leading to a CatEye Stealth EVO Plus.

Current Setup with Elite Suito
This year, I wanted to take my setup even further. I started looking into controllable trainers, which means the resistance would be controlled by the incline and terrain of the Zwift courses, making the rides even more realistic. I settled on the Elite Suito, which I got in September as a combined birthday and Christmas present. I have been using the Suito for about 3 months now and I can say the experience has been amazing, although it took some getting used to at first. I learned that Zwift has a trainer difficulty setting. When I first started using the Suito, I had a lot of clicking on the lower and upper gears, but it was really smooth in the middle, so in December, I started looking into this and found out my road bike gearing was actually 10-speed, and the Suito came with an 11-speed cassette. Another search began--for a new cassette and to determine if this was something I could install myself. I chose a Shimano Ultegra 6700 10-speed cassette with 11-28 gearing, which is the same gear family, and the closest match with my road bike cassette. I was able to install it myself after grabbing the tools I needed from REI and a local bike shop. Now that the cassette is right, I have been using the trainer a lot more often--but of course, it is cold out and the right weather for it, too. Strange enough, I am actually trying to find ways to make my room colder when riding because the heat builds up in this room, but it beats riding in the 40F garage at this time of year. I may need a third fan to blow cold air in from the window!

I have also been using Zwift for running, and I plan to post about that soon.

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