Tag Archives: gps

Visualizing cycling workouts (a.k.a. I love plots!)

Fasten your seat belts, you are about to read one of my best posts ever. (Honestly, it is true.)

I am a bit of a nerd, there is no need to try to deny this fact. I love gadgets, I love technology, and especially, I love plots. I love if they have more than two dimensions, if there is also color or even symbol shapes or sizes used to represent a third or fourth dimension. Moreover, I love GPS devices. At the moment I have a hiking GPS (Garmin GPSMap 60 CSx), a smartphone with built in GPS, and a cycling GPS (Garmin Edge 500), and I had three other ones (two hiking GPS devices, and a bluetooth GPS receiver with my previous Nokia phone) before these… But I am not the nerd who just sits in front of the computer, because I also love sports. I mean, I love doing sports, and not just watching them on TV (which I also like, but this is not the point). If you are not completely new to my blog, then you know that these days I am especially into cycling – this is also the reason why I own a special cycling GPS (which I bought basically on the morning of my first ride with my – back then new – racing bike). With Garmin (and even with other brands), you have the option to upload your workouts to the Garmin Connect website, which gives you some nice overview plots, a calendar, reports, some statistics, and maybe most importantly the ability to share what you have done with the on-line community. The plots and statistics are nice and detailed enough if you are an average – or so called hobby – user. In that case, there is no problem. But if you are such a plot-fetishist as I am, or you need professional analysis, and you have a desire for more, than you will like what I am just about to show after the break. (If you have no food and drinks with you, go and grab something before clicking on continue…) Continue reading

TdF 2010 – Stage 3

Tuesday was my last day on the Tour de France. As I already had ~900 images from the previous three days, I decided to leave the heavy equipment (and my press-card) behind, and hit the road on my racing bike, to catch the peloton at the one and only climb of the stage, at the Côte de Bothey (1.4 km climb to 3.4%, Category 4 – basically this is nothing, you can not even notice such a slope if you are riding in the peloton). Of course this meant that I had only my compact camera with me, so the pictures from this day are incomparable with the ones from the previous stages – but when you are not paid by a professional agency, then you have the freedom to choose between good pictures and just pure fun. That day I went for the fun only. We (as Tijl and Kristof – a postdoc and another PhD student, both from Belgium – did also join me on that day) left the Institute of Astronomy at 10:45, so we had three hours to our destination (as the expected arrival time of the riders at the climb was between 13:44 and 13:50, assuming an average speed of 46-42 km/h). As the distance was around 48 km, this was a very safe plan. The roads were generally OK, though we ran into some trouble with one-way streets in Wavre, and we had to ride on cobblestones for 5 km between Court-Saint-Étienne and Villeroux… I have to say that really do not like (or using the word “hate” might be more appropriate in this situation) the cobbles, but I tried to look at that part as the final stage of my integration into Belgium as a cyclist, which made me feel a bit better, and struggle a bit less. Still, the pain building up in my hands during these kilometers was incomparable to anything which I have ever felt on the bike before. And these were really the worst kind of cobbles, with large spaces in between the stones, and with a road-surface which was far from flat with a small bump running along the middle, and two small depressions along the sides (created by cars passing through). But this was the day when even the Tour riders had cobblestones (13.2 km compared to our 10 km, but on a route which is twice as long as ours), so at least we got to know the pain they had to go through later on… Anyway, at the end we arrived a bit more than one hour before the scheduled pass (just after the publicity caravan had passed).

20100706_TdF_3_1

The weather was really nice, sunny but not too warm, not too windy, with no chance of precipitation during the whole day. While we were waiting for the peloton to arrive, we asked someone to take a picture of us (check out the Hungarian flag which I brought along with me):

20100706_TdF_3_2

The breakaway group arrived almost exactly on the expected time, and the peloton followed them 4’45″ later. We made some interesting observations about the whole stuff around us. 1) The number of support cars and motorcycles are incomparably higher than the number of cyclists. They are just coming and coming and coming for long-long minutes before and after the riders. And knowing that e.g. the team buses move along another route to get from the start of the stage to its finish, it is really shocking to see, that there are still this many vehicles following the peloton itself. 2) The climb was not big, still both the breakaway group, both the main pack was relatively slow after the “top”, so they probably just took a short recovery break there… 3) The gap of 4’45″ felt surprisingly long.

After the closing cars passed, the organizers started to clean up everything very quickly, so we had to be fast to make a picture with the gate itself on the “top”. But we made it of course. (I know it’s way too over-photoshopped, but the lighting was terrible, and our “photographer” was and old French guy who probably took his first picture with a digital camera at that very moment…)

20100706_TdF_3_3

On the way back I tried to keep up with Kristof on the climb with cobblestones, and I managed, but as soon as we left the slope behind, he dropped me immediately. Yeah, he is definitely the King of the Cobblestones among us. (Though if there are no cobbles, no one can stop me ;D) But you really have to be a native Belgian to be able to ride fast on these roads. I think it is in their genes. When I arrived home (which is a mess now, with clothes and gadgets all around the place, as I had no time to clean up anything in the last days) I was still in time to watch the end of the stage with several paved sections (it was crazy!), then I left to play badminton with my colleagues… Yes, we have a very sporty department!

Now something for the geeks among us. I lost the second part of our ride, because I had only a one-way course loaded into my Edge 500 cycling GPS, so while we were riding back to Leuven, it was complaining all the time, that I was off-course, etc. Then after a while (on the biggest climb right after Wavre) it just died… So, if you want to follow a course back and forth, have both legs planned! And some interesting sites on the net for the Tour-fanatics: 1) You can follow the HTC – Columbia riders on Google Maps live here. 2) You can check the recorded data of selected Garmin – Transitions riders here. These are both really cool projects!

This brings us to the end of the story about me and the Tour de France of 2010, it was a great experience, a lot of fun but also hard work, and I hope to repeat it somewhen in the coming years. With a bit more sleep, if that is possible. Vive le Tour!

My screen setup for the Garmin Edge 500

First of all, thanks to DC Rainmaker for – accidentally – reminding me with his latest post, to write about this. (BTW, very interesting blog, strongly suggested if you are into cycling, running, swimming or triathlon.) So with the Garmin Edge 500, the user can cycle through 3 main screens during a workout. Each of these can display a maximum amount of 8 data fields from the available 44.

The Primary Screen is where I start and finish a workout, but usually I do not use it during a ride. It gives the most important information about the current session, as the Time, Speed, Distance, Average Speed, Cadence and Heart Rate are on the display here.

20100413edge500screen1

The Secondary Screen is my main screen, I use it for 99% of the time during my workouts. It gives me important feedback about the intensity of my ride, as the Heart Rate Graph, the Heart Rate, Heart Rate Zone, Cadence and Speed values are displayed here. This way I can monitor if the power I put into pedaling is on the level which I need (to reach the goals I have set for the ride). The Heart Rate and the Cadence values also help in the selection of the best gear-ratio for the given circumstances. And though it uses a lot of screen-space, I love the Heart Rate Graph, as it gives an immediate graphical feedback on every slight change in the intensity of my ride.

20100413edge500screen2

The Third Screen – in my case – is set up for rides in the mountains – so I do not use it at all here in Belgium, but as soon as I can go for a cycling holiday, it will be the main screen for the days there. Then I can track the current Elevation (to see that there is still a lot to go), the Grade (steepness of the climb), my Speed, Distance, the air Temperature (for a meteorology-addict, this is a must), the Total Ascent, and the usual Cadence and Heart Rate values.

20100413edge500screen3

I think that having such a tool helps a lot during the rides, and being able to track, display and compare all the values from all the rides gives a lot of motivation too :) Gadgets are my religion.

La Palma – hazatérés

A tegnapelőtt a nappali életre való visszatérés jegyében telt, azaz az utolsó távcső mellett töltött éjszakám után délután hatig aludtam, aztán vacsoráztam, majd hajnali háromkor lefeküdtem aludni, hogy tegnap már délelőtt tízkor fel tudjak kelni. Aztán voltam járni egyet a kaldera peremén, de fotózás szempontjából pocsék idő volt (párás, felhős ég, semmi kék szín), így túl sok kép nem készült, viszont itt egy videó, amit még majdnem két hete csináltam, egyébként is olyan búcsúzó hangulata van.

Amit még meg akartam mutatni, az a rezidencia (baloldal) és a távcső (jobboldal) közötti út, amit naponta négyszer tettem meg gyalogszerrel, kivéve azt a három alkalmat, amikor valaki felvitt, és azt a kettőt, amikor le. Így is sacc per kábé 36-szor sétáltam végig ezen az útvonalon.


Nagyobb térkép itt

Aztán van ám szintábrám is. Átlagosan – emlékeim szerint – nagyjából 6,7%-os emelkedő, szóval biciklivel pont jól lehetne edzeni. Fél óra múlva itt van értem a taxi, és már minden össze van készítve. Csoda. Sajnálom hogy haza kell mennem, nehéz lesz visszaváltani az irodai munkára, de azért már hiányzik is Leuven :) De remélhetőleg még idén visszatérek ide is! (Vagy Tenerifére.)

20100324elevationprofile

Tales from the road

20100315pizzaThough I have no time, nor the needed pictures, or real motivation to write a big post about my “new” Canyon Roadlite 7.0 racing bike, but I really would like to share some of my thoughts and memories about my first rides. I have learned a lot about my body and about cycling during the first 375 km. If you are not a cyclist, I think it is better to stop reading here, because it will not be interesting for an outsider… (Ok, I give you the “hungry Hungarian” right before he ate the best pizza in town… Yeah, you need a lot of power to ride!)

Let me start with the story of the maiden voyage. The bike was delivered (and assembled by me in the office) on the 5th of February, but due to harsh winter conditions (this winter was exceptionally snowy in Belgium), I had to wait until the 20th of February to be able to ride it back home from the University. After I rode it home, I went to Point2, a GPS shop in Leuven, where I bought a Garmin Edge 500 cycling computer (amazingly detailed review on the link, and make sure you check out the blog of the triathlete guy who wrote it, because it is really interesting). Yeah, I know, this is basically the 3rd GPS I own at the moment (and the 5th I bought overall), but I just do not care at all. Now I have a small, GPS-based cycling computer with a heart rate monitor and a speed/cadence sensor. So professional, that even the cyclists of the Garmin-Transitions Pro Cycling Team’s cyclists use it (because it is also compatible with professional power-meters). It is really cool :) But the coolest thing about it, that you can upload your workout data via a USB-cable to the Garmin Connect website, and have a really good overview about your ride. So it becomes very easy to track your progress. And being able to monitor your heart rate during the ride helps a lot to optimize the speed and intensity of the training. But back to the first ride. I wanted to check out some previously never used routes around Leuven, but it turned out to be a bad idea. First of all, some of the roads are really crappy, full of potholes, which makes the descents from small hills really unpleasant. (I was really surprised to find such hills here…) Because instead of just enjoying the speed downhill, you really have to concentrate on avoiding the potholes (and not getting hit by a car meanwhile doing it). Furthermore it was cold, and I got a flat. These things make a terrible situation when combined, because your winter cycling clothes only keep you warm when you ride, but as soon as you stop, you will have a cool feeling. Literally. Though it was beautiful, because I could see all the snow/rain showers around Leuven while I was standing in the sunshine (and 4°C), it was really cold… And this was the first time ever I had to change an inner tube, so I was not that fast. It took me almost 20 minutes, but I have seen too many YouTube videos about the procedure to have any difficulties at all. I just had to think a bit before every movement, to make sure I am not wasting the only spare inner-tube which I had in my saddle-bag. But everything went fine, and I was kinda proud of myself :) Yeah, this was my “first-time”  :D But I did not want to risk another flat, so I just went home after this incident. Since then I have not only a spare tube, but a tube repair kit too in my saddle bag…

The next day (21st of February) I decided to ride on the cycle path along the canal to Mechelen and back, because I knew that the road is car-free and it has an almost perfect quality – so it is ideal for a fast training ride. It was right after I had a floorball league game with the Kraainem Tigers, so I was a bit low on power, but I really wanted to go… You can see the details of the ride here. (Click view in metric in the top right corner to have SI units…) In the first half, I had a slight tailwind, but I had not realized it before I turned back towards Leuven, and it started to blow right into my face… I was a bit surprised to see that I can (without any real difficulty) ride for two hours within a heart rate range of 170-182 BPM (HR Zone 4) which is the best training pace you need when you want to improve speed and anaerobic capacity. Due to the frame geometry and the drop handlebars, this bike is completely different from all the other bikes I have ridden in my life. Riding in the drops uses muscles I have never used during cycling before, so after this two hour ride I could barely move my hands for a while. I had pain in my arms for a couple of days… (And nothing in the legs, but that’s not so surprising…) Riding on the brake hoods on the other hands is quite the same as riding my single speed bike with the bullhorn bars, and the general feel is also very similar, so I had no trouble with that at all. But I definitely fell in love with the bike, I really like how fast and responsive it is… And weighting only 7.95 kg, it is so light, that after I carried it upstairs for the first time, my single speed bike felt shockingly heavy :D

On the 3rd of March I went cycling after work on the afternoon, then I went back and stayed until 10 PM in the office. (I am really happy to have flexible working hours.) This time I wanted to try new roads, so I downloaded a course from the Garmin Connect site, and loaded it into my Edge 500. This way, you can follow a route created by someone else, and you may even race against her/his time! Very motivating! And that’s exactly what I did. I was “in front” almost all the time, my virtual opponent took me over for 5 minutes only when I got a cramp in my left calf… I was standing in the turning lane on the N2 road, waiting for the cars to pass by or stop and let me turn to the south, but when it was clear, I started to push the pedals too hard, and I got the cramp… But it was not that serious, after ~3 minutes of flexing, I could continue my ride. Uphill… The most important things I have learned during this ride: 1) there are jerk SUV-drivers in Belgium too, honking at me even though they have more then enough space to pass me by; 2) small rural roads are generally smooth and perfect or terribly bad, but nothing in between. And the potholes are somehow always on the downhill side making sure you won’t be able to enjoy the “easier” part of the hill… I am a bit sad, because the data of this workout just disappeared from the memory somehow…

After the previous day, I was a “bit” sick and tired of the potholes, so I decided to stick to the well known cycling paths along the Dijlekanaal on the 4th of March. (The schedule was the same as on the day before: working, cycling, working.) The goal was clear – to go further and faster than the last time. Lesson of the day: sidewind is not that bad, because it has almost no effect on your speed. Though when you have sidewinds of 20 km/h, it can be quite uncomfortable… And here are the details of the ride. I met only slower cyclists, so I could not use their slipstream to rest. But they were too slow, so they could not hold my speed and use mine either ;) And something else: I was so hungry after the ride of the previous day, that I had to eat a slice of a pizza for breakfast, then I had a warm meal for lunch, and a warm meal for dinner too :) Plus a 100g of chocolate during the day and 2 energy bars during the ride, etc. You have to eat a lot as a cyclist… (Other usual food nowadays: fried eggs – and old classic has returned to my menu!)

On Sunday (7th of March) I had to be very careful in Mechelen, because there were a lot of people enjoying the sunshine with their dogs and/or small children, sometimes walking in the middle of the cycling path… The wind was even stronger than on Thursday (and it was cold), but it was still from the side most of the time. (See the details here.) I had headwind only near the northernmost part of the ride, where the Dijlekanaal ends (there is a large open area there without any trees which could block the wind). There it was really hard sometimes… I brought my compact camera with me, because I wanted to take pictures of the bike, but the lights were not the best, so I took only one…

20100307bike

Next week (so last week) I went cycling twice, riding the same standard training route between Leuven and Mechelen on both days. On the 9th of March I had sidewind again. (Yeah, it started to get really boring.) The only one interesting thing about this day, that I finally met a cyclist, who was riding with my speed. Which means it was extremely hard to close the gap between us, without pumping my heart rate up to the sky. From the point when I saw him for the first time, it took me 5 km to catch up with him. But as soon as I started to ride in his slipstream, my heart rate dropped from 184 BPM to 168 BPM even though we raised the speed to 34 km/h from 32 km/h. It was a huge change. It become so much easier, I could even change to a bit more upright – less aerodynamic – position (from riding in the drops to riding on the hoods). After 2 km I went in front of him to give back the favor, so my HR jumped back to 180 BPM, but I could easily keep the pace of 34 km/h. After 1.5 km we went to different directions, so I had to fight the drag alone… Other details are here.

On Saturday (13th of March), I could finally experience the difference between headwind and tailwind. I had to ride against a headwind of 13 km/h in the first half of the training, then I had the same wind as a tailwind in the second half. As a result, my average speed was ~27.5 km/h in the first half, and ~35 km/h in the second (stops at crossroads included – see those downward spikes in the speed), with only a slightly higher cadence (83/87 RPM) and heart rate (175/180 BPM).

20100313training

And it felt even easier to maintain these higher values. I think it is partly a psychological effect, as riding fast in tailwind gives a really pleasant (or even mesmerizing) feeling, so I am sure that the adrenalin level also raises in the meantime. I really enjoyed the speed! (See the details here.)

Conclusions: I really enjoy this bike, and I love the Garmin Edge 500!