Archive for the ‘training’ Category

The absolute cheapest way to get on Zwift, and still have fun! The $120 solution.

January 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Ok, so you are ready to jump on the Zwift bandwagon. If you are willing to say, spend $1500 or more you can get yourself a pretty sweet pain cave with any number of direct drive doodads then this isn’t the post for you. But if you have no idea if you will like Zwift this is how to try it out with the least outlay of cash.

How little? Let’ say you have $120 bucks, an iPhone and a gym membership? Is Zwift doable? Indeed it is.

First off get the CycleOps PowerCal Bluetooth HR strap. You will need an HR strap anyways and this will work fine as one outside of Zwift. For a bit of a premium over a regular HR strap, you also get power. Now the power brokers of the cycle world will gaffa and look down on you, but that’s because they paid for an expensive power broadcasting trainer at home and also an expensive power meter for their bike, so they are poor and grumpy. Yours will work on both!!


PowerCal.. in this case, the Ant+ one

I wrote about the PowerCal HR Strap way back in 2012. There are other reviews online as well but basically yes it works. Not as exact as a meter 10x more expensive, but enough to have fun on Zwift. And you have an HR strap for when you need one anyways and it will broadcast power for your cycling computer as well. And it transfers to any bike any time. I’m not sure why more folks don’t start off this way but power meters aren’t cheap so I always recommend folks try this out first.

NOTE: Just found this out, its possible the PowerCal HR Bluetooth doesn’t work in Bluetooth mode on iPhones above 5s? Since I don’t have such a device I am not sure. In that case, you will need to use the Cable method below. I will update once I find out more.

For this to work you need an iPhone or iPad that can run Zwift’s apple app. That can be as far back as an iPhone 5s or any number of recent iPads. If you are in the apple sphere you will have something that can work. Unfortunately, Zwift still doesn’t have an Android app but it’s coming hopefully in 2018. I used an iPhone 5s, without a SIM card, using the wifi in the hotel etc.

I do have a pain cave at home but I travel a lot and use this for the Hotel gyms. It can certainly be used at home or at your local gym. At home, you could use any of the decent $70 trainers on Amazon (here is one).  So maybe you are up to $200. If you have a gym membership use the stationary bike they will have in their gym. They always have a bike.

cheap setup for zwift

Now in the unlikely event that you already have an older PowerCal that is ANT+ only you will need the Cable from NPE.  It will set you back $60. The PowerCal ANT+ is $75, so if you do go this route you are looking at $135 but you get a cool device that will help down the road. It allows you to broadcast ANT+ sensors over Bluetooth for phones that don’t support ANT+ (which at the moment seems to be about 100% of them do not). The ANT+ strap will work with any cycling computer from Garmin, Wahoo etc.

Now if you have the Cable you will need the CableConfig App so download that.


Cable by NPE

Ok so you have you PowerCal, you have your old iPhone. You found the stationary bike at your local gym or in the hotel you are stuck in. Let’s get going.

Install the Zwift App on your phone. There are two Zwift apps, the Mobile Link is for in ride chatting and interfacing but unfortunately, you can’t run both. You only really need the main Zwift app, but maybe load up Mobile Link for future use?


All the apps a poor Zwift rider needs. What’s Strava you ask…oh my let’s leave that for another day

Select the Zwift App.

You will have to sign up for Zwift, but you can start with a free sign up for a 7-day free trial to give it a whirl. If you go for a subscription it $15 a month so then you can apply your savings from this method.

Pair your PowerCal to your iPhone either via bluetooth or Cable.

Now the PowerCal takes about 3-5 minutes to calm down and give consistent power readings, so while you get things going make sure the bike is on and bike slowly for a bit.

While you are warming up login and click on your account to get to the sensor connection page.

You should see your power and heart rate. You won’t have cadence. Cadence isn’t needed at this point and I haven’t noticed much difference without it. Pairing Zwift

If both Power Source and Heart Rate are blue, select Let’s go. You will then get to the Ride page, select Ride and start riding!

Ride Zwift

It won’t be a perfect experience, but it will work and it will be fun. I have been able to do group workouts but other types of rides are problematic due to the power change latency. I find that if I warmed up the power will be even and consistent in general. If you up the effort it will take a while to catch up (5-15 secs) but for a beginner you will get the whole experience.

Here is a recent hotel ride with this on Strava.

Strava Hotel Zwift



Working just fine…19kms in

Zwift isn’t for everyone so you can use this method to try it out. If you don’t have an HR strap you at least will have that at the end of this process. That’s way better than trying to sell your Tacx Neo on craigslist.

I know a lot of people are daunted by the seeming high entry point for Zwift. Hopefully, this method will let you try it out, get a feel for it and see if you want your own pain cave after all.


Categories: bicycling, training, Travel

Staying fit is waaaay harder then getting fit…my year of blah

December 10, 2014 Leave a comment

When I started this journey back in 2010 I just wanted to stop being fat, stop being tired, stop being unfit. I gave myself 100 days to overcome about 15 years of inactivity and I did it. Soon I was doing all the things I loved when I was younger. It was pretty easy, you made some time for yourself, watched what you ate a bit and focused on getting things back on track. The body loves this increased level of commitment and it responded. It wasn’t fast but within  a year I was 25 pounds lighter.

That worked but what they don’t tell you is that you have to work, hard, to stay fit and naturally since you are already fit you have to work harder to improve. It’s very hard to go from being fit to being more fit. And it takes a greater level of commitment than you did in the first place. And it can be frustrating, repetitive and yes boring…

And that’s where I found myself this year, the year of Blah. It was a great year, I cycled more than 5,000 kilometers, I did four triathlons, got a 13th place in one, did a TT in over 40kph, raced, rode, swam, ran etc. But it wasn’t as fun as other years because I became more focused on the training and getting better and I wasn’t getting better.

Another thing is that there is no simple way to train around 4 active kids, despite what any article may say. Kids get sick, they forget to tell you they need to be somewhere tonight, they refuse to go to sleep quickly and it just takes soo much effort to make it all work. I am counting the years when they are old enough to drive and then off to college! With a 5 year old still at home that will be a while 🙂

Besides family commitments, my job is in the software business which is crazy as well, then there are just bumps in the road and that meant when I did have time to train I was rushed and I was always feeling like I was falling behind despite the fact that I was in better shape overall.

I noticed I had stopped updating this blog. Looking at a training plan was depressing. So its official I am burned out and I need to change things, because I love the new me and what I can do.  But I need to step back from the focus on training and get back to the focus on fun, which is what all the things I do are, when you allow yourself to enjoy them.

So for 2015 I will have a renewed focus on cycling. I will still do tris because they are fun and you meet great people there, but going to do more pure biking. It’s what I love. I jumped on Strava around mid-year and really love that too. Racing to beat a segment adds motivation better than an interval plan. I noticed that it turned the year around for me a bit as it allowed me to “race” in a sense at my own pace. Getting fit is 10% of the journey, staying fit is harder and you need to be ready for that. I am mid journey so to speak, which is a great place to be if I can just enjoy the ride…




Categories: bicycling, training

Run Helper–Garmin FR110 Watch

November 8, 2011 1 comment

This year it became pretty clear that I needed to improve my run, and as always there is technology you can apply. I needed to track my runs, understand if I was improving and also to get a sense of what “speed” feels like in a sense (more on that later).

I was using Cyclemeter on my iPhone 3 and it was ok, but had a few problems. One it required that I run with my iPhone and that wasn’t always the best. Also, and this is more the problem of my iPhone, but it took a while to find the GPS and if I got an email or text the tracking stopped! I was hard to look at when I was running and I don’t think it was always all that accurate (again that is probably because I have an older iPhone 3).

So I wanted to get something more focused on running and a watch naturally was a better fit. I also didn’t want to spend too much and I wanted to keep in the Garmin family as I am now a big fan of their stuff. I did some internet research but for the casual training I was going to do the ForeRunner 110 was probably the best for me.

I ended up picking one up at the local Running Room and it came out to around $200 which seems to be standard for this watch. Opened up and was pleasantly surprised to find it had an ANT+ HR monitor.

Garmin FR110

So then started to run with it and it has helped. With the iPhone I don’t think I really got comfortable but with the FR110 it’s just normal. While at the beginning of the year I was struggling breaking 30 mins for a 5k, recently I was able to push out a 26 min 5k, a savings of 4 mins so far. Naturally a lot of that is simply now focusing on the run itself but even I was pleased. My time for the shortened 4.4k in Smiths Falls year was 26:14 at a pace of 5:54, so a 5k at 5:13 per k would save me 4 minutes probably in the full Tri now that the run is back at 5k. Aim is to get this down a lot as well!


One thing I also wanted to see was how fast was for example a 4:40 pace, a 4:20 pace, a 3:99 pace. You simply run until the watch shows that pace. Ouch is all I can say. But it shows me what I have to do and I can compare my stride and pace to these times and understand how I need to push.

The watch is super easy to use. It does take a bit of time to pick up the GPS which is annoying and its not consistent (sometimes its seconds, others a minute or more). It always picks up the HR monitor.

USB and powering up so far hasn’t given me any grief. It discharges the watch pretty quickly so you have to remember to charge it up. It hooks up into my Garmin connect account fine.

Definitely a welcome addition to my growing Garmin stable!!

Categories: Fit Kit, training Tags: ,

Taking it with you…My Dahon Speed D7 Folding bike

March 29, 2011 7 comments

This week I am in Seattle, Redmond actually, visiting Microsoft for my day job in the software industry which pays for all these “toys’”. I have about a month of travel coming up and I knew that despite my good adherence to a training program indoors thru the winter, weeks on the road were going to kill my biking legs. With the season really starting to roll I couldn’t afford to just try and catch up when I got back.

I am in a number of really bike friendly places in the next four weeks, including Seattle and Paris, and I really wanted to ride while there.

Renting a bike isn’t as easy as it needs to be and in cities where there is a biking scheme like Paris its still not as effective as it should be and I wanted to get out of town as well (I am in Paris April 10th, which means Paris-Roubaix!). I have noticed a lot of folding bikes in London and that got me thinking that really I could have my cake and eat it (or ride it in this case) too!

According to a lot of reviews I read the Dahon Speed D7 is a good choice and the price was right where I wanted to be. Dahon has a world wide dealer network and I was able to compare prices at a number of stores in Ottawa. In the end I paid about $550 with taxes. They have a lot of higher end bikes, but for the type of riding I was going to do I didn’t really think I needed anything more advanced.

Mine is a 2011 model (I think?) but its been the same it looks like for about 5 years or more. It’s a tested design and there are lots of spare parts if needed. 

I tried it a few times for short rides and while it takes a little getting used to with the 20 inch tires, once you acclimatize its very comfortable. I practiced with folding it and soon felt I could do it quickly if needed. The day was fast approaching to get it packed and ready for it’s airline adventure.

1st off I felt I didn’t need a custom piece of luggage, I had a big but legal suitcase in the closet. Now first off I admit maybe I should have asked the wife, but she has seen the weight loss and is game to help, so while I had to do a lot of packing to make it clean and safe I was given the green light to continue.

1st off you have to take the wheels off. There are screw on and nut types so not as nice as having a skewer (which is surprising as it’s meant to collapse fast) but that isn’t all that hard. The rear derailleur is really close to the rear cassette so it takes a bit of wrangling. You have to loosen up the brakes but I got the wheels off.

The bike in this configuration is very compact but there is still a major problem with the rear rack and mud guard. I just could not get it to work. So I took it off and decide not to worry about bringing them. After that it slipped in and the wheels popped on the top and the luggage closed easily.  With space for my helmet, pump and tools it came out to 45 pounds (airline limit is usually 50 pounds) so good to go.

This is a good link to how to fit it in, but in the end I just figured it out myself. I didn’t take off the pedals but I think next time I will.

I was still a bit apprehensive at the ticket counter, but she didn’t take a second look, charged me $25 bucks for a checked bag (this was American) and off it went. In Seattle it came off the luggage claim belt without a dent. That night it took about 15 minutes to put everything back together and I had a bike!

Below is the bike and the luggage it I brought it in.

My Dahon Speed D7 and the luggage I brought it in

When you are from the east coast and on the west coast you wake up early. I was up at about 5am the following morning and I had 3 hours before I had to get ready for my meetings. Sunrise was 6:50 but civil twilight was at 6:20 (the earliest I will ever ride). I put on my bike gear and walked out the door.

The bike routes start right from the hotel and are great, I only had to cross a few roads and soon I was on a long stretch that meanders along Lake Sammamish and rode for a good 40 minutes. Then I turned around and came back for a good 1.5 hour ride. Awesome! Riding really connects you with the place you are visiting as well.

A few things become apparent:

1- Seattle is wet, so the removal of the rear mud guard was unhelpful 🙂

2- The pedals that come with the bike are very slippy when wet..will replace those with clip ins

3- The bike won’t hold the highest gear unless you hold on to the gear changer..but I can probably live with that

4- The seat post is too thick for a regular flashing light, mine didn’t fit

Unfortunately I forgot to pack my Garmin 500 so I don’t have a cool route map, but I will have it with me next week in St. Petersburg, Russia (gulp, still not sure about that), Paris and London and will post those.

Still it was a hard ride, my speed was mostly just as fast as the hordes of other bikers out there (way to go Seattle!) on full road bikes and it was fun. I was very impressed on how easy it was to climb with considering it weights about 27 pounds, but the gearing is very forgiving. It was a truly awesome training ride! 

Categories: bicycling, training

1st Serious use of Garmin Edge 500 computer

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Lunch Lap 1 by 100tofit at Garmin Connect – Details.

1st test of my new Garmin 500 cycle computer. So far very impressed. Easy to setup. Was able to remove the wheel magnet and pickup from my old computer so have a cleaner look as well. Can move it between bicycles super easy. Looking forward to being able to dig into this type of data!

Garmin 500 Dashboard view

Dashboard view of my 1st Garmin 500 training ride

Categories: bicycling, training Tags:

Suffering with the Sufferfest..and loving it!

January 18, 2011 1 comment

Ok, I had to give up my grand plan of daily riding. I don’t mind the cold when I have to run out to the car and then into work, but 15-20 minutes in sub-arctic weather didn’t end up being as fun as I thought it would be! So still riding in once or twice a week when the wind isn’t blowing and it’s above –10, which in January in Ottawa isn’t all the frequent. This week for example has been pretty much a wash.

So, I do what everyone does, I have a trainer in the dungeon. Now I don’t mind trainers as much as some other people. I like swimming which is pretty mindless, but if I can improve I will. I have been getting some old Tour de France videos from, which have been good, but recently got turned on to the sufferfest video series.

In the past I have downloaded a few of these type of trainer videos from for example EpicRides, but they just didn’t really grab me. They are basically twice the price of the sufferfest videos for 1/2 the entertainment value and while I know they are trying, man they are boring…

The Sufferfest don’t appear to be like any other video series I have tried out. First off they are funny, secondly there is frequent action on the screen and it just draws you in and finally the price is right at about $12 a pop and it downloads right to the iPad (although oddly the latest one Local Hero had to be converted first, which is easy but time consuming). As soon as I tried the first one I have to buy them all, even with all six outlay has been less than $70 and most I have now done 2-3 times and it really drags me downstairs because they are so fun!

Take a look at his trailer for Angels, it gives you a sense of how this works:


I like the way they weave both a story into this and the use of grade A feeds from either local or international events. And the constant change of tempo in a non-structured way feels more like a ride, which varies a lot over it’s length. So far Angels and Downward Spiral are getting the most “airplay” but the new Local Hero, the longest one they have at almost 90 minutes, is becoming a fave as well. And if you only have 45 minutes Revolver 45 isn’t bad.

I have seen my weight start to creep down again and I give kudos to sufferfest for helping me get over my multi month hover weight! With these on constant rotation I should hit spring training in better shape than ever!