Monday, March 21, 2016

Seid Trips - Zwift Mountain Climb

More than ten years ago I had a standard stationary exercise bike. A tension roller would press down on the thick rubber wheel to increase the resistance. I tried to make use of it, but it was a horrible experience. I found online a company in the UK that had developed a game-like interface that could turn an exercise bike into a virtual world of riding the bike through an imaginary world. It wasn't very engaging and after some time I eventually lost interest.
When I started cycling in the spring of 2015, I became aware of the new types of trainers you could use with bikes. It was June before I finally decided to buy a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer. I suspect we must have been having some rainy days, and I missed being able to get on the bike. Meanwhile, I also discovered a new online resource for cycling called Zwift. Finally, someone had created a virtual world for cyclists that rivaled popular video games. With a bike on a trainer using a tiny ANT+ dongle and a speed sensor (and optional cadence and heart rate sensors), you could enter a virtual world of cycling roads around an imaginary island along with hundreds of other cyclists from around the world. As with many other computer games, you design your avatar and your equipment from a variety of options.
The genius of this game-play is that there are very subtle ways in which riders are motivated to work hard. Natural competitiveness makes many of us want to speed up, either to keep from being passed, to stay with another rider, or to catch up and pass another rider. Although "smart" trainers make going up (and down) hills more realistic by controlling the resistance, "dumb" trainers provide a similar effect because a rider begins to go faster in order to counter slowing down. The faster one goes, the greater the resistance. Because one begins to hear the sounds of slowing down and sees the slower movement, there is a natural reaction to maintain speed and to begin to rider harder.
Map and Elevation Chart of Mountain Climb
There are segments of the course that are timed, usually a sprint segment or a KOM (King of the Mountain) segment up a hill. Again, one feels the impulse to try to do better than before. Even when I plan just to do a recovery ride, I get pulled in to riding hard up a hill or sprinting for a personal record.
At first there was just a circuit around Watopia. Before the world championship race in 2015 held in Richmond, Virginia, Zwift opened up the virtual 2015 Road World Championship Course. In 2016 Zwift began charging about $10 a month. They began adding some new routes along with interesting new features along the route. This past week they opened an exciting new route that imitates the alpine mountain climbs well-known from races like the Tour de France.

I've been creating videos from my rides, so I decided to do a screen capture of a Zwift ride and include video of me riding on my trainer. I chose the mountain climb just to see what it was like. The video is about an hour. The audio of me talking is very faint. I don't expect anyone to watch the whole thing and listen to every word I say. I hope you find it a bit interesting.

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