Tag Archives: Exercise

The Stages of Every Zwift Ride

Or, at least the stages I go through on just about every ride.

As noted previously I have set myself up with Zwift, the exercise app that lets me ride my stationary exercise bike through a virtual world.

Ride On!

I have further follow ups on the whole thing, but this sort of struck me and I was motivated to bang it out, so here it is.

  • Get on the bike

Kind of a given, but for me this is always a morning thing, or at least a before noon thing.  Being lazy is a full time profession, and one aspect of it in my book is getting all your work tasks out of the way as soon as possible to maximize the time left to screw around.  I want to be on board for the long lunch and a leisurely afternoon.

Also it is much cooler around here in the morning.  And then there is the drought, so I like to combine my morning shower and my very necessary post-exercise shower into a single event.

  • Choose the route

I’ll go into more detail on this at another time, but I like to pick one of the pre-made routes.  You can just free ride through the world, picking whichever turns you like, but completing a route gets you an achievement and some xp and if we’re going to gamify this shit then why wouldn’t I go with something that gets me xp?

There are lots of routes that range from a couple miles to a couple dozen.  Since my goal is 20 minutes, which generally gets me about 7 miles, I look for the shorter routes.  I have learned to be aware of the climb involved, shown on the basic route info.  That 3.3 mile route with the 2,459 foot climb will take me more than 20 minutes because I’ll probably be going 4 MPH for a large part of it.

  • Start to Ride

And we’re off.  I start pumping those legs, usually ramping up to about 85 rpm or so, passing some slow pokes and slackers on the side of the road.

  • The First Crisis

Somewhere between 60 and 120 seconds into the ride my body will start informing me that we have surely out run the bear or whatever the hell prompted this flurry of sudden morning activity must have passed and it would be fine to just stop and go sit on the couch.

This happens every single time.  I want to stop or take a break or skip today.  I’ll make it up on Saturday, I swear.

So I have to negotiate with myself… just make it to 10 minutes, you’ll have started sweating by then so you can pretend you worked out… or sometimes bully myself… you paid how much for this Bluetooth enabled piece of gear to ride for two freaking minutes?

The crisis comes and somehow I manage to get through it most days, though if my body throws in, “Oh, and I have to pee” then things might stop.

  • The Fan

At about the five minute mark the thermal build up in my body will be noticeable.  If I have forgotten to turn on the standing fan sitting in front, off to the side, of the bike, this is when that omission will become apparent.

You can just see the fan behind the bike

I have often had to get off the bike to turn it on.  Lately my wife and I have avoided this issue by simply never turning the fan off.

  • The zone or something like it

There is a point where I will settle in, focus on the screen and the course and whatever and I’ll stop thinking about stopping.  My cadence settles down into what is apparently my natural rhythm, which is exactly 67 rpm.  I try to stay at 75 rpm, but the moment I am not thinking about it, I slide back into my norm.

The cadence is pretty much fixed no matter what resistance setting I have set on the bike.  I have, over time, dialed it up from 25 being the norm, to 38.  That means more power output for the same rpm.  If I dial it up too much… 40 starts to dig in a bit and 50 is comedy… then I start to slow down.

I may speed up a bit to pass somebody or keep somebody from passing me so obviously, but mostly I just cruise.

  • Can we stop now?

This isn’t as dependable as that first two minute crisis, but often between the 12 and 15 minute mark I’ll start wondering if we can’t just take a break.  I’m now sweating and feel like I have some legit claim to have exercised.

When we first got the Schwinn IC4 I actually had to stop somewhere around the 15 minute mark and get off the bike and stretch because my legs would start to stiffen up from the repetitive motion.  I don’t have to do that any more.

This is also the zone where my ass may start to hurt.  A bicycle saddle, even with the gel foam padded cover, isn’t something I am yet used to.  I don’t have any fancy cycling shorts, and my old cotton khaki shorts don’t add much padding.  Still, it is better than the Schwinn 270 recumbent bike, where my back often started hurting at about the 10 minute mark.

At this point I just tell myself I’m almost done, just a couple more minutes and then all of this can stop.

  • 20 minute mark

If I am doing this ride during the week, I am probably squeezing the ride and a shower in between some meetings.  That is probably an hour window, but I’ve probably screwed around a bit before the ride and want my hair to dry before I have to be on camera again, so I am looking to finish up the ride.

  • Wrapping up

If I have not finished up the route, I’ll push on to do that (and collect my achievement and my 10 xp) so long as it is very close to being done.  I’ll also keep going if I am past half way to my next mile, since the game awards xp for every mile completed.

If it is the weekend I might keep going if I am in the zone and/or have picked a longer course.  My longest ride on record so far has been 38 minutes.

Not counting the first few rides where I was figuring things out, most of my rides make it to at least the 20 minute mark.  There are a couple of 15 minute rides, where I clearly didn’t meet the crisis, and one 10 minute ride where I am pretty sure work rang my phone and I had to stop.  But I am mostly keeping to my metric.

Other stages that may occur during a typical ride:

  • I need to sit up and stretch – being hunkered down can get old so I reach up and touch the ceiling
  • Should I pick up the weights? – the bike came with weights, I never pick them up, but I sometimes consider doing so
  • The cats – they will come by and stare at me, standing way too close to the pedals
  • My junk – it sometimes needs to stop moving around so much as I pedal, which I guess is why cyclists wear those tight spandex shorts
  • Screen shot – I will suddenly want to take one, which means fiddling around with the iPad
  • Thirst – I don’t keep a water bottle in the provided slots, but I usually drink some water before a ride

Getting Set Up with Zwift

With the coming of the pandemic and the now seemingly permanent working from home situation, what passed for an exercise regime with me… I worked at a nice campus up in the hills in a forest, so I went walking every day… fell apart pretty quickly.

So we bought an piece of exercise equipment.  A Schwinn 270 recumbent exercise bike.  I am going to throw my wife under the bus here and tell you that she chose it because she thought the seat it came with would be more comfortable than a bicycle saddle.  And I suppose it was, but only marginally so.  But that was what we had so I made use of it, trying to make at least the minimum government definition of “exercise,” which is working out for 20 minutes at least three times a week.

I kept at it, but it wasn’t fun.  I am not a big fan of exercise.  Hard work pays off in the future while laziness pays off right now, right?

Eventually my wife got around to using the bike… about a year later… and she didn’t like it.  She wanted to work out with her buddies who all had Peloton bikes and used the Peloton app and all that.  The 270 came with Bluetooth connectivity, but only with the very lame and limited app from the company.  (I think Bowflex owns the Schwinn brand for exercise equipment.)

That and the fact that the seat wasn’t all that comfortable got us on the search for a new exercise bike.  Her friends pointed at another Schwinn model, the IC4, which is billed as a Peloton compatible, fully functional with their app and several others, for less than half the price.  It had good reviews and the local sporting good store had one on display for us to sit on, so we went with that.  We even managed to fob off the 270 on my brother-in-law, which is what brothers-in-law are for, right?

The Schwinn IC4 in our house

So my wife was now happily pedaling with her pals and I had an opportunity as well.  It is a “bring your own screen” device, but it has a spot to put your iPad or other tablet above the handlebars (which I managed to put on backwards initially when assembling the whole thing, yet got everything to work) so your app can use it to connect to the bike.

I had heard from Potshot about Zwift, a training app for bicycles.

Ride On!

After his April Fools post about the app, I asked him about it and we tinkered about a bit trying to get the old 270 running on it, but it was not to be.  This is where I learned about the limitations of its Bluetooth and app compatibility.

The Schwinn IC4 was said to be fully compatible with Zwift, but you never now how compatible until you get there.  I didn’t know that much about Zwift when I started out, and I honestly don’t know all that much now, but I did learn about the whole power meter aspect of its connectivity.

I had played around with a cadence counter back with the 270 and actually got myself hooked up to the Zwift app, but counting how many times the pedals go around isn’t enough.  I could pedal for all I was worth and maybe break 7 MPH because there was no power meter output.

The power meter is what measures the effort you’re putting into pedaling.  Without one the Zwift app assumes a static, and very low amount.

If you have a smart trainer, which is one of those things you mount as the back wheel of your bike in a static setup, it measures your effort, translated into watts, which can be adjusted via your gearing and the amount of resistance the smart trainer is applying to your effort.

My power output and speed… going down a 6% grade

The Zwift app lets you ride around in a virtual world… I probably should have mentioned that earlier, though I suspect you might have guess that… and the connection with a smart trainer lets it change the amount of effort required as your avatar goes up and down hills.  It can be quite realistic as I understand it.  But I haven’t owned a bicycle since my last one was stolen when I was 13.

The Schwinn also has a power meter, or at least feeds effort information that lines up as power to the app.  I do not, however, feel any change in effort when heading uphill or down.  The only way I feel a change is if I adjust the resistance dial on the bike itself.  When I dial it up, by power output for a given number of revs goes up as well.

I am honestly not sure if this is an advantage or disadvantage.  As soon as I am going uphill my speed slows down because my power output and cadence remains the same.  So hills are not actually more work for me, unless I make them so.  But they do reduce the distance I travel.

The bike itself knows nothing about it and has its own tracking method for distance, which uses resistance and cadence to calculate speed, which multiplied by time gets me a distance traveled.  But that is completely flat terrain based, so the bike and the app can give me some different results at the end of a ride.

The two do not agree

So I have gotten myself setup and riding.  I have met or exceed my minimum weekly minimum exercise goal with Zwift so far.  It does the things I want it to, like showing me my individual workouts and keeping track of my overall effort.  And it even has levels and achievements.

That pizza icon for calories is a little on the nose for me

Meanwhile, the IC4 is also frankly much easier to ride than the 270 ever was… take that recumbent bike zealots… so gets used more, and takes up less space as well.

So you can find me pedaling around a virtual world.  Next time a bit about where I ride and what keeps me going.