Mitja Kovačič’s 24h charity ride

Tommorow, on 30th of January one of our comunity main motors, Mitja Kovačič, will do a very special challenge for a charity reasons. He will do a continous 24h ride on Zwift platform to raise funds for My Name’5 Doddie fundation which raises funds for research into a cure for people suffering from Motor Neutron Desease. His activity will be a part of a massive world wide DoddieAid sporting event to actively support the fundation.

Here is what Mitja has to say about his challenge and motivation:

At 45 years old I should already learn how to keep my mouth shut…obviously, that is not the case with me. I will mention Ross Duncan here so you know what am I dealing with here 🙂 Long story with all the details attached in the Zwift Insider article below, but the short story goes like this: There is no way back for me! I’m doing my first 24h ride on Zwift as part of DoddieAid challenge. I will start with 3R 200km Special Event on Saturday at 7.30am BST and then continue for 24h. My miles goes toward North&Midlans team and so does all the funds raised during the ride. My goal is 1£ per 1km so aiming for 700£. You are welcome to join me on suffer-fest even if it is only for a few miles. Live stream: 3R event link or anytime after 1.00PM BST on Watopia Tempus Fugit (hit “Ride With” Mitja Kovacic 24h DoddieAid on the main menu in Zwift. Make sure you are on Watopia World).

What is Motor Neuron Disease?

Motor neurone disease is a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system. This leads to muscle weakness.

It occurs when specialist nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurones stop working properly. This is known as neurodegeneration.

Motor neurones control important muscle activity, such as:Gripping

– Walking

– Speaking

– Swallowing

– Breathing

As the condition progresses, people with motor neurone disease will find some or all of these activities increasingly difficult. Eventually, they may become impossible.

There’s currently no cure for motor neurone disease. Treatment aims to:

– Make the person feel comfortable and have the best quality of life possible

– Compensate for the progressive loss of bodily functions such as mobility, communication, swallowing and breathing

Come Support Mitja

Donate to the charity and come and ride with Mitja on 30th January! Try supporting him at least with few miles helping pacing him along. If you can not not help in-game, be sure to support Mitja via his YouTube channel.

You can donate here:

Veloton, another platform or gamechanger?

So what is this Veloton platform? From October 2020 their website says: “Veloton combines the realism of video games with the intensity of serious training and helps you perform. Complete challenges and earn achievements in routes based on real life stages”.

Sounds similar to competitive platforms. But is it really so simple to say it’s just similar? Looking at some of their youtube channel videos, Veloton has really good graphics and some great physics too.

Over the last two years, they released some closed beta licenses and since then it has been a bit quiet. However this week they started to gradually release around 1000 public beta licenses with a promise to expand in near future. They are sure getting ready for launch maybe till the end of the year or early next year.

We are hoping to get a beta testing license and give it a go. We will report back with our tests.
Until then watch some of the latest video below…

Check how your powermeters agree with Dual analyses

For all the newcomers on Zwift, this one might sound weird. But for experienced riders, this new advanced feature of dual power analyses on gives them deeper insight into the quality of their power meter (PM) data as well as some kind of extra confirmation that they are using well-calibrated in-game equipment equalizing them with their outdoor real-life performances.

One of the biggest technical issues on Zwift, at least during social “head to head” events is the quality of PM data. The wattage your equipment is reporting during cycling moves your in-game avatar. And we are just as fast as it is our wattage coming up from our PM. Nowadays, most serious riders already use some sort of PM on their outdoor bike. The more serious, the more into sports physiology oriented they are, the more they usually spend for their PM. While there is a hugely technical, quality and prize span between PM on the market, most manufacturers will claim their PM to be within some respectable margin of accuracy. Most commonly, the typical PM will be labeled within +/- 2% accuracy. But, in reality, comparing PM’s with the same stated accuracy from a different manufacturer, shows they rarely agree with each other. In fact, there might be huge differences even among high-end products on the market as we will see in the following example from my own case.

First, take a quick look at the above graph. There are two sets of power data recorded simultaneously during the same sub 4 minute long hard climbing interval. Purple colored line represents my primary Power2Max NG power meter, with claimed accuracy of +/-1%, and the one I always use outside on the road and inside for indoor rides. It is also the one I do trust as much as I did with my previous two SRM power meters. I have compared countless times my numbers on local hills and they where always spot on. Blue line on the graph represents power reported by Wahoo Kickr trainer, with claimed accuracy within +/-2%. Now, it is more than obvious that these two measure the same power very differently. I was more than 30w stronger when using P2M than Kickr during that climb. That’s almost a 6% difference! And the lower graph shows, what the difference was through the entire duration spectrum.

The question is, which power meter should I trust? Could it be the reason for today’s “virtual” high-performance lousy calibration?

The part of the answer can be explained by the fact, that very rarely I do a “spin-down” calibration on Kickr. I don’t use it for powering my avatar. It’s just a smart trainer who needs to transfer virtual road slope & slipstream under my legs. Thus, after several weeks, once the belt slowly tears down, bearings become looser, temperature drops during autumn, etc., Kickr’s power meter becomes more and more miscalibrated.

But, this is just one of the possible reasons. Even when I do carefully calibrate both units before a ride, I can still observe, a significant difference in power reading. An example can be seen in the graph below.

As it is obvious, in this case, Wahoo’s Kickr was reading much higher than P2M NG. Especially during shorter durations with higher forces on the pedal. If I would use Kickr as a primary power meter instead of P2M in the race and sprint, in the end, I would be much faster “virtually” since Kickr has reported more than 50w higher power output during 15sec sprint than P2M. That’s around a 5% difference. And if I would compare two lower-range level power meters the differences would be even higher. Sometimes much higher.

What’s the take-home message of an article? It’s definitely not a suggestion to spend more money and buy a better, more accurate, more reliable power meter. It is about understanding the technical nature of indoor riding and the reason why we are sometimes faster or slower indoor then our friends or peers outdoor on a real road during summer. And why sometimes, when people upgrade their indoor equipment from beginners setup, say lower cost wheel-on trainer, to advanced ones, which usually incorporates much more precise power meter unit might be disappointed or happy over their sudden typical power output change.

Ride On!

Cool your self during hard indoor rides

Have you ever experienced heavy sweating during indoor sessions having a flood of sweat under your bike? I think we all have at least once.

While body fluid loss through heavy sweating per se is not as detrimental for performance itself as common belief is telling, some other mechanism is. It’s called hyperthermia.

Hyperthermia is just a fancy scientific word for simple condition when our body core temperature is elevated. Humans are just like any other mammal, and our basal core temperature is around 37°C no matter if we are asleep or we are awake. If our core temperature drops, say 1-2°C or more, we are speaking of hypothermia and if our core T rises, say 1-2°C or even more, we are experiencing hyperthermia.

But before we dig into the physiology behind hyperthermia and its effect on athletic performance, we should stop and see one practical example from our Bolgarian league friend, Boris Syarov. In the past weekend, we were racing in Innsbruck and Boris is always recording his rides and making nice short 15min race recap’s later. Here you can watch his Innsbruck recap. If you watch and listen carefully to his video you can easily see why his experience during the stage was school case of hyperthermia, one for the books. Just look at this short clip he sent us.

As it’s clearly visible, Boris was sweating profoundly during his effort, with sweat dripping off his face almost in steam. Next, the red radiating skin color of his face indicates he was also overheating at the same time. Boris is very enthusiastic but relatively new to indoor cycling. He is currently riding his Zwift set up outside but without any additional cooling. On this particular ride, it was just 3-4°C outside, that’s why Boris was dressed that much at the beginning of his ride. But despite a very cold environment, what happened merely 20min later into a stage was nothing else than a severe hyperthermia. He was fighting strong uphill for the first 10+min, surviving initial selection, following wheels of the front group, and then all a sudden he breaks down completely. His legs simply turned off, his heart rate was at the high end and he struggled like an animal just to merely turn his legs and slowly climb up the mountain. Even much, much slower riders were catching him back and passing without being able to stick to their wheels. And this has nothing to do with his aerobic capacity or fuel (glycogen) utilization. It has one and only reason, he was severely overheated. His brains, his central governor, shut him down to preserve core temperature from rising over biologically dangerous limits. And brains can do this regardless of your will, you simply can’t push beyond limits. At least a healthy human can’t. Luckily, Boris is healthy, as most of us are. Thus, before continuing on the solution for overheating, we need to dig just a little into physiology to understand what happened.

Humans are fairly inefficient machines when speaking of mechanical efficiency. Only 20 – 25% of all energy released during physical (muscular) activity turns into mechanical work, everything else is released as a (metabolic) heat. So when a cyclist turns his cranks with 200w power, approximately 800 – 1000 W of energy is released as heat. Once this same cyclist starts climbing or time trialing at 350 W, his working muscles will release 1450-1750w of heat. Now imagine working out in an air standstill condition regardless of outside 3-4°C or inside 18 – 22°C. How fast will your basal core T of 37°C rise above the critical level of 39.5 – 40.5°C if your internal stove is releasing extra heat with ~1.5 kiloWatts? The answer is, very fast. Within a few minutes. As we could learn from Boris’s case, this happened roughly after 12min into hard climbing.

What happens during strenuous muscular work? When our muscles contract hard, our heart starts pumping blood into those muscles to provide the oxygen needed to continuously perform work. Once our core temperature starts rising, say over 38.5 – 39.0°C, our internal receptors reports this to our brains, which in turn starts releasing specific hormone with the ability to open thin blood vessels under our skin. This blood vessel opening is called peripheral vasodilation. Our heart is suddenly not pumping blood into working muscles only, but also into our skin area. Once more blood is under the skin, we start sweating, which means losing water from our blood plasma. When sweat is exposed to airflow, water evaporation occurs, which means our skin gets cooler. This same mechanism cools our peripheral blood under the skin and this same blood once circulating back to the internal parts of the body, lowers our core temperature. This essentially means, your heart rate is artificially elevated since the heart needs to pump blood simultaneously to working muscles and to the periphery to cool our body. What happens if heat dissipation despite rigorous sweating isn’t enough? Your core temperature keeps rising and rising. Once our T passes critical point our brains will simply stop contracting muscles. Less and less neuron motor units will be recruited, and brains will continue to do this as long as needed. If we would still try to continue, the final state would be complete paralyzes. OK, this one is the extreme, impossible scenario on a turbo trainer, but in mother nature its not that uncommon thing to happen. Just for your knowledge, humans evolved in hot African climate as one of very few sweating organisms overall and could slowly catch an antelope during hottest mid-day time simply by forcing an animal to stop running due to thermal paralyzes. OK, we are a bit off into evolutionary biology, let us go back to 4K Zwifting in the 21st century.

And above described was precisely what Boris had experienced during Stage 4. Sudden performance breakdown, complete collapse with elevated HR even after severely reduced intensity. That was the school case for the books.

To keep our core temperature within the normal range we need some sort of effective cooling aid. Airflow around our body has to be strong enough for sweat to evaporate at a high enough rate. And it’s far better to workout indoor at normal temperatures between 18-22°C and has some strong ventilator (or more of them), than working out at cooler temps with little or no wind at all. In a warm room with enough wind around our body, the chance of catching a cold is much lower than in a cool garage or basement with temps lower than 15°C. What’s really important is the amount of air that flow’s around our whole body, but most importantly around our upper body. We can achieve this in many different ways. Most will use 2 or more stand-alone ventilators turned into different parts of the body (legs, chest, head). But since this article is an Add at the same time, we will present one of the most effective and cool looking solutions, called Wahoo Kickr HeadWind

While HeadWind ventilator certainly is not the cheapest solution for cooling, it is for sure, the most specific indoor cycling developed, cool-looking fan on market. It is relatively compact in size, measuring 30 cm in width and a bit less than 50cm in height, but with a strong 175 W motor being able to generate wind speed output at 48kmh, which is enough to keep you cool even during hardest efforts. And the most exciting feature of Headwind is his sensor-based fan speed control. When connected to a speed sensor or heart rate monitor fan will increase its speed with higher speed or heart rate. Just imagine, during warm-up when your heart rate is fairly low you are getting just a gentle breeze. But during hard climbing when your heart wants to explode, you get full air force into your upper body. Badass feature, isn’t it?

You wanna cool looking fan? You actually wanna be cool?

Well, Kickr HeadWind is now available at our sponsor’s VS Bike shop for 230 €.

Ride on!

Talking with other Zwifters during a ride

Have you ever been on an outdoor ride or a race with a group of friends or fellow riders? Sure, all of us did and probably you talked along the way. I know for myself I like to talk a lot during cycling 😊 Well, this added riding experience is also available for indoor cycling.

Indoor cycling can become boring without some form of interactivity. With all the technological advancement on smart trainer equipment and multiple virtual cycling platforms available it’s now much easier to get a good cycling simulation setup right at your home. Some watch tv or other media during rides and some interact.

Zwift has changed many aspects of indoor cycling experience. Coming from other virtual cycling platforms, when I tried Zwift for the first time I knew why this one attracts so many. For a long time, I was socially interacting during virtual rides with typing in-game messages. Typing messages works most of the time and many riders respond on group rides. However, it is harder to type messages during a race. Some say if you have time to type messages during a race then you haven’t raced hard enough. I agree! But what if you could talk live like outdoors?

Let me introduce you to a popular live audio chat app called Discord. This one is not new and in fact, it’s being used by a lot of gamers for a reason. There are other options available, but Discord keeps coming back as top choice. It simply works with its low latency and audio quality. Now we can be connected even more with people using Discord during Zwift rides from all across the world.

For a group ride or workout, it is that extra social element that adds additional fun to the ride. You would be surprised by all the topics we discuss over the ride. Also, it is critical for team racing to set the pace or attack strategy, to keep each other informed about our power levels and so on.

Another example: I am part of Race3R Zwift club and we use it as a standard for every TTT (team time trial) race.

Using Discord is simple and there are two ways how to speak with others:

  • PTT (push-to-talk) pretty much explains itself. You need to push a button to talk. Similar to good old walkie-talkie. This is preferred and higher quality of audio channel
  • Voice-activated mode is only as good as every user has properly set their microphone sensitivity. If any user did not set it up correctly you will soon be hearing all sorts of moaning, heavy breathing or worse, swearing

Discord app is available for many platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android… I have it installed on the same PC where I use Zwift and it’s set to PTT mode. This means I don’t need multiple connected devices for Zwifting. But if you use it on a PC then you need a shortcut key for PTT action. You can use a simple compact wireless keyboard that can be also used for texting messages in Zwift. Or you can go step further and complicate your life (like I did) and build a custom PTT solution.

Headphones are the next critical element to use with Discord. For a good audio quality, I highly recommend to invest a bit more and go for sweatproof headphones with Bluetooth. Wired good headphones or even the ones that come with your smartphone are just fine. Don’t go for the over-ear design of headphones because these will cause more heat and sweat. Just make sure you try how it all works before you go on a ride.

Slovenian Zwift League Discord server is up and waiting for you to try this wonderful world of audio chat while racing. I saw a few racers logged on last Sunday, but I think we can improve that.

So, get ready for the next stages and join the social part of racing too! Maybe you make a new friend from competitors, who knows 😊.