2013 VO2 Max Test – Part 2

Doran | January 30th, 2014 - 11:37 pm

This post picks up from where Part 1 left off, with me exhausted, dripping with sweat, sitting on top of a cycle ergometer.  The video of the last minute of the test is below.  As you can see, I was pretty gassed at the end.

The system produces a ton of data, but the key points for me was that I maxed out with a VO2 Max of 57.1 (ml/kg/min), riding at 325 watts with a heart rate of 187 beats per minute (probably my max heart rate).  Interestingly, this is similar to my 2008 test, which I had a VO2 Max of 58.6 (ml/kg/min).

2013 vs 2008 VO2 Max Tests

So what does this tell me… well, a few things.  Let’s start with the VO2 Max of 57.  This is pretty good.  In fact, it’s proven that values on the bike are usually about 5%-10% lower than running, so you could say my VO2 Max is closer to 60.  And let’s not forget that body weight is in the denominator and at the time of the test I was 155lbs (77.5 kg), after two months of off-season indulgence (about 2kg’s heavy).  So if we use my “fighting weight” of 148-150lbs, I may also have scored slightly higher.  But regardless, we have a value, so I googled different charts to see the typical range of values, I saw this particular one at a few places around the web so I’ll use it (http://www.topendsports.com).  For a male 26-35, anything over 56 ml/kg/min is “excellent”.

VO2 Max Norms

The guys at endurance corner website break it down a bit more specific to the triathlon and endurance sports community and offer the following rough outline.  This makes sense because triathletes shouldn’t really be lumped in with the normal population.  This measure puts me borderline between middle of the pack and top age grouper, which is about right – “upper-middle pack”.  A few “freakish” endurance athletes have been tested in the 80’s and even 90’s (a few listed here with some interesting discussion), these are guys like marathon and Tour de France champions.

  • Elite: 65-75
  • Top AG: 60-70
  • Middle of Pack: 50-60
  • Back of Pack: 40-50
  • Untrained: 30-40

However, raw VO2 Max doesn’t tell the whole story, another important component to this is your lactate or anaerobic threshold – the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood.  Under this rate you are relying on your aerobic system, which can sustain effort for a long period of time.  Additionally, any byproducts of anaerobic metabolism are cleared from the muscle and from the blood which also negates the accumulation of lactate.  It should be noted that even though we only refer to lactate when speaking of anaerobic metabolism, we should also keep in mind that anaerobic metabolism really results in the production of lactic acid.  Lactic acid quickly dissociates into the lactate ion and the hydrogen ion.  As such, our working muscle as well as our blood becomes more acidic.  This has negative effects within the muscle, and on the nerve that activates the muscle.  This results in ‘fatigue’ and thus, you can’t sustain that pace for very long.  Using the data provided by the VO2 Max test, a fitness professional can also find where your lactate threshold is, in terms of percent of VO2 Max, hearth rate, and pace or power.   This value determines what athletes will target for various race distances – most of us go by power or heart rate for long distance triathlons.  For instance, having a high VO2 Max is great, but if your lactate threshold (LT) is only 50% of that VO2 Max, you can’t take full advantage of the body’s ability to utilize oxygen.  Typical LT values range between 50% and 80% of VO2 Max with less fit individuals having an LT of approximately 50% to 60% of VO2 Max whereas moderately trained individuals are typically between 60 to 70% of VO2 Max.  The good news is that this can be improved through training, and my 2008 test indicated that I could sustain 77% of my VO2 Max.  The more recent test was less conclusive in the estimate of my LT but indicated a value of 70%… still pretty good.  The most accurate way to test this would be to take blood samples during the exercise. However a VO2 Max test also does the trick by measuring the determining the relationship between the volume of expired air (VE) and workload.  Basically VE increases in a linear relation to an increase in workload.  However, there is a point that this relationship becomes exponential.  This point, the ‘ventilatory threshold’ (VT) has been shown to occur at approximately the same workload as the LT.  Using this method one can also determine the heart rate at which the athlete is at lactate threshold, and for me this was around 160 beats per minute (bpm).  Again, heart rate at lactate threshold is slightly higher when running than riding a bike.

DSC_2655

So how does all this make someone better as an athlete?   The information obtained from a VO2 Max test is useful both in terms of racing and training.  Let’s start with training, because you can’t race fast without building the fitness in training.  Once you know the bike power or running pace and heart rate associated with your lactate threshold, you can work to raise it.  Any aerobic training helps (all my ironman training in 2008), but the most effective way to do this is through interval training, with the intervals aimed within 5% of your LT.  A bike workout with 3 x 10 minutes at (or just above) LT with 5 or 10 minute rest interval or even just a warm up then riding 20 minutes at LT are examples.  Over time, this will allow you to sustain a higher work rate during a race, without necessarily raising your VO2 Max.  These are the types of workouts helpful to endurance athletes, where top end work rate isn’t as important as the rate you can sustain for a 2-15 hour race.  However, if you are looking to run a fast mile or 5k, improving VO2 Max through higher intensity intervals (less than 5 minutes) is likely an important training goal.  As research seems to indicate with most athletic traits, VO2 Max is partially pre-determined by genetics, but can be improved through specific training.

In terms of racing, knowing these values can help set heart rate or power zones to hold during a race.  This often helps athletes better pace themselves and avoid the tendency to start the swim, bike, or run too fast.  If your lactate threshold heart rate is 160 bpm, then you know you shouldn’t be at 175 when you start the bike leg of a half ironman (which is tough as people are flying by you… but the longer the race the better chance you’ll see them again if you are pacing correctly).  Below is a chart of my heart rate during each stage of the test… which was very consistent when compared with 2008.

2008v2013 HR v Watts

Not everyone has the opportunity to take a VO2 Max test.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck.  There are several methods to approximate your VO2 Max.  Famous running coach Jack Daniels developed what he calls the VDOT calculator.  Using your running time, you can use his calculations to get a VDOT value, which he describes as a VO2 Max that incorporates running economy, efficiency, and mental toughness.  Basically, using what you can actually do in a race to better predict other race distance times and also set training paces (rather than using lab data).  Entering a conservative estimate of my best open 5k time (18:45), I got a VDOT of 54, fairly close to my VO2 Max.  This makes sense, because I really have never fully trained as a runner, the VDOT may not fully reflect my full aerobic capacity because I’m limited by (relatively) poor running economy.

For non-runners out there, the Uth—Sørensen—Overgaard—Pedersen equation is here.  Researchers at the Department of Sport Science at the University of Aarhus, Katrinebjergvej came up with an equation that estimates VO2 MAX using the ratio between ones maximum heart rate and hear rate at rest (here is the abstract on Pubmed). The Uth—Sørensen—Overgaard—Pedersen equation is: VO2 Max = 15 x (Max HR / HR at Rest).  Checking this on myself, I get 15x (187/42) = 67.  A little high maybe, but in the ballpark, given my recent test could be a little higher if I was running or at race weight.

So that’s about it for VO2 Max Testing.  We got a little technical there with the help of Dr. Frank Bosso.   If there are any questions for Dr. B, or if you want to compare VO2 Max, let me know.  I would be interested to see what people get through VDOT or USOP equation.

 

2013 VO2 Max Test – Part 1

Doran | January 27th, 2014 - 2:31 am

I’m really lucky to have a father who teaches exercise science and physiology at the college level.  I’ve never had a triathlon coach, but growing up with my dad, I have a decent foundation in exercise physiology and training concepts.  Over the years, I’ve further built upon this through reading the books, blogs, and tweets of the best in the business (notably Joe Friel and Gordo Byrne among many others).  Anyway, in addition to imparting his knowledge, my dad also has access to some cool equipment, which he utilizes in his classes.  As an age grouper, I’ve had the rare opportunity to have a VO2 Max Test performed… twice!  The first was in 2008, just four weeks after my first Ironman.  The second time was this past November, but about 2 months into the off-season.

My dad, the quintessential professor, setting up the equipment for the test.

My dad, the quintessential professor, setting up the equipment for the test.

But before we get into the test itself, I’ll take a minute to describe what VO2 Max tests measure and a bit about how they work.  Most coaches and exercise scientists will agree that for an endurance athlete to progress, there are really three components to improve, aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, and economy (or efficiency).  Also referred to as VO2 Max, aerobic capacity is a measure of your ability to use oxygen to produce the energy needed to pedal your bicycle or continue swimming/running at a certain pace.  In triathlons, the fastest athletes in the race tend to have the highest VO2 Max and this is generally the best predictor of speed (better than lactate threshold and efficiency – although over longer time and distance, efficiency can have a significant impact).  The name VO2 Max comes from the main components of the test, V – volume per minute, O2 – oxygen, Max – maximum.  It is also called maximal oxygen consumption or maximal aerobic capacity.  It tests the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during exercise in which the intensity is progressively increased, usually on a treadmill or cycle ergometer (a fancy exercise bike). VO2 max is expressed either as an absolute rate, usually liters of oxygen per minute (L/min) or as a relative rate, such as milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute (ml/kg/min).  In my case we’ll perform the test on a cycle ergometer and express measurements in (ml/kg/min,) which takes body weight into account. Expressing oxygen consumption in absolute terms has some advantages.  For instance, if one is interested in caloric expenditure, one can easily utilize the relationship, 1 liter of O2 consumed ≈ 5 Kcal expended.  And, if significant weight change is expected, using the absolute term avoids the misconception that oxygen consumption changed when in fact only body weight changed.  Expressing oxygen consumption in relative terms, i.e., relative to one’s body weight, has the advantage of being able to compare one’s results with those of others regardless of their body weight.  And thus, ‘norms’ may be used to judge one’s fitness level.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my brother and I were home to visit our parents.  We went with my dad to work and after he taught his morning classes, we set up in the lab.  I began warming up on the bike while my dad calibrated the equipment and Evan assisted with setup and took some pictures.  We devised the test protocol based on my anticipated fitness level.  As mentioned earlier, the test becomes incrementally more difficult, so you have to choose how quickly to raise the pace (treadmill) or power output (cycle ergometer) in terms of interval duration and increase in power output.  For me, we decided to do 2 minutes at each stage, initially increasing by 35 watt (w) increments until I reached 175 watts; then we increase by 25 watts for the remainder of the test – until I fail to maintain the required power output.  This is the point at which you can’t pedal anymore and quit from exhaustion, sounds fun huh?

My dad, the quintessential professor, setting up the equipment for the test.

My dad, the quintessential professor, setting up the equipment for the test.

How many Bossos does it take to get the seat height right?

How many Bossos does it take to get the seat height right?

There is quite a bit of equipment to calibrate beforehand

There is quite a bit of equipment to calibrate beforehand

 

The test is a measure of oxygen consumption, so you must track the volume and composition air inhaled and exhaled during the test.  As you can see in the photos, the subject must have a mask strapped to their face to ensure all airflow is measured accurately.  It’s not exactly awesome to be turning yourself inside out on a bicycle with a mask on your face… but there are worse things in life.  Meanwhile, the equipment is capturing heart rate, power output, volume and composition of expired air (ventilation) and more.

Evan "helped" me get set up

Evan “helped” me get set up

We can never be too serious

We can never be too serious

So basically my dad controls the cycle ergometer, which adjusts resistance to maintain the selected power level in watts (w).  We started at 35w and I relatively easily moved from 35w to 70w to 105w.  At each interval we were measuring my heart rate and the system was capturing my oxygen consumption and a few other metrics (most notably, volume of expired air – also called ventilation). At 140w and eight minutes into the test, things start to get interesting and the move to 175w felt a little more difficult than I expected.  In the middle of triathlon season, I was averaging about 200 watts for over an hour during the bike leg of a triathlon.  But in this case, I really hadn’t been doing any serious training for two months.  Anyway, the test had to go on, now escalating in 25w increments.  I powered through 200w, 225w, and 250w with some discomfort, then started really suffering at 275w and 300w before failing as we increased the resistance to 325w.  See the video below for an idea how this all looks in practice.

Progressing through the stages with the Professor working the protocol.

Progressing through the stages with the Professor working the protocol.

Since this has already been quite a long and technical post, we’ll stop there.  Part 2 will reveal my VO2 Max and discuss how this test helps us become better athletes.

Riding & Running Around Seattle

Doran | October 16th, 2013 - 5:06 pm

It’s been a busy few weeks, and while the triathlon season has eased to a close, work and travel have picked up and kept things really busy.  However, I did have the opportunity to do some incredible riding and running while on a recent trip to Seattle, so I thought I’d share some photos.

Saturday I went for a jog on Elliot Bay Trail, which is just a few blocks from downtown and offers incredible views of the Puget Sounds, Olympic Mountains, and Seattle Skyline.  You can catch it from just behind the famous Pike Place Market and enjoy 5 miles of beautiful northwest scenery.

Seattle's famous skyline

Seattle’s famous skyline

Mountains and Puget Sound

A nice park with views of the mountains and Puget Sound

I was loving this view... even with the tanker

I was loving this view… even with the tanker

View of Seattle's shipyards/dock's with Mount Rainier in the background

View of Seattle’s shipyards/dock’s with Mount Rainier in the background

 

 

On Sunday, I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island with a plan to rent a bike at Classic Cycle (a short walk from the ferry landing) and enjoy some riding on quiet hilly roads.  I gotta say, the terrains and the views did not disappoint.  The ferry ride itself was spectacular, with incredible views of Mount Rainier, Seattle, and the surrounding area.  I had a crisp cool October morning and the sun came out and warmed things up, well into the high 60’s.  A perfect day for biking.  I had planned on following the course of the annual Chilly Hilly ride that kicks of the season every February.  It’s a 33 mile loop of Bainbridge Island with 2,600 feet of elevation, I was really excited to ride up some hills. I had printed off the cue sheet and map, but about 2/3 into the ride got lost on the island.  Which was awesome because I saw more stuff, but also painful, as I accidentally ended up going up Toe Jam Hill towards the end of my ride (12.5% grade for the ‘steep part’ and 7.5% for about a mile.  Ouch. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

From the Ferry Terminal in Seattle

From the Ferry Terminal in Seattle

View of the City from the Ferry

View of the City from the Ferry

Reminded me of trip to Alcatraz

Reminded me of trip to Alcatraz

Right next to ferry terminal is "Bike Barn" were you can lockup your bike for the day or rent bikes

Right next to ferry terminal is “Bike Barn” were you can lockup your bike for the day or rent bikes

First stop, Classic Cycles.

First stop, Classic Cycles.

My trusty steed, a poor performing Raleigh road bike

My trusty steed, a poor performing Raleigh road bike, that’s Seattle in the background

Just a random shot of the roads, they were rough but nice enough & few cars

A random shot of the roads, they were paved w rough aggregate but nice enough & very few cars

Just a random stretch of road, beautiful views of Puget Sound

Just another random stretch of road, beautiful views of Puget Sound

The view from that road above.  Mount Rainier.

The view from that road above. Mount Rainier.

I got a little creative with the Garmin 910XT.  Very versatile GPS, love it.

I got a little creative with the Garmin 910XT. Very versatile GPS, love it.

Came across this little guy, so I quickly stopped and took a photo

Came across this little guy, so I quickly stopped and took a photo

After a hilly 36 miles, I was badly in need of some fuel.

After a hilly 36 miles, I was badly in need of some fuel.

 

 

Overall I have to say that I left with an incredibly positive perception of Seattle.  In addition to being really friendly, the people there appear to be very fit/active/outdoorsy, and really environmentally conscious.  I’d like to think I fit into this category as well, but won’t be too presumptuous.  I definitely strive to be friendly, fit, and care about the environment.  The city seems really walk-able and tons of people commute by bike, a huge plus.  The one negative is that there seem to be a lot of homeless and/or mentally unstable folks on the streets.  I hear this is because Seattle has social programs to take care of them.  It’s an unusual dynamic for a city with like 4% unemployment and a huge employers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Brooks, etc.  And of course, I got really lucky with weather, having two spectacular days on Saturday and Sunday.  However while I was working Monday and Tuesday it was pretty rainy and yucky out.  Anyway, hope you enjoyed the little mini-tour!

When the Bosso Family Goes Out for Muffins….

Doran | August 3rd, 2013 - 1:54 am

We are in Ohio for a long weekend, visiting my parents and I just happen to also be racing Cleveland Triathlon.  It’s been a really great visit.  Somehow, CJ has never really been here in warm weather, so she only relates my hometown to cold and dreary and terrible.  But this visit she’s had a chance to hike the Salt Run Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and enjoy time outside with the family and of course Bear.  The weather has been perfect, nice and cool at night and not too hot during the day.  Sure not missing the 90’s like in Virginia.  So this morning, my Dad and CJ go out to get muffin’s down the street.  My mom and I were at home and after 20 minutes, when they still weren’t back, I knew exactly where they were.  Next to the muffin place is Eddy’s Bike Shop.  My dad cannot physically pass by Eddy’s Bike Shop without at least checking out the used bikes, which are normally sitting outside in a row.  Finally, after almost 45 minutes, they return with muffins and a mischievous look in their eye.  During breakfast they looked at each other and said “Do you want to tell him or should I?”  Oh boy, “Tell me what, exactly?”

Apparently they had found a great used bike at Eddy’s.  I trust my Dad’s judgment on this, because he is something of a connoisseur of used bikes.  But my real surprise was the excitement on CJ’s face.   As you may or may not know, she currently (but not frequently) rides my old Trek mountain bike that I got for my 10th or 12th birthday… so yeah that bike is old enough to vote and can almost legally drink alcohol.  She even did Jamestown Triathlon on it last year… but hasn’t ridden much since.  I knew an opportunity like this (good bike, excited CJ) wouldn’t come along again for awhile, so I jumped on it.  Right after breakfast we headed back to Eddy’s, which also gave me an excuse to say hi to my old high school buddy McMaster, who works there.    As she took the bike (a lightly used Trek 7.5 FX, nice ride) for a spin, the three of us (McMaster, Dad, Me) analyzed her position on the bike.  Unfortunately, the bike was just a bit too small.  Which, unfortunately, meant we had to pass up a reasonable price for a very good bicycle (retails for about $1,000).

Inside the store we were confronted with TONS of options for women’s fitness bikes from beginner to advanced level.  I’ll spare you the details but basically my dad and I’s nature as careful purchasers of high quality bicycles made this a 2 hour adventure involving 2 bike stores and a fair amount of googling as well.  We ended up back where we started, a women’s Trek FX 7.2 with the color scheme that CJ liked.  I couldn’t believe how much her face lit up on the bike, she loved it!  So we decided to buy it and McMaster took it back for the shop guys to get it all tightened up, since it had just been built that very morning.  Once we had waited about 10 minutes and paid for it, McMaster came back and said, “lets get this thing fitted for you, CJ”.  I couldn’t believe it, my wife was just about to get her first bike fit!!  McMaster was really thorough and together they made the adjustments needed for a comfortable fit.  And just like that we wheeled out of the store with an awesome new bike.

CJ and her new Bike.  What a beaut (both of 'em)

CJ and her new Bike. What a beaut (both of ’em)

McMaster - taking his time and giving CJ a great fit

McMaster – taking his time and giving CJ a great fit

CJ's Bike Purchase & Fit Team

CJ’s Bike Purchase & Fit Team

Later that day we went for a ride and CJ seemed to enjoy it significantly more than before and we were definitely moving a long at a nice little clip.  We went out on the local Metro Parks bike trail, and CJ was again impressed with all that Stow and the surrounding areas have to offer.

Make fun of it all you want, I've never been so happy (or nerdy).

Make fun of it all you want, I’ve never been so happy (or nerdy).

Happy Wife (on a bike!) Happy Life!!!

Happy Wife (on a bike!) Happy Life!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Update

Doran | May 2nd, 2013 - 1:02 am

So it’s been a little while since I’ve checked in with a new post.  It’s been a really busy April.  I’ve raced twice, trained a decent amount, visited my family in Ohio, hosted the in-laws for a weekend, and done a fair amount of work on the new house.  So let’s get to the highlights…

Smithfield Sprint Triathlon – April 6, 2013 (300m 10miles 5k)

Same as last year, I kicked off the triathlon season at the Smithfield Sprint Triathlon, just 30 minutes down the road from the new house in Suffolk.  It’s a great early season race; with a late start time of 10am and a pool swim, so it almost doesn’t matter what the weather is on the day.  Last year I went in on very little training and surprised myself with a pretty fast race and took 15th overall out of 450 people.  This year I came into the race with much more training volume and expecting to go fast and maybe crack the top 10.  Well, a bunch more fast people showed up this year, because I put in a solid effort but placed 24th overall.  I had a steady 300m swim of 4:23, and did my best on a cold windy bike ride, and finished it off with a really strong 19:00 5k run.  Overall, my time was 53:32, compared with 51:28 last year.  However, this is a bit deceptive, since the bike ride was much harder due to the wind, and the extremely short 5k course from last year was corrected to the full length.  The same guy won both years, in 2012 he went 44:16, while in 2013 he went 47:09. Using that as a barometer, I only slowed down 2 minutes, while he slowed down 3 minutes, and I was closer to the winning time.  This leads me to believe I had a better race in 2013 despite the numbers.  And more importantly, RACE SEASON HAD BEGUN!!!  I absolutely love triathlons.  Below is a comparison of the last two years.  Again, hard to make apples to apples comparison given windy conditions and full length run course this year.

CJ and Bear at Smithfield Sprint - my two biggest fans

Heading into T2 - I dont like to get my bike muddy


 

Mid-April

The next few weeks didn’t involve any real long rides or runs, just steady training.  I was busy with the house and learning how to use and train with the new power meter.  More on that sometime soon I hope.  My swimming has been steadily improving; I met an Ironman dude at the pool, so he’s been kicking my butt a few mornings a week.

Ohio Weekend – April 19/20, 2013

We packed up the car after work on Thursday and headed to Stow for the weekend.  I was excited to see my family, but also get in some quality riding in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and surrounding area.  Friday I went on a ride with my dad, generally taking it easy with him, but busting it up three major climbs.  Saturday I got in 30 with Brian, a friend from high school and fellow triathlete.  We also got in a few solid climbs and enjoyed each other’s company on a cold, overcast ride.  Strava posts embedded below (sometimes you may have to refresh for them to load properly).  Despite the 8 hour drive each way, this weekend was awesome and the challenging hills actually made for a great training trip, rare for a weekend away.

Brian and I got semi-lost in the valley and found a covered bridge

Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon (400m 12.5miles 5k) – April 27, 2013

I started to include a brief race report here… but I’ll save it for another post this weekend… stay tuned.

2013 Pre-Season Bike Fit

Doran | April 4th, 2013 - 10:21 pm
Just prior to last season, I finally got a professional bike fit.  This was after years of reading articles, books, and hearing coaches saying that a proper bike fit by a good fitter is a crucial start to every triathlon season.  Despite my sub-par performance on the bike, I was reluctant to get fit.  Wick at Final Kick Sports, was really easy to approach and good to work with, so I decided to give it a go.  For the first time in my life, I was truly comfortable on the bike.  Sure I wasn’t training or racing nearly the distances that I used to, but I was completing races with no neck pain or agitated “undercarriage” area.  I felt relaxed, comfortable, and strong on the bike (relative to my previous performance and position).  Equally as important, I felt good coming off the bike and running.

Position during my bike fit last season

Over the past year I’ve been in to see Wick at least on a monthly basis, generally to just talk bikes and look around.  The shop is always getting in new bikes and there’s always more to discuss.  I think he quickly gave up on selling me a roadbike, but  we talked at length about power meters and he repeatedly recommended a Quarq.  After a good winter of riding, and a high level of trust in Wick’s expertise, I was excited to go back and get a bike fit again this spring.  Even though I’ve recently moved to Suffolk, I think I’ll be sticking with Final Kick for all my biking needs.

During the fit session, we made a few minor adjustments…

– Moved my ISM saddle a touch forward and raised saddle height a bit

  • Better pedal stroke and opened hip angle slightly

Head tube and spacers... getting low

– Removed a head tube spacer to lower the aerobars

  • Results in a more aggressive and aerodynamic position, without going too low

– Replaced the stock stem with a shorter stem

  • This allows for my upper arm to be perpendicular to the ground, so my skeletal system will support my weight, relieving all of the smaller muscles so I can focus all energy on producing power.

– We also adjusted my grip to be more aerodynamic

  • From my perspective as the rider, this is the most dramatic adjustment, because it involves me thinking about and correcting my grip
  • Previously I had my hands sort of under the bar, resulting in my wrists kicking out wider than necessary and being held in a bit of a twist
  • The new grip has my hands on top of the bars, meaning my wrists are not twisted as I ride and my arms have a narrower profile

Final position - not much different, but I appear to be slightly lower

 

Picture on left is "Correct" hand position, while on the right is my "Old" position

With the new setup feeling good on the trainer, I set out for a ride to see how all these changes translated to the road.  I went out with the Wednesday group ride from Final Kick.  Unfortunately, this was a group ride with mostly roadies and no place to stay tucked into the aero position.  On Saturday I took the bike out for a hard 1 hour effort  on some country roads in Suffolk.  I felt very comfortable in the aero position and had no trouble staying down on the aero bars.  At this point early in the season, that’s quite an accomplishment.  I also felt really strong on the bike and held 21 mph for the hour-long ride, including several stop lights, slowdowns, and turnarounds. I’m sure that some of this is from the solid winter training I’ve put in, but the fact that I can ride in the aero position without a stiff neck means I’ve likely avoided the typical early season adjustment period, even though I’m in a more agressive setup.  Either way, I think I’m closer now than ever to a good position, and I’ll continue to dial it in over the next few weeks.  I hope that this translates into significantly faster bike splits this season, and I’ll have my first opportunity to test it this weekend at the Smithfield Sprint (April 6th).  I hope everyone else’s early season preparations are going well, looking forward to racing this summer.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention, I rode out of the fit session with a QUARQ SRAM RED POWER METER!!! Look for more on that in future posts…

I love this bike... and now it has a NEW POWER METER

Winter Training / Q1 2013 Update

Doran | March 31st, 2013 - 11:33 pm

It may look warm, but the temp is about 40 in this picture

I find that taking a moment to reflect on training a few times a year is a very helpful thing to do, both to see where you’ve been and adjust where you’re going with respect to fitness and your season.    The first quarter (winter months) are generally where traditional programs begin to build “base volume”, which in over-simplified terms is where you build your volume back up after a few weeks or months of off-season, with generally low intensity workouts.  The goal is to establish an aerobic base to layer on speed and power closer to race season.  In my own personal plans, I have traditionally spent the winters getting strong in the gym (though not usually triathlon-specific strength) while doing a fair amount of running and not a huge amount of swimming or running.  This has been for a combination of personal and triathlon related reasons.  For one, I like to add a little muscle so I can stay a normal sized human and not dip below 150 lbs in the summer.  Second, I was working a lot and traveling, so hotel gyms and treadmills were easier to come by than bikes and pools.  The past few years my racing times have been stagnant, so I needed to switch up my training this winter.  Further, I had the luxury of a reduced workload compared to last winters and almost no work-related travel. 

This season my main goal is to really improve on the bike, resulting in faster race times.  Therefore, I made significant changes to my winter training.  Early on, I spent time in the gym working on strength.  The past few winters, I went to the gym with the goal of looking better with my shirt off and setting a new bench press max.  While never quite reaching Hugh Jackman status, I definitely enjoyed the results. However, this year I put my ego aside and focused on core stability and leg strength to improve my cycling and hopefully running as well.  I have also spent significantly more time on the trainer and tons of time out biking in the cold weather (gasp!).  In the past I rarely ventured out on the bike when it was below 50 degrees out, but this winter I found myself walking out the door with the thermometer in the 30s on several occasions.  This is due to several factors, which I’ll discuss later.

With all this biking, my running and swimming volume has suffered a bit compared to previous years, but as I’ve started to ramp them up in March, I would say my swim and run fitness are comparable, if not better than previous years.  I attribute this to years of volume/training and also some crossover in general cardiovascular fitness from all of the time on the bike, allowing me to swim and run with a lower heart rate.   In fact, last weekend I went out for an easy 8 mile run (a “long run” by my standards, the past few years), and I felt very comfortable keeping a steady pace at a low heart rate.  I definitely surprised myself.  Easter Sunday I went out for an easy 10 and again felt pretty good.

Below is a chart with volume in each discipline compared with previous years.  Note the significant increase in biking, my 660 miles to date are 60% higher than the 411 from last year, which was my previous high.  While it may have resulted in a little less run volume, I feel I’m in similar or better shape than previous years, in terms of swimming and running.

 

Years 2008 to 2013 are right to left in each discipline, with 2013 outlined in black

Biking has always been a weakness, and I always have a goal of “getting better on the bike” each off-season, so why the sudden spike in bike training THIS winter?  I think it was a combination of a few things, which apply to everyone looking to get more out of the winter training.

Set Goals.   My goal was to improve my cycling.  Unfortunately, this means riding your bike… a lot… even in cold weather.  Setting a goal to improve and letting others know your goal helps keep your internal motivation.  I know I want to get better on the bike, everyone keeps hearing me blab on about it, and its finally time to put in the work.

Get with a Group.  I haven’t trained regularly (or at all, really) in any sport with a partner or group since prior to Ironman Florida 2008 with Fred.  So after almost 5 years of training solo, I sort of fell into a little group who rides 30-60 miles every Sunday.  This was just another thing holding me accountable to getting out the door.  Plus, if you are going to spend 2+ hours on the bike, it’s much more enjoyable/manageable to have others around.  At this point in the season, I didn’t have a specific workout or pace I needed to ride, just general base fitness and time on the road was what I needed.  I highly recommend finding a group with which you can train in your weakest sport, which is likely the one you also need the most motivation to go do.  If you do not have a group to ride with nearby, you can still use friends as motivation.  For instance I set up a little trainer miles challenge with a few friends, Brian and Aaron, who live in Ohio and Mississippi.  While I’d much rather ride with them in person, the competition was a good way to stay motivated and helped provide that extra push to get on the trainer.

Get the right Gear.  If I could point to the singular biggest reason why I spent so much time on the bike this winter, it’s the fact that I finally got cycling tights, cold weather cycling jacket, and warm gloves.  Since I was always such a baby about the cold, I never bothered to buy this stuff because a) it’s expensive and b) I never rode in the cold.  Well of course not!  I couldn’t stay warm!  This year I was toasty all winter long in temps below 40 degrees because I had the right stuff.  Nice warm gear is expensive, so I’d recommend keeping an eye on deal sites like Chainlove and the Clymb.  I get most of my kit from here, usually for about 50% off retail.

It takes a lot of gear to enjoy winter cycling

So with the Smithfield Sprint next week, I’m looking forward to checking on my progress and getting back to racing.  Last year I finished 15th in 51:26, so hopefully I can eek out something a bit faster this year.  Hard to say as I have a feeling both the bike and run were a weee bit short last season (given I ran a 17 minute 5k…)

Below is a series of layers needed to ride in the winter months….

It takes so long to get dressed, its only worthwhile if riding 30 or so miles

 

 

 

Product Review – Garmin Edge 510

Doran | March 9th, 2013 - 6:28 pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, February 2013 – Gear of the Season, my Cateye V2c cycling computer wasn’t working right, so I was in the market for an upgraded cycling computer.  Immediately, I gravitated towards the Garmin Edge 500, this unit has it all – a GPS receiver with speed, elevation, distance, and cadence, which is also compatible with most power meters.  There is a reason why this is one of the more popular cycling computers amongst serious riders, so I ordered it.  However, the next day I realized that Garmin was coming out with two new products, the Edge 510 and 810.  The 510 has all the same features as the 500, but with a new color touchscreen and some very interesting connectivity with cell phones.  The device was only made available in early February, so I waited to see which gear outlet had it in stock first, and ended up purchasing it from Clever Training, which also supports DC Rainmaker’s blog and offers 10% off with a coupon code from DCR.

I couldn't wait to dig into this box

First Thoughts

The first thing that strikes you upon unboxing the device is its size and weight.  It is somewhere between the size of my old cycling computer and an iPhone.  I purchased the “bundle”, which came with the GSC-10 speed and cadence sensor, heart rate strap, standard mount, and other supporting materials.  It was quite a comprehensive package to support the use of the Edge 510.  The computer feels weighty and sturdy, like a small iPhone.  The touch screen is not as quick to respond as an iPhone but consistent and easy to use.  It actually took me a moment to get acquainted to using a touch screen on a cycling computer.  It has a few buttons (on/off, start/pause, and back), but most operations are performed by touch.  After a few minutes of playing around, it was time for the best part, mounting it on the bike.

Cateye, Garmin Edge 510, iPhone 4

 

Contents of the box if you purchase the "Bundle"

Set Up

I love getting new stuff!  I couldn’t wait to slap a new piece of equipment on my Cervelo.  The first thing I have to do is remove the old Cateye V2c computer and speed/cadence sensor.  This is easy enough, snipped some zip ties, cleaned off the frame, and it was ready for the Garmin Edge 510.  I started with the GSC-10 speed/cadence sensor, which has two different sensors that use magnets to identify the rotations per minute of the pedal (cadence) and how quickly the wheel is spinning (speed).  The speed sensor is used for indoor trainer rides, since the GPS measures speed when riding outdoors.  Nothing unusual here, the sensor is just like many others.  The zip ties are provided, as well as several different rubber bases to serve as interface between the frame and sensor. Garmin makes it very easy to setup the sensor, which has a light that blinks red or green when it reads the wheel or pedal sensor.  This way, you can easily ensure that your sensor is reading the magnets and when you get out the road it is all good.  I found this a very helpful little detail.

Garmin speed/cadence sensor (GSC 10) reads magnets on wheel and crank arm

Where to mount the head unit is the big question with these things.  My old setup had the computer mounted to the handlebar stem, which allowed a front hydration system in the form of a waterbottle laying between the aerobars.  This is very fast hydration setup, which has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years.  The water bottle has a small frontal profile, and helps fill the void under the rider’s chest.  Along with a small frontal profile, the shape of a rider is important, and air gets caught between the arms and chest.  An aero bar mounted waterbottle minimizes this to some degree.  The size of the Garmin Edge 510 prevented me from mounting it on the handlebar stem.  Hmmmm… time to get creative.  The mounting options that Garmin provides in the box cater perfectly to road bikes.  You can mount it directly on the handlebar with the small quarter-turn mount and the provided rubberbands.  The kit also comes with the Garmin out-front mount, another great option for roadies, but not triathletes.  Neither of these mounts would work on a triathlon bike with aero bars.

Old setup w computer on bar stem left room for aerobar hydration

So at this point, I had a real conundrum on my hands.  While I liked the front water bottle mount, and the cycling computer on the handle bar stem, I didn’t know if I could accommodate both.  I thought about using the quarter turn mount on the bar stem, but somehow raised above the back end of the aero bars to allow a quarter turn release of the unit.  However, this would have involved a fair amount of McGyver work, and still, looking down at the computer is a little difficult while in aero position.   The other option is to mount the unit between the aero bars, which would require removing the water bottle setup.  Ultimately, this is what I decided to do.  Now, the question is how to get it to stay there.  A popular method is to craft and fix a PVC pipe perpendicular between the bars and then use the quarter turn mount to affix the Edge to the PVC pipe.  This would also involve a lot of time and effort, but it would be cost effective.  However, it would also really clutter up the front end, and I wasn’t crazy about a white PVC pipe among my black bars. Luckily for me, the nearest hardware store is right by my local tri-shop, Final Kick Sports.  I was going to come out of that strip mall with a solution, one way or another.  We started at Final Kick, and didn’t even need to hit the hardware store.  Of course there was already a solution out there for triathletes, and of course it was overpriced.  The Barfly TT Garmin Mount by Tate Labs.  For about $40 you can get this little guy, which works with both Garmin Edge and Garmin Forerunner products.  This was the quickest and probably cleanest solution, so I picked it up and skipped the hardware store.  With a few turns of a screwdriver, the Barfly TT was set up between my aerobars and the Garmin Edge 510 was ready for its maiden voyage.  I can’t decide yet if I’m satisfied with this setup, but for now, I’m going with it.  If I have an extra few hours on my hands some weekend, I may play with a way to get the front mounted bottle and Edge 510 up on the aerobars.  I have some ideas…

Barfly TT mount for aerobars

 

Barfly TT mounted to bars - quick and easy

The new view from the cockpit - won't have a problem seeing the screen

Detailed Review

Data fields for Race activity

Prior to the first ride, I set up the unit by adding my bikes (Giant and Cervelo – though the unit can hold up to 10, each with different sensors, power meters, weight, etc) and creating different activity profiles.  The screen that the rider sees during the ride can be configured in literally thousands of different ways.  You can select how many data fields you want to see (up to 10), and select what data and where they are displayed.  This is everything from speed, distance, time, cadence, power,heart rate or the min, max or average of any of these.  In addition, it can display temperature, battery life, time of day, heading, and more.  You can adjust the fields shown for different activities.  For instance, on the “training” activity, I love the “time of day” field.  But during a sprint triathlon “race” activity, this is inconsequential, so I can leave it off and either replace it with different data or choose fewer fields to be shown.  All of this is done on the touch screen and its very intuitive and easy to adjust.

I also downloaded the (free) Garmin Connect app to my iPhone, in order to take advantage of some of the cool new features offered by the 510.  The Edge pairs with the iPhone easily, using Bluetooth technology.  With the computer linked to a phone, one can enable the live tracking feature, and also access weather data and more.  One of the reasons I chose to pay a little more for the 510 vs the 500 (about $50 to $75) is the Live Tracker app, so if I’m gone for a while, CJ can check my progress.  Without reading any directions, I was able to set this up in about a minute while standing over my bike, it’s very easy to use.  I also didn’t tell my dad or CJ that I would be using it, and they both ended up tracking me in real time during the ride with no problems.  Pretty cool!  You can also send information to your Twitter and Facebook feeds, but that was a little overkill for me.  Through the Garmin Connect app you can also import workout data, and upload a course from your Connect account and send to the Edge or get weather information sent to the Edge.  I haven’t tried the courses, but weather and workout data is very easy and can be useful.  Especially lately, the weather has been pretty cold.  The weather function can also alert the rider of potentially dangerous or significant weather events coming in the next few hours.

Pairing with the Garmin Connect App is easy

Using the computer during the ride is different, it takes a little getting acquainted with the touch screen rather than using buttons.   It is important to note that this screen is DIFFERENT than your smartphone touch screen, in a good way.  It utilizes a resistive touch screen, meaning the screen always responds, even when the user is wearing gloves, or the screen is wet.  I haven’t tested the device in the rain, but I have been riding with very thick gloves on, and have not had any issues at all.  The main functions – start/pause and on/off are still buttons, and to be honest there isn’t much need for using the screen –  which is another MAJOR benefit of this device!  Unlike my old cycling computer, which you need to scroll through the data fields to see different information, I have set up the Edge so all the info I’m interested in is showing during the ride.  This is not only more convenient, but also safer, so you aren’t always scrolling through your data while riding.

All the data I care about during a ride - no scrolling needed!

Uploading ride data to the computer using Garmin Connect is easy, and similar to other Garmin devices.  You can plug it into the computer directly using the cable provided, or through the Garmin Connect app.  This allows you to see all the graphs, maps, and data you need to analyze your training and race results.    I won’t focus too much on this here, since it is pretty consistent across Garmin (and other) devices.

Overall

All things considered, after several weeks of use, I am loving the Garmin Edge 510.  For me, this device was a huge upgrade from the old Cateye V2C Wireless that I had been using.  I’ve added GPS functionality, ability to download and review my workouts, include heart rate, live tracking, and a large touchscreen with much more data on display.  However, with the hefty pricetag of $329.99 for the Edge 510 or $399.99 for the bundle, this is a serious purchase.  For me, it was definitely worth the extra $40 when compared to the Garmin Edge 500.  However, for someone who already has a 500 or similar device already, it probably does not have enough new features to make it a “must have”.   Also, triathletes would want to consider the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, which can also be used for swim and run.  It has many of the same features as the Edge 510, and is probably the right solution for anyone without a GPS running watch (I have the Forerunner 305 already).

February 2013 – Gear of the Season

Doran | February 16th, 2013 - 12:53 am

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I always really crave new gear in the first few months of the year.  I think it’s because I’m not racing and not quite training as often as the summer months.  Also, I’m racking my brain for ways to get better and faster for the next season.  Plus, come on, it’s fun.  Last year I got a ton of small-ish items (see Confessions of a Triathlon Gear Junkie), and this year I’m dreaming big.  Afterall, I’m taking my stock Cervelo P2C into its 5th year of racing, with only the addition of SRAM S80 race wheels in 2010.  I’m now riding with a group of some of the best triathletes in the area, and they have an incredible amount of the coolest, newest, most expensive bikes, wheels, power meters, and cycling computers.  A new bike and/or wheelset is totally out of the picture (as it should be), but there are a few other big triathlon purchases/items that are keeping me up at night.  So I thought I’d go through a few of the items.  This list is mostly personal to me, but also representative of some of the cool new stuff out there.

Garmin Edge 510 GPS Cycling Computer

When I bought my Cervelo in August 2008, I also purchased a Cateye V2c Wireless cycling computer.  Towards the end of last race season, a few of the buttons stopped working and I now can’t start a new ride without completely resetting the unit.  So I thought it was a good time to upgrade.  Looking around, I quickly settled in on the Garmin Edge 500, which has pretty much been the standard cycling GPS for most serious riders/triathletes.  It has all the features a serious rider needs, integrates with power meters, displays 8 data fields at once, and comes in a small-ish sleek shape.  The bundle that includes a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor retailed for $369, not cheap.  So I himmed and hawed and eventually used a 10% off coupon to get it for closer to $320.  Then, literally the next day, I learned that Garmin is coming out with the Edge 510 this month (February 2013).  So I had just spent over $300 on a three year old GPS that was now the previous generation of technology.  Of course, the first place I turned was to the gadget guru, DC Rainmaker, to see his review of the Garmin Edge 510.  While not a ringing endorsement (due to lack of real upgrades from 500), this was still enough to make my decision clear, I needed the 510.  Pricetag: $400.  There goes another 50 bucks, out the window.  Within the next few weeks, I will have the newest toy available, with all the features of the 500, updated with a slick color touch screen and cool connections to the iPhone.  It also can accommodate a power meter…

My old Cateye, the Garmin 500, and Garmin 510 (not to scale)

Quarq Riken Power Meter

I want a power meter.  Yeah, obviously, who doesn’t? But lately it’s been an overwhelming, almost unstoppable urge.  Again, I blame these fast dudes I’ve been riding with lately.  A power meter is a valuable tool for training and racing.  It allows you to effectively measure your effort, thereby enabling precise training and informed racing strategies.  Many pro triathletes know they can hold xxx watts for a half-ironman or iron-distance race and they just stare at their power meters for the whole race, knowing that this level of effort will allow them a fast bike split while still being able to run well. For those that don’t know, there are several different types of power meters, and they

Powertap Hub, wheelset, & computer

basically all cost well over $1000.  You can get a Cyclops PowerTap model (maybe the most popular amongst age groupers), which is in the hub of the rear wheel, but then you’re limited to only power data with that wheel, and I already have the SRAM S80 race wheels.  Also, I wouldn’t be able to switch between training and racing wheels.  PowerTap hubs range from $900 to $1800 and complete wheelsets are generally over $2000.   Another option is the new Look Keo Power Pedals, which are cool, but cost about $2,200 and only work with a Polar cycling computer.  They do not use the standard ANT + protocol that is practically universal in the industry (therefore they are not compatible with the aforementioned Garmin Edge 510 cycling computer).  Then there is the SRM Power Meter, which measures power at the front crank, and is supposedly by far the best.  And the price reflects that, starting at around $3,000 and with cycling computers in the neighborhood of $800.  Enough said.  There is a new product on the market, the Stages power meter, a completely new idea, which measures power on one side of the crank arm.  You buy the left crank arm from Stages, which has a built-in power meter, utilizing strain gauges to measure deflection in the material and calculate power. At $800, this could be a very economical power meter for a wide variety of athletes.  The website is live, and some early reviews are fairly positive (and hopeful), but at this time they are not yet available to the public

Quarq Riken TT Power Meter

So that brings me to the Quarq variety, another front crank power meter.  With this, I can switch wheels and still measure power.  My local bike guru (Wick at Final Kick Sports) recommended Quarq, which is coming out with two new models in March, the Elsa ($2000) and Riken ($1600).  Now, obviously I’m drawn to the Elsa, which features Power Balance (measures power from each leg) and is 100g lighter due to hollow carbon fiber crank arms.  But at this point, I’d “settle” for either.  While this item is probably number one on the “craving” list, it’s definitely not purchased yet, and I’m hoping to avoid dropping a $2000 bomb just so I can see a number than tells me how hard I’m riding.

 

Xterra Vector Pro Full Sleeved Wetsuit

I am not exactly in the market for a wetsuit.  As a strong swimmer, I’ve always worn the economical Xterra Vortex sleeveless wetsuit.   This is a step up from their entry-level Volt ($150) but well below the Vendetta ($800) and Vector Pro ($600).  I love my wetsuit, and when my first Vortex started getting worn down and nicked after a few years of racing, I just bought the exact same one, and I’m totally happy with it.  However, in October, on a whim, I entered Travlete.com’s contest to pick who would win Kona.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, but I picked right and won an Xterra Vector Pro full sleeves suit.   It’s a long story, but due to several issues (emails going to junk box, replacement of a vendor, etc) I still haven’t received my free wetsuit!  And all this has only made me more excited.  I’ve never worn a full-sleeved suit, nor had such a nice quality wetsuit.   Here’s hoping it arrives sometime in the next month.

TYR Custom Goggles

In Kona rockin the TYR Special Ops Custom Goggles

What can I say, the marketing worked again (I’m so gullible).  If you remember, they were giving away brightly colored custom TYR goggles in Kona.   Traditionally, I’ve always worn Swedish goggles, the trademark of any serious swimmer.  However, they can be a bit uncomfortable and I’ve been thinking of transitioning to something with a rubber seal and more forgiving fit.  The pair I have from Kona are definitely cool, but the lenses refract light underwater at the pool and it has almost a dizzying affect, like putting on someone’s glasses when you don’t need them.  So, I’m thinking about ordering a custom pair, maybe all black with some lime green accents or something cool.  The whole endurance sports market has gone to really bright colors, and I’m embracing it with my shoes and maybe now goggles too.  For $29.99 this could be a great way to spice up your life and also provide an easy way for your family and friends to spot you during the swim portion of the race.

 

Zipp Vuka Stealth Aerobars with VukaShift extenions.

I know, I Know, now I’m REALLY getting out of control.  But a guy can dream, right?  And I am talking about the coolest gear of the season, from my perspective.  And these bars nail it.  In the past, the issue with integrated aerobars has been their lack of adjustability.  While a set of bars that are really light and perform well in the wind tunnel are great, if you can’t dial in your fit, it’s pointless.  Zipp recently unveiled the Vuka Stealth integrated aerobars, which in addition to being super fast, super light, and super sexy, are also super adjustable.  A real win for the athlete, who has to be in the right position to reduce the drag of their own body (70-80% of total drag) and also be comfortable and able to breath efficiently.  Clearly these bars had my eye from the word “Zipp”.  Anything made by Zipp is incredibly good quality and looks sooooo good.  These are no exception.  While clearly I haven’t ridden them, the various reviews by Lava Magazine,  Triathlete Magazine, and others are very positive.  Plus, this is one area where my Cervelo is not up to par.  My stock Vision aerobars are certainly not carbon fiber, meaning these would likely be significantly lighter and probably much more aerodynamic as well.  With a price tag of around $1200, I won’t be getting these anytime soon.

These things are sick, they would probably fly away if you're not careful

I wouldn't mind resting my elbows on these for 40k or more

Product Review – Rudy Project Wingspan TT Helmet

Doran | February 9th, 2013 - 3:40 pm

Early in the 2012 season, I picked up a new aero helmet, the Rudy Project Wingspan TT Helmet.  My old Giro Advantage 2 was four years old and begging to show its wear.  While the Giro Advantage 2 has been a hugely popular model since the mid-2000’s, I had been coveting the Wingspan for some time, but it’s hefty $309 pricetag was really off-putting.  No chance I was spending that much money for a helmet, especially when I already have an aero helmet.  However, I got an email from Rudy Project for 40% off, so I thought I could justify $185 (crazy, I know).  Afterall, an aero helmet is hands down the cheapest way to save time through aerodynamics in a triathlon (with as much or more benefit than a $2000 set of aero wheels… seriously)

First Thoughts

Unboxing this helmet was an experience all in itself.  I was a little taken aback at first; the box looked a little too much like an Ed Hardy T-shirt for my conservative taste. But I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  I was pleasantly surprised to uncover a nice helmet bag and two different inserts for the front vent.  Rudy Project clearly paid attention to the details with this design, based on the needs of an athlete.  One thing I can say is that it instantly FEELS like a $300 helmet, which is an impressive statement.  It is very light, with great fit adjustability.  The chin strap has soft pads which prevent skin irritation.  Before even taking it outside, it just felt fast, comfortable, solid, and light all at once.

Wingspan TT helmet comes in a flashy box with a bag and two different ventilation inserts

Detailed Review

The helmet has a fairly sizable front vent which can be completely open, filled with a webbed insert, or completely closed with a solid insert.  This allows the rider to choose the desired ventilation based on aerodynamics, weather conditions, and race distance.  It also comes with a chart that displays the aerodynamic benefits of each option and suggests which combination for various conditions.  At first I was a little skeptical and thought this could be a bit gimmicky.  However, my first test ride with this helmet completely changed my mind.  Each option provided noticeably different ventilation (I can’t really speak for the aerodynamics).  I was getting a surprising amount of cooling breeze through the helmet with the vent open, and a medium amount with the webbed insert in place.  On the hot humid day I tested it, my brain started to sizzle with the solid insert. Further, there is a thin plastic rear cover underneath the tail of the helmet which can be removed on hot days.  After a full season of use, I’ve taken advantage of several different combinations.  On really hot days, it’s a no brainer to leave the front vent fully open, and you may want to take the rear cover off.  On cooler days, I used the solid front vent cover and rear tail cover, which helps keep the heat in to stay warm, while also gaining the maximum aerodynamic benefit of the helmet geometry.

Front of the helmet with the front vent open (no insert)

 

Front view with webbed insert

 

Front view with solid insert - the fastest (and potentially hottest) option

 

HUGE vents on the back of the helmet (non-existent in Giro Advantage 2 & other models)

 

Chart showing aerodynamics of each option; I'll take the 13 extra seconds & cool head

 

When the Wingspan TT first came on the market, it definitely had a very unique look.  A few years later, it still is probably the most recognizable helmet out there, and has enjoyed incredibly good popularity.  I’m sure some of this may have to do with their clever marketing to Kona qualifiers.  When I told CJ that I wanted this helmet (many months before Kona) and showed it to her she said “yeah that’s sexy, get it”.  In my mind, that really makes it a done deal.  If you’re more interested in performance than sex appeal, then you’ll be happy to know that renowned aerodynamic expert John Cobb was very involved in the design of the helmet.  Also, you can see for yourself that many of the ProTour teams wear the helmet in time trials at the Tour de France and other big races.  All bicycle and cycling equipment companies will tout their design as performing best in the wind tunnel, making it VERY difficult to really pick and choose.  As an age grouper, what may be more important is the major gain over a standard helmet (generally estimated at 45-90 seconds over 40k), rather than the very small changes between aero helmets (5-10 seconds).  In fact, if you look at the photos below with my old Advantage 2 compared to the Wingspan, the tail of the Advantage 2 is close to my back, theoretically reducing any turbulent air flow as the air passes over my helmet and on to my moderately hunched back.  But again, who knows the real answer without a personal trip to the wind tunnel.  Rudy Project and Cobb claim that this helmet works for most rider positions (specifically hunched back vs flat back, etc).  What I can tell you is that the Wingspan is lighter, (424g vs 349g, or 18% lighter), has much sturdier construction, and allows more ventilation (if desired) than the Advantage 2.  Further, the less pronounced tail interacts less with tailwinds and makes the helmet generally easier to wear. And if it looks sexier, that’s an added bonus.

The Giro Advantage 2 "looks" (impossible to tell without wind tunnel) like a more aerodynamic helmet for me

Wingspan may not be as aero for me; but it is much cooler and lighter. Important for triathletes

 

Rudy Project "data" regarding aerodynamics

One really can’t review a helmet without discussing fit adjustability and padding. In reviewing my road helmet, the Giro Prolight, I was totally unsatisfied with both of these features.  I am happy to report that the Wingspan also scores very high marks in these two categories as well.  The fit system is very easy, and utilizes a simple knob that turns to tighten or loosen.  It is so convenient that you can actually adjust it with one hand while it’s on your head and you’re riding the bike.  Again this goes to show the amount of thought that went into the helmet.  Also, the main plastic pieces that hold the adjustment knob can be raised or lowered in three different positions, allowing the helmet to sit at the correct angle on the riders head.  There is one major drawback with respect to fit.  For all you big headed folks out there, this is not the helmet for you.  Rudy Project only makes one size “S/M”, so although very adjustable within this range, if you have a large head, you’re out of luck.  I found the helmet’s padding to be better than the Giro Advantage and far superior to my Prolight road helmet (maybe an unfair comparison to a super light helmet, but worth mentioning).  In fact, it came with additional padding options, which can be interchanged to get the best fit, another nice touch.  If I’m really nit-picking, another negative is the weight and bulk of the straps.  They don’t quite ever lay flat against your face, and the plastic clips are a little bulky and annoying.  Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who rides with the Prolight every day, which doesn’t even have clips or adjustable straps.  I really don’t see this as much of a downside to the Wingspan, since all helmets have some degree of this going on, and I’d say this is about average.

Close-up of easy to use (RSR 7 Disc) adjustment knob

 

The inside of the helmet is pretty plush and comfortable during races

Overall

All things considered, I would strongly recommend the Rudy Project Wingspan TT Helmet to anyone with an average sized head or smaller.  While it’s price tag is certainly an obstacle, a savvy customer will soon find that Rudy Project often runs specials, and you can generally pick this helmet up for 20%-40% off the hefty $309 price tag.  What’s cool is that this helmet was clearly designed with the flexibility and options that a TRIATHLETE needs.  This isn’t like other helmets which are designed for ProTour cyclists and used by triathletes; this helmet was designed for us and adopted by cyclists because of its quality.  And better yet, if you qualify for Kona you can get one free before the race.  If that’s not a good reason to get out there and train, I don’t know what is!

The Rudy Project Wingspan TT helmet ready to roll out of T1

 

 

Rudy Project Wingspan TT looks pretty good in action... thanks to the rider obviously