New feature – we are streaming Live!

Folks, good news. We have just added new feature on our webpage. We will be streaming some of races Live. Whenever Uroš and Aleš will race, they will stream races from Category B while Igor will stream Category A. Additional, whenever Uroš won’t be racing himself, he’ll stream Category C race, so most of you will be able to rewatch the action you’ve been in anytime later.

So, turn on your fans, get a towel and hammer it as hard as it gets. Get a shower, grab a beer and relive the action right after it.


Disclaimer: Some images of our pain-faces are very authentic and might be ugly to watch. If you’re older than 18 years, formal parents permission does not apply any more.

How to choose the right Category in Zwift

If you are new to Zwift, and especially if you have never met before with your power numbers only until your newly purchased smart indoor trainer, then first thing you will have to do before entering into any Zwift event like Slovenian Winter league, is to find out what your actual abilities are and what category you fit in.

One of the best Zwift “social” features is the possibility to join riders into smaller groups with similar abilities. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we are not all the same. The bitter truth is mother nature has created extremely wide differences among individuals. Not only everyone haven’t got brown eyes, dark skin, small nose, long and skinny legs, etc.. same applies to our cycling abilities. Some are tiny and can metabolize the huge amounts of oxygen aerobically, say perfectly built for fast climbing, others might be largely built, a bit overweight and without a lot of sporting background from youth, thus unable to follow much faster, stronger, leaner athletes. The range of abilities is really large. But, with choosing the right category you can be joined to people within a fairly similar group. In this case, even women can fairly equally compete with men and even override them.

Slovenian Zwift league uses most common group division format on Zwift and on Zwiftpower, and its based on individual abilities expressed in Watts per kg (W/kg) 

FTP above 4.0 W/kg
FTP 3.2 to 4.0 W/kg
FTP 2.5 to 3.2 W/kg
FTP under 2.5 W/kg

But wait a moment, what the heck is FTP?

If you never met with the term FTP yet, then you really are new to power-based cycling. Arguably, it’s the most common term used among spirited power-meter users. It’s a simple abbreviation for “Functional Threshold Power -> FTP”. In practice, your FTP is roughly equal to the maximum power you can hold for one hour. Simple as that! But in theory..o my, damn theory. it’s something almost illusionary. Want to know more about the theory of thresholds surrounding common FTP? Then read this beautiful article on Pulse Performance about the entire ecosystem of thresholds and their relation to each other (in Slovenian language only).

How to estimate your FTP on Zwift?

Since all the results from any Zwift event, from group rides, workouts to races are stored on Zwiftpower and our league demands having created Zwiftpower profile, we choose to use the most simple estimation of FTP possible. That is, 95% of your maximal 20-minute power output. Phenotype up, phenotype down, it’s the same marker Zwiftpower uses to delimit between groups. 

Estimating is as easy and simple as it gets. Go on your trainer, run Zwift, warm up for 15-20min and then simply put the hammer down for exactly 20min. No mercy. All-f***ng-out. Once finished, check your 20min power, reduce it by 5%, divide with your weight and voila -> it’s your FTP estimate.

Example: Luka Zvonec weights 83 kg and has averaged 307 W over 20 min test. 
(307 W * 0.95) / 83 kg => 3.5 w/kg.
His FTP is around 3.5w/kg so he chooses to participate in Category (FTP 3.2 to 4.0 W/kg)

For any newcomer to Zwift, it’s by far easiest to simply do the FTP test within the Zwift itself. Anyone can find it among preloaded workouts in the app. Just run it and follow the instructions.

What if I am right on the category border and do cross it? 

This is a common scenario, especially among beginner cyclists. The category borders have to be set somewhere and there will always be somebody who’s ability is right on the limit. In this case, if it’s about experienced Zwifter, we recommend choosing a higher, stronger category. Because if it happens to someone to cross the limit with 95% of maximal 20-minute performance, he or she will get a strike. A maximum of two strikes is allowed within 9 week-long series. On the third strike, a rider has to be upgraded to the upper category and his points in general classification get reset to zero so he starts from there, which can be quite a bummer.

For beginner cyclists, this might be more common since they might improve very quickly during several weeks of the league. In this case, they should not take it as trouble, but be happy about it. Ultimately it’s a good sign of their performance improvement. 



Stage 1 Preview

Stage 1 is almost here!

Have you checked the course yet?
We will be racing in Watopia world, the Sand and Sequoias course.

It’s a fast course well suited for heavier riders and sprinters. There is a bit of undulating terrain with one 2 km climb, but without any steep slopes, so sprinters should be able to survive and have their stampede blast at the end. If of course.. if someone bold enough doesn’t ruin their fun with a long-range suicidal attack. Fiesta!

Category & will do 2 laps, 40.4 km altogether with 294 m of ascent.
Category & will do 1 lap, 20.2 km altogether with 147 m of ascent.

There are two slots available and remember, and you can do either one or both, your best result will count towards general points classification.

Click on the day that fits your schedule for a link to Zwift event signup page.
Saturday at 15.00 CET (3 PM CET) / 2 PM BST / 9 AM EDT / 6 AM PDT / 11 PM AEST / 2 AM NZDT
Sunday at 10.30 CET (10.30 AM CET) / 9.30 AM BST / 5.30 AM EDT / 1.30 AM PDT / 7.30 PM AEST / 9.30 PM NZDT

Here is the VeloViewer 3D map of the course and map.

Have you ridden the course before? Easiest way is to check the segment in your Strava account.

Strava Forward Segment Strava Reverse Segment

For more information about the course, do check the Zwift Insider post.

Smart trainer and bike maintenance for smooth Zwift experience

Some background first. I started with indoor cycling training about 4 years ago with a simple “dumb” wheel-on trainer from Tacx. My first indoor winter training season felt boring so I upgraded to smart trainer from Bkool pro. That trainer came with a virtual training simulator app which opened up a new way of training for me. By the end of the second indoor season, I was still missing something more. Coincidently Bkool trainer broke so I was again shopping for new smart trainers. I switched back to Tacx, this time a smart wheel-on trainer. Also, I started to use the Zwift platform. That worked great for a year however getting more serious with training it became clear that I need to move on to direct drive trainer. Staying loyal to brand I went for the ultimate trainer at that time Tacx Neo. You can learn more about trainer differences here.

This was the moment when I started to take more care of the whole equipment maintenance aspect. After all, why lose hard-earned legs power (watts) on a poorly maintained equipment.

However, there are some differences between outdoor and indoor cycling maintenance. The rest of the article focuses on maintaining components for worry-free efficient indoor cycling.

Tools

Before changing or maintaining your equipment you will need some basic set of tools. Multitool, chain checker, chain tool, bottom bracket extraction and install tools, a basic set of wrenches and pliers. For most components regreasing I am using Shimano Premium Grease. My set of bike specific tools can be seen in the header picture. Altogether the cost of these tools is under 100€. 

Resources

Before every procedure, I advise researching the steps needed. There are many video guides available online. Also, Shimano has a good source of technical manuals here.

Chain

One of the most important mechanical parts in cycling is the chain. After all, it transfers your power to the trainer. Chain requires regular cleaning and lubrication. I lubricate the chain on my indoor bike almost weekly with Finish Line Ceramic Wax lubricant. It is ideal for indoor dry conditions and doesn’t leave much residue with use.

With each lubrication, I suggest to check the chain wear. I use Park Tool Chain Checker cc-3.2 to check the wear. If your chain is over 0.5% tolerance it is better to change it to avoid damage on cassette or chairing. Depending on riding distance and power, the chain can last up to 5.000km.

Here is an example of chain overuse where links stretched over acceptable tolerance. Side effect was noisy drive and potential damage to cassette.

Bottom bracket

With regular chain change, I suggest checking the way cranks turn. Pay attention to lateral and horizontal play. When you turn the cranks without chain there needs to be smooth motion without any grind. If you feel any play or it doesn’t turn smooth it’s time to change the bottom bracket.

BB on my carbon bike is press-fit type which requires precise extraction and reinstall. Here is an example of the press-fit BB change procedure. 

Pedals

About a month ago I realized my Dura-ace pedals were not spinning smoothly as they should. I took them apart, cleaned all internals and regreased. It is a bit tricky procedure to get them back together on the exact level of smoothness but with some trial and error, they were back in action the same day back with smooth worry-free rotation. An example of how the pedals look inside is here.

Cassette

With regular cleaning and lubrication cassette should last about 3-4 chain changes. Inspect the cogs carefully when you change the chain. One example video of how to check the cassette can be found here.

Shifter cables

Another potential failure that can happen is a broken shifter cable. In most cases, it simply snaps from being worn out. It is common for the older type of Ultegra shifter levers. Unfortunately, it happened to me once during racing on Zwift so it wasn’t easy to continue with race in the highest gear.

When you feel that gear indexing is slowly changing and you need to play with rear mech setting, it’s probably time to check the shifter cable as well. This is how the used cable snapped on my bike.

Handlebar

Remember about cooling from the previous article? A lot of increased sweat from indoor training ends up on the bikes handlebar. If you are riding many hours indoor change the tape at least once a year if not even sooner. When changing bar tape pay attention to potential corrosion. Sweat is aggressive enough to corrode your aluminum handlebar. If you take the same bike to an outdoor ride this can lead to dangerous situations. Learn more about how to change the tape and inspect the handlebar here.

Wheel-on smart trainer specific maintenance

On this type of trainer, you need to take care of accurate contact between the tire and the rolling part of the trainer. Use trainer recommended tire and inflation pressure. Don’t use the usual road tire because you are losing value contact. Trainer tension needs to be checked before every ride. Also, do a regular calibration with the trainer manufacturer app. More about the calibration procedure can be found in this blog article

Direct drive smart trainer specific maintenance

Half-year in using Tacx Neo trainer I decided to maintain the hub. It’s a simple procedure. With only one nut removal you gain access to the inner parts of the hub. No need to remove cassette here. After careful cleaning of old grease, I applied a new layer of Shimano Dura-ace grease and reassembled. Some visual examples of Tacx Neo hub maintenance can be found here.

I hope this advice helps you maintain your indoor equipment for the best possible cycling experience. There are other bicycle components that you need to consider maintaining the same as for outdoor riding. Besides all mentioned follow manufacturer’s user manual and service recommendations.

Less than 10 days to go! Do you have your pain-cave ready?

Time flies. Unusual nice strike of autumn weather persists, but it won’t take long for typical November mist to set into lowlands of the northern hemisphere. Cold temperatures, short daylight time, wet roads, entire weeks under the fog, depression, runny noses,.. It’s inevitable all coming up. So it’s time to set up our pain caves.

Depending on how well we will manage to perfect our indoor environment, our winter training campaign might vary. From zero or miserable time spent on boring stand-alone rollers or trainers to great and motivational time spent within social interaction with either close summer friends and competitors or just regular virtual fly by’s.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions on how to build your own perfect pain cave and how to turn your indoor environment into an enjoyable and virtual social place with as much road feel and emotions as much technology today offers. From most important to less, let’s dive into the basics.

Virtual platform

The virtual platform represents the very basic. There is a plethora of virtual platforms available out there, every single one with its pros and cons. From very simple ones like Elite My e-Training coming with company’s trainers purchase to very sophisticated, graphically and socially superior ones like Road Grand Tours, CVR Cade or Zwift. Arguably, the most popular tends to be the best, with Zwift currently being on top. It’s worth noting, that Zwift is also by far the most expensive one. Since it’s the most crowded virtual space currently, and our winter league will run on the Zwift platform all the following equipment suggestions are tailored for the best possible Zwifting experience.

Interactive smart trainer/roller/bike

Right after choosing the virtual platform, the next biggest influence on indoor riding has the choice of a smart trainer or some other indoor training aid. Currently, the vast majority of »smart« equipment falls to trainers. There are some great smart rollers options out too, but they are less frequent, especially among racers and with the same price tag as smart trainers. There are also complete indoor e-bike’s out there with full up&down motion support, but they are very expensive and very limited in terms of transportation and other useful options like warm-up equipment during summer.

Term »smart« refers to the ability for the trainer to connect to 3rd party app (like Zwift) which can then control unit resistance according to virtual road incline, drafting behind other rider or drafting in a group of riders. Without that functionality, any trainer or rollers are just »dumb«trainers. The rider can not get any subtle feedback under the legs when he gets draft assistance or the road is kicking uphill or downhill. He needs to visualize it. And that just ain’t it. It’s not the road feel you can get with solid smart units.

“Wheel-on drive” or “direct drive” trainers are the next issue. Wheel on trainers are much cheaper than direct drive. They might be good enough for the very beginners and for people who don’t expect too much sophistication from social interaction. They just like to ride alone with their own goals. But for any ambitious rider, trying to exploit the social component as deep as possible, solid direct drive unit is almost a must. If the unit has a heavy enough flywheel, so the inertia becomes a relevant part of the pedaling cycle and super-smooth braking technology, then the virtual road can become a really enjoyable place. Once paired with a group riding, all the suddenly minutes don’t last like hours anymore. They fly-by just like on road, and the only constraint can become your time and fast physiological changes in your system due to the usual overheating/dehydration process. You would love to do a few kilometers more, but huge amount of water under your bike doesn’t allow you anymore.

Computer

There has to be one thing very clear. Your computer has to be a beast! Any modern platform with its sophisticated algorithms and high resolutions, to run smooth, requires a strong and fast computer. Running Zwift in a resolution lower than full HD (1980x1080p) simply means a suboptimal experience. Once the resolution is high enough, like in 4K for instance, you can start observing very small and subtle differences in objects or other riders coming closer to you or riding away. For any computer to run a Zwift in 4K resolution usually requires at least Intel i5 processor with 8Gb of memory and strong graphic card with at least 2Gb. More on required specs can be found here. If you want to compare how your computer runs in relation to other computers within Zwift community you can use Zwiftalizer as well.  

Monitor/TV

Let it be straight. The bigger, with as high resolution as possible, the better. Small screens on phones, tablets do fine, but to really enjoy your virtual environment, you need a big screen. And you need details. How big is your screen depends a little from your pain cave space availability as well as on your wallet. But generally, any 4k TV from 100cm on will do the best.

Power measurement

There are three basic conditions that have to be exact as possible in order to be fully comparable within Zwift’s virtual world to your »in real life« sensations or performances. Your height, your weight, and your power. If those conditions represent your true value than your Zwift riding experience and performance will be almost identical to one out on the real road. This has been proven a dozen times since Zwift’s algorithms do mimic real-life cycling physics as good as it gets.

While your height is a constant, your weight is not. Like in real life, day to day weight variations are part of the normal biology of any active human. Seasonal variations might be even bigger and to be the same on the virtual road as outside it is necessary to honest with your weight. Same as weight influence your climbing and sprinting speed outside on real road, same does it affect your virtual speed.

But the most crucial of all three basic conditions is power. Power has to be as accurate as possible. Without a solid and reliable power meter, your virtual experience won’t be the same as outside. If your power meter doesn’t measure your true power you will be either to slow or too fast in relation to your real-life peers out on the road. While it certainly might feel good for someone to fly up the virtual mountain with magic numbers like 6w/kg, it doesn’t represent your true self and thus neither your nor community’s social experience can’t be optimal. Solid, accurate and reliable power measuring device is a MUST!

For beginners who never used any kind of a power meter before, the cheapest option is to simply buy a smart trainer with a built-in power measuring capabilities. Simple »wheel-on« trainers can go as low as 250-350€, with the least accurate and reliable power measuring capabilities. Those units can be fairly inaccurate, and practice usually shows that real power can be 10-20% or even more off reported one. Direct-drive trainers on the entry-level are much better, and for about 500-700€ you can get power reading within +/-5%. For power accuracy within 2-3%, it usually requires to go to the top end of the price spectrum and that means 900-1200€ for smart direct drive trainer. In any case, purchasing a high-end trainer has its rationale, since you don’t need to invest in extra power meter unit, and those can cost you anywhere between 600-1800€ alone.

The best option for power to be accurate and reliable throughout the entire intensity spectrum (similar accuracy while easy coasting, all-out steady-state climbing or hammering on sprints) is buying a respectable power meter. The best options that do work well with your outdoor bike are power meter within a spider (like SRM, Power2Max, Quarq, Rotor, etc)  or within pedals (Garmin Vectors, Assioma Duos,..).

Cool yourself

While riding hard indoors, mayor issues any cyclists experience sooner or later is heat removal. Our bodies generate 4-5 times more heat than they do mechanical work. When average cyclist generates during endurance riding, say 200w on pedals, his working muscles release about 800-1000w of heat. If this same cyclist goes all-out uphill at 350w, his muscle releases 1400-1700w of heat. That means, if you don’t cool down your body, your core temperature will rise sky-high within 10-20 min. And once your core temperature rises above a critical threshold, your own brains, your central governor will inevitably shut down your contracting muscles all the way down as needed, even paralyze you if needed, just to keep you on the safe side of a barrier.

How to manage cooling in your pain cave can be somewhat of an art. Have a little to cool temperature in your pain cave during winter and have a little too much of fan speed and you will get a cold. Have a little too high temperature and above all a little too much moisture in the air (which is mayor issue in any small space anyway) and you won’t be able to follow other more than 45 min. After some time at high intensity, you will inevitably overheat yourself and your performance will shut down as a result. So what works the best? If it’s possible, the space volume of your pain cave should be as big as possible. Air conditioning with heating option (during winter) and solid moisture management is the second-best solution. The temperature within the pain cave is ideal at around 18-20°C. Lower temperatures are possible, but the probability of catching a cold once or twice a winter rises with colder temps. Fan or two is an integral part of any pain cave setup. Some like several small fans with wind direction into different parts of the body, others like one big fan with powerful and wide airflow. In any case, body temperature management or simply sad »cooling« during hard indoor session, is probably a single most important physiological aspect that has to be addressed. Everything else from hydration, nutrition is less important and inferior comparing to effective cooling.

So, these are the basics. There are millions of other small things that can make your pain cave more popular and enjoyable space, but those described above are the biggest and most influential. All the written might sound for someone new into indoor virtual crazy expensive fun. It’s hard to argue, indeed a solid pain-cave setup can cost you a minimum of 1500-2000€ if you have to buy A to Z from scratch (like the computer, power meter, and other peripherals most already has at home). But that’s still comparable to any mid-range winter gadget, like a mountain bike or cyclocross bike. And above all, no matter how cold or how much snow is outside, how wet the roads are, how long your working hours are or when your kids might have post-school afternoon activities, your bike setup is waiting there and in the virtual world, it’s always somebody out there you can pair with.