Comparisons

Comparisons

 

Just as I’m about to got to Battle Mountain I’ve been looking back at all my training and making some interesting comparisons with some other truly amazing cycling feats. It’s rather interesting.

 

So I’ve been looking at my miles total and since I started my training programme dedicated to Battle Mountain I’ve ridden over 3792 miles. Of course this doesn’t’ tell the whole story as how I’ve ridden makes a big difference as well. But, in 307 days I’ve covered over 3792 miles.

 

I’ve had the privilege of working with Paul Smith and JP Nevin who have both worked closely with the Race Across America teams in 2012 and 2017. Here are their stats:

 

In 2012 the team completed the 3051 miles race in 7 d 8 hr 38 min with 4 uprights and 4 handbikes.

 

In 2017 the team was made up of 4 uprights, 3 handbikes and a recumbent cyclist – their distance was ~3,160 miles and they completed the race in 6 d 12 hr 36 min – maintaining an average speed of just under 20 mph.

 

And the other week I had the good fortune to meet Mark Beaumont after a presentation about his round the world cycle where he covered 18,000 miles in 78 days, 14 hrs, 40 mins

 

So, 3792 miles in 307 days covered in order to try to achieve 46-52 mph on a 5 mile course

Vs

3160 miles across America covered as quickly as 6 d 12 hr 36 min

Vs

18,000 miles around the world covered in 78 days, 14 hrs, 40 mins

 

Can you compare?

 

Yes, they are all very different types of cycling and entirely difference feats so they can’t really be compared directly. But all in all, I think you can say that it’s pretty amazing what you can achieve on a bike with a little bit of effort.

 

Tomorrow I arrive in Battle Mountain. Let’s see what the ultimate comparison is. I’m feeling healthy and strong, and I know the team in Liverpool have given it everything they’ve got, and are probably still working on a few tiny details. Let’s break some records!

Calculations and Math

Calculations and Math

 

When I started my journey to Battle Mountain I sat down and did some math. No, not maths, just math. I needed to find out how feasible it was going to be to break the world speed record. Amongst all the other helpful people I’ve met along the way, Pete helped here.

 

As I have a background in aviation, the concepts of aerodynamic drag were not unfamiliar to me. In fact, many years ago I was working on some ideas for developing a human powered helicopter as well as some watercraft. So, I went back to those ideals and started working out figures for power and aerodynamic drag, and came up with a rough target of the coefficient of drag that a record setting bike would need to have.

 

Then I factored in elements of bicycle road and mechanical drag, adapting and estimating from tests that had been done on upright bikes previously. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of information available about handcycle drag and aerodynamics so much of the calculations had to be adapted and estimated. But this is only useful to a point when you’re trying to break records.

 

Luckily, quite early on, I’d spoken with Pete form SportCrafters and we had many chats back and forth about drag, resistance, and the measurement and design practices that were applied to their handcycle rollers, which I was training on.

 

Pete’s background with this proved to be very helpful as an addition to the other calculations that I’d done to determine how feasible it would be to break the record. Pete was immensely supportive and detailed turning what was a seemingly simple question into a detailed analysis.

 

Amongst all the people I’ve met on my journey to Battle Mountain, Pete was one of the first who helped me work out how possible it was. My hat’s off to Pete for taking the time to help me with such detailed answers. Without that, I might not have seen how possible it would be to break the record.

 

And the good news is; after all the calculations and all the training…

All the numbers match. I think this bodes well!

 

Training Equipment

Training Equipment

 

What may surprise many people is that the vast majority of my riding has been indoors on rollers. I’ve been using my SportCrafters rollers with the Overdrive drum which has progressive resistance to simulate road conditions.

 

There’s no way that free spinning rollers would’ve provided me with the necessary resistance needed to achieve the high power levels I need during my training but the Overdrive rollers work very well. Of course, some people say there is no substitute for riding on the road and while I will agree with that to a degree, there are also some massive benefits to using the rollers.

Rollers
Rollers

As a bit of background, I’d gotten in touch with SportCrafters early on when I was planning my training and began many long discussions with Pete. I wanted to find out if the rollers would be effective, especially in comparison to a turbo trainer, to hit my targets. As Pete explained to me, that the resistance of the rollers was calibrated in comparison to power measurements taken from a handcycle so that they would be reasonably accurate.

 

With this information, I converted my regular set of rollers the Overdrive configuration and tried it out. In comparison it did feel much like riding on the road and the gear and speed combinations I was used to one the road were similar to what I could achieve on the rollers. Though it’s not exact, it is a very good substitute, and the comparisons with road tests later in my training yielded similar results. So, over all I’ve been exceptionally pleased with the resistance and how it’s shaped my training.

 

But as to the usefulness of rollers vs the road…

 

First and foremost, I have two more days of training on the bike before I fly out to Battle Mountain. Presently, it is pouring rain outside, despite having been quite nice yesterday. It’s so bad that I wouldn’t ride outside as, if you’ve ridden a handbike in the rain you’ll know how horrible it can be. Plus, I don’t have to risk getting wet and cold and possibly getting sick at the last minute. So, with the rollers, I get to continue my training regardless of the weather.

 

How useful are they to build strength? This has to be somewhat anecdotal but I’m going to say they are quite effective. One main factor is that, in things such as hard sprints, the rollers don’t give you the ability to take advantage or momentum or to coast. Every second you want to keep moving you have to keep putting in power, and the harder the sprint, the more you have to keep trying. Even between sprints during the recovery times, there is no opportunity to slack off and relax, you have to keep working. As much as this is a physical requirement, it’s also mental, and it’s very important. Some say that one of the biggest keys to being a successful athlete is the ability to keep going and keep pushing even when your body tells you it can’t. Realistically it probably can, but your mind has

to get past that and the rollers help me to dig deeper and keep going.

 

Consistency of power. Battle Mountain is a straight flat course, so too are the rollers. The rollers provide a nice consistent baseline from which to determine power and speed associations. Hills, even small ones can have a noticeable impact on the power outlay on a handbike so having a flat consistent surface or route is ideal. Additionally, it’s efficient. If I’ve been given a series of sprints, I know that I’ll be able to do those without external influences. I don’t have to worry that I might be approaching a decent that might alter the results or have to extend a recovery period to get to a suitable place to do an interval, or even cut one short due to a lack of good roadway.

Rollers from above
Rollers from above

Straight line power. The big target for Battle Mountain is the need to achieve very high power levels. On the rollers I can do that because I never have to worry about steering. And it’s particularly fine for Battle Mountain as Arion 4 only has about two degrees of steering, I believe, so turning is a moot point anyway.

 

Traffic.  I don’t have to worry about traffic getting in my way or causing an accident that might make me unable to ride in Battle Mountain. Some might argue that there’s less of a chance that I’d crash as well. No idea where they’ve gotten that idea from.

 

Feet on the floor. For indoor situations, in comparison to a turbo trainer, I can ride with my feet on the bike in a regular riding position. It’s a small thing but I get much better results when I do that vs having my feet on the ground.

 

And some would say that not being outside and experiencing the world is a big loss to riding on the rollers vs the road. To a degree it is, and in the past you never would have found me riding indoors. But over the last ten months I’ve actually found it to be tranquil, and despite all the hard work, almost meditative through that hard work and it’s helped me manage my disability as well. In hindsight the lack of the outside world is, for Battle Mountain ideal as I’ll be locked in a shell, further taped in with the only view of the world from a camera pointing straight ahead. I’ll have little, if any, sense of the outside world while I’m in Arion 4 and, frankly, it’s kind of relaxing. Until you start to ride and then you just want to run!

Week 2 – Day 3 of Road Testing

Week 2 – Day 3 of Road Testing

 

After having been rained out on the first day last week and having had some questionable weather on the 2nd day, day three was relatively superb. Luckily the rain held off and despite the fairly strong winds both Karen and I got a number of runs in as well as some last minute fit corrections to help streamline the change between riders.

Karen, Ken, and the Three Engineers (others missing)
Karen, Ken, and the Three Engineers (others missing)

The bike was working very well after all the changes and adjustments the team had done since out first set of road tests. Thus, the day was more a matter of getting more comfortable with the bike and getting in more back to back runs.

 

Both Karen and I managed some very impressive runs, if I do say so myself, and surprisingly with the best results in to quite strong headwinds. Of course that bodes well if race day is nice and calm as it should be.

Sporting the Team Colours
Sporting the Team Colours

We also had a special guest visit from Alan Grace, pilot of the Slippery Slug at Battle Mountain in 2014. Alan has been tremendously supportive and helpful sharing his experiences with me from quite early on. That’s the amazing thing about the WHPSC, despite all the competition it seems that, for the most part, the competition isn’t against other teams and people, it’s against speed. Nearly everyone who I’ve spoken with who’s had experience at Battle Mountain has been very open and helpful as it seems that no matter who does it, it’s just about going as fast as possible.

Chatting with Karen (not the most flattering picture of me on a bike)
Chatting with Karen (not the most flattering picture of me on a bike)

One of the things that is somewhat disappointing about riding Arion 4 is that I never have been able to see it running fully shelled up. So it was quite a treat to be able to see it from the outside as Karen took to the runway.  And it’s quite a difference going from the darkness inside the bike to seeing how elegant and fast it looks on the track.

Karen in Arion 4
Karen in Arion 4

Luckily Karen took to it like a duck takes to water and she was receptive to me trying to chase her on my handbike to get some footage. Have a look:

 

https://youtu.be/fi-BlWILvfk

 

All in all, with some good speeds achieved at the test centre, and training going to plan with all the targets achieved, things are looking very good for success at Battle Mountain.

Someone’s a little cranky

Someone’s a little cranky

 

Back in week one of testing we were doing one of the preliminary runs with the first set of prototype cranks. I believe it was on the first ride and we were all just getting a general feel for the fit of the bike and the overall layout and function of all the parts.

 

Things were going well and the first round of adaptations and adjustments were following suit. It was a great start to the testing and late in the day I told the team, “I vowed that if something was going to break, it wouldn’t be because of me.” I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

 

About five minutes later, I broke the cranks.

 

Luckily these were just rough prototypes designed for measuring the fit but still…

 

The happy end result is that after a coupe other iterations of cranks, the team have developed a new set that should fit nicely within the tight confines of the shell and still provide the length needed for the riders to get the power down.

 

When I received word of the dimension of the final cranks, I was very pleased indeed!

Cranks
Cranks

Along with the cranks are some of the last final adjustments to the bike and the chainring guard is the 2nd most appreciated one for me. Like many of the WHPSC bikes, Arion 4 is a very tight fit in many areas. Luckily the team has improved the fit for me under the chainrings.

Chain guard
Chain guard