Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

As said yesterday, I had decided to do only free-rides each day this week. Today, the guest world is Innsbruck, which to me says “Hills!”, so I opted for the 4.1km Volcano Circuit on Watopia.

Last night when led in bed, I did myself some quick maths. To make it round 10km in 20 minutes, as has been my goal for the last few free-rides, I would need to ride at an average of 30kph for the 20 minute duration. My sums based on if I travel 10km in 20 minutes, then in one hour I must travel 30km, which therefore must be 30 kph.

Move aside, Einstein (some irony being that I can’t even spell his name without the assistance of autocorrect).

Let’s Spend Some Cash

There’s a couple of things I’ve ordered from Amazon to improve my Zwift indoor cycling experience. First, as mentioned yesterday, I have ordered the TV trolley. With the gap between the legs, it looks ideal for my front wheel.

I managed to pick this up for just £50, when it retails new for £159.99. This is an Amazon Warehouse deal, so in other words it’s been purchased new by someone, and returned. Good enough, hopefully.

Also I grabbed a Joby GripTight GorillaPod stand for my phone. I already had a GorillaPod from a project I ran a few years back, and it was just sat in a drawer unused.

These GorillaPod’s are pretty decent. They look a bit like the baddies from one of the Matrix movies. Each of the legs is articulated, allowing a lot of flexibility for attaching to unusually shaped things (like handlebars), or just standing straight up – like in the picture opposite.

I tested wrapping the legs of the pod around the stem of my handlebars, and it seems pretty solid. Should be decent.

The price for me was about £18, which fortunately I had in Amazon vouchers, unspent since Christmas. It’s getting real expensive, this cycling lark.

My only concern now is where to put the all-to-necessary towel when riding. Currently I drape it over the handlebars and down the middle bar thing, so hopefully this won’t interfere too much.

Towel is important.

I will post some more pictures when the new stuff arrives.

Today’s Ride

As mentioned earlier, today’s ride was a free ride around Watopia, doing the 4.1km Volcano Loop. I was aiming for my usual target of 10km in 20 minute.

But this isn’t quite fair.

A key part of my ride is the initial warm up, and post ride cool down. For the warm up, I take between one and three minutes at a low wattage. With no other guidance than my rides on Emily’s Short Mix, I have set my warm up to start off inside the Zone 1 (Easy / Recovery Zone). This equates, as best I can tell, to anything below 110w for me.

I slowly increase my cadence and gearing until I’m at Zone 2, which is “Steady”, at around 110w. I keep this up for a further minute before moving into a more aerobic / exercise mode.

Right off the bat, this eats between one and three minutes of my available twenty. Zwift doesn’t make this super easy to see:

The first part of the ride – the bit in blue, more on that in a minute

It is a touch easier to see on the same data from Strava:

Note the power step up about 1km in to the ride.

Even though my maths above is sound (I think), I’m not really riding solidly for the 20 minutes. Which means if I’m riding harder for 18-19 minutes, I need to ride at a greater than 30kph average to do the 10km in 20 minutes.

Or, I could deduct the warm up distance from my attempt, and then see how I fare. In that case, I think I could beat the 20 minute / 10km mark. But accurately measuring this on Zwift, whilst riding, is not super easy.

The really interesting thing for me, and something I had not realised was a thing until I did a few of the structured workouts, is that Zwift gives you a decent graph at the end of your ride showing you which aerobic training zones you hit during your ride:

And as best I understand it, this graph corresponds to your heart rate zones, which you can find here, or by clicking this image:

I’m not entirely convinced I’ve read this exactly right. According to the linked article and then looking at the majority of my graph being red, this should mean I was at my maximum level, or zone 5:

Heart rate zone 5 is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.


I’d say I was more likely in Zone 4 for most of the ride. I was certainly pushing. I’d say this was the hardest I have pushed so far. I’m very conscious of blowing up, so I don’t go crazy. I’d rather ride every day than go super intense, and then need a few days off.

And of course, I may have read the charts totally wrong. If so, I wouldn’t be super surprised.

Beating Personal Bests

I managed to smash through my previous personal best on the Zwift Volcano Circuit today. Not once, but twice.

And amazingly, I was faster on my second circuit.

I still have quite some way to go before I’m troubling the top 5:

Currently I’d be happy to break the 8 minute mark. I did end up with a Ride On from J. Calvez when I completed my first loop. Good man.

I definitely feel like I went for it today. My left knee is a bit sore. Wondering if my saddle height is a fraction too high.

And I thought I would save the best(?) till last today:

Pretty happy with this. Hard work is paying off. I’ve lost 0.6kg since I started riding (works out about half a pound, apparently). Weight loss is not my goal. Increasing my endurance / power is definitely a big goal. It seems to be working.

I haven’t yet done a full FTP test. I don’t think I’m anywhere close to ready.

A key part of this blog is to show others, absolute total beginners to cycling / indoor cycling, that this stuff does work, if you put in the effort. Zwift definitely helps me.

It’s like a game in so many ways (not just the obvious ones). And there’s no way I would have seen these improvements if I had a plain on “offline” exercise bike, or had to schlep it to the gym every time I wanted to work out.

I could write at length about how Zwift is great for beginners, but the barrier to entry (the cost of the kit) is very high / off putting. As such I haven’t found any other riders / blogs where they are at my skill level (i.e. very low). Hopefully if you are in my position, these blog posts offer some hope / inspiration to you. It is possible. I am far from fit, but I will get there.

Catch you tomorrow.

Leave a comment