For many athletes (at least those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) winter ushers in the off season. It's funny, the term "off season" seems to suggest that you can put your feet up and relax until the next season starts to ramp up, but athletes and coaches know that the biggest strength gains can come over the off season.
On the bike this will often mean hours on the trainer over the dark winter months. Twitter and Facebook are full of pictures showing athletes' new FTP notifications. In between new BBS updates and a couple of other endurance projects I have also gotten the training bug again and so far have raised my FTP by 15 percent this "off season". Part of my jump back into training is related to me setting new goals for 2016 but the other reason has been to test out how BBS can be used in everyday training. We have long supported indoor training for BBS race plans via TrainerRoad, ERG, Garmin, and Powertap Joule file downloads, but after talking to athletes and coaches we wanted to discuss the options and use cases for incorporating BBS into off season training.
For many athletes there is no real way to train on the course they will be racing. Using race simulation during training helps prepare the legs, provides a mental confidence boost knowing where to push and where to relax and puts the difficulty of the course in context to normal training routines. Using these race specific workouts periodically throughout training will also show how the gains an athlete is making will affect race day efforts.
Originally we envisioned people wanting to use BBS to accomplish this race simulation in training prior to the big day. We started by offering downloads in the form of ERG and MRC files but then expanded to add new file types for both indoor and outdoor race simulation training and it has become one of our most popular features. These files can be loaded into many indoor training platforms or loaded into a Garmin or Joule for training outdoors.
Software to "simulate" courses for indoor training does exist; however, the big differentiator in many of these are that they only simulate the elevation changes whereas BBS takes into account elevation, aerodynamics, wind and air density along with a host of other factors.
The reason this matters is that two riders with varying setups will potentially experience significantly different forces on the same course. To help athletes simulate the feel of the hills a bit more accurately, we are now displaying the grade of the road on screen for each race segment on our TrainerRoad specific file so athletes can adjust their cadence to get the real feel for the race in their legs. We have also recently added a new type of race plan download that can be loaded as a workout into Zwift.
If you have ever signed on to Zwift (which is a the new online training video game and community platform), you have most likely seen Ray riding around the Island or the Richmond Course. In late December he road an incredible 1000 virtual miles using the platform. You can read more about it on the Facebook post by Zwift. This feat took just over 59 hours and brought quite a bit of attention to his breast cancer cause and his upcoming RAAM (Race Across America) attempt. Ray has been a TrainingPeaks user for years and was a very early adopter of Best Bike Split. As part of his RAAM undertaking he has decided to use BBS and our new Zwift workout option to pre-ride the course checkpoints in Zwift. This will give him some variety in his training on the game which currently only has a couple of course variations, but more importantly it will give him valuable pre race recon that would not have otherwise been possible. We look forward to supporting Ray in his endeavor and joining him on some of his BBS Zwift workouts.
Lauren is a professional triathlete that focuses on the 70.3 distance and is especially strong on the bike and the run. Last year she had several podium finishes and was in the Top 10 at the 2015 70.3 World Championship. As an athlete sponsored by Wahoo she spends significant time training indoors. Throughout the year I worked with Lauren and her coach Matt Smith to map out race day strategy and help target certain course sections that she could incorporate into race specific training. This was especially important at a race like the 70.3 Worlds in Zell am See, Austria which had a long sustained climb. Lauren used her Wahoo Kickr to simulate these sections and build confidence going into race day. Heading into 2016 we are already looking at her race schedule to see what she can expect with her current fitness level and set race specific training goals based on the fitness Matt thinks she can attain by race day. Read more about Lauren at laurenbarnettracing.com
Graeme is a professional triathlete and coach from Scotland who placed 4th in 2015 at the legendary Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. You may have seen his poem from Norseman. Much like Lauren, Graeme used BBS to simulate many of the harder sections of the Norseman course. You can read his Facebook post about BBS and the Norseman course.
The latest Garmin Edge 520 firmware update has enhanced it's Smart Trainer Support. This allows an athlete to control a smart trainer such as the Wahoo Kickr or Trax Neo with just the Edge device. The two compatible file types from BBS are the Garmin Workout and Garmin Power Course files. When using the Garmin Workout file, the Edge will control the power on the smart trainer very similarly to an ERG file. With the latest 520 firmware you can now turn off the Power Too High and Power Too Low notifications, which is strongly recommended in case there are brief periods where power drops below or above the target. This setting is also recommended for Garmin workouts performed outside. Garmin Power Course downloads are typically used to get Power Target notifications when riding a BBS race plan on the actual course. When using this file type indoors the Garmin unit will pass the elevation data to the smart trainer to simulate the course based solely on course elevation, rider and bike weight. Currently they do not take wind into account and use a single drag setting for all athletes. If this changes in the future we will add support to give a more realistic simulation directly through the device.
Zwift is social indoor cycling video game and training platform. It allows cyclists to train and ride in a beautiful 3D environment with other riders from all over the world. We have created a special Zwift workout file that allows athletes to load BBS race plans as workouts into the Zwift workout library. This file type is in beta as we add additional features to it over the off season such as on screen instructions for road gradient and weather conditions.
To load a workout into Zwift you can download the Zwift file from your race details page. The file should save as a .ZWO file. Place this file into your documents/zwift/workouts directory on your computer and once you load Zwift your workout will be available. If you want to group all of your BBS workouts in the Zwift interface simply add a new directory called BBS inside the workouts directory.
The Race Analytics tool estimates aerodynamic drag (CdA), verifies power meter data, extracts yaw angles, displays weather data, creates ERG and Zwift files, plus more all from your race or ride files. Simply select your bike and course data in the drop downs then upload a recent ride/race file. Use these files to re-ride those epic training sessions, rides, or races indoors on a smart trainer. We have used this to gage an athlete's current fitness versus previous years and to recreate some outdoor rides indoors when the weather just isn't conducive to getting out on the roads. For more information on the tool and how to interpret the data and results please see our the Race Analytics FAQ section.