Tag Archives: bike

Gear Review: Stages Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

I figured after an entire season of using the Stages Power Meter I was in a good position to be able to fairly assess the product. This is not a highly technical review, but more of a review of my experience with the product and my dealings with the company support. If you are looking for a more in-depth, technical review of the product and comparisons to other products, check out DC Rainmakers’ reviews here and here. I never buy anything without checking DC Rainmakers’ reviews first.

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Being a triathlete and a bit of a techno-geek, I was chomping at the bit to get a real power meter. The prices of them definitely had me putting this off for sometime. I also started coaching myself and felt that this was critical to properly assessing and measuring my bike workouts. I thought the money I saved from a coach would help to cover the cost of the power meter. Many units are well over $1000, but the Stages Power Meter came out which was the first real possibility for under $1000.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Stages Power Meter with black electrical tape

I had a little introduction to using real power/watts with my Kinetic inRide unit on my Kinetic Trainer. The only thing is this only works on my trainer, when I am using TrainerRoad. I really wanted to quantify my road rides now that I had a little taste. I eventually added the the Cycleops/Powertap Powercal power/heart rate monitor which calculates your power based on a heart rate algorithm. While this seemed to do a pretty good job assessing an entire ride based on the averages, the instantaneous measure was all over the place. I also had my doubts about its accuracy given that you provided no individual input other than your heart rate. Despite is magically does a fairly decent job for a $100 power meter.

I broke down at the start of the 2014 training season and purchased the Stages Power Meter and replaced my Shimano Dura Ace 7950 left crank arm with the Stages version. It was around ~$900 and change. I probably could have installed this myself, but they recommend using a torque wrench to do it and I have yet to purchase one. Instead I decided to head out to see John at my favorite bike shop, Sleeping Dog Pro Cycles, and have him do it correctly. He indicated that I probably didn’t need to a torque wrench to do it. Ready to roll.

Pros

  • Cost <$1000
  • Accuracy
  • Great support
  • ANT+ & Bluetooth(BTLE)
  • Firmware updates easy
  • Installation(relatively easy)

Cons

  • Portability
  • Single-Leg Measurability
  • Battery cover sealing issues

The unit worked well from the beginning. Since it was Winter when I put it on, I was mostly using it on the trainer in the basement with TrainerRoad. Since I also had the Kinetic inRide going too, I tended to have conflicts with that over Bluetooth. Usually the inRide would prevail, but I was never really sure which meter was being used. I eventually figured out that I could determine which by doing single leg drills with my right leg, since the Stages would not show power when I did that. TrainerRoad has since done a better job of distinguishing the two and have separate lines for both now.
This was more an issue with what hate about Bluetooth(BTLE). You can only pair one specific type of device to a computer/phone at one time. And this is better why? This is why I still prefer ANT+ over BTLE and I think ANT+ will be around for awhile because of this limitation. The nice thing about the Stages Power Meter is that it has both ANT+/BTLE so you are not pigeon-holed into one communication type.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Battery compartment door of Stages Power Meter

The cost of the Stages Power Meter was surely the most appealing factor to me. Although as I write this, several other companies have announced new power meters in this price point just in the last week or so. One is that Garmins’ new Vector system now has a one-pedal option for about $800 with the ability to upgrade to two pedals in the future. The nice thing about that system is that it is easily tranferrable to another bike.
My biggest issue with the Stages device was after I had broken of a couple of the small tabs on the battery compartment door which allow it to lock in place. After I did that I was not able to lock the door in place. I notified Stages and they quickly mailed me out a couple new doors and gaskets. The Stages support is outstanding and they are very responsive to your issues. The new doors still would not close shut, so as a temporary measure I wrapped the unit in black electrical tape.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Backside of Stages Power Meter with black electrical tape

The tape worked fine until I decided to give my bike a good thorough washing. Then it stopped working. Ahh!! Turned out it just shorted the battery and after replacing it with a new CR2032 I was back again. I decided to take a harded look at this situation using a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Turned out one of the tabs that broke off were lodged inside and was keeping the new door tabs from locking. I extracted the broken tab and the doors immediately locked shut. I could have left the electrical tape off at this point, but with my A race at Ironman Lake Placid coming up, I didn’t want to take any chances.
I am glad I did that I took that precautionary measure because we experienced a deluge of rain at IMLP this year. Despite that my Stages Power Meter continued to output my power readings to my Garmin for the entire 112 miles. Some others were not as fortunate. Like my friend Shanna would also has a Stages meter which failed on her during IMLP this year. I think I will keep wrapping it with tape from here on out.

Stages Power Firmware Update on iOS

Stages Power Firmware Update on iOS

Firmware updates for the unit come out very frequently which is nice to know that that are always looking to fine tune the product. The updates are done via your iOS device or smartphone which is convenient. You have to keep the unit triggered so I usually do it will I am riding with my iPhone in the back of my jersey pocket. I have not had any issues doing this.
The unit is very accurate from what I have seen. More importantly it is consistent though. But the numbers I get with my Garmin showing the 3sec avg make sense to me and are not jumping all over the place like the PowerCal did. I am loving training with this tool now. My Garmin 910xt screen now just displays 3s Power, HR, HR zone and Time. I don’t even look at my speed anymore, which doesn’t tell you much anyway unless every possible variable is the same every time. Which it never is. I can also now plan ride workouts based on power zones which has made a huge difference in my riding.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Side view profile of power sensor. Stages Power Meter left crank-arm

The fact that unit only measures one leg could seem like a big one, but I really don’t think it is. Maybe if you are an elite or professional it may be something you need to look at, but for the typical age grouper, we have so many other things to work on this is minor.
All in all I have been very happy with this product. I would recommend it to anyone looking to take their training and races to the next level without breaking the bank. The company is doing well and they firmly stand behind their product. There should be some major advances in power meters coming down the pike so who knows how this may change by tomorrow.

Hope this provided some help and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

Ironman Lake Placid 2014-Pre-Race Saturday Update #2

Last year I pretty much did nothing exercise-wise the Saturday before Ironman Lake Placid. This year I decided I was going to take it easy on the Friday before and then do a light bike and run on Saturday. I usually feel better if I do a little something the day before a race.

Lake Placid Ski Jumps

Lake Placid Ski Jumps

I fired up the VitaMix immediately after waking up to get the engines fueled with a nutritious breakfast smoothie. I did a little bike check and maintenance after eating.  Then I headed out for a nice easy ride out River Rd to Route 86 and then follow the IMLP route through town and then back to River Road. I did extend it a little past the ski jumps to the Adirondack Loj road to take in the great view. The bike seemed to be in good working order and I felt confident now to take it in town and rack it in transition for the race.

Next, I headed back to the house and jumped into my run shoes and did a little brick run down River Rd. It was only about 10 minutes, just enough to get the muscles warmed up. Everything was feeling good and ready to roll!

I through the bike in the rack on the car and prepped my Bike and Run Gear bags for transition.

Bike Gear Bag:

  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses(dark & light lenses)
  • Socks( 1 light and 1 thicker wool pair)
  • Sunscreen
  • Spare jersey(for warmth)
  • Gloves
  • Arm warmers
  • Leg warmers

Run Gear Bag:

  • Sneakers
  • Spare socks
  • Run Hat
  • Run Belt and bib #
  • Fuel Belt & 4 bottles(2-Skratch Labs, 2-Honey & water)
  • 2 Amrita Bars
  • 4 Salt Tabs
  • Sunscreen

Denise dropped me off in at the back of the speed skating oval and waited for me. I racked my bike and hung my bags. It was pretty busy, but everything went smoothly. I tied the bags closed at the plastic instead of the string so that water would not get in. The weather forecast did not look promising for Sunday.

IMLP 2014-Bike racked in transition

IMLP 2014-Bike racked in transition

IMLP 2014-#2422 Gear Bags in Transition

IMLP 2014-#2422 Gear Bags in Transition

We then headed over to the Dancing Bears for some lunch. I was not real hungry so I kept It light with a nice salad which was perfect. After lunch we headed back to the house and just relaxed for the afternoon.

I had made some Sweet Potato Chickpea curry before we left home for my go-to pre-race meal. I did a little thai pepper to it that had a little punch to it. Hope that would not come back to get tomorrow!

I was in bed and asleep by 9:30pm. I really didn’t feel as freaked out this year as I did last year. Having done the race last year, I now knew what to expect and the anticipation anxiety was much less. It was a long training day and I had been through this before. I had no trouble falling to sleep this time! Big day tomorrow!

IMLP 2014-Training Update Week 15

2014-05-24 14.09.15

Week 15 wrapped up with the end of 3 weeks of building volume. This last week topped out at around 16 hours, with a 4:20 bike ride on Saturday and a 2:40 run on Sunday. Due to my late start on Saturday and dinner plans that evening I wasn’t able to get a brick workout in time. Despite the expected fatigue with that volume I have feeling pretty well. I have resolved the issue of not eating enough on the long bike which has made the Sunday runs much more pleasurable.Loch Valley Farmlands

My long bike on Saturday covered the 65 miles Dream Come True ride route which is easily followed with the white DCT marks on the roads. One note is that if you don’t see any marks, continue straight since they only seem to mark turns. It is a beautiful ride through the hills and valleys just west of Allentown. I lengthened it up a bit with some extra riding around the area totally about 72 miles total in 4:25 mins. Not too bad for a leisurely ride.

 

I also transitioned my bike over to my “race” setup for the upcoming Black Bear Half Iron triathlon on June 1st. I washed and lubed up the bike, changed my brake pads over to the SwissStops and put on my carbon race wheels. I also finally got around to putting on my XLab Torpedo Water Bottle Mount between my aerobars. I have had this mount for awhile now sitting in the bag, but was hesitant on putting it on since it didn’t fit real well between my bars. I did have to move my aerobars apart a bit because the length of my bars don’t give a whole lot of room for the bottle. I also could not find anywhere to mount the computer since there was no room on the Torpedo Mount plate and the headbolt they provided was not long enough to mount on my headset cap. I ended up putting the Barfly mount sticking to the outside on my right aerobar. I actually had to angle it down a bit so my arm didn’t keep hitting the lap button. Not an optimal setup, but it does keep me from staring at the Garmin all the time. Smile

I also got a new XLab Mezzo bag to hold all my spare tires and tools underneath my XLab Turbo Wing Mount system. It is pretty nice size to hold stuff and fits nicely out of the way. A much cleaner setup that what I had before. Now with the 3 bottle holders neatly tucked in a more aero position, I am going to take off the frame-mounted cages for races to give a more cleaner profile on the bike.

I realize most of this will do nothing for me on the super-hilly Black Bear bike course, but it is just a prep for Lake Placid which is what is really important.

image

Looking back at last year, I am a couple hours ahead in volume and TSS this year. That is kind of the plan. I am hoping to top out around 17-18 hours here and then start increasing the intensity a little bit. I am also planning on moving to 2 week builds and 1 week recovery from here on out. This tends to benefit me more with the added intensity and it also works into my schedule better too.

 

 

image

imageimage

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has been on a bit of decline, but nothing unexpected from the increase in volume. I have been keeping an eye on it and adjusting workouts accordingly.

hrv heart rate variability trend

hrv trend

 

Next week will be a pretty easy week while I rest up for the Black Bear Half on Sunday. This is going to be a pretty demanding race and I will need all the recovery I can get. After that I will be back at it for two weeks starting at about 16+ hours, then a rest week before my training camp weekend in Lake Placid. Things are gonna start to hurt now!

Pre-Race Scouting Report: Black Bear Half-Iron Bike Course

I have the Black Bear Triathlon half iron distance race coming up in a week and half. It is a fairly local race for me, so I thought it might be a good idea to take a run up there and preview the bike course for my LSD ride for the week. I have been up to Beltzville State Park before to do some open water swims but haven’t really checked out all the roads in the area. I heard the race was hilly, but I had no idea how REALLY HILLY it was. Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

 

The half iron bike course consists of approximately two 28 mile loops around the area, so with a planned 4 hour ride today I thought I would do at least the two loops and then maybe a little extra to fill in the time. It was a very nice, partly cloudy, with a light breeze of around 7-10mph.

Here is the link to my Training Peaks Workout too…

I arrived in the main parking lot in the later morning, unpacked my bike, geared up, and started on my way out the main entrance. There were a few other cars in the parking lot with bike racks and triathlon related stickers, so it was nice to know there were others out there riding too. There was also another guy in the lot unloading a bike with a Endurance Multisport jersey on, which is a local triathlon club.

The Course

The route starts out paralleling Beltzville Lake on Pohopoco Drive, which is a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get started. A series of up-and-downs, some larger than others, that prohibits you from creating any bit of momentum throwing your legs into a tailspin. The last couple rollers before making a left onto Sheller Hill Road are the worst. When I first saw Sheller Hill Road, I thought “that can’t be the first turn”. I was wrong and my Garmin quickly indicated this by flashing a “Off Course” on the screen. As I turned around and now made a right onto the road, the Endurance Multisport rider was turning there too. We exchanged a couple pleasantries and then he filed in behind me.

Sheller Hill Road was gradual at first, but then jutted up to a short, steep little climb. I was then down to the intersection of the first out-and-back section on Smith Road. Smith Rd. was mostly downhill on the way out and then a mostly uphill starting at the lollipop-like turnaround and then back again. There is one steeper hill right before a descent back to Smith Rd. heading back again.

Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

Reaching Sheller Hill Rd again you stay right and then soon make a right onto Penn Forest Rd. You then head downhill for a good stretch, but the road is fairly beat up so you need to stay alert. It eventually levels out right as you pass a nice mountain lake(Wild Creek Reservoir) which seems to be a false flat area. Again the road is pretty beat up still. You eventually reach a new bridge right before it starts descending uphill again. I am not sure how far up the course goes before it turns around. I went half way up the first loop and all the way up the second time. It is a pretty steady climb. Then you turn around and head back again. The ascent up was to Sheller Rd again was not as bad as I thought, but it is another climb in easy gears nonetheless.

Next, is back down to Pohopoco Drive for another roller coaster ride. One big uphill and then make a right on what I think is Lakeside Dr. After a sharp left you come to a fork at Lovitt Rd. When I first saw this road and the steep climb I thought we could NOT go that way, but again I was wrong. This is yet another short steep section. There is a nice long quiet descent through the woods after though.

The course usually turns right onto Owl Creek Rd, which I did, but the road is marked closed and the bridge is blocked off further down the road. It is actually a nice little stretch that you can gain some speed and I was able to slip past some barriers and the large pile of dirt on the bridge to get through. Not sure what they will do for the race though.

 

Bridge Out! Road closure and bridge out on Black Bear course.There is one pretty steep climb after the bridge. I found myself saying “you’ve got to be kidding me” when I made the turn. The really were not bashful with this bike course. The rest is mostly flat or downhill to the park entrance before doing it all over again.

Course Summary

I heard this was hilly, but holy crap it was brutal. Granted I was doing a long, slow distance ride, it still kicked my ass. Last year I did Rev3 Quassy and I though that was a hilly course, but after checking my logs this course has almost 1000 more feet of climb over the same distance. It is 1000 less than the FULL Lake Placid Ironman bike course of 112 miles.

This is definitely not a course to go out like gangbusters. You could really cook your legs in a hurry and have a rough half marathon to run afterwards. The only solace is that the run does not appear to be quite as hilly. I ran part of the course for a brick run and it wasn’t too bad, but it was on dirt road and trails. I think this would be a good race to ride a road bike instead of a tri bike. There is a ton of shifting to do! Unfortunately, my old Cannondale road bike is NOT race ready. Oh well it is my B training race, so it will be a test of my fitness.