Sunday, January 29, 2012

Equipment - Sportsiiii

So I'm a bit late in my initial ride with the Sportsiiiis. I have to admit that it was all my fault. Jazzed by the idea of having the LEDs, I decided that I'd make some other changes to my data collecting on the bike. For me that meant replacing the SRM wire, the one that picks up speed from one bit and power and cadence from the other.

It's the latter that concerned me, with power and cadence not working. It's actually been on the blink since sometime last year, and with the season as dismal as my 2011, I had no motivation to replace it.

Seeing as all it took was a few LEDs to motivate me, you can see just what I thought of my 2011 bike season.

At any rate, I spent a bit of time trying to get the Sportsiiiis to work, assuming (like a guy), without reading up on how these things work (like a guy), that the Sportsiiiis would just pick up the nearest heart rate strap.

It does.

But you need to tell it to do so. (For those of you who have Ant+ devices, you'll know what I'm talking about. For the rest of you, keep reading.)

Ant+ is like Bluetooth. Since it's a common protocol/language, it needs to mate with its sensors, otherwise you'll be getting all sorts of weird readings in the pack as it reads everyone's heart rate and such. I didn't figure that out on the first night. Oblivious, I waited for the Sportsiiiis to find the strap, not realizing that the Sportsiiiis was waiting for me to tell it to find the strap.

On the good side of things I managed to replace the SRM wire, immediately rewarded with power and cadence. So my crank battery is fine (and my soldering of said battery). I guess this means I should buy a couple extra harnesses for the SRM - it was really nice to see numbers on the whole screen. It's also an encouraging factor as far as soldering my second SRM head (PCV) battery (my other cranks still have juice).

At any rate the availability of power and cadence really motivated me and I ended up doing 2.5 hours on the trainer. This translates to a bit more time, since I spent a good 1.5 hours setting up the SRM and trying to set up the Sportsiiiis. Combined with a trip upstairs to the bathroom I actually spent more like 4 or 5 hours with the bike.

That was Friday night, going into Saturday morning.

Saturday, after work, I was absolutely dead with fatigue. When I got home I managed to eat (the Missus cooked up some really awesome food), then prepared for a full night's sleep by taking a three hour nap. After said nap, another quick bite to eat, and I went to sleep for real, getting up a good 10 hours later.

All this recovery meant no bike stuff, no Sportsiiiis, no nothing, not even a dream.

That brings us to today, Sunday.

We've been frantically working on the house, trying to get it done before Bethel. "Done" means getting the previously vacant third bedroom fixed up (floor, trim, paint, then move furniture into it), getting a futon for the den (for overnight guests), and doing some basic clean up stuff. Typically it's spring time work, but with Bethel in the spring, our spring time falls in January and February.

A full Sunday of working on the third bedroom meant we finished the trim by about 5:30 PM. Some paint for the same (that's the plan tomorrow) and we can clean up and start moving stuff in.

Trim before caulking, picture taken this morning.

This left me the evening to fiddle with the Sportsiiiis and play with the SRM once again.

I charged the Sportsiiiis.
You can see my heart rate zones in the background.

The red LEDs means it's still charging - they kind of roll, like Knight Rider's (I didn't know there was a new one!) car's eyes, or a Ceylon from Battlestar Galactica. When the first two LEDs are green you're good to go.

First, mount the mount on the glasses.

Since I don't have cycling-only glasses, I decided to just mount them on my regular glasses.

Next the Sportsiiiis
The red round thing is a speaker

They slide on. I advise that you slide the unit on and off the mount a few times to loosen it up; new, out of the box, it was really tight - I practically broke my glasses sliding the unit on.

With the knowledge that I had to sync the heart rate strap to the Sportsiiiis, I allowed them to talk to each other. I immediately got a nice blinking LED (I wore the strap while I did this) and the "female" voice told me my heart rate. You can choose male or female - I figured guys listen to female voices better, at least that's what they found with fighter pilots, so female it was.

"Below target. 51 BPM."

Hey now, she talks!

I wore the Sportsiiiis as I ate, fiddled with the bike, and did the (seven) litter boxes. The voice kept telling me I was below target. I surprised myself by jacking the heart rate up to 79 just by bounding up the stairs, and dropping it just as quickly while standing at the counter waiting for my toast.

When I first put them on.
You can see the speaker pointing at the ear.

The unit is super light, almost unnoticeable, and they definitely fade into the background. I inadvertently hit the side of the unit when adjusting my glasses and such.

After a bit of time on the trainer
The red LED is very visible in my field of vision

You can see I'm in the first zone, below 113 bpm. I chose that heart rate, btw, because that's when my reverse beat reverses, i.e. it fixes itself. Below this I have some weird "heart attack" EKG, above this it seems normal. I learned that I don't ride that hard on the trainer, never exceeding 140 bpm tonight.

The Sportsiiiis have four functions: power, heart rate, cadence, and speed. You select them by double tapping the Sportsiiiis (it has a g-force meter type thing in it so you just tap the side). A single tap tells the voice to talk (exact value at the time).

There's a button for system type functions, like changing between run and bike, turning the gizmo on or off, and, get this, finding a heart rate strap (or power meter or cadence sensor or speed sensor). It takes a just-right touch to hit the button so it's something you want to get done before you get on the bike. Once on the bike, the tapping function works fine.

On the bike the Sportsiiiis worked great. They blinked red and orange (I need to drop all my zones down so I can see the different LEDs light up - I only got out of the low red zone for a bit). I could see them blink, although it's hard to tell the orange from red.

I spent a bit of time fiddling with the LED arm, the bendable thing that needs to sit under my glasses. I tried it in front, below, and behind. In front was a bit much, distracting me. Behind was nice except it hit my face. Below the frame worked well.

I realized that sliding the Sportsiiiis forward and backward on my glasses allowed me to fine tune where the LEDs sat under the lens. By sliding them far enough back, I could keep the low range red LED way out to the side. The closer in the LEDs got (regardless of whether I could tell the orange from the red), the higher the value.

I set the Sportsiiiis to talk to me every minute, but that seems a bit much. In fact, if I had a second Ant+ device, I'd leave it to talk to me every hour or something and just glance at the other device. As it is I'll probably set it to every 5 minutes or so. In a mass start race, where I'm in a field, knowing my heart rate (or speed or cadence) really doesn't matter. In a time trial or a climb it's more critical, and I could see reducing the interval to a minimum. It's like have a director sportif yelling in your ear.

Ultimately, for me, in a race, I think that I'd want to have the Sportsiiiis on cadence. My main goal would be to jump at a good cadence, optimizing my sprint.

The rest of it is gravy, really, at least for a mass start racer. Speed may be fun but knowing how fast you're going doesn't really change things. Power, in a mass start race, is kind of useless, at least at the moment. You have to follow moves, and it takes what it takes. Heart rate falls under that category also; if you have to peg your heart rate to stay in the race, you have to peg your heart rate.

I think for a time trial type person or a duathlete a Sportsiiiis make huge sense. Competitors needs to stay in a narrow band of optimal effort (power, heart rate, and therefore cadence, resulting in some particular speed), and the Sportsiiiis LEDs work perfectly for that.

I was thinking that for me a second Sportsiiiis would be good, on the other side of my glasses. I'd set a second one to probably heart rate as a primary reading.

With two Sportsiiiis I could set different types of values. For example, if I was off the front, I'd be in time trial mode, and I could have settings such that I could keep track of power and cadence, trying to keep both in the green. Knowing my zones I could really pinpoint a sweet spot range to optimize my time off the front. This would work for a climb or some other "non-SprinterDellaCasa" kind of effort. If I went into a race knowing I'd be working for others, I could set these non-SDC zones a bit higher, for chase and leadout type functions.

Otherwise, for me, I would have the two set for personal alert settings, power for one, heart rate for the other. I tend to be a bit too enthusiastic early in races, when it's easy to zing the wattage meter up into the 1000-1200 range without trying. Usually these zings aren't of any use, and in the past some of these transgressions have cost me any chance of doing well in a race. An LED reminder not to rev too hard would be good.

Then, with ten laps to go, I'd double tap the two Sportsiiiis to set them to my preferred mode and prepare for the sprint.

I hope that I can get outside and try this out, maybe tomorrow. I have to cut down my bars (I've already cut my knee to the point it bled), wrap them in tape, and pump up my tires. With a bit of outside time, with wind blowing past my ear, more distractions than just the TV, the Sportsiiiis will get a real workout (on heart rate only, at least until the speed/cadence sensor arrives).

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