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A Tale of Neos

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It is the one. Well Maybe. Today, I want to share with you what I see as one of the most painful journeys to self satisfaction I have experienced in a long time. No, this is not a post about mind over matter in training with ridiculous references to the Matrix. This post is a more down to earth tale about man versus screwing.

First, some background. In 2004, I bought a 150 dollar trainer from Performance Bicycle to start my trip back into the cycling world. In the years between graduating high school and 2004, I had spent most of my training doing pizza and beer repeats. Since 2005, I have been using the same fluid trainer. Yes. Three Ironmans. 8 years of triathlon. On the same trainer. Here is what that looks like:

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My trainer and its tramp stamp.

In addition to undergoing a transition from no resistance to high resistance after about 15 minutes of riding, my trainer sounded like a train trying to stop on a dime. So after I completed and passed my medical boards, I decided to reward myself with fancy schmancy Tacx Neo. Merry Christmas to me!

Of course, the trainer was on backorder, so it took a month to even ship. No problems; I figured I had waited 11 years, I can wait another month. Then, in mid December I received word the trainer was on its way and would be arriving right before Christmas. Great, what joyous, perfect timing! Except for the fact that I missed the UPS guy! Looks like my wait was going to be a bit longer. Finally, in early January, the 60 pound box arrived, and I jumped like Ralph with his new BB gun.

Out of the box it went like a bacon from the pan. Thanks to the instructions, the assembly was a cinch. As everyone already knows, you have to buy a cassette to go with the Tacx. The hub is a cool EDCO Multisys. Basically it is a hub that excepts both Shimano and Campy. I slid on my Shimano cassette, but my Shimano cassette tool didn’t fit. So I just decided to tighten by hand as much as I could and loaded up my bike.

Okay, so I just couldn’t wait any longer and I loaded up Zwift. The trainer paired up like Taylor Swift and lipstick: flawlessly. A few minutes later, I was cruising Zwift bathed in the soft glow of LED light and navigating along automatically changed resistance. The first ride was everything I imagined. Smooth. Alive. No more crunching along in my highest gear while just barely scraping my FTP. It was like a dream come true….except for the loud clunking. Yes, the scourge of DC Rainmaker’s comment section emanated from between my legs.”Clack-clack-clack-clack” pierced through the nirvana that is the Neo.

Into emergency diagnostic mode I went. Like a patient with chest pain, I went through every possibility, proceeding from most to least levels of probability. Adjust derailleur. Adjust quick release. Check cassette. Re-tighten cassette. Oil chain. Oil cassette. Drink beer. Try different bikes. Get bike tune up by LBS. Nothing I did mattered to the Neo.

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So, after two days, I gave up to the one possibility I wished to avoid: my trainer was a fluke on the assembly line. Back in the box and back to Trisports it went. Exchange went smoothly, and after three weeks, another trainer was in my hand. Rinse and repeat and there I was again, clipped into my pedals. Cadence picked up and…..”Clack-clack-clack-clack!!!” After this, my mind was as fried as Jens Voight’s legs. In one last hope of desperation, I took my bike and trainer to Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish, Montana. I gave them my story and waited for the phone call.

There are some days you remember in your life. Your first kiss. Graduating from college. Your first Ironman finish. Thursday was one of those days. The bike store appeared on my phone, and I picked up the call with the trepidation of Wesley Snipes answering a call from the IRS. Was my bike framed cracked? Quarq bottom bracket busted? No. After all that, the culprit was…..a loose cassette!! Turns out, a few more turns of the screw with the proper tool was needed to cinch down the cassette. A campy cassette tool at that. This news was sort of like texting your friend that he left his phone at your house. Hilarious mixed with 2 shots of WTF.

The story came to the end this morning. Finally, after three months, I climbed atop my Christmas, Birthday and Boards present and pedaled off onto the Ironman Kona course. Whisper quiet. Smooth resistance changing with the terrain. Beautiful.

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They say that good things comes to those who wait. In this case, my problem solving skills can be looked at as an investment in awesomeness. Glad to finally have the trainer of my dreams…just wish it had arrived sooner!

1UP

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Video games and me have a long history. For better or worse, I can remember enjoying the feel of a controller in my hand, especially in my pajamas on Thanksgiving morning. This year, my Thanksgiving virtual tradition has not only involved Fallout 4, but a new player called Zwift.

I don’t really need to recount the numerous perks and nuances of this program; there are plenty of other blogs that have done that already. So let me just give you a take from the busy average  triathlete. First of all, getting the program working with my bike involved something like 2 brain cells. It was super easy thanks to the onscreen prompts. I have a Quarq Elsa powermeter. When it comes to running a game on a computer versus a glorified power meter (TrainerRoad), I have had no problem with smooth play on a 2 year old low end Lenovo laptop. This is not Crysis. Oh, and yes you can run TrainerRoad at the same time, but you need a separate ANT+ stick just for that program.

Lets get beyond the technical. This is the best thing I have ever found to simulate real riding. An engaging and evolving course, and yes with hills. Group chatter via texting. Drafting. Even better, you can customize your character with various bikes, outfits, and wheels, some of which you get as an unlock for various achievements (distances covered, best virtual chamois). You can even ride without a helmet if you want to authentically simulate being a complete dumb ass.

The latest great change has been the addition of workouts with plans.  I am doing the 12 week FTP builder plan to get back into riding. Also, there is a great schedule of groups rides already. My only beef is that a lot of the start times are based out of Australia, so some of the rides start at like 0500.

So why do I love it, besides my panache for virtual fun? Basically because it makes me completely forget about riding on an indoor trainer. You know I also love TrainerRoad but honestly, those awesome workouts can be pure pain and suffering. With Zwift, I can focus on chasing down a group of guys or getting a PR on a hill rather the eight more minutes of the interval. In fact, on the flip side, it also makes me practice my pacing. Hard to stick to my pace plan when a group goes by.

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So, if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you give it a spin during these cool months. I love it so much I even picked up a new smart trainer from Trisports. So long 11 year old Travel Tracy Century V that I bought for 150 at Performance Bicycle. Hello Tacx Neo! (Of note, there is 25% off on the Tax Neo until tomorrow!!)

PS: No, this post wasn’t solicited at all. I pay the regular membership fee. However, if Zwift wants to give me something, I’ll take a few power ups.

 

 

 

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