top of page

What tech is out there that might actually help - Software!

Software

If you want it to be cycling is a very data rich sport, some go on feel, some use the data to track progress, and some to track where to improve. Perhaps we all go through all phases as we progress along our journey. Perhaps some of us oscillate back and forth. Here's some of the standard software that might be useful to you, and a new entrant that i've found to be really really useful.


If you have a coach, then some of these might work against what they tell you, please ignore these in this case, these will get you started but if you are already being coached then they may not add much, indeed they may be actively unhelpful, I originally came from a sport where contradictory advice could cause long lasting problems, not sure if this is the case in cycling so tread carefully if you already know what you are doing.


Garmin Connect

For many it's the core of your data universe, holding not only activity data, but also linking to things like My Fitness Pal for calories consumed (I can only sustain entering that data for about a week at a time and i'm sure i'm not alone), holding weight, BP Hydration, sleep, HR, Heart Rate Variability (there'll be an article on this later) and a whole host of things that you may or may not be interested in.


However... It's not actually very good, it can do segments, but only for garmin users, it can do routes, but only for garmin users. All of the stats about rides are there but no comparisons to anyone else you aren't connected to, if they are a garmin user.

So think of it as a core. This is where everything that the garmin uploads ends up initially. If you recall the concern about startups in the previous article, this is where the concern lies, these platforms are not free to run, and this is the first link in the chain to get your data anywhere else, if this fails you are stuck with uploading manually.

I'm sure that the other platforms have similar, perhaps without the range of this data, Garmin sells something for almost every category. Oddly, my somewhat randomly branded smart scales do sometimes send data to Garmin, no idea why or how but it'll end up there every-so-often, so it's not a completely closed shop.


COST: Garmin connect is free. I'm sure that the other platforms are likely to be free too.


Strava

We 'all' know strava, it's the big daddy of the cycling world. To be the top platform you need people to use it, without that you can't be on top. And that's the bridge that any better platform has to cross, scale. And that's what strava has, scale and breadth. Any headunit can get their data to strava typically via Garmin Connect or their own platform, and from there you that single place to look, compare how you are doing, how you have done, how others are doing etc. etc.


You can build routes on it, and send these direct to most head units now, historically that was more difficult.


It's got some basic performance metrics, these could be better, Elevate (below) does improve on some of them, but there is better.


COST: Free, there is a paid version that gives you access to more data, how serious are you? I think that the free version is being eroded, with less and less being offered. But any contender has a huge mountain to climb. I'm not sure if the free version doesn't collect the data or doesn't show it, I suspect it is the latter and so will be available if you do start paying.


Elevate for Strava

This is an add-on to Strava when used in Chrome (and perhaps other browsers), it's technically an extension so it adds more to Strava. Some of it's features are being merged into Strava, in my opinion not as well at in Elevate. The creator of it has been working on a standalone version for years (5 maybe?) so I don't think it's coming anytime soon.



The only thing it does better than strava or anything else except Golden Cheetah is look at 'form' this being the difference between fitness and fatigue. And this I find to be really useful, knowing that you've just had a ride where you felt tired and 'off' is much easier to work with if you know that you are technically fatigued. Knowing that you are fatigued and you have a race/effort in a week can help you plan what to do. It'll use power or heart rate. It's really just giving you an indication of when you are going to go 'too far' and perhaps set yourself back. Strava has the Fitness data, but no indication of fatigue and therefore form, even though these are well understood calculations.


COST: Free


Xert

Xert is the one that I'm really glad I found, and the one that's most dangerous if you have a coach. The principle is that you have not only a power curve, i.e. so many watts for so many seconds, but you also have a number (MPA Maximum power available) that represents how much sustained effort you can put in at various times and efforts.


Essentially when you are over your FTP (more on this in another article) you are consuming MPA, and when you are under your FTP you are replenishing MPA. If you beat this profile, i.e. put out more than it thinks you've been historically capable of then your profile must have changed and your FTP and MPA get updated which is what it terms a breakthrough. Essentially this does away with the need for FTP tests, it takes maximum efforts from every single ride to adjust your FTP whether this be a sustained 20minute effort or a 30s burst up a hill. It also tracks the relaxation in your FTP if you aren't pushing yourself and just taking it easy for a few weeks.


I've found it to be remarkably accurate at predicting when i'm out of steam on efforts (it did fail to identify that i'd bonked, or even really put an effort in, on a ride recently). The example below was the warmdown and ride from a Wymondham TT.



The pinkish line is the MPA value, and you can see that for the start of the ride i'm not putting in enough of an effort to consume any of it, as I got close to gypsy nook I started putting in efforts up the hills, the down hills were not enough to recover fully, and I peaked on the last climb and was different to my profile. This was about my maximum, there was little left in the tank, the rest of the ride was taken very easily and I recovered. You can get these stats on your head unit, it might lead to 'gaming' it, like I have done here, to wear yourself down until your final effort is from a fatigued state, but that's what intervals with short recoveries are, aren't they? but you can be slightly unstructured as is the case on the road.


This next one is my graph from the TT itself, so I maxed out on Market Overton hill, and was taking it slightly easier after that as you can see by the slight recovery in the MPA (pink), I could have maintained that flatter in theory with a little more effort. The update from that maximum was included in the next ride, even though that was just the ride home. If I look at the previous TT I never maxed out at all.



All the data comes from Strava, which is why the question of is strava hiding or not keeping all of the data on the free plan is important. It'll take any cycling data that hits strava including zwift etc.


There's so much more behind this, that it's really worth looking into a understanding.


Cost: $9.99/month 30 day free trial where it will take in all of your data from the 6 months (approx) so that you aren't starting from nothing. GIven a choice between strava and this, i'd pay for this, but then I'm more interested in am I beating myself rather than am I beating other people (as I don't manage to do that).


Ride with GPS

Yet another website that takes in Strava data, there's only one thing that i've used this for and that's gradients. You can make it display the gradient on a route or a ride as a graph (the line below), so you can see the peak gradient more easily and see where it is. This was useful when I was starting out and really bad at hills and not just a bit poor at them. Might be useful for hill climb competitions maybe? It's as accurate as the underlying map data, so to be taken with a pinch of salt.


17 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page