Whose Calorie Tracker is Right, Anyway? A Case Study in why it can be Difficult to Lose Weight using Fitness Tracker Data
For the longest time I relied, loosely, on data I got from Endomondo to watch what I ate while balancing a ridiculously active cycling habit. There once was a time I couldn’t eat enough “good” food to keep weight on so I added a little fast food on occasion. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s… they were all on the table. I didn’t overdo it, of course, maybe a couple of times a week, but I didn’t shy away, either. It was a good problem to have.
Two years later it got to a point where I was eating two value meals after a Tuesday night ride to keep my weight up. And that’s about the time everything caught up to me. My problems started when I didn’t taper down the extra food and fast food after DALMAC (typically our “end of the season” tour – after that, we tend to ride a little easier). I kept eating as if I were putting in 250 mile weeks. I didn’t put on a lot of weight, but I got a little mushy, and I didn’t like it.
This year, I’m down at my fighting weight and I’m smarter going into fall. I’ve already started to taper and I’m saving fast food for big ride days only.
However, it seems I may have been using bad information all along. Take yesterday’s 54 mile ride: Endomondo gave me 3,307 calories to make up for. That’s a lot of chips and salsa, folks! Strava, for the same ride: 1,803. Where the extra 1,500 calories went, I don’t know.
Let’s look at another. Last Saturday’s 101 mile effort at 20.2-mph, the last two hours of which were in the rain. Endomondo: 6,559 Strava: 3,832. Even a short 20-miler. Endomodo: 1,216 vs. Strava: 616 calories.
Folks, I have no doubt in my mind that Endomondo is too high in their estimate, and I paid for it. That led to my troubles regulating my weight over the last couple of years.
If you like my blog, you’ll LOVE this post. Read it, in all it’s freaking brilliance.
The bottom dropped out of summer as if someone snapped their fingers. We got a few showers late one evening and bam. 91° down to 68° overnight (33 C down to 20 C) and those are the highs. We went from sweating incessantly in shorts and short-sleeves to arm and knee warmers. I thought back on my first years of cycling when I’d quit riding outside once the temps dropped below 55° (12 C). Years ago, 55 called for a thermal jacket. Nowadays arm and knee warmers with a jersey and bibs is just fine.
That’s what I rolled out in yesterday morning. The wind mentioned in the title hadn’t picked up yet and that was a bad thing. It was supposed to push us out and we were going to fight it on the way home. That meant no push. We had McMike with us which is always a good thing on a windy day. Also in attendance was my wife, Chucker, and my buddy, Mike.
It’s funny to me, as we near the end of the season, how short 60 miles is at the end of the season but how long it is at the beginning. We had a fantastic ride, the five of us. We went out at about 21-22-mph but I figured we’d bring it home around 18… Not so. We hammered on as if the 15-mph wind wasn’t trying to hold us back.
We rolled into the driveway with a fairly exceptional 19.4-mph average (my wife got 19.7 so we’re going with that!). The last few miles were pretty brutal but all things being honest, the other 54 were pretty freaking good. Riding a bike is funny that way. There are always a few rough miles where you question your sanity but for the most part, I’ve only had one or two bad rides in all of the years I’ve been riding.
And even that one or two weren’t all that bad. Now that I think about it.
I have a feeling what I’m about to let you in on is going to be viewed as cycling sacrilege. It just is what it is.
I’m a big fan of Strava since I started using it a couple of months ago, but I’ve noticed a flaw. A few weeks ago, we’re cruising the Tuesday Night Club Ride, on our way to yet another fastest TNCR ever. The B Group is so fast now, we’re actually as fast as the A group used to be a few years ago. Anyway, we’re into our third hill. It’s a bit of a pernicious hill because we’ve got a nice little downhill to it so you can get a pretty good run at it. With a little bit of a tailwind, like the one we had that particular Tuesday, we can take it at 22-mph. Under normal circumstances, say on a solo ride, I’d take that hill at about 16-18 (depending on tailwind lack thereof) and be quite happy with it. In this case, I was second or third bike, thinking about how crazy fast we’re heading up that hill and here comes a few others blasting by us till they crested the hill, out of gas. They coasted down the back side before cranking it up the next hill.
The group broke up in both instances.
I was at home looking at my data from the ride when I noticed the same two or three beat me by a second or two on the climb segments. They were charging up the hills and breaking up the group to get higher placements on the segments. The trick is starting at the back of the group and using it to get you halfway up the hill, then pass everyone up and crush it to the top. It’s not all that difficult.
It’s just… well, crappy.
On the other hand, for those who charge up the hills with them, we’re getting a lot stronger for the effort. Of course, if that’s the worst thing that happens to me on a Tuesday, I’ll be able to call it a pretty good day.
Here’s the rub, though, and I want to make this very clear so there is no misunderstanding: if you sit at the back and suck wheel in a group setting so you can “save it up” for the Strava segments, thereby blowing up the group in the process… You are an asshole. Stop it.
Is there a Noticeable Difference between a Pro Compact and a Compact Crankset – and which is Better?
Word at the water cooler is that the days of the Race and Pro Compact cranksets are numbered… I’m hearing all road bikes will be fitted with a standard 50/34 crankset with the 52/36 Pro Compact and the 53/39 Race cranksets going the way of special-order only.
That leads to my question: Is there a noticeable difference between a pro compact and a standard compact crankset that the change would matter?
It just so happens I can speak from experience. I have one of each. A 52/42 I don’t ride anymore, a 52/36, and a 50/34. The 52/36 and the 50/34 both roll with the exact same cassette, also – 11-28 10sp. Now please, bear with me, this is going to get a little geeky, but the idea is to get the average cyclist to think a little deeper than average on this.
So, to get into the nuts and bolts of this. First, it’s important to look at the pluses of the bigger “pro compact”. This is simple to do because there’s one; top-end speed. While you’ll suffer a little on the low-end, the top-end of the bigger chainring will definitely make it a little easier to either keep up with the group downhill, or bury it. There’s another side to that, though; you’re probably not fast enough to need the extra two teeth. I know this because I’m pretty fast but I’m not quite fast enough to miss them. You’re going to have to be in the 25-mph (40-kmh) average crowd to need the extra available in a 52 tooth chainring. Escape velocity with a compact 50/34 crank and an 11-28 cassette is just a shade over 40-mph (64-km/h). At 120 RPM you’ll be at about 42-mph (67-km/h). Escape velocity on a 52 tooth chainring is almost 45-mph (72-km/h).
In other words, unless you’re in the upper crust of the cycling world, and I mean the top 5% in the world, you’re not going to miss the two teeth.
Normally, I’m for the coolness aspect of cycling. A 52/36 crankset is far “cooler” than a 50/34 because the big gear is bigger. Not so in this case, though if I were ignorant of the 50/34’s benefits I would side on the bigger gears. I’m not, though. Having ridden the 50/34 extensively, I’m very much in favor of it over the 52/36 for a cyclist of my caliber (22-mph average on a fairly flat open road course). The compact crankset fits the 11-28 cassette gearing better for a flaw in the gearing selection when the cassette gears start jumping three teeth per cog. Again, what I’m about to get into is for the faster crowd 20-mph average and above. If you’re in the 18-mph crowd, there’s no circumstance I can imagine where the 52/36 is better than the 50/34.
With the 52/36 combo, there’s a hole between 18.5-mph and 21-mph where the cogs skip three teeth to fit everything in to an 11-28 cassette. It’s the same for both a 10 and 11 speed cassette. For solo cruising, that’s too big a jump exactly where you’re used to cruising. The 21-mph gear is a little bit on the tough side in a cross or headwind and the 18-1/2-mph gear is a little too easy. With the 50/34 combo, the hole is between 15 and 18-mph. Both gears are going to be a little easier than you’d normally cruise at. Faster gearing after that hole jumps two teeth per cog which means a 10-rpm jump between gears. This is easily more manageable.
On the other hand, when I’m riding with my group, I’m just fast enough to not have a problem with the gearing gap with the 52-tooth crank. In our group we’re almost always cruising between 21 & 26-mph so the 18.5-mph to 21-mph hole isn’t as “in your face”. Still, cruising with the group on the Trek, with the 50/34, is a little easier to find the right gear to match the cadence and speed I want.
So how deep does the rabbit hole go?
My friends, when the Venge’s chainrings wear out in a few years I’ll probably opt for the 50/34 combination over replacing them with what’s on there now. There’s just no reason for me to stick with the bigger combination, other than vanity. As cycling and vanity goes, the vanity is only important in how one looks on the bike. When it comes to how one rides, one looks best when one rides one’s best. Being honest, for me, riding my best is done on a 50/34 compact.
My dear friends, I’m here with a public service announcement to shed light on the different ways of loosing weight… preferably on a bicycle… because cycling rocks, don’t ya know.
The Right Way:
- Buy a bicycle (choose whatever you’ll ride a lot; mountain bike, commuter, or road bike), helmet, a few jerseys and a few pairs of bibs (or shorts).
- Ride that bike.
- Ride it some more.
- Increase your mileage and your effort.
- Eat responsibly.
- Dude, that’s it. Rinse and repeat.
*A bonus step: Make some friends at your local club and ride that bike with them. Laugh and have fun. A lot of it.
The Wrong Way:
- Consult your astrology chart to make sure the planets are aligned for you to enjoy fitness
- Think about making a decision to get fit
- Think about buying a bike – taking three weeks to fully contemplate the idea
- Make a collage of bikes you might want and what you want to look like in your kit once you finally get rolling
- Check with your emotional support animal (how sad is that, relying on an animal for emotional support? Seriously.)
- Come up with a plan
- Write out your plan
- Deconstruct your plan
- Reconstruct your plan
- Cut your plan in three and rearrange it so you know it works, front to back
- Come to the conclusion that you love your plan
- Change your plan
- Repeat Steps 6-11
- Realize you started the process in April and you’ve been through the entire summer…. it just snowed. Recalibrate plan for spring.
- Research styles of bikes (for three weeks)
- Research brands of the style you think you might want (another three weeks)
- Decide on a different style of bike
- Research new brands of the style you think you might want
- Research helmets, jerseys, shorts (or bibs), gloves… taking three more weeks
- Research stores that you might want to purchase everything from
- Research websites just in case you might want to go that route…
Now look, I could keep this going. I’m guessing fifty, maybe sixty steps. To put it simply, you never get to the actual riding part because you’re too busy trying to plan everything out. Stop it. Make a decision and roll with it. No plan necessary, just some exercise. I didn’t do anything right when I first started, but one foot in front of the other I got there in short order – and I managed to lose some significant weight in the process. And that’s what it’s all about.
Its 9:34 PM in the evening (thank you, lady redundant woman) and I’ve got scrambled cycling brain. All cycling enthusiasts will be able to relate to this state of mind where your noodle plain doesn’t work right because it’s been hard boiled in a cycling helmet.
I’ve eaten, had two full bottles of water and three Arnold Palmer’s, and I’m still fighting cotton mouth. It was one of those painfully hot TNR editions.
The A Group only had about five guys so they offered to ride with us. I suggested that, should they get bored, they could drop us in the hills.
Apparently, they got bored, and we let them go.
Their hard work at the front, into what little wind there was (<6-mph), left us in perfect shape to challenge our old 22.3-mph record for the 30-mile loop. It should not have been, though. Chucker and I wrote the evening off as we were recovering from DALMAC, a 436 mile week (or 445 if I go by Endomondo, the Tuesday night warm-up loop doesn’t go to Strava). Not only that, Monday’s ride, though mercifully short, was pretty fast (at 19.6-mph) so my legs hadn’t had a chance to bounce back. In short, even the 7-mile warm-up loop hurt at a measly 17-mph average.
Still, we had a great average rolling and we had a breeze at our back for the return trip. All I had to do was hang on. I was on the Venge, and I’m here to tell you, the new Ican wheels are legit (more on that later, maybe after 1,000 miles or so). I did my time up front but my turns were on the short side so I could stay with the pack. We dwindled as the miles went on, from maybe 14 down to just seven B Grouper’s.
Coming up on a busy intersection, we almost got the whole group across but the front two hesitated just a little too long so two in the back couldn’t make it safely across. We waited for them, at just 13-15-mph going up a little 1/3-mile incline, but one of the guys in the back said it didn’t look like they were trying to catch up. I suggested we get going, but Chuck told us to hold it at 21 and he’d bring them back. We did that and Chuck dropped all the way back to them and brought them in. Later, after the ride, he said it would’ve been different if they’d gotten dropped but they were just missed getting through an intersection. As tired as I was, Chuck must have been just as knackered, so what he did was mighty impressive as I saw it.
With the group full again, Dave and his wife, Val, took the speed from our 21 to 24+ in short order. The group cycled through in the single pace-line and kept the speed pegged leading into the sprint for the City Limits sign. I wasn’t planning on going as I’d already given the intermediate sprint a go (2nd) and my legs were not exactly feeling pleasant, so I just sat in and let the sprint unfold from safely behind the tandem.
We rolled across the finish with an impressive 22.4-mph average (I got 22.2, but we’re going with Chuck’s 22.4, because that’s what you do), our fastest recorded yet by one tenth of a mph.
Dinner (and all of those AP’s) was extra delicious last night… and it went down fast. Good times and noodle salad, folks. It’s as good as it gets.
Google Maps says you can make it from Lansing, Michigan to Mackinaw City in 242 miles and with the right crew and a decent tailwind we could make that trip in less than 13 hours of ride time, maybe even twelve.
Instead, the Tri-county Bicycle Association stretches that out to between 365 and 385 miles over four days (there is an option to do 400+ and shorter routes as well). And we have more fun than a group of adults would have if they were 14 and carefree again… only with means.
This year, we rode faster every day. Thursday was a chilly 104-1/2 miles @ 18.8-mph. Friday was harder and hilly, but faster. 99.7 miles @ 19.5-mph with a little tailwind. Saturday was a barn burner, 101.7 miles @ 20.2-mph… we had a nice tailwind but spent the last two hours getting drenched. At least it was easy to stay hydrated… just get behind a fellow rider and open wide. There was enough roostertail refreshment for an army. If it was a little gritty.
We opted for our own alternate route this year for day four. This year I set it up so my wife, who SAG’s selflessly for me and the gang, to ride the best, most beautiful 30-mile section of the entire ride with us. She parked the truck with our pop-up at a local State park with a friend’s wife and the ladies joined us for the ride through Harbor Springs and down the tunnel of trees along 119.
The ride was a “bucket list” ride almost since I started cycling and after having done it four times now, I can’t imagine it ever getting old. So, rather than complete the ride up to Mackinaw City this year, we turned around after lunch and rode home on the lower route back to Harbor Springs and then to the park again. With 61 miles in, that was the end of our DALMAC. My wife and I, and Matt took a cold dip in Lake Michigan, changed, and headed for home.
There were a lot of enjoyable miles ridden over the long weekend but the best part of the trip, as has always been the case, was sharing the experience with my wife and friends. It was testy at times between some in the group, but in the end we capped our days off with fist bumps and laughs.
The weekend was as good as it gets.
The Finer Point of Pace Line Cycling; The One Thing Every Cyclist Needs to Know to Ride Well with Others
There exists one main point to pace line cycling that encompasses all other points. There is one “thing”, if done correctly, will endear you to those you ride with. Done incorrectly, and you’ll merely be tolerated at best, shunned at worst.
I’ve been the subject of scorn in the past because there was a time or two I’d simply stop pedaling at the front of the group if a turn was missed or if we needed to slow for one reason or another. The first time I didn’t know how bad this was. The second time it happened, I just froze when there was hollering at the back to hold up. Both times I almost caused a wreck. I was told, rather sternly, what I did wrong and I learned.
A friend of mine is a strong rider but he’s horrible in a group. He leaves gaps and sometimes he expects others to fill them. Usually, though, he becomes offended if you pass him up when he makes a gap. You simply never know when he’s going to get you dropped or when he’s going to make up the gap he created. One thing is for certain, riding behind him is twice the work as riding in front of him.
Another close friend likes to play “dodge the draft”, though not in the military sense. He likes to push too hard a gear so he’s constantly reefing down on the handlebar for leverage. This causes him to push and pull to one side of the lane and the other. To add to the mess, he likes to check traffic in his helmet mounted mirror so, without warning, he’ll dart to the yellow line to check what’s going out behind him. If you ever overlap his wheel, there’s a fair chance he’ll take you out.
Over the weekend, we met a new kid who had a $10,000 Orbea with Zipp wheels, clip on aerobars and an Ironman 140.6 tattoo on the back of his right calf. You could tell he rode a lot. Just not with other people. My buddy, Chuck, was up front and after a decent turn, waived the new kid up… The new kid stayed on Chuck’s wheel, then when I told him that Chuck was done, that it was his turn to pull, he launched around Chuck at a sprint, about ten miles an hour faster than the pace we’d been going. I asked where he thought he was going, whether he was late for a dentist’s appointment. Then he slowed to 18-mph, five below the pace we’d been riding at. We all went around him at pace and left him. I later learned that we’d made him mad because we had too many rules and he didn’t like us telling him what to do… Of course, we didn’t like the way he rode his bike, so I guess we were even.
We had another kid join our group who liked to coast downhill at the front. Dear God, that’s a no-no if ever there were one. The guy up front pedals his ass off. Everyone behind him coasts. There’s no coasting at the front unless you’re over 40-mph. At that point, you’re close enough to escape velocity that you can coast.
Also this weekend, we had another triathlete join us, this time on a Cervelo time trial rig. He rode to the right of the group (in the USA… in other words, on the wrong side of the group) and was so squirrely, the group was more nervous than a longtail cat in a room full of knitting grandmas in rocking chairs. Time trial guys; at the front in the aerobars, off the back in the aerobars, in the group on the horns (by the brakes, which means you’ll be in the wrong gear unless you have electronic shifting and can shift from the aerobars or horns). You don’t EVER get to ride in the group in the aerobars. You’re not good enough. Even if you’re sure you are. You’re wrong. And arrogant. Cut it out.
So, there’s one rule in pace line riding that encompasses everything: Ride predictably, well.
Or don’t and suffer the wrath of the group. Just stay away from our group if your little BS feelings are easily hurt… We’re not afraid to let you know you’re messing up. Better, if you don’t want to learn to ride well in a group, stick to solo cycling. That works, too. Riding with others, you’ve gotta know that it’s not about the individual. It’s about the group.