Total Beginner - Maximizing 14-day trial - Device Question

Hi, all. Before the Pandemic and WFH I was commuting to work by bike. Once my office became my bedroom I stopped riding. In an effort to keep up my very low level of fitness (and to a have a place to store my bike in my small apt. now that it wasn’t going to work with me everyday) I bought a very cheap trainer. I found that I needed very focus, timed workouts to be successful. I started watching YouTube training videos and riding for 20-30 to recreate my commute. That’s worked pretty well but my setup is such that every time there is an ad (which can be up to six times in 20 mins) I have to get off my bike and walk over to my computer to skip commercials. It’s very frustrating. In order to find a solution to this problem that allows me to keep my computer setup and to find a system that will hopefully motivate me, give me a little more structure, and ideally some type of community, I found Sufferfest and started the 14-day trial.

Although it’s not designed for a non-athlete who knows nothing about completive cycling, I think this could work pretty well for me. My main goals are, workout daily, increase my fitness level, and build strength so that when I do go back to work, I’ve lost the 10lbs (4.5kgs) of pandemic weight and I’m not starting back at square one on my commute. I’m also wanting to increase my mood and do something fun (which my bike commute accomplished…most days). Within this 14-day trial, I’m trying to figure out if this app will be effective for me and worth paying for, or if I need something else.

I currently own a hybrid-like bike, a very basic trainer (not supported by the app…I’m not even sure it has a brand name but it works well), and an old Fitbit with a heartrate monitor my mom gave me. I don’t really know anything about speed sensors or other devices that were listed as compatible with the app. I also don’t understand any of the metrics they use like FTP, MAP, AC, and NM, without doing more reading. If I were to buy one thing (within a $50-$75 / £35-£55 budget) that would allow me to maximize my use of this app without spending a fortune, what would would people recommend? Is there even one thing people would recommend or is this app really best for people with the right equipment and cycling knowledge?

Are there other app-related tips or advice people have for someone like me who is not an athlete, has next to zero knowledge of competitive cycling, has a limited budget, but loves bikes and is excited about delving into a new thing?

So far I have done the goal setting worksheet, one GCN video (which is exactly what I would have done on YouTube but with no ads), and I’ve selected the Fitness Kickstarter 6-week training plan. I also read about the fitness test but I don’t really understand it and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me–not being an athlete.

Any thoughts on how to best use this app would be wonderful!

Thank you!

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I don’t agree that The Sufferfest is not designed for people like you. In fact, given your description of your efforts to recreate your commute, I think you have already convinced yourself that the app will suit you perfectly.

Many people here are casual cyclists. You will fit right in and you may even surprise yourself.

Welcome to The Sufferfest!

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I’ve never raced and never will race. I’d also done exactly zero structured training before I found The Sufferfest, and I’m loving it. The only things you need are a bike, a trainer, a device to run the app on, and the mindset to dig deep and go hard. I always say that I go just as hard as any pro rider - I just do it at a much lower power and speed :slight_smile:

If you’ve got a “dumb” trainer, which provides manually-set resistance, you can add a speed sensor to make use of Virtual Watts. This lets the app come up with a rough mapping of speed to power output and gives you a way to meter what you’re doing. Even if the app doesn’t have your trainer, you can pick a manufacturer of “Generic” and a model of “Mag” or “Fluid” - it probably won’t be accurate to real wattage, but it will be internally consistent and give you a sense of how hard you’re going and how you’re progressing.

Assuming you’ve got virtual watts and are not just riding on perceived exertion, I would recommend doing the FF test even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete. It will allow the program to calibrate the rest of the workouts to your capabilities. Without it, you can manually adjust targets, but you may still find segments of workouts to be too hard or too easy and it’ll be hard to zero in on the right values.

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If your trainer is transmitting power but not cadence, a cadence sensor can be had for that price range and will allow you to target specific cadences (ie, how fast you’re spinning). If your trainer doesn’t transmit power, you’ll want a speed sensor so you can setup virtual watts.

Re ‘non-athlete’, there’s an episode of the ‘Ask a Cycling Coach’ podcast where they discuss how common it is for people to not want to self-identify as an athlete. I think the reality is that if you were commuting via bike and were interested enough to buy a trainer, you definitely qualify as an athlete, even if you’re not ready to call yourself that. :slight_smile:

It took me a while to do so as well, and I’m coming from a similar place – starting commuting 3-5 days a week via bike a few years back, then started adding in some longer weekend rides, and then during the pandemic finally started being deliberate about ‘training’ outdoors.

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Hi Dez,

welcome to Sufferlandria, where serious training is made type 2 fun.

What are you running the app on, iPhone, Ipad, Mac, PC?

I’ve been riding the Sufferfest videos since before there was an app and they were just like better versions of the videos that you found on YouTube and rode along to at RPE

The experience was transformed for me when I got a Wahoo cadence and speed sensor to be able to use virtual watts.

I found that my RPE was to high at the bottom end and too low at the top end. so I was under recovering during the rests and under exerting during the efforts. I stayed reasonably fit but didn’t get much fitter.

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Hi @dez18 Assuming that you’ve got a “dumb” trainer and your Fitbit doesn’t connect to your computer to show your heart rate in the app, then the simplest thing to do is to work on RPE as in the link from @JGreengrass above. You can cross-check your RPE with your heart rate for sections over a minute or so (your heart takes a while to catch up with what you’re actually doing). Generally you’ll find that even when you think you’re going really hard, it’s not hard enough, and, conversely, when you’re supposed to be backing off, you haven’t backed off enough.

Before you spend any money, the only thing you need to do is to work out a mapping of gear selection to RPE (assuming a constant cadence). Everybody has a preferred cadence anyway but if you wanted to get technical your could split the table into 3 columns for slow, normal and fast. Then when the RPE target changes on the screen you know which gear to select and that is what determines how hard you’re working.

Then, to get virtual watts, you would need to buy a speed sensor. The Wahoo one attaches to the rear axle of your bike. You need to do the Full Frontal test once you’ve got this set up, though, as the power targets in each workout need to be made relative to your set-up. You can do FF without a connected heart-rate monitor, but if your Fitbit doesn’t connect, maybe you could borrow one for that one workout?

A cadence monitor is a nice-to-have but by no means essential

Happy Suffering!

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I’m not an ‘athlete’ either although I’ve done a fair bit of races. I started riding s bike at 55 yrs old and 280 lbs.

I second (3rd,4th…) The ‘use RPE’ as well as a cadence/speed sensor if it’s in the budget.

Learning RPE is an overlooked skill that becomes very useful even if you decide to go all tech with a computer, power meter etc… it’s especially usefully in Time Trials.

I’m on the fence about getting true HR data from a wrist worn HR monitor. Mine (Garmin Vivoactive 3) rarely records what my strap HR monitor shows; often as much as 5-10+ beats off.

Long story short; stick around for a couple months by doing the Full Frontal or Ramp Test, doing a 6 week plan and then retest. You may find that you’ve got more power after that short amount of “training” which leads, at least it did for me, to more enjoyable rides outside.

As I asked a lady that wanted help in biking… “Do you want to be a bike rider or bike racer? If you say bike racer then you will be a fast bike rider”. She chose the latter.

Cheers,

Rik

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Hi @dez18 !!

Welcome to SUF! We are so excited to have you. As others have said, you are more than welcome here and you fit in with many others who started out just like you. I follow competitive cycling now but when I started doing SUF workouts 9 years ago, I didn’t really. I grew to love the workouts and then I grew to enjoy the sport as I understood the types of efforts that the actual athletes were undertaking.

Your first resource is our extensive help center that others here have linked to. After that, if you still need help, you can always ask here, but even better, you can write the minions. They are super speedy to respond and you won’t find a better support staff in any industry anywhere. Here is a post that explains the best way to contact them.

Happy Suffering!!

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Thanks for all of your thoughtful and helpful advice! I understand the app so much better now. I’m so happy to hear that I don’t have to buy a bunch of gadgets or be an extreme racer to make this system work. So far so good! I’ve been running on a PC and having a lot of fun trying out the videos and I’m finding the calendar feature very helpful. I’m also starting to get a handle on RPE, now that you all have explained what it is :slight_smile: (The scale was very helpful).

It sounds like if I’m interested in getting one gadget, I should look into a speed sensor (because my trainer doesn’t transmit power) but that I should lockdown my gear selection to RPE first. I might start doing some research into speed sensors; it seems like that could be fun to have.

Thanks again! Your advice was truly helpful and super encouraging!

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Just a tip when looking into speed sensor that there are combined speed-cadence sensors too, having an idea about your cadence is very useful for quite a few of the Sufferfest videos. Good luck!

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As several have said. Assuming you have a simple “dumb” trainer then the best single thing you can get is a combined speed and cadence sensor. I use the ones by Tacx and Topeak and you can get them on amazon. They will also link up to any bike computer you may use (garmin, wahoo, Hammerhead etc)
This single unit will enable you to use the virtual Watts setup. This is exactly what I use. If you can stretch to get an ant+ hrm then even better as this will allow you to have all your data on screen.

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