I do a lot of indoor riding. Even now with the weather finally improving after a pretty brutal start to Spring. Weekdays usually see me entering the pain cave around 6:30am for an hour or two.

I had been relying almost exclusively on the Sufferfest and Zwift for my virtual rides. I decided to give a couple of others a try. I have really been enjoying BigRingVR.

They do something very clever in that they pair a high definition video source of an actual ride and manage to create an eerily realistic feel. So close to being out on the road. There are now over 200 rides from Europe and the U.S. to choose from.

As Lorraine and I will be touring Norway in a couple of months, I’ve decided to focus my BigRingVR trial period with Norwegian rides.

I took it a bit easier this morning and the map below shows you how the ride follows a stunning part of the country. Although the elevation on this one is nominal — most of the rides have much tougher elevations — all of the ups and downs feel just like the real thing.

These rides make you work.

I spin about 15 – 20 minutes before tackling the actual ride as most of the routes on BigRingVR have pretty steep climbs right from the front. I also take about 5 minutes at the end of the ride to spin out the legs.

These rides are proving to be just as challenging as the Sufferfest and Zwift. Unlike Zwift, which has a strong social element, BigRingVR is more like Sufferfest with a strong focus on solo riding albeit with no formal training overlay.

All three have strengths. After spending several years with the Sufferfest, I am welcoming the variety that BigRingVR brings to virtual cycling. Having the world go by in high definition video creates more of a realistic feel to an indoor session. I download the full videos before launching the ride and I experience a very smooth video feed. BigRingVR also supports streaming.

And, most importantly, BigRingVR uploads to Strava.

If you do a ride and it isn’t uploaded to Strava then it never really happened.

Here is a sample video without the comprehensive dashboard.

Massive Relative Effort

I must admit that I hadn’t noticed this feature on Strava before now. I think it might be new.

I had a tough ride this morning climbing most of the way up the Alpe Du Zwift.

I followed the Road To Sky route. This visual gives you a bit of a sense as to the challenge of the Alpe Du Zwift. It is a nasty one.

I can’t get that route done in an hour. Second attempt and I was only able to get to signpost 7 — short about 4 kms. I’ll have more time to spend on the route this weekend. Feels like it might take me about 90 minutes to finish. Such a tough climb.

Must get to the top though!

At my age, my theoretical maximum heart rate is 159 although I can sustain efforts above that heart rate.

When I checked my heart rate stats after the ride, I was above 150bpm for the entire climb. Strava confirmed what my body had already told me: I had suffered.

Massively suffered.

Tour of Sufferlandria Results

The Tour of Sufferlandria posted the prize winners for 2018.

And there I am. On the winner’s list!

This does not mean that I won the tour only that I won a prize for being part of the tour. My prize is a BMC Team USA long sleeve cycling skin suit similar to the one in the above picture. The kit is made by Assos, a premier manufacturer of cycling clothing based out of Switzerland.

I am still suffering from the tour. It made such an impact on my immune system that I am down for the count with a nasty virus. Day 5 and little relief in sight. I am flying to Las Vegas on Sunday and hoping that I am on the mend by then.

Kitchen Sink

All through the day Sunday I felt the fatigue. Major fatigue.

I really was not looking forward to this particular test of endurance. But there it was: stage 9. Everything and the Kitchen Sink.

I dialed the intensity to 80%. Which turned out to be a wise decision. By the time I got through the second hour, I wasn’t sure that I could ride this stage out to the finish.

And the intervals in the last segment, the toughest part of the Downward Spiral, was simply cruel and unusual punishment.

Every minute seemed like an eternity.

But I wasn’t going to quit. And I did not.

I crossed the victory line. Battered and broken. Which I guess was the point of this tour.

I’ll recover. A few days off the bike now. Basking in the glow that comes from taking on a particularly challenging target and seeing it done.

Butter and Thin Air

And the last two stages of the tour began with Butter + Thin Air. A two-hour effort where I started at 95% and dialed the intensity back to 85%.

I came off the bike uncertain as to how I would finish the final, brutal three-hour stage that followed on the Sunday.

Suffer, suffer, suffer.

The Chores

Another stage completed at 100% intensity.

Definitely felt the cumulative impact of back-to-back high intensity efforts.

I had no choice but to dial the intensity back for the week-end.

Do As You’re Told

Got through Stage 6 at 100%. It was tough but short. I can handle high intensity workouts when they are only 40 minutes or so. It is the long, punishing high intensity efforts that scare me. Like Stage 9. Three hours of suffering.

I can hardly wait.

Bereda Training has a great post on how to withstand the misery of the Tour of Sufferlandria. If you haven’t seen the metrics that most cycling enthusiasts use to track their workouts, then it may come as a bit of a shock to see all of the data underneath the misery.

I don’t need all of that data to know that the Tour is miserable. I can feel the misery!

The only way to withstand the misery of the Tour is to finish all of the stages. And I will finish all of the stages.

A vomit bucket might help though for when it gets too miserable.

Stage 7 awaits this evening.

Fight Club


You can see how this nasty workout progresses with five discrete high intensity efforts that run six and a half minutes each. I got through the first one at 100% intensity and I knew that there was no way I could finish the workout at that level. Not with the cumulative impact of the past 4 stages.

I did the second one at 95% intensity. Almost didn’t finish.

Down to 90%. And then 85% for the balance.

Awful. Just awful.

I felt broken coming off the bike. Probably wasn’t help by a stressful day at the office. I came into the workout with a poor attitude. Sufferfest videos are largely a mental game. Physically I can get through them. Mentally, though it can be tougher. Much, much tougher. Must stay in the moment.

This is a powerful video and well worth the 20 minutes if you are into endurance sports although it readily applies to other areas of life. The Ted talk is described this way:

Mind over Matter? Ned Phillips explains the idea of peak performance in what he calls ‘the power of now’. His entire career, he never realized the importance of the mind until he partook in endurance races, in which the realization struck, your mind has to take over, and focus not on the past, not the future, but only the present, and naturally your body will follow.