There’s a common misconception that high performance comes at a high price, both in financial terms and time. The guys at Verve wanted to dispel this idea, by demonstrating that with the right equipment and guidance, anyone can experience significant improvement.
Michael Smith, who typically commutes 250 miles a week, took part in the study and was provided with an InfoCrank and RevBox, as well as access to VeloPro (an adaptive training programme) and Zwift.
“I was thrown back into my childhood last year (2016). No, not at Christmas, but in July. The 29th to be exact; this was my Christmas Eve. I knew that the day after I was to receive a delivery of my InfoCrank and this made me feel all those feelings again. I just couldn’t wait.”
“Having only seen pictures of an InfoCrank before, I was struck by how aggressive this thing looked in the flesh. Like something out of the military… It looks to have attitude, an attitude that, when you’re giving all you have, it’s going to be looking right back at you saying, ‘Is that all you have?’ ... I think it looks fantastic…Fitting [the InfoCrank] was a breeze and indeed this made for an especially nice experience given the small box of tools that is supplied with the InfoCrank.”
All these training aids are designed with the busy individual in mind; someone who is attempting to train hard, around family and work commitments, potentially without a coach. Very few individuals have the luxury of unlimited time and money (equipment) to train, and those that do, i.e. the pros, are hard to relate to. Their outcomes seem unreachable because the way they got there seems implausible to us mere mortals.
During the study period, Michael would use the provided tools to train with, undergo regular functional threshold power (FTP) testing and receive advice to ensure he was progressing as best as he could.
“So, out onto the road and, as with many new goodies, the psychological boost [of the InfoCrank] is awesome…It became apparent very quickly that it was going to give me data, lots of data; more data than at present I would know how to use or how to make work for me, but this was all part of the learning curve I was so looking forward to.”
After some time getting comfortable with the equipment and riding with power, Michael realised that simply seeing data was useless, he needed to review the numbers. Following his initial FTP test, he plugged his results into the VeloPro training programme and began to work towards his goal: improve 20-minute power by 10%.
VeloPro was created to provide athletes like Michael, who may not have access to a coach, with a training plan that dynamically adapts depending on how they are performing. The program interprets input data and evaluates whether the user is achieving the prescribed training load. This ensures that athletes peak when they want to, as well as preventing overtraining.
“As someone who rides 50+ miles a day, I had plenty of opportunity to do targeted sessions, and this, along with the VeloPro training plan, would see me completely changing the way I ride…I wanted to use the InfoCrank to give me structure, to give me control, to give me a purpose.”
With the FTP results accounted for by VeloPro, the sessions themselves were simple to follow. Michael was presented with the wattage he needed to ride at and the duration he needed to ride for. Although reluctant to ride indoors, Michael knew the benefits of doing certain training sessions on a turbo. By inputting the sessions from the VeloPro training plan into Zwift, he was able to select the appropriate workouts and do certain sessions on the RevBox.
“[The RevBox] can certainly take whatever you throw at it. The base is very sturdy with little movement even when smashing out a session…In an easy gear, spinning gently, it is really no different to any other turbo trainer; it’s when you start to put your legs through it that this thing comes to life.”
The RevBox is a direct mount, low-inertia wind-based trainer. This set-up results in a low friction mechanical connection between the bike and the fan. The fan displaces a large volume of air and provides the exponential resistance to train against. Pedal technique and power transfer are optimised because the cranks are rotated with a natural and unhindered action, and momentum won’t build up in the system.
“Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, session after session after session…it was actually a breath of fresh air to have something to focus on. There is something about smashing a tough session that gives you a real sense of achievement, it shows you that you can do it, you can become stronger…”
There’s something that money can’t buy and that no one can give you, and that’s the right attitude. If you want to progress, you need to put in the effort. And Michael did. Using the training equipment and consistently following the plan, Michael began to see marked improvements, which were above and beyond his initial expectations.
“I thought a 10% gain would have been a fair payback for the work put in, but by using the InfoCrank I’d started to see gains up to the 30% mark, an increase of around 90 W.”
During the study period (April 2017), he decided to compete in some time trial races, relying on his InfoCrank for a pacing strategy, which prevented him from going out too hard and blowing up during the race.
“Having the knowledge of what power I could sustain meant I knew what number I needed to have in front of me. Was it easy keeping that number displayed? No. Was it good fun? Sure was.”
Overall, this study period saw Michael significantly improve not just his 20-minute power, but his 5- and 10-minute power.
Michael, a self-confessed data geek, previously trained using just heart rate and without real purpose or structure. By collecting and monitoring his power data (“The consistency of the data [the InfoCrank] pumps out hasn’t wobbled once. Not one bit.”), following a personalized plan and being able to add an element of control to his training (and racing) using the RevBox and InfoCrank, Michael saw notable improvements in his power and, therefore, performance. Michael’s achievement is down to his consistent effort and dedication to following the training plan (whilst still fitting in all his other commitments), but the availability of the data provided by the InfoCrank was invaluable.
“… just having [an InfoCrank] doesn’t do anything for you; it doesn’t do the work, you do the work. But, should you give the InfoCrank everything you can, it will give you all of the data you need to get that improvement. The InfoCrank has changed many things for me; how my bike looks, how I ride when I’m on it and the performance numbers I review after I’ve got off it.”