What is in a heart beat?

Because your resting heart rate indicates how efficiently your heart pumps blood throughout your body, your pulse rate is a useful tool for gauging your fitness level. Athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates because training programs that build speed, fitness, muscle and endurance also train your heart muscles to pump a higher volume of blood with each heartbeat. Ultimately, it takes fewer heartbeats to power a well-conditioned athlete during intense training as well as during rest.

Now heart rate differs with age and gender. While the normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, conditioned athletes and other highly fit individuals might have normal resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute. This indicates a high level of cardiovascular fitness. Gender is another factor in resting heart rate norms because women at various fitness levels tend to have higher pulse rates on average than men of comparable fitness levels. For example, the average resting heart rate of an elite 30-year-old female athlete ranges from 54 to 59 beats per minute, while the resting heart rate for men of the same age and fitness level ranges from 49 to 54, according to the YMCA’s “Y’s Way to Fitness.”

But then people differ … my friend Jim and I are of comparable fitness – he is slightly younger, taller and thinner but his heart rate is way, way  higher always when we ride together – yet his breathing gives no indication of a high HR like mine would at that bpm…..

EXAMPLE: Here is a stretch of road we both did recently a few days apart  – same time same wattage and we are same weight.

james seg

JIM ave HR 165bpm/174bpm max

RICH ave HR 123bpm/133bpm max

rich seg

As soon as Jim moves his heart rate is 150bpm but mine rarely rises as much although in anaerobic sports like 5 a side football going from still to full sprint it does sometimes hit those high peaks of 180bpm+ (my 100% max)

Screenshot 2016-05-03 11.30.07

Although I get slightly worried about my friend’s high HR it also appears that people with a low resting HR (me) can need pacemakers later in life as the heart doesn’t function as well with age. Will need to question my cardiologist pal next time I see him.

2016-04-25 19.14.24

Another day – training slows now for the 130km eTape Caledonia Sportive (not a race hahaha) on Sunday

Last little ride to try crash train into being ready for the eTape on Sunday.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 15.15.51

One thing I do like about Strava is the ability to analyse segments and see how fit you were compared to times in the past when you had better conditioning. You can see it on a segment here – I went up the Crow Road in 18m 30s the same time August 2 years ago but heart rate now (tired and less fit) was 145bpm compared to a very low 116bpm 18 months back ,,,,, eeeek

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 14.01.42

Maybe i just need those extra 3 months of summer rides to get back to speed …..

26 vs 29er – a racer test

Might be a bit flawed (comments below but this from the mtbr site …)

I know this story is going to open a Pandora’s Box, but in the name of mountain bike journalism I’m going to do it anyway because people need to hear the truth, not a bunch of marketing hype – which bike turned faster lap times at this year’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, a 26er or a 29er? I brought both this year to the high desert outside Tucson, Arizona to find out which bike could better handle the 16-mile lap with roughly 1,000 feet of climbing per lap. The bikes of choice were the 26-inch Ibis Tranny and a 29-inch hardtail from Bailey Bikes, a custom builder based in San Diego.

I was racing for the defending champion four-man singlespeed team, Single Minded, and set both bikes up with the exact same gear ratio of 55 gear inches (38:18 on the 26” and 34:18 on the 29”). Both bikes also had the exact same tires (Maxxis Crossmark), the same carbon Niner fork (the length of the carbon fork on the Tranny was the exact same length as a 100mm Fox 26” fork) and both weighed in at a scant 17.5 pounds. So for all intents and purposes, the only difference was wheel size.

By looking at the Old Pueblo course profile, it seems the 29er would have a distinct advantage. The opening section called “The Bitches” is an undulating fire road that favors momentum and the big wheels of a 29er, as do numerous section of slightly downhill singletrack that really can get the big wagon wheels rolling and a final, somewhat rocky descent that is much smoother to ride on a rigid 29er.

However, the 26er I was riding is no ordinary 26er, it’s the Ibis Tranny; far and away the most impressive hard tail mountain bike I’ve ever ridden in my life. It should be known that I’ve been racing on the Ibis for three years, so there is definitely a predisposition to the Tranny, but I had already ridden the Bailey enough times to get comfortable and confident on it, as the Bailey rides exceptionally well. In fact, it’s perhaps the most comfortable 29er I’ve ever ridden.

The plan was to swap laps with each bike and let the lap times tell the story. Each lap ended up being just over an hour, so if the difference in lap times was under a minute, I would consider it negligible, but if the difference in lap times was a minute or more, it was telling me something.

Celebrating its 14th running with nearly 2,000 total participants and an equal number of spectators and supporters, the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo has become the premier 24 Hour race in the United States and the perfect venue with which to conduct my 26er vs. 29er test. I elected to start the race by running the quarter-mile LeMans start, trying not to get trampled by nearly 600 crazed, lycra-clad lunatics in the process. Because of my history with the Ibis Tranny, I elected to ride it first.


Lap #1 – Ibis Tranny – 1:05.39

This lap was a modified lap, because it included a two minute run and we went down an opening fire road that bypassed the first section of trail that everyone would ride from lap two onward. But the difference in time between this modified lap and the standard lap was negligible. The start was as insane as I expected. I had a good run and was 10th man on the bike but quickly got spun out in the mad dash of geared riders. In the very first corner turning onto The Bitches, some guy with more fitness than skill ran out of talent in front of me. I had nowhere to go but right into his bike. Fortunately, bike and body were unscathed, but unfortunately my front tire had burped about 10 psi, leaving me with barely 20 psi in my front tire for the entire first lap. Not a good start! I quickly got back on the Tranny and settled into a solid pace. There was a wicked headwind on the backside of the course for a good 20 minutes, which meant finding a wheel was crucial. Because of my partially deflated front tire, I had to back off a bit on the downhill sections, a place where I typically make up lost ground. Definitely would have been in the 1:04s with a fully-inflated front tire.

Lap #2 – Bailey 29er – 1:07.20

The first lap on the Bailey went very well. No issues at all. The bike was extremely comfortable, and compared to the darty, zippy, somewhat unstable riding nature of the Tranny, the Bailey was smooth and composed over all rocky and technical sections. It was clearly an easier bike to ride with control. But there was a variable emerging I hadn’t factored in before the start of the race – lapped traffic. By the time I was on my second lap it was nearly 5PM and we were passing A LOT of people. I stopped counting how many people I passed at 50.

Passing on the Old Pueblo course is a dangerous proposition due to the sea of cactus covering every square inch of the race course. If you clip a corner by even six inches, you’re getting a face full of cholla. Although there were numerous sections of fire road, most of the course was single track no wider than two feet. The 20 mph headwinds on the backside of the course made passing even more difficult at times.

The big wheels of the Bailey were noticeably harder to accelerate when passing, and when you had to do it more than 50 times in a lap, the exerted effort started to add up. The big wheels also tended to understeer in corners, forcing me to use much more body English to get the Bailey through turns quickly and smoothly.

Lap #3 – Ibis Tranny – 1:08.42

It should be noted that this was the first nighttime lap, so times are naturally a little bit slower. On this lap I had eaten a sandwich a little too close to my lap time, resulting in some stomach issues. My legs felt good, but I felt as if I was riding slower than I should have. Headwinds had died down, but there was still a ton of traffic to pass. I noticed immediately once getting into the singletrack that the Tranny was far easier to accelerate and shoot past people with.

Set up as a rigid bike, the Tranny felt like a tight and dialed cruiser BMX bike on the downhills; a little twitchy, but undeniably fast with razor-sharp precision through the turns, rewarding a rider willing to push it into corners with fast exit speeds. When I came in and looked at my lap time, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be slower than the time showed.

Lap #4 – Bailey 29er – 1:10.03

Although I was on my fourth lap, thanks to all the GU Energy and endurance racing wisdom my teammate Yuri Hauswald was hooking me up with, my legs felt amazing. Having eaten hours before this lap, I had no stomach issues and was ready to uncork a faster lap than lap #3. I went out of the gate charging at 1:30AM and found a race course more empty than it had been all day long. I was setting my sights on a 1:07 lap. The Bailey rolled effortlessly through The Bitches and along the flat fire road sections. The winds had completely died to nothing more than a gentle breeze and most of the slower riders had gone to bed. Things were looking good.

Although I ripped the downhills on the Bailey, I had to be very careful, as its low bottom bracket had me clipping a few rocks when trying to gently pedal through corners. I also found myself dragging a bit on the power pole climb, getting out of the saddle numerous times to try and keep the big wheels of the Bailey rolling fast. I crested the power poles climb and careened downhill to the transition zone all smiles…until I saw my lap time at a 1:10. I guess I was just getting more tired and didn’t realize it. I hadn’t yet made my decision on which bike I thought was faster, but the last lap for me was the clincher.

Lap #5 – Ibis Tranny – 1:07:04

It should be noted that this was the ‘sunrise’ lap. I started in the dark at 6AM and by about halfway through the lap I turned off my lights. But regardless, the half-lap of light was not the reason why I was three minutes faster. Additionally, this lap saw more traffic and passing than lap #4. I also did not feel as good mentally or physically at the start of this lap as I did on Lap #4, where I went out of the gates charged up and ready to uncork one.

Lap #5 started with less mental motivation. I was slower through The Bitches, but once I got on the single track and descended past the whiskey tree, things started to click. The Tranny was talking to me. It just felt right. When I got to my split point two-thirds through the lap and saw I was two minutes ahead of my last lap split, I charged as hard as I could up the power line single track and bombed the downhill back to the transition zone. I couldn’t believe I had just turned a three-minute faster lap. I don’t think my teammates believed it either.

Lap Summary

Lap #1 – Ibis Tranny – 1:05.39
Lap #2 – Bailey 29er – 1:07.20
Lap #3 – Ibis Tranny – 1:08.42
Lap #4 – Bailey 29er – 1:10.03
Lap #5 – Ibis Tranny – 1:07:04


Let me start by saying both bikes are exceptional machines. They’re both insanely light, they both handle extremely well and they’re both super comfortable and easy to get accustomed to. You can call me biased, you can say my analysis is flawed, but at least for me, the Ibis Tranny was clearly the faster bike on the 24 Hours course. What it really came down to was the exerted effort of having to pass dozens of people per lap. The Bailey clearly required more energy to do this, and because both bikes were set up with the exact same gearing, there was no masking the acceleration deficiencies of a 29er. You can hide these deficiencies with gears and derailleurs, but when you got only one gear, immediate acceleration will always bend in favor of the 26er.

Does a 29er roll in a straight downhill line faster? Sure. Of course it does. But how many mountain bike races do you do where the downhill is perfectly straight? Although the Tranny doesn’t roll as fast as the Bailey, the Tranny accelerates so fast that within three pedal strokes you’re completely back up to the speed of a 29er.

People have told me I’m faster on the Tranny because I’m used to it, and that if I just ride a 29er for a month or two and get accustomed to it, I’ll go faster. What logic is that? If the 29er was truly a better bike, I should have seen immediate improvements in lap times, not gradual improvement over the course of a month or two. I’m not saying that the 29er is a bunch of marketing hype. The sub-1000 gram Bailey 29er is an incredible machine, and at a $1500 retail price (You can buy it for $1250 on their website), it’s among the best performance values on the market today with the best OEM warranty in the industry (features a two-year, no-fault 100% repair or replacement).

But what I am saying is that a well designed bike is fast regardless of what size wheels it has. I understand why people like 29ers; they’re comfortable, they’re smooth, they’re easier to ride fast, especially over rocky terrain. But if you’re looking for an all-out speed machine that absolutely shreds downhills and accelerates like an arrow from a crossbow uphill, I’ve yet to find a bike that’s better than the Ibis Tranny. The 26er is not dead, it just smells funny.


March 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Great write up. I just did a little statistical analysis where I compared the three Ibis 26″ times to the two Bailey 29″ times. Statistically there is no difference between the two bikes. You would need many more runs to actually tell if they were different with times this close. The best thing you can say at this point is they are not different, at least with that data. This in itself is interesting…you are saying that the 29 does not give a clear advantage. Warning: the test has very low statistical ‘power’ with this sample size, and no ‘pairing’ of laps was done.

I would say energy used on previous laps, and amount of rest between laps as well as day and night time laps had more to do with time differences than wheel size.

Take lap 4 and 5 for instance. Lap 4 started at 1:30am in the dark verses 6:00am on the 5th lap. Everyone is slower in the dark, and given your lap time, you would have finished your lap at 2:40am, giving yourself 3:20 of rest and refuel before you started your next lap.

These difference alone can skew your results.

Poorly run studies are not helping anyone make the right choice.

Ride what makes you happy regardless of wheel size.

Interesting read. The only two things I would point out is that the improvement you experienced with the 26 is not quite as clear as the conclusion states. The second lap was faster than the third. And the second point is that one problem with a “scientific study” in any case that involves humans is the the human involvement. The human variable is one of the most difficult to account for in any scientific study. We tend to screw everything up. Also, were temperatures, wind conditions, light, other riders, tire, pressure, energy use, etc all identical in every lap? The variables that can get involved can boggle the mind. This is one big reason why environmentally controlled rooms and robotics are used so much in data collection. However, I don’t think it’s wrong at all to say that for you the 26 worked better for you in this case. Emotional conclusions can have a big effect on performance in humans (Placebo’s sometimes work for a reason). Ride whatever you feel most awesome with and you will probably perform the best. Hard to really go wrong with either bike choice you had handy that weekend.



Polar RCX5 review

The Polar HRM arrived nearly a month ago now and I have had a good chance to use it in various sports.

Firstly unboxing showed a nice little box and neat packaging. When you first switch on RCX it asks you to input basic things like sex, age, height, weight as well as the amount you exercise per week. I fall into a higher (amateur) category of roughly 5-7 hrs / week.

The RCX typically comes in 3 configurations … a gps setup which includes the excellent G5 gps. This is a very nice waterproof unit which holds charge for 20 hrs which is far from what i have had the pleasure of exceeding. The unit comes with an armband although I must confess that one month later i have yet to use it. The unit is very wee and fits into the small key pocket at the front of my running shorts as well as the back pocket of my running tights. I even used it the other day on a ride and had it jammed into a small front pocket of my jacket pocket. Being hunched over I expected the reception and subsequent track to be slightly skittish but coming back i compared the track to the one recorded by my Garmin Edge 305 which is on my stem with an uninterupted view of the sky. The comparison revealed that the Garmin recorded the ride as 51.42km and the edge at 51.62km … that is a 200m discrepancy over a huge distance. thinks it something like 0.4% (better get my calculator out) I am sure a shoulder mount or bar mount would make it perfect (that is me judging the Edge to be perfect …)

Other configurations are the Run pack which comes with the S3+ stride sensor. I have not used this but have seen side by side comparisons to the Garmin unit and from what I gather they are pretty compareable. The Polar unti is much bigger and does everything the Garmin does … the only feature useful to me would be the stride count … but then i am a slight Chi runner and my footfall stride is roughly 83-85/min.

The other configuration i have seen is the bike pack which has a cadence and Speed Censor … the cadence sensor would be the most useful to me … if you have the GPS sensor then i think you dont need the speed sensor.
One point I would say is that it is a shame that it is not the one unit like many of the competitors now do. Times and Garmin do their combined ones. I still use my Garmin unit along with the edge indoors when on the turbo trainer and having this placed on the back wheel makes it very practical.

I think that all the above configurations come with a heart rate belt although it is also possible to buy the RCX5 unit as a standalone piece which is probably only something that athletes that already own a polar belt (although not all older belts can be seen by the RCX5) On the heart Belt itself – amazingly comfortable and using Garmin and Suunto for the past few years I must confess that Polar know what they are doing when they make the belts … so comfy and you never get a strange spike or weird reading that you sometimes get with the Garmin HR belts.
Polar also do sports bras for women which have the HR receiver built into them which should make them more comfy than a standard setup for some.

what works with what POLAR

Back to the RCX unit. There are two colours to choose from a black and a red … I chose red because everyone knows that red is faster.

The square design has been criticised by some but I think it is great … it is slightly larger than a normal watch but once exercising the display is clear and very easy to use.
You can customise the display to show what you want to see .. I have gone into this before HERE

Using the Unit
Strapping the RCX on I immediately noticed how comfortable the watch was – in fact the whole construction oozes class not something i have noticed in the build of any previous Polar, Garmin or Suunto with the possible exception of my Suunto Core

Going outside for a run you can leave the gps on a wall whilst you pre-stretch – and then it latches onto the signal very quickly – the chipset inside the unit is a SIRF6 which allows for quicker lock on. the given wisdom is that cold fixing (in an area you have not been in before) will take around a minute, and hot fixes (starting in an area where you finished your last run / ride) will take 10-20 sec. From experience this seem to hold true. Of course this is a gps so switching it on when inside your house will not be good … but a sky above you should be good enough for the fix.
A tip I learnt for cold or rainy weather is to switch on the gps and leave it in your window whilst you put shoes on and it is generally ready to go when you are.

The unit when setting it up can be set to auto-lap – this is something I use when running having the watch perform every 1km … i find this more useful as a pace guide and a very good nudge to the brain when i need to speed up.
the watch can be set to either follow a programme (which can be configured on polar personal trainer and downloaded) say if you were doing intervals with a 5min warm up, 10 min tempo and 3 fartleks then arm down. The watch also has a great audible warning which can be set to pace or HR. This can either be set to Loud, quieter or off. I find this more useful when doing a fat-burn ride or run when my natural instinct is to speed up and defeat the very purpose of the training.

Post exercise the RCX5 stores your last exercise in the data section fro you to review. By itself the RCX5 gives a good breakdown and review of data. You can look at individual training sessions or see a summary of the week which is useful if you need a motivator to get out the door for a run or cycle. One of the good features is that there is a very good heart rate zone breakdown as well as a neat thing were you can see what percentage of calories was in fat burn.

HR zone breakdown

Speaking of features there is something missing and that is a proper barometric altimeter. Most of the course I do aren’t that hilly and I put bike tracks into bikewithgps or other tracking websites which recomputes gps info and produces a ride profile. For those running in hilly location this lack of altimeter might be a problem but for me it is not a deal breaker.

I think the beauty of the Polar RCX5 is in the heart rate monitoring … a lot of people like myself would look at the lack of ANT+ support and the very annoying lack of integration with other platforms like map my run, bikely,endomondo and others and decide not to go with polar BUT (and it’s a big butt) polar does and has always done great heart rate monitors. The analysis that you can do post exercise is way better than polar and a bit better than the hrm software that my old suunto t6 used with movescount.

Once you have done the exercise you can upload the data using polar weblink which is a free download from their site. One word of advice make sure you click the RCX5 for PPT option as I inadvertently clicked the other option when downloading the update then tore my hair out trying to figure out what i had done)
With the Polar Personal Trainer software you can create programs as well as seeing very easily how your training load is…. This prevents you overtraining (however rare this is in my case)

Finally I would say that polar, although not integrating as well as Garmin does with ANT+, weblink does allow you to access the RCX5 and download the .hrm files and .gpx files (gps track) – it’s a shame it doesn’t use the .tcx format but i think that is a garmin proprietary format.

I may have highlighted some weaknesses in this review but I am happy with the unit and wouldn’t change it.

First outdoor ride on the Lynskey

The plan was hatched – a relatively early departure from the house then an hour cycling somewhere then an hour back. I ended up heading west through the less pretty parts of Dumbarton until I was under the Erskine bridge. Decided to ride over it as I had seen a cycle path over the bridge before and then attempted to fin my way back to glasgow on the south side of the river.

I had one or two extra meanders but came back through Govan. Here is ride


The view from the bridge is quite spectacular

sad to see that where I stopped to take this pic there were flowers in the railings where some sad soul decided to end it all in the past.

titanium on steel

I was using my Polar RCX5 with gps (and the gps was buried in my front pocket of my jacket meaning it’s view of the sky must have been greatly obscured by my body …. ) I also had my Edge mounted on the stem and the similarity between the data was amazing – I was expecting the Polar to be way out …. but after the ride it said 51.49km compared to Garmins 51.69km …. quite amazing. Would have been perfect if I had used the shoulder strap I think.

Uploaded both .gpx tracks into Sportypal to compare and here is the result.

as near as damn it

Heart rate from Running to Cycling


Athletes who use a heart rate monitor as a training aid need to identify their maximum heart rate in order to determine their appropriate training zones. Here is a brief listing comparing Running, Rowing and Cycling …. 3 popular outdoor and gym activities.

Calculation of Maximum Heart Rate

The easiest and best known method to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is to use the formula 220-age. A paper by Londeree and Moeschberger from the University of Missouri-Columbia indicates that the MHR varies mostly with age, but the relationship is not a linear one. They suggest an alternative formula of 206.3 – (0.711 * age). Similarly, Miller et al from Indiana University propose the formula 217- (0.85 * age) as a suitable formula to calculate MHR.

Londeree and Moeschberger also looked at other variables to see if they had any effect on the MHR. They found that neither sex or race make any difference but they did find that the MHR was effected by the activity and levels of fitness.

Studies have shown that MHR on a treadmill is consistently 5-6 beats higher than on a bicycle ergometer and 2-3 beats higher on a rowing ergometer. Heart rates while swimming are significantly lower, around 14 bpm, than for treadmill running. Elite endurance athletes and moderately trained individuals will have a MHR 3 or 4 beats slower than a sedentary individual. It was also found that well trained over 50s are likely to have a higher MHR than that which is average for their age.

To determine your maximum heart rate you could use the following which combines the Miller formula with the research from Londeree and Moeschberger.

  • Use the Miller formula of MHR=217 – (0.85 * age) to calculate MHR
  • Use this MHR value for running and versaclimber training
  • Subtract 3 beats for rowing training
  • Subtract 5 beats for bicycle training
  • Subtract 3 beats for elite athletes under 30
  • Add 2 beats for 50 year old elite athletes
  • Add 4 beats for 55+ year old elite athletes

Here is a table to help you. or for those wanting a spreadsheet with HR zones plugged in then look HERE – Adjust only the age to see the changes – if for some reason a reader busts it can you let me know and I will reupload ….

Running Rowing Bicycle
Age Average
20 200 197 197 194 195 192
25 196 193 193 190 191 188
30 192 189 189 186 187 184
35 187 187 184 184 182 182
40 183 183 180 180 178 178
45 179 179 176 176 174 174
50 175 177 172 174 170 172
55 170 174 167 171 165 169
60 166 170 163 167 161 165
65 162 166 159 163 157 161
70 158 162 155 159 153 157