Jim’s Basement Blog #1 – Blog from recovering pro-cyclist, current Stages engineer

April 2, 2020 |

Hi! My name is Jim. I’m the director of program management at Stages Cycling and, like many of you, staying home to hopefully flatten the curve. I make sure the Stages Dash GPS Cycling Computer and StagesBike SB20 Smart Bike do the things cyclists of all types want them to do. My last job was racing road bikes, I never made it to the big show, but at least I got into Phil Gaimon’s first book and apparently met Patrick Dempsey while getting an aggressive rider jersey at Tour of California (I had no idea who that was at the time).

Those days were long ago and now my legs look like this:

Let’s just say the Stages Dash cycling computers make their owners stronger, unless you’re the guy in charge of making it, in which cause you trade FTP for LBS and laughs when trying to put on some old racing jerseys. Not really haha laughs, but more laughs you might get when being squeezed into something comically small for your body.

What is this for?

Well, human connection! We’re all entering a strange time with this COVID-19 situation, and I realized something I’ll try to convey by cartoon:

Well, heck that. It’s time to get back on the bike.

Turns out, while stuck in the house testing our new smart bike yesterday I had the best time I’ve had on a bike in as long as I can remember. I had a Dash M50 and L50 running our next update alongside a workout in Zwift while our bike followed the workout steps perfectly and gave me that great feeling I used to get when I would keep hammering away even though it would be so easy to just stop.

That’s the feeling we are all hunting for. During all this craziness, I was able to find it for the first time in years! That’s why I’m writing this. We made the Dash and it’s awesome. We made this smart bike and it’s awesome. I gotta tell someone.

My setup

My wife and I just bought our first house, so we’re light on furniture. Someone’s gotta put all these books to good use;

The Stages Bike actually comes with a tablet holder but I took it off because when I’m testing I have:

  • MacBook that logs raw data from the bike for feedback to the developers in charge of making the bike amazing
  • MacBook that runs Zwift or another application that can control the bike (and slack questions while testing)
  • Speaker plugged into the Stages Bike USB charger playing Vulfpeck at Madison Square Garden for the 100th time
  • Dash M50 with the latest beta firmware
  • Dash L50 with the latest beta firmware
  • iPhone running Zwift companion app plugged into the other Stages Bike USB charger
  • Android phone testing our Link app

And, importantly, this:

The remote for my fan. This is as smart as I need 😉. I also put the fan across the room because when I ride outside I don’t have a jet engine pointed at my face so why do that inside?

Testing can be a little cumbersome, but I get to ride a bike at work, and now work is at home, so who’s complaining?

The ride

Today I was testing some tweaks to our ERG mode control on the Stages Bike, a small change to our firmware on the LR power meter that comes on the Stages Bike, AND some minor fixes to our recent 2.2.0 Dash release.

What’s ERG mode? IT’S THE BEST! Cue up a workout, pedal the Stages Bike, turn your brain off, listen to the sweet sounds of the Vulf, and get those endorphins!!! Seriously. It keeps you right on the workout target. If I had this tool when I was riding, maybe I wouldn’t be the guy behind Marcotte in the picture below as he is winning the national championship;

You can’t see my face but I’m sure it looks like I’m thinking “I’m going to make bike products someday that would have helped prevent this blunder.”

BTW, the Dash is totally rad for workouts

We’ve got graphs that plot what you did on what you’re supposed to do;

The color wheel shows you everything you need to know at a glance colored by zone;

And our data fields change to show your target range and even change color depending on target compliance;

I built this workout in Stages-Link.com so I could add cadence and heart rate targets to my steps (along with power), which automatically syncs to my dash from the Link App on my phone. When I saved the ride, it automatically uploads back to Link, Strava, etc. The cool thing is Link shows true compliance scores. What the heck more could you want? Nobody does this right but the Dash;

Seriously. This is national championship stuff! (not that I know anything about that, ask Marcotte).

The Stages Bike is so good

You guys. It’s so good. I grew up in Wisconsin. One of Wisconsinites favorite pastimes is the following mid-March conversation;

“This winter will never end”
“Yea. This year is insane.”

Anyways, the point is, winter goes till May in Wisconsin, don’t @ me.

Here is what I used to do every day to motivate myself to ride my trainer:

  • Stress about it all day
  • Write all the steps down on paper
  • Put my bike back on the dang trainer
  • Bang my shins trying to move the dang trainer
  • Get my heart rate monitor working (no small task 15 years ago)
  • Make a CD with songs I hoped would keep me motivated
  • Turn off all the lights
  • Hope hope hope that after 20 minutes I still could keep the crazy mental focus to do another 40 minutes
  • Suffer
  • Do math constantly to remember when the step was over
  • Overshoot all my efforts because heart rate is a lagging indicator and differs every day
  • Ruin my only bike, which was steel and aluminum, with the worst thing you can put on a bike: Salt water
  • Log my workout in an excel sheet

No. Just no.

Here’s what I did today:

  • Put my shoes on
  • Turn on all those computers I use
  • Load a workout
  • Press start
  • Keep my cadence up
  • End ride

YES. All the yes.

We’re going to talk about this a lot more in this blog. For now, I will end with this:

After I was done, it took about 1 minute for my wife to adjust the saddle and handlebars and off she went on a ride of her own. No trainers, no bikes, no allen wrenches.

Where do we go from here?

I’m going to write about what we do at Stages because it’s super cool. I’m going to write about living in a world uncertain about the future, stuck inside and looking for human cycling connection. This new reality may actually be the thing I need to find my cycling groove again. Oh, I’m also going to include cartoons, which have been vetted by my loving wife but I can’t be sure whether she likes them or she just likes me. Either way, we gotta pass the time and go out of our way to interact with each other. Talk soon!

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