Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Northwave Revolution 2

Who thought matte finish cycling shoes were a good idea?

I have used Northwave shoes for many years. A couple of years ago they rolled out a new sole plate that wraps further up the sides of the shoe; in both the all-carbon top-of-the-line shoes and the partially-carbon mid-line shoes. The idea is greater stiffness from the no-longer-flat sole plate.
I wanted some new commuting shoes. Usually I deprecate the old race shoes to the commuting duty at the same time as I introduce a brand new shoe to racing duty and retire the old commuting shoe. In this case, there was zero wrong with the racing shoes (not a lot of that going on lately!) but I wanted a new commuter shoe.
Revolution 2 in silver is a reflective finish grey shoe with virtually zero graphics on it - it is simply a slightly reflective material with this matte finish. The texture of the matte holds dirt like crazy. So every time I ride in the rain, I need to scrub the shoe to try to clean it, and it doesn't work so it gets slightly more grubby with each wet ride. The reflectivity is disappointing as well. My current race shoes are reflective camo print. Only portions of the pattern are reflective, but they are intensely reflective. Almost painfully so if you look at your feet in the dark when a car headlamp catches part of the shoe pointed at your eyes. The Revolution however, is dimly reflective. Maybe it's the matte finish? Not likely - it just isn't as shiny as other Northwave shoes have been.
The partial-carbon sole is really a misnomer. Actually I'd call it a lie. The sole is nylon like a cheap shoe, with a flat-ish disc of carbon where the cleat attaches. Even with the 3D shape, it is not stiff like the full carbon sole on my older Northwave shoes. And it has this odd squishy feeling like it has a thick and soft insole in it that compresses with each pedal stroke, except it has my custom orthotics inside and they are solid. The squish feeling comes from the shoe, somehow.
Being nylon, they get more flexible with age. I don't know that I've noticed it over the approximately two years I have been commuting in them, but I always notice how much less stiff they are than the shoes I race in when I wear them back-to-back.
I have a high instep. That gives me a large foot volume and makes shoes like Sidi a no-go option for my feet (even the Mega series shoes don't quite fit). In Shimano I get the best fit from the wide fit option shoes. But going back to the 90s, Northwave has fit me well. The Revolution is a little low in volume for my foot and I'm at the limit of comfort.
The final unwelcome aspect of these shoes was the fact that all the bolts (like BOA, but Northwaves on SLW adjusters) that hold the dial adjusters onto the shoe were loose out of the box. They didn't seem to be any Allen key size I own. Not 1.0mm. Not 1.5mm. Finally I was able to jam a very tiny Torx driver in there and tighten them sufficiently that they haven't come loose again. I contacted Northwave Australia and they couldn't tell me what size they were - only that replacement dials came with the tool.
The new version, the
Revolution 3, differs only in that it has the new version of the SLW on the shoe. The same matte grey reflective shoe is available. I won't be buying these. In fact, even though they are not worn out yet, I want to chuck these away and start using my race shoes to commute (I found a new-old-stock pair of the same shoes in a different colourway so I have a new pair to race in when I choose to introduce them to the shoe line-up in my closet).
For a $300 shoe (3/5 the price of the pro model), I don't think a plastic sole with a disc of carbon in the middle and faux reflectivity is good enough. Stiffness index is 12 where the pro is 14, but it feels more like a 7; literally about half as stiff.
If, however, you are lighter than me, have a lower volume foot than me and generally place fewer demands on your cycling shoes than me; this could be a great shoe for you. The dual dials give precise tightening during use and I prefer the SLW to BOA that I have used on other shoes. The build quality on the shoe is excellent. They appear as though they will last well beyond 2 years of daily use. They don't hold a lot of water on wet days, though they can be slow to dry out after.

Smith Squad goggles

Traditional goggles fit the lens into the frame with several keyhole cutouts in the lens that slot up into the frame. It can be quite tedious to make them all fit in without feeling like the lens is going to fold in half.
Modern goggles all have some kind of quick install mechanism. Dragon uses a frame glued to the lens with pins that simply press fit into holes in the frame. Swapping lenses is so quick and easy. The 100% version locks the lens over the nose into a groove in the frame and then pulls the lens tight into the frame with "buckles" at the ends of the lens. Oakley has a similar latching mechanism too. The Smith Squad isn't quite a swiftly changeable as all that, but it is pretty close. The cutouts in the lens are few and large, and the ends of the lenses have hooks that drop into slots in the frame. It occasionally feels like the hooks might break off, but so far, so good in that regard.
The squad is unique in being a MTB specific goggle. Everything else is either a modified (or actual) MX goggle or a modified snow goggle. Thus where the MX goggles have foam over the vents to keep out the roost and dust, the Squad has open venting that allows much more airflow and therefore much less chance of fogging up. Really, to fog up a Squad lens requires stopping completely and standing around. The lack of foam is rarely irritating - small bugs can fly in for example, but is more often a good thing.
Smith's fancy coloured lenses are called ChromaPop. The lenses in these new-school goggles and glasses filter out the frequencies of light that cross-over between any two colour receptors in the human eye. By eliminating them, there is no confusion as to which sensors got stimulated. They can make colours look unnatural, but they do add depth perception and texture comprehension from this elimination of select frequencies of light. Within the ChromaPop label, there are numerous lighter and darker choices. I have two: a medium-dark rose tinted lens and a dark green tinted lens that cover most light conditions short of stormy or dark (which is when the clear lens included with the goggles works best).
They are good for picking out trail details.
They are easy on the eyes.

The rest of the goggle is good too. The foam rests lightly on the face. The strap is sticky enough to not move on the helmet. The lack of foam in the vents plays well with my contact lens wearing habits 99% of the time.
They are a touch small for my XL helmet-wearing self. That should be taken care of by the newer Squad XL option (which admittedly does me no good at all…).
ChromaPop options range from 12% transmission down to 65% transmission; plus clear which has 89% transmission. That covers most contingencies.

Really, goggles are about 2 things: do they fit and can you see?
These are comfortable and fit well in helmets with their slightly smaller sizing; taking care of point 1.
The moulded lenses (they aren't flat when removed from the frame) are usually higher optical quality than the flat ones and the ChromaPop colouring does highlight trail features well; taking care of point 2.

Highly rated in other words.

DMR MotoX pins

I bought a pair of E*13 LG1+ pedals. They were unique in that they used what was effectively their bashguard plastic on both sides of the pedal, sandwiching the aluminium core, to provide the advantages of plastic pedals (sliding over rocks instead of gripping) with the advantages of metal pedals (solid and long lasting bearings) in a renewable package (the plastic pieces were not expensive). I liked the grip so much I bought a second set.
And as with so many things, E*13 discontinued them almost immediately.
The weak point of the pedals was the pins. They were extremely grippy, but they sheared off at the base if you looked at them wrong. In a place like Whistler one of my daily maintenance duties was to replace all the missing pins ready for tomorrow. This was only possible because I purchased a large quantity of pins before they vanished forever.
I still like the pedals, but I was running out of pins. I stole the pins from one pair to service the other pair. The pins hold the plastic plate onto the metal piece, so any thread-in-from-the-bottom standard pins wouldn't cut it on these pedals - although the thread turned out to be one that many pedals use for the pins. Then I found the DMR pins.
The Vault pedal looks like a good pedal, but one of its best traits is how many options DMR provides. It comes with thread in from the bottom bolts as pins. And it has completely different options as well. One is a longer length of the OE bolts. The Mg pedals have shouldered bolts for better support of the delicate magnesium pedal body.
Finally there are the MotoX pins. These are some serious pins. They thread in from the top and have a shoulder - perfect for the E*13 pedals I own. The pin part is a tapered cone with a hole in it, providing a lot of biting edge into the shoe. They seem to be hard on the shoe sole, but not as hard as the E*13 pins were. I wouldn't want to run either of these up my shins!
One set of these for my DH pedals freed up enough pins to get the second set back in action for my trail bike. I have only lost one in almost two years of using the pedals on the DH bike and I think that one rattled loose (because I found several other were only finger tight when I noticed one had vanished).

If you have some flat pedals with M4 threaded pin holes, definitely give these some consideration if you need new pins. They insert from the top with an included spanner so they will work with most pedals if the thread is correct.

A jumping epiphany

I have been really working on my jumping ability for a decade. I've ridden with some very good riders who have offered tips and tricks for getting airborne. The closest I came was riding with Rhys (now of Maydena Bike Park in Tassie, but then living out of a van near Whistler BC) and somehow feeling imbued with a sliver of his jumping prowess (he does no-handers and backflips with the ease I ride off a curb). But two days later I had lost the mojo.
Then I ran into a video on YouTube from Lee McCormack (of LeeLikesBikes fame, purveyor of Cycling Kung Fu, teacher of many skill-deficient professional MTB racers, and co-author of MTB skills books with Brian Lopes). Lee talked about rowing up the face of the jump, and for me that was the epiphany. I suspect it didn't change very much of what I was already doing, but the rowing action demands that you remain centred on the bike (you cannot do it out of position). And voila, I could consistently clear smaller jumps. My main issue with bigger jumps is risk. Falling hurts a lot. And can take months to recover from. I don't want that time off the bike, or the rehab, so I'm cautious.

As a person's jumping experience grows, they can "know" the appropriate speed window for a new jump they haven't done before. But that is hard-won experience. There has to be a first jumper, but if that's the jump builder, they should know exactly what they had in mind... Everyone else can learn a jump by following someone who has done it previously.
I was all set to get towed into some jumps at Thredbo this summer by a young guy I'd been riding with a bit - but then he got a jump wrong and smashed his humerus to pieces. I knew I could do those Thredbo jumps so I tried two of them, and was able to do them easily on several occasions. Phew! Woohoo!! I left two more untested for next season (I was cautious!).

I realise how visual I am with jumps from my recent experience with a small one on Trebuchet at Stromlo. Just before the over/under intersection of the DH tracks and Trebuchet, there is a small rock lip on the right. It was surrounded by weeds that grew up in Spring nearly obscuring the rock. I couldn't easily hit it. As soon as Iconic Trails cleared the weeds away, it was trival to take off. Small change, big impact on my head.

I have taught a fair number of people to use better jumping technique in their riding, but what was working for others wasn't producing the consistency I was looking for in myself. Lee's rowing thing did the trick. Incidentally, he also teaches rowing and anti-rowing for pump track progression, but I can't get the un-row down. My own method works pretty well so I just go with that.

You might want to check out Lee on YouTube, or hit me up for a lesson if your own jumping isn't up to scratch.

Garmin Fenix

My Fenix is the middle-sized one, but when I got it that was the only one (47mm). Garmin released a smaller version (S) and more recently a larger version (X) that are mostly just cosmetically different (though the X tends to have a few features the S and regular do not share).
While mine is several generations old - exactly how many is less straightforward than you might think since Garmin can't count each generation with a new number - my observations apply to all the Fenix series watches. The watch is slate grey and it came with a black band. The metal ring (which acts as, or protects, the GPS antenna) is the part anodised slate grey. It scratches moderately easily. I first purchased a genuine Garmin green silicone band for a bit of colour, but the band broke very quickly. I then bought three off-brand silicone bands (green, blue and yellow) and despite their low price, they have outlasted the Garmin band by years.
I find the watch vibrates a lot during mountain biking. Enough that by the third day of lift-served descending, my wrist could have a hole in it where the watch rubs on the skin. Doing the band up a notch tighter does help, but it also can make it feel too tight. In fact, it vibrates enough that on several occasions the main button has been pushed causing the watch to stop recording. Reverting the watch to watch mode protects the recording function because the button would have to get pushed twice to achieve stop.
Someone I know recently purchased an X-sized Garmin. It is only 4mm wider, but it looks so much larger than the regular one. He told me that his new watch moves around on his wrist less than his old, regular-sized watch. That was enough of an endorsement to make me consider buying an X.

I always use the Fenix in dual mode - where it uses both GPS and Glonass satellites. On road this isn't so important. Off road this is much better for accuracy. It gives a small hit on the battery life but I seldom get close to running the watch down in use.
While I read lots of stories online about the Fenix series not holding power meters well, I have used mine with at least 2 different power meters without encountering any dropouts in connectivity.
I once had an issue where the watch froze. I sent it back to the dealer and they got in touch with Garmin (or sent the watch back to them, I'm not clear on this part). All it needed was for me to upload all the files in the watch to Garmin Connect and then delete the lot from the watch. It was just a memory issue. It hasn't recurred in the years since. Weird.

With the recent release of the Fenix 7, there was also an Epix 2. The Epix only comes in the middle size like I have now. The difference for the Epix is the OLED screen. It is considerably brighter and more colourful than the Fenix passive screen, it offers more pixel density - it just looks better. Unfortunately there is no Epix X (or I'd probably have one already).

In many ways the Fenix line function like an Edge bar-top computer for the wrist. That is good, because the Edge line are well done.
Even better, the Fenix is not in the "sporting" line of Garmin products, but in the "outdoor" line. No lives depend on the sporting, so the firmware is usually released before it is 100% right. The outdoor line is considered essential survival gear, so the firmware rarely goes wrong (either early in the lifecycle or at any subsequent point).
Both the beeping and the buzzing could be more attention grabbing during a ride - it is easy to miss them on the bike most of the time.

I reviewed a much less expensive Garmin when mine was very new. That model would identify sporting activities as they started and record them just in case you wanted to record that sport. The Fenix doesn't do that. I got to work and it suggested I had just been on a bike ride, would I like to save that activity? Pretty clever.

It is almost impossible to read the screen with the watch hand on the bars. If you really want to read it, it could go around the bars and point up towards rider's face. But that gets the heart rate module off the wrist where it can function. Yes, I usually use the HR chest strap for greater precision in HR, but putting the watch on the bars is a slow task and prevents any use of the HR module.

After 6 years of using the Fenix and 7 years of using my Edge bar-top GPS, both could probably use a refresh/update as the battery doesn't have the original run time any more. I am seriously considering foregoing a new wearable GPS and going with only a bar-mounted one. A lot of expense goes into squashing everything into a watch-sized device. The Fenix 7 I prefer is about 3x the price of the Edge 530 I also prefer.

There are some options that the Fenix gives that an Edge lacks. I run DH ski mode for lift-served cycling which gives me run-by-run data and a count of how many runs were done (and then in Strava I swap it back to cycling and it reinterprets the data in that light). I also use the Fenix for walking and the like - I could skip all that for a new Edge, but I might miss it. While the old Edge and old Fenix continue to function pretty well, I can keep thinking about my future needs.
Incidentally, I have had opportunity to use quite a few other GPS brands, from a Suunto watch to Wahoo, Bryton and Xplova bar-top units. Each has appealing aspects, from being less expensive to more customisable. I don't think I'll go away from Garmin any time soon.

DHaRCO MTB pants

About eight years ago I ran across this new women's mountain bike clothing company - DHaRCO. (I don't know why the unusual capitalisation is used.)
I bought some for my partner. Good colours, good fabrics - nice clothing.

Fast forward to the 20's and DHaRCO has added clothing for men and kids to the line. In fact, every trip to Thredbo is like a visit to the DHaRCO fashion parade. It seems like every second rider is wearing their kit.
I have several pieces of the clothing now, but it is the pants I'm writing about today.

The fabric is quite heavy. It stretches making it very comfortable to wear, but this fabric makes the pants quite warm. I've been wearing them for my Wednesday morning skills classes because it has been chilly in the mornings the past couple of weeks. Warm is great when apparent temperature is about 3 degrees, but when it is perfect summer weather these pants are far too warm.
The cut of them is also a bit "skinny". I've been racing a bike since I was a kid. I have larger leg muscles. I also have a small waist. To get pants that fit my legs (even the knee pad space) required sending back my first pair and going with a 38" waist (at least 2 sizes too big for my actual waist). There is a velcro and elastic sizer on each side of the waist band to pull them in snug, but it would be so much better if they were more "cyclist" shaped.
The pockets are good. One just below the waist band at the back is small and quite well protected (unless you do a full flat-back crash landing). The left one is on the thigh with a diagonal zip opening and where I keep my lift pass when at the bike park. The right pocket is a vertical zip and a good place for a phone if you carry one when riding.

After a couple of seasons of any colour you want as long as it's black, the pants now come in a rainbow assortment of shades from leopard spots to plain white (please don't use white in the mud). I'm hoping they can make a lighter weight version and maybe even a different fit as they increase the range of their offerings.

Despite their not being quite perfect for me, I have worn them a lot this year at Thredbo in particular - epecially the blue pair as I really like the colour. I love at the end of the day being able to peel off the pants and having clean legs inside - no dusty gap between sock and kneepad. And even the pads remain clean.

If you've never tried riding in pants, consider giving it a try. If I had pants on at Buller that day a few years ago, the rock that split my shin skin open probably would have left only a small bruise. Pants are now the de facto uniform for UCI DH racing. It was only a few years ago that everyone had shorts on, but now it is pants, pants, pants.

Quarq DZero

For two years now I have had a Quarq power meter on my XC bike. Prior to that I had a Stages power meter on the previous bike (sold about 2 years ago when the new bike was coming together). So this isn't a story about what it's like to have a power meter, rather how have I gotten along with the Quarq.
As one might expect with a product owned by a major player in bike parts (SRAM in this case) the Quarq feels like a quality product right down to the battery case being easily accessible and robust (neither of which were true for the Stages). I purchased the cranks and the power meter/spider as separate units and assembled them myself. While SRAM cranks have a robust 3-bolt attachment mechanism (and you can put a Power2Max spider on those arms) the Quarq version relies on an 8-bolt interface to really hold the two pieces together.
The battery lasts a long time. I replaced one last month and that is the first battery in my service records for the bike (making it likely but not definite that this was the first battery). The meter doesn't require much user input - zero is reset autmatically and it is self-calibrating as well; basically get on and pedal.
The absolute numbers are nearly identical to those from the Stages, but I do get a left:right report that the Stages one-sided meter cannot provide. I am slightly right heavy if you're interested; usually 48:52.

Using power is great if you want to keep track of TSS (training stress score) because weekly TSS is the actual figure that should be slowly incremented throughout the training cycle rather than hours or miles or any other proxy for what we really want to measure - fatigue. And TSS is a direct measure of the effort leading to fatigue. At least on the bike.

When I have failed in a race, bonking before the end, I can look at the effort levels that went into hitting that threshold and work on increasing them.

Because cadence is an essential component of power, the Quarq reports cadence to the head unit without any sensor or external magnet for reference. Pretty clever.

Power readings are very stable, independent of bumps or anything that might spike the power momentarily in other meters I have used.

I have an upper chain guide on my bike after having the chain fall off and cost me first place in a race on the older XC bike (it had a narrow-wide chainring that did a pretty good job of keeping the chain on, but a chain guide is insurance against that happening). Quarq makes the spider thicker than normal and the bottom bracket area of my bike is a very busy place with the solid Quarq spider hiding the ISCG tabs and the upper guide behind it. The crank axle bends just enough to close the sub-millimetre gap between the back of the meter and the bolt head holding on the upper guide. There is some light scratching on the Quarq as a result - but it doesn't look anything but cosmetic. Despite years of progress in chain guides (they used to require luck, a drill, a hammer and lots of washers and options to install one on a DH bike - now most bikes fit them quite simply) they still cause issues with other equipment a lot of the time.

I did propose a power-based experiment for an article to Mountain Biking Australia before they closed their doors, but it never got editorial approval and importer backing to get me all the bits I needed to get it running. That's a bit sad because part of my reason for purchase was knowing I could use it for research. Still, I'm always learning about my own legs and what separates a hard race from a very hard race, or an easy ride from a moderate ride. All good things to learn. One of the final articles I wrote for MBA, in fact, was the review of the bike with the power meter on it.

I'd have Zero hesitation (pun intended) putting a DZero on another bike. They're great power meters.

Canyon Sender CFR

For 2021, Canyon released an all-new Sender. All models and sizes get a 29" front wheel with the rear wheel size dictated by the frame size. Small and Medium get a "Mullet" with a 650B rear wheel, while Large and XL get two wheels the same size.

The shock linkage looks superficially the same as on the previous generation, but the shock now links to the downtube rather than the top tube - bringing the weight lower in the frame.

Frame dimensions went longer, lower and slacker. I chose the Sender as one of perhaps 3 DH bikes that had a 50+cm reach. The other two were the Commencal Supreme and the YT Tues.

The bike was offered in two specs - the more expensive version used Rock Shox suspension and the XO1 DH group. As I was really after an air sprung bike, and the Super Deluxe shock and Boxxer forks were exactly that, this was my bike.

Neither colour scheme inspired me. Either a red and white option I didn't care for, or boring black. I knew I'd do something to it from new - and adding the blue and white hibiscus pattern was the choice I made (thanks to Peter at Bunnyhop bike wraps for making a custom kit to suit my Sender).

I modified only a couple of components from the OEM spec. I added my used E*13 LG1+ DH pedals (with really grippy DMR pins), I swapped the front DHRII for an Assegai putting CushCore inside both tyres while I was at it (and Stan's sealant) and I added 220mm rotors to both wheels. I decided to run the rear wheel in the longer wheelbase position to better balance the long front centre and don't plan to try the shorter position anytime soon.

It wasn't 100% perfect out of the box. Canyon sent it to me without the stem bolts and the Australian office didn't seem willing to source the four bolts for me. The chain guide rubbed on the chain stay - unforgivable if you ask me. But these things were easily remedied.

Canyon designed the Sender to have an adjustable reach. The headset bearings fit in cups that fit into the frame. As shipped, it comes with cups that have the bearing seat centred in the cup. It also ships with an offset cup that moves the bearings either +8 or -8 mm from the standard position. What they don't tell you is that you may not use the shorter position with Boxxer forks. I would be so angry if I needed the shorter reach and purchased the bike only to find out I couldn't do that unless I had Fox forks.

It was a few years since I sold my 26" wheel DH bike. I didn't know what I'd think of the very long, big wheeled Sender. I shouldn't have been worried as it felt right from the first ride. In fact, the Sender feels the most right of any bike I've ever ridden. I can't put my finger on it - it isn't the longest reach bike nor the most extreme in any dimension. It simply goes where you want and does everything effortlessly while inducing a big grin and generating easy speed.

I pedalled it down the hill from my house to Mt Stromlo. Then I hit the little jumps line on Evolution. As expected, I could run the full trail without touching the brakes (which gave me the confidence to do the same thing on the trail bike). It jumps with confidence-inspiring stability and predictability. Going back up the hill to get the Sender home was less fun, but I didn't have to walk at any point so it was OK.

I feel like there is so much more speed and capability in the bike than I'm an extracting. But even at my pace it is big fun. I really love the Sender.

With the length, it won't fit in my Evoc bike bag. I'll have to buy a new one before I go on a plane with the bike. The Albek bag looks like a good copy of the Evoc, with some marked changes to accommodate modern long frames. Looks like it might be 2+ years old before I get a chance to go anywhere further than Thredbo with it.
I've had around 20 days at Thredbo over the last 2 seasons and around 16 days have been with the Sender. It is so much more comfortable on the chatter at Thredbo that I might not take the trail bike back there again. I can (only) just get up the little climb on the Upper All Mountain trail with the DH bike - it would actually be easy if the gearing was lower. XO1 DH has only 7 gearing choices and they are all pretty high options (it is meant for DH racing after all).
Thredbo bike carrying is decidedly NOT set up for bikes as long as this one. On the Gunbarrel chair, where you hang your bike on a hook on the outside of the chair and then sit down and self-retrieve at the top, someone (sometimes the lifty does it for me) has to walk the bike to the end of the concrete pad so it doesn't get caught (and damaged). On the Merritt's Gondola, it hangs so low that the rear wheel doesn't sit in between the sway control arms. Were it to sway, the arms would damage rear wheel spokes. We watched it get pushed by the gondola guidance system entering the middle and top stations, which isn't much of a deal if the bike is in the rear position, but one could imagine a problem occurring if it was in the front position. On the Kosciusko Chair, there are two bike carriers on the rear of each seat. These are easy to use, but once my bike was dumped from the carrier as it entered the summit station. After a long talk with the Lift Services Manager I learned that they can't move the bikes upwards very much at all before they start to interfere with operating clearances for that Doplmeyer Chair; that only a handful of bikes per season fall out; that they lost a lot of 29ers the first season 29ers started showing up (they had to change the tilt of the bike rack on each chair to remedy that) and that Gunbarrel will be getting a higher capacity option next summer. Tilting the bike to the outside of the chair gets the rear wheel away from the concrete pad at the summit station and is my new mode of operating for the ride up. I hope it never falls out of any lift ever again.

Sufferfest & SYSTM

Several years ago now I spent much of my summer riding time on a smart trainer in my (hot) backyard testing a half-dozen or so smart trainers in prep for an autumn buyer's guide on smart trainers. I tried them all in Zwift - which was the main program for use with a smart trainer that I knew of at the time. After the article was published I got an email from someone at The Sufferfest. I had seen a Sufferfest DVD. I didn't know they had migrated into online smart training. They wanted to know why I had used Zwift and they offered me 6 months free Suffering if I would provide some coaching feedback on what I experienced.
Unlike Zwift, Sufferfest had pre-programmed drills developed by an experienced coach, set to pro racing cinema as a back drop. There was a whole mythology built around Sufferfest - riders from Sufferlandria and Couchlandria, laser-eyed goats that picked off slow riders at the back of the bunch, and so on. It was quite funny and promoted suffering for one's "art". Having Zwifted for a while, I paid for a subscription to Sufferfest (which is now 2+ years ago).
Progress was slow. One new video was cause for celebration. I found the videos to be of high production values - and getting higher. When they added the ramp test for a quick fitness test (to go with the longer and harder full test they have had for some years) it used very clever programming that used results from earlier in the drill to program power levels later on (a first for Sufferfest).
In reply to that free period of use, I sent Sufferfest many pages of feedback. Some general, like they should have some recovery rides on offer (it isn't all about suffering) and some specific, like I suggested a specific drill based on the work of Dr Tabata and thought they should have something similar on offer. All my suggestions are now incorporated in their product - glad to see they listened!
Then Wahoo purchased the company. Wahoo makes my smart trainer - the KICKR (they love capital letters and dislike vowels). And a pandemic hit. Loads of people must have signed up to Sufferfest, encouraging development. Scores of new videos and new video styles appeared. There are now 300 exercises for riders. The name became SYSTM. With new investment and new subscribers came loads more videos. Some were delivered without a video so it would be available for riding and eventually the video backdrop would follow (just an expediency to get them out there in the wild).
SYSTM immediately downplayed the whole suffering thing.
At the end of each Sufferfest video was the Sufferlandrian flag and motto (IWBMATTKYT - I think - stands for I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow) appeared with the copyright notice. These were changed to SYSTM ones. No references to Sufferlandria or suffering were made in new videos. I know the whole suffering thing dissuaded a friend from subscribing because he thinks of cycling as an enjoyable activity. I find it a bit bland.

Can't argue with a good product however.

And as of the end of April, RGT was added to the Wahoo family and made available to subscribers as part of Wahoo X. RGT is much like Zwift, without all the human traffic (When I tried Zwift it had one active world at any given time - though you could force change the world in play - and hundreds of humans riding in that world regardless of time of day) because it hasn't got the popularity of Zwift. RGT uses real places. As far as I can tell, they are accurately modelled in the digital realm too. Instead of screaming down a hill at 90 kmh and railing corners like a game, RGT tries to make it more realistic but I still zoomed around corners at 55 kmh that probably couldn't be ridden at that speed by anyone. It is trying. It does apply brakes. RGT also offers fixed power output "bots" anyone can use to pace themselves with. With only (approx) 10 riding locations and the locations typically short (10-20 km) Wahoo is going to have to build more worlds to keep my interest. For now it is an unexpected bonus.

My Wahoo X subscription expires in the Spring. I am definitely going to consider my options before I renew my account. It is good. It isn't perfect.

Long, low & slack

Every mountain bike from the mighty downhill bike to the humble hardtail is getting longer (wheelbase and reach), lower (bottom bracket height) and slacker (head tube angle) with each generation. This is fantastic for a big guy like me.
Ten years ago, I was riding bikes with a 45cm reach (size XL). There were few exceptions that were markedly longer, and they were seen as freaks.
My five year old Trek Slash was a full size larger, with a 48cm reach (again, size XL). Comments were offered that it finally looked like I had a bike that fit me.
But now it seems too small. All three of my newer MTB are another size larger again than the Slash. It is fine if I ride it a few times in a row but as soon as I jump on it from any of the other bikes, it feels too short.
In 2021, I ordered the new model Slash. It is another full size larger again than the one I'm riding today. If the bike industry wasn't currently a disaster of supply and demand, I'd have had my new Slash since December. Instead my delivery date is early February.

So tall guys are finally getting bikes that fit.

But on the shorter end of things, bikes are also growing and I think they're growing away from the shorter riders who were well served with the old-school bikes. An average woman who was well fitted on a size Small with a 40cm reach will now find most bikes that size with a 42 or even a 43cm reach. That's a full size larger - effectively a Medium - and too long for those short of arm and torso.
Really what should have happened is the Small remained suitably small with larger sizes added on top. The problem with that is making 6 or 7 sizes of bikes instead of 4. No profits in that. When something like 5% of a typical bike is sold in size XL, spreading those few sales across multiple sizes is never going to work.