Friday, 29 April 2016

A Weekend With The Maven (and our girls). ANZAC Long Weekend 2016

With the never ending dramas high up in the stratosphere of professional cycling, it's always good to see the sport at our level being championed by people who are doing it different. People carving their own path with nothing more than the intent of sharing their love of cycling with others.


Mark 'Cycling Maven' Ferguson is doing just this. His rapid rise in popularity via YouTube proves that if you're passionate about something, and have a platform to share that passion, people will jump on board for the ride.

I've known Mark for a few years now, back to before his five year cross-fit adventure (don't hold that against him), and recently via his Cycling Maven YouTube channel. His channel covers everything from race tips, cycling adventures, interviews, and everything in between. Each video gets people more and more invested in his story. People are adopting 'The Maven' as their friend. That might sound bizarre, but if you're a regular subscriber to YouTube vlogs, you'll understand.

     A cycling tragic sharing my love, knowledge and opinions on the sport. Among other things depending on my mood. - Cycling Maven YouTube channel description. April 2016.

I believe this philosophy of sharing the experience above all else resonates well within the cycling community. The Internet is the world's best bullsh*t filter. If you're trying to sell people something that doesn't work, or pushing out over produced polished content then you're at risk distancing yourself or your brand from your audience by trying to place yourself high up in that stratosphere mentioned above. No matter how much time Mark spends editing his videos for the perfect shot, it's the rawness and honesty that makes his work a welcome departure from the norm.

Anyhow, that's enough of my polished introduction. ;) Here's a few behind the scenes stories, photos, and videos of our recent trip to Bright, Victoria with Mark, his better half, Hannah, and my wife Von.



Day 1 - Mt Buffalo (The Horn on sunset) 

I'd promised to take the crew the best place I could think of to see the sunset on Saturday night. My confidence remained high while we made our way up Dingo Dell, past the Mt Buffalo ski field, and up the windy dirt road. Truth be told, I had serious doubts if it would be a good location or not. It was years since I'd been up there. Turns out it was a good location to place my bets on. It was amazing!

Preparing for launch... DJI Phantom 4. 
The drone master in action, and Hannah 'gramming. 
Get that shot!  

No selfie stick? No worries. The Maven takes care of the shot.



And the final production....




Day 2 - Mt Buffalo (sunrise) then onto Mt Hotham 

While scoping out the view for the sunrise we'd been paparazzi'd by Instagram user IngGa (we only found it a few days later by chance)

Photo: IngGa (Instagram)
The next morning we returned to the mountain hoping it was a clear morning.... it was.






Nothing sus... looking for 240V. (See the VLOG for what's going on here) :) 
I'm not sure about those pilot pants..... 

After lunch it was off to Mt Hotham on the bikes!







The Maven giving me "Lance eyes" before attacking! 
King of the kids again at the top!





The daily VLOG.....





Day 3 - ANZAC Day. Bright Canyon Walk

We attended the 6am dawn service at Bright. The number of people at the service surprised us all. 3/4 of us went back to bed following the ceremony, with Mark staying up to edit footage for the next vlog. A few hours later we headed back into Bright for breakfast and to the little known Canyon Walk that starts right in town. 




Reflections - As seen though my polarised Foakleys. (yes, I got a pair too)
Tourist guide Von!



Daily VLOG....




A story I didn't tell Mark was that while he was filming with the drone along the river on our last day, someone threw a large rock at it from the bushes. At first I thought it was a fish splashing near it, then out popped some grumpy bastard from the bushes mumbling about video privacy and telling us to delete the footage. He didn't know we were close by and thought he'd have a shot at taking the drone down. Had he actually taken it down, I might have given him the same fate, with a similar rock. He wasn't a good human. We agreed not to put any of 'his footage' online, that kept old mate happy. A minute later and were met by the lovely lady who's in the vlog saying she wants to see and share the footage. She was a good human. See the video for our chat with her.

Regarding the above - I can see how people might think drones are obnoxious. Going by our experience on the weekend, 99.9% of people were fascinated by it and wanted to see the footage. Mark welcomed anyone and everyone to look over his shoulder as he flew it around for a few minutes. All while answering questions about it, and generally being a good human. The novelty of drones is still there for people, I guess if every man and his dog had a drone it could become annoying. For now, it brings the crowds and entertains the kid in all of us.


A few quick observations as this post is getting long.....

I realised on the weekend was that there's simply not enough hours in a day to do everything. I have a real appreciation of what goes into a 10-12 minute video, and it's a lot more than 24hrs.

Mark might be the one with the cameras, doing most of the talking, and telling the stories. However like in most relationships, the level headed sounding board / creative genius / sub editor is the other person. Hannah is AWESOME! Even I can't wait for the couples Q&A people have been asking for. Someone please ask her about her rabbit. ;)

Making a difference. The comments on Mark's vlogs are pure gold. There are literally 1000s of people loving his work, loving the stories, and soaking up the energy he puts into his work. This is inspiring people all over the world. This is the difference that makes the work all worth the time and effort. 'The Maven' is firmly at ground level with the rest of us, true grass-roots, with the only thing in the stratosphere being a little drone, looking down capturing the moment. 


Friday, 1 April 2016

Titanicing - Because everyone has Everested by now.





So you rode up a hill for 8,848m of elevation gain, it was the hardest thing you've ever done since giving birth to twins, and you're a dude. Then the bar went to 10,000m, the equivalent to birthing twins and a Lego set for them to play with. Then along came double Everesting, a challenge for those with a true disconnect between reality, pain, and elevation gain.

Now what next? You've ticked all the boxes going up right? Well. How about going DOWN? (not that type of going down, the other one, on your bike!).

Introducing TITANICING - The Search for Sinking!

Titanicing, like the real thing, is where you let the berg do all the work and you're just in for the ride. Too easy right? No so fast. There are rules.


  • You must descend a total of 3,800m (12,000 feet), the depth of the Titanic.
  • Rides can be of any length, and on any hill or mountain, or elevator on an ergo (vTitanicing)
  • You may decide to push on past 3,800m to get to 4,000m, in which case your ride will also qualify for inclusion in the Deep Sh*t Society.
  • The descents must be completed on a bicycle. Attempts using submarines won't be allowed.
  • Ascents back to your starting point elevation can be completed any way you like. Yes, even in a car for the truly committed lazy bastard in us all. Remember, Titanicing is about the DOWN, not the up.
  • If you're using a music player during the attempt, Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On must be played on repeat until you're memorised the entire song. If you're not using a personal music player, the song must be on blast somewhere along your route to warn/inform others of your activity in progress.


How do I record descents?

Mount your Garmin upside down. Easy!




What's the website for more information?

We were thinking of registering titanicing.cc, but being true to our philosophy, it'd always be down. There is no website. Which means no records, which means no worries!


What's the hashtag?

We threw around a number of ideas that were quickly dismissed by the PR department as very inappropriate for our branding. So we're going with #down. There's only 2.1 million 'grams with that tag, we're sure it'll be easy to find.


Are you f*#ing serious about this?

No. Happy April Fools Day. And my utmost respect goes to everyone who's achieved their goal of Everesting (and vEveresting!)




Thursday, 31 March 2016

My Strava Exploded!

Over the last few weeks I've dedicated a lot of my attention to Strava social networking. I've been using Strava for over five years, initially for uploading a few 'fast' rides to now uploading every ride and multi-sport activity I can. I wanted to see if applying the same principals to boost engagement that work with other social working sites would also work with Strava. They did, a lot more than I expected!


"If it's not on Strava, it didn't happen" 


With the introduction of Zwift, my Strava reach grew beyond my hometown of Melbourne, beyond Australia, and to corners of the world I didn't even know about. My use of Strava changed from a personal activity logger to a platform to share activities and locations I've been to, to the world. 

As a competitive cyclist, chasing Personal Bests (PBs) and Segment KOMs is always there, but now the reach is far beyond the competitive side. Uploading activities (with photos!) from Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, country Victoria, tropical islands off the Queensland coast, even Fiji, have all had great responses from the Strava community.

Here's a few tips I've implemented that boosted my Strava reach far beyond what I thought ever possible in a really short period of time: 

1. Interaction 

Hands down the number one tip is interaction with other Strava users. Kudos epic rides, outstanding efforts, or whoever rode your favourite route today. I found as many riders who uploaded their 235km 'Three Peaks' ride and kudos'ed their efforts. Anyone riding that far in a day deserves it. 

As a Zwift fanatic, I've been interacting with people who've been training hard while clocking up the virtual kilometres. Riding indoors requires a certain level of tenacity, and that always deserves a thumbs up.



2. Ride Names

Sure "Morning Ride" is descriptive, "Best Morning Ride EVER!" is better. Anyone who doesn't kudos a ride called "New Bike Day" doesn't have a beating heart. Everyone loves new bike day. Kudos that. And they better have posted a picture of their new bike... 


3. Photos

Link your Strava to your Instagram via the Social Connections setting (How-to here) and always upload a few snaps via the mobile app once you're done. Sun, rain, hail, or snow, photos bring your activity and location to life on Strava. They become part of the story more than just a map and data. If I'm going somewhere new, I'll look at Strava ride/activity photos before any travel guides. 


4. Do Different!

Take a different route. Go for a PR or a KOM on the way to work. If you're only uploading rides, upload your next walk or hike. As mentioned above, name your activity accordingly and add a photo! 

I've uploaded hundreds of my races over the years on Strava..... so what activity has received the most attention at this point in time? My ride and a KOM on a 12kg flat pedal hybrid hire bike on Magnetic Island (North Queensland, right next to the Great Barrier Reef). That was different.




Using the techniques above my modest follower count has sky rocketed. While follower count is interesting, it's the increased interactions with other Strava users that I've loved. On a recent trip to northern Queensland I was invited on no less than four rides in three different cities all  through my Strava connections. Not to mention the numerous invites to visit the USA as we enter the Australian winter. I'll take everyone up on these offers at some point in the future. 

I'll conclude this post by answering why. 

Everyone has the ability to inspire others. 


Strava is a simple way to promote your chosen sport, to promote your unique location(s), and to inspire others to ride, run, swim, and become active. Globally. I believe that ability and that reach is an amazing concept.

One simple kudos click, a comment, or a follow can make someone's day. Make that today. GO!






Thursday, 4 February 2016

Zwift Racing - How real is it?


It's been 12 months since I first installed Zwift and started chasing friends and strangers around virtual roads in cyberspace. Back in the early beta on Jarvis Island, after only a few rides, I knew there was massive potential in the platform beyond just rolling around for fun and interval training.

ZTR Wednesday - Pre roll-out.

As the Zwift community grew and the group riding dynamics within the game were refined, organised events started popping up all over the place. While we're still on the edge of our seats (saddles?) waiting for the official Zwift event/race module, the Zwift community have already taken things to the next level. Training rides, tempo rides, races catering for all levels, automated results, race reports - It's all happening right now.


Where to find events/rules/details?

The best location at this point is at http://zwiftcalendar.com. It'll show upcoming events in your local timezone with all the rules/details of the specific events listed within each entry. Take note of the route your event will go so you know which one to select when logging in.

A great overview of the ZTR (Zwift Training Race) events and racing in general can be found here: http://www.virtualonlinecycling.com/2015/11/what-is-ztr.html


I've never raced before!

That's not a problem, this is a great way to start out. There's no entry fee, so there's nothing to lose. Just kit up, log in, and join in. Be prepared for some pre-race nerves. After all, you are up against real people who'll want to beat you. Don't let this be a hindrance, it'll prepare you for what you'll go through on race day outside.



Just how "real" is this racing?

Some cyclists will tell you unless you're on a fixed wheel, on the cobbles, in Belgium, in 1974, you're never really racing. Most of us ride indoors to maximize the time we have, and to replicate the efforts we'll be doing outside. From first hand experience, I can confirm the effort required to race in any category on Zwift is EXACTLY what you'll be doing out on the roads... in some cases it'll require more!

Stats from the ZTR-A race on February 3rd 2016 -



302W average for the 48km, NP of around 314. ~4.19w/kg. Depending on what level you're at, those numbers might not mean much.... the key is that I never hit the wind until 1.5km to go! Those numbers were me sitting in the bunch or on a wheel for the majority of the race, on a relatively flat course.

The final 1.5km -



After sitting in the bunch all race with 'fresh legs' (well, in reality, anything but!), the finish was hotly contested over the last two minutes. 541W for 1:53 after just over an hour racing. 7.5w/kg. And you could throw a blanket over the three or four of us at the line it was that close.

How real is the racing? The effort required is VERY REAL! It is the same across all categories, and even with those who get dropped and spend their time chasing back on. When you've got a virtual race number pinned on, the motivation to push yourself will be there.


What really makes "just an ergo session" feel like real racing?

The Effort - As outlined above, the physical effort is on par with real racing, across all categories.

Concentration - Like in a real race, you can never let your guard down. You're always working on your bunch positioning, responding to attacks/accelerations, and there's no time to check your Facebook feed (which I've been known to do the middle of standard ergo rides....) #holdthewheel! :)

The Randomness - No two races are ever the same. One race may have riders pulling Nabali like moves on descents and Froome style attacks up the KOMs... and the next race it might all stay together for a massive bunch kick.

The Racing Experience - Once you've got a few races under your belt, you'll be ready for anything people can throw down. If you want to mix things up, go to the front and dish out some pain! What's the worst that can happen? You drop off, roll in a few minutes down...  then check the calendar for the next race to do it all again! :)


Looking Ahead - The Potential 

Extending beyond just standard bunch races there could be hill climb TTs (on the proposed mountain pass climb), solo TTs, criterium / kermesse races on the newly opened Richmond flat course, multiple group handicap races (like the current Fox and Hound races), the possibilities are endless. If they open up some single-track on mountain bikes, there's a whole new world of opportunity there for dirt racing action!

Given what I've seen and experienced so far, I predict the next 'big thing' will be the race/event module. Automated event joining, neutral roll-out, and instant results will get a lot more people participating and competing against others around the world during their ergo sessions on a daily basis.

Details on exactly what it will include are sketchy, but from past updates we know the team at Zwift are on the ball with what the community wants.


For now. Kit up and #RideOn! Virtual racing is already here and it's going to get bigger!





Further Racing Info/Links:

http://zwiftblog.com/how-to-race-on-zwift-strategy-tips-etiquette-and-more/
http://zwiftnation.com

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Canyon SRAM Zwift Ride with Tiffany Cromwell - Tour Down Under - 2016

For their final trick at the Tour Down Under, Zwift pulled a rabbit out of their hat and announced they've partnered with Canyon-SRAM professional women's team for 2016 and would be using Zwift as a talent ID platform for female racers. The Canyon-SRAM Racing Zwift Academy Project is GO!

More details on the project can be found all over the Internets, and in upcoming press releases.

Like the two events earlier in the week, I was given a backstage pass at Ergo Fitness to come along in person. I took the opportunity to sneak in The Cycling Maven, who was super keen to ask Tiff a few interesting questions for his daily vlog. But not before I got my own 'viewer question' answered during the global live feed....




For more llamas, visit canyonsram.com and teamcanyonsram.com....  And for more info, visit the official team site wmncycling.com.

The Cycling Maven -




Full 1hr Broadcast -




Backstage Pass Pics - 

Hands down the best looking pro bike colour scheme for 2016!


Tiff and Vonm






The team behind the scenes working hard.

Cycling Maven - He can't look any more excited! :)


Cheers R. Wilson for carrying the theme. #llamas!