March 31, 2012

Rotor Q-rings versus round rings

[Last week I wrote]/post/an-appraisal-of-rotor-qrings/) about my initial perceptions of going back to round rings, having run Rotor Q-rings for some months.

I also said I’d try to put together some numbers, so the review was a little less subjective. Today I got around to doing a rollers test I usually do once a month to see how I’m progressing.

The test is basically a pyramid of wattages. I warm up, then do sets of three minutes on, one minute rest, starting at 180 watts and escalating each time by 20 watts to just past my FTP, then back down to 180 again. So, for me, this is 180, 200, 220,  240, 260, 280, 260, 240, 220, 200, 180. Going just past my FTP stretches me a little, and the descending intervals then reveal how I’ve recovered from the big interval.

I did the test this morning in pretty much the same conditions as I did last month’s test - rollers, in my office at home, fan on, relatively rested. For the WKO junkies, my TSB had just gone above zero today, following a big week of training in Majorca.

First off, the subjective stuff. This was the first time I’d ridden on rollers with round rings. And I really noticed it. Much more ‘vroom vroom’ pulsing noise - I was obviously not pedalling as smoothly as I usually do. As the efforts increased, I was also very much aware of how hard it was getting. Not that I didn’t know that from the week riding in Majorca on them anyway.

Bearing in mind I’ve had quite a bit more training load since I last did the test (four weeks ago, exactly) I’d expect some improvement - testing in early Feb, then early March already showed an improvement. So I would expect to see lower heart rates for a given effort now, regardless.

Here are the comparison graphs. The test on the 3rd was done with Q-rings on the bike, and the test done today, the 31st, was done with round rings on the bike. The 260w data has laps 11 and 15 included - they straddle the 280w interval (you’ll probably have to click on the inline image to see the ‘Avg HR’ column, it’s the last one):

260w comparisons

280w comparisons

Although the difference is quite small, I saw larger differences when comparing three minute windows picked out from rides on the road - and again I’d like to point out I’d expect to be fitter now, four weeks later, anyway.

As Flamme Rouge pointed out, the difference of saving a few beats soon mounts up over the course of hours of riding, and especially over the course of a multi day event - like the Haute Route, which I’m riding in August.

The subjective feeling of a lower RPE and the fact my legs feel better at harder efforts is enough, alone, for me to stick with Q-rings. But factor in the efficiency savings of a lower heart rate too and I’m totally convinced.

I shall be refitting the Q-rings tomorrow.