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Suburban Chronicles: For a while, my fitness app made me out to be a beast on a bike

Suburban Chronicles: For a while, my fitness app made me out to be a beast on a bike

Turns out I’m a cycling cheat and like most athletes who benefit from performance enhancement, there’s a long-winded excuse — er, I mean explanation —…

Sunday, Jan 15

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Turns out I’m a cycling cheat and like most athletes who benefit from performance enhancement, there’s a long-winded excuse — er, I mean explanation — as to why.

So in the winter, I do this thing called Zwift. It’s part cycling training tool, part video game and it involves connecting a bike to the internet. There are a number of (mostly expensive) ways to do this but I use a spin bike that claims to be Zwift-compatible.

It does indeed connect to Zwift. But instead of measuring power — the amount of physical energy being applied to the pedals and the most accurate way to gauge effort on a bike — it turns out my machine kinda, sorta just estimates power and then sends its best guess on to Zwift. I didn’t realize this when I bought it, I swear.

In my case, it was overestimating my power, and therefore my ability, sometimes hilariously so. Instead of my usual spot in the middle of the pack, all of sudden I was rolling with some truly fast riders in some very competitive events.

I tried to fix it, following a number of online rabbit holes and recalibrating my spin bike to try and make it more accurate. It helped, but not much: I was still seeing results that I knew were not an accurate reflection of my fitness and ability.

Rationalization began. Even with this advantage, I still wasn’t winning any events — I am still me — and I wasn’t competing in anything that […]

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