We’re cresting the mid-point of the typical summer months here (I know, technically summer goes into September, but everyone mentally counts summer as June/July/August). Plus, by September I’m sure it’ll be raining again. Which, in retrospect it did yesterday too.
In any event, while Eurobike isn’t happening anytime soon, most sports tech companies are still kinda geared for that annual product cycle. And as such, I’m gearing into that as well. So new arrivals are more and more frequent into the DCR Cave, with things arriving daily, and things slated to arrive every day this next week. Gonna be busy!
1) A Wattbike ATOM 2020 Test Ride
Earlier last week the new Wattbike Atom 2020 arrived. For those of you on Instagram, you were treated to my engineering prowess as I hoisted it up to the 2nd level of the DCR Cave. For your entertainment purposes, I’ve added a new Instagram Story archive section called ‘Cave Antics’, and added both that and the Stages Bike to hoist experience to the list.
In any event, on Thursday I got in my first Zwift ride/event, and then on Friday I doubled down with my first TrainerRoad ride on it. Both were about an hour.
I had no issues there, only a tiny very minor quibble on some slight couple-watt overages in certain surges.
In general the ATOM 2020 is pretty similar to the original ATOM, except with the revamped electromagnetic flywheel/drive system. That’s the same type of system on the Tacx NEO series, and more recently the Wahoo KICKR Bike. It’s ultimately what I expect all trainers/indoor bikes will be using if we fast forward a few years. The main benefit to that for the ATOM 2020 is simply faster shifting/responsiveness. The shifters/etc are all the same, but how it responds to that is much quicker. Though, like all indoor smart bikes today, in ERG mode shifting disappears and it just holds wattage.
Now, as some of you picked up on, the ERG mode stability of this firmware version wasn’t super hot. You can see it oscillates quite a bit. Ironically having almost the same issues as we saw the Tacx NEO 2T last summer, and even some of the stability issues early on of the Wahoo KICKR Bike. Essentially the same problem for all companies: Trying to settle a beast of an engine, in other words, having a resistance system that’s too powerful for their existing algorithms. It responds too fast, and overcompensates.
Like those, I suspect Wattbike will sort through that. I had a call with them this morning, and they’re iterating quickly on firmware. So I’ll check back in on it and ERG mode specifically later this week.
2) Getting the trainer gear home
As much fun as it might be to take home the Wattbike for the weekend, that wasn’t on the agenda. And actually, in thinking about it – I think the Wattbike ATOM base might fit perfectly in the cargo bike. Of course, I’ve also moved a KICKR Bike and a Peloton bike that way – so, it’s certainly not impossible.
In any event, that wasn’t on my radar this week. So instead, loaded up my main bike and another trainer to bring home for weekend testing.
Of course, I forgot my pedal wrench at the office. I specifically wanted that to swap out the pedals. Sigh. I tried using a regular wrench, but couldn’t quite get the grip I wanted on these ones, and the SRM X has a populated spindle, so you can’t just use a hex wrench. So later I did another loop to the office – merely to pick up a pedal wrench.
3) Mont Ventoux in L’Étape du Tour
Third time is apparently the charm. Though, I think technically this is like attempt #5 or so. But this weekend I managed to do the L’Étape du Tour without Zwift crashing (saga Edition 1 and 2 here).
Interestingly though, this wasn’t the first time I did the Mont Ventoux climb in Zwift. I did it earlier last week testing out the Tacx Flux 2.1, because apparently I wanted more pain in my life.
It’s a nice route, though not quite as similar scenery-wise as you might expect to riding the real thing (except after the Chalet). It’s more of a creative interpretation, which is just fine.
My first attempt I did pretty lazily, though this one I pushed a bit harder. Figures I had about the same time. Likely because I spent all the days in between this past week on the trainer/bikes, often in relatively challenging workouts. There wasn’t a ton of gas left in the legs on Saturday morning.
I wouldn’t make a habit out of riding this route, but at the same token, it’s a good way to make a 2hr ride pass relatively quickly once you add in a warm-up or the coast back to town. So I could see doing it every once in a while if I just wanted to sorta set it and forget it, zoning out while climbing along.
4) Too many pumpkins
The last few years we’ve grown pumpkins in our garden, starting from seed, until a giant pumpkin appears. Or, a not-so-giant pumpkin appears. Mostly, we just get a pumpkin plant or two that takes over everywhere. It’s basically like a sprawling weed that gets a hall-pass because it gives you pumpkins.
But, more than giving you pumpkins, it gives you pumpkin flowers, which are edible. And we’ve got boatloads of pumpkin flowers. Plus, we already have more than enough little pumpkins growing. So any more pumpkins is just taking away from those ones getting bigger.
So, we pick them, stuff them with a cheese blend, and then fry them up. Long-time readers would remember our trips when living in Paris out to the countryside farms to pick zucchini flowers and stuff them. Often, picking hundreds of them and then freezing them for the winter. While we do have a zucchini plant, it’s a lazy hunk of greenery and hasn’t made a single flower yet. Pumpkin is showing it up!
For the cheese mixture I got two types of goat cheese. You can also do a ricotta or such, but I like the goat cheese. Then I cut a few chives from the herb pot, and added some salt and pepper.
Do the usual egg and breadcrumb (with seasoning) dip, and into a small pot to fry it goes. We don’t have one of those mythical air fryers. Not sure if that would work better here. I hate dealing with oil.
Anyway, when all is done, they’re quickly gone.
5) Watched a bit of the Virtual Tour de France Finale
As I outlined in a post on Friday, Zwift’s broadcasting keeps on increasing in technical and overall smoothness aspects. Though, the end-state stream quality that we seem to get on YouTube still ends up looking a bit iffy. It actually looked pretty good on Saturday going up Ventoux (slowly), but then on Sunday with the super fast-paced Paris course, it looked way worse. I suspect that’s because of the way YouTube optimizes, so having to refresh the full image versus a smaller portion of it.
Still, I watched a fair chunk of the women’s race, and then a little bit of the men’s race on Sunday. For mostly timing reasons (the kids were usually taking a nap), I ended up watching more women’s vTdF races than men’s ones. And I’ve gotta say – in general it felt like the women just wanted it more. As in, they felt (knew) that this exposure from a sport standpoint meant more to them, than it did on the men’s side.
In any case, I’m interested to see where this goes from here as a concept. Clearly, Zwift and ASO proved there’s interest here. If in nothing else, for a full virtual L’Étape du Tour. But the more challenging aspect is ultimately fitting this concept into a normal year’s UCI schedule (WorldTour). About the only time it’d work is November or December, and that’s hardly ideal for pros.
Similarly, I’ve gotta wonder if Zwift is already talking to the Giro or Vuelta about a similar scheme for them come this fall. While I know everyone wants to think there’ll be three grand tour races this fall, I’m far from optimistic we’ll see even one of them. And if so – would that mean we’d get a virtual Stelvio? In any case, time will tell.
With that – thanks for reading!
Hi Ray – fairly unrelated side question. Was curious if the Peloton calibration kit stuff you mentioned a little while ago came (to finish the review). Curious to read your thoughts on it. Thanks!
Nope, three support volley’s later, and they’ve stopped responding. But, your comment reminded me I’m just gonna hit up the Peloton HQ folks I know. Was trying to avoid that, but this shouldn’t be that hard.
Ah – that’s annoying. Thanks for the reply! You’d think they would be a bit more helpful and responsive to a prominent sports tech reviewer. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they are more helpful moving forward and will look forward to the final review.
Out of the blue update! Calibration kit was finally sent sometime last week, and supposedly set for delivery Monday to my US forwarding box. Will probably have it by end of week in Amsterdam (they refused to send me the parts to the EU since my account was US based rather than EU based). Shrug.
Mind you, the pieces should be easily 3D printed if someone was able to scan them in. It’s literally just a couple small spacers you place under the resistance unit, based on watching the video they sent on how it works.
On the first Picture – is that the Lifeline Trainer Table, that is sold on Wiggle here in Europe? How happy are you with it?
Love it. I think it’s actually better than the KICKR Trainer Desk. First off, it’s got two waterbottle holders, which I mostly use for keeping my removes easily accessible. And two, it’s got wheel locks. Though *only* downside I can figure is that the Wahoo Headwind fan doesn’t perfectly sit over the front metal bar like it does with the KICKR desk, but frankly when you do that, the desk blocks half the fan anyway.
Here’s the Amazon link: link to amazon.com
And the Wiggle link: link to awin1.com
I bought last year from Wiggle. It’s actually on my short-list for finishing up the review I started 5 months ago. TLDR: It’s awesome.
The wheels look like they turn, is this an issue when you push the desk back and forth?
And are the blue buttons for height adjustment like on the Kickr Desk or do you need an hex key?
Looks great, can’t wait for the review!
They do turn/rotate, but they have wheel locks, so it doesn’t go anywhere.
Same blue buttons as with KICKR Desk for height adjustment.
There’s some minor nuanced differences in the materials used, etc…I’ll dive into that. I’ve pretty much switched to using this one as my primary desk, if for no other reason than it’s easier to rotate out of the way as I’m swapping in and out new bikes/trainers constantly.
I’ve been using this desk for about a year. I put everything except the kitchen sink on it and it has no issues. Excellent value.
So…what you’re telling me is my review needs to have the kitchen sink on it too?
Consider it done.
Love mine as well and solid piece.
Remember, an air fryer is just a funny looking convection oven. If you’ve got a small one (aka a nice toaster oven) it’ll do everything an air fryer does!
How much for a signed jersey?
Ray, when do we expect the new maps to be a permanent addition to the map rotation on Zwift? Any other maps coming to your knowledge? I looked for info on the interwebs but could not find anything beyond “eventually” or “soon”. Thanks a lot.
August is my understanding. I think I saw somewhere, I can’t remember if it was GPLAMA or ZwiftInsider or wherever, that it was Aug 10th-ish.
Until then though, you can simply join any of the Zwift ‘Discovery Rides’ on either the France or Paris map, and then as soon as the event starts, simply exit the event. Then ride as you wish: link to youtube.com
Hmm. Some ads seems to be sneaking on to the site.
That’s odd. You definitely shouldn’t be seeing any ads as a DCR Supporter.
Any chance you can take a screenshot, or, simply let me know roughly where you’re seeing them (if on sidebar, what’s the thing above/below any given ad).
Thanks, and sorry!
Thanks for looking into this Ray.
I attached a screen capture. I’ve seen this ad before. Earlier there was a video playing in the same spot.
Awesome – thanks. I’ll dig into that now – appreciate it!
(We’ve been troubleshooting some other Google Adsense issues the past few weeks with a pile of endless fixes, so it’s entirely plausible we broke something else while trying to fix that.)
Or not. Saw another ad just now. Earlier I didn’t.
Can you tell me if on ATOMX in ZWIFT you can use all the 22 gears to climb up hills?
Hi Ray – is the wattbike any quieter with the change in motor drive system? I’ve had one for a couple of years and although the slowish gear change is a bit annoying (on zwift) it’s the drive train noise I find bad – I had to move my bike from the attic to the garden shed to facilitate early morning zwifting….
I’m going to do a quick sound comparison video a bit later today: Wattbike 2020 vs ATOM X vs ATOM.
Not sure when/where I’ll publish it, we’ll see how the day goes. But I can at least give a quick written answer hopefully.
Literally so excited for the new Atom 2020 review! Would be great to hear the differences in noise levels on the different systems (old gen vs new gen)!
How long before you’ll be able to share your findings?
Shot the video today. Definitely audible differences. Will try and get it all edited up tomorrow. Shot it as basically a one-shot-wonder, so should be quick and simple.
Hey Ray! Hope you’re well.
Should we be worried by the v2 radio silence?
Do you have an ETA for your review/sound comparison?
Ahh, sorry. Yeah, honestly left on vacation for a bit and totally forgot about editing the video up (sound comparison).
As for ERG firmware, still waiting on that. But they knew I was out of town for two weeks, so I basically said if they didn’t have it by that Friday, then letting them work on it for two more weeks till I got back and could test it.
I was interested to see you zwifting in Imperial mode versus Metric…more points are gained using the metric system.
Haha…yeah, I probably should switch it over.
I know some people get all bent out of shape when I’m using one measurement mode versus the other (mostly, metric people). But to me I can fluidly use either, and I don’t think about it. But, I’ll take the 7% gains…
I keep reminding myself to fry zucchini/pumpkin flowers for many years. Thenks to your reminder maybe this time 😉
Cheese makes everything better.
Um, you do know it takes male and female flowers to make pumpkins, right? Google is your friend on determining which are which, and how to ensure pollination happens. At least that way you’ll have a better idea as to which ones to eat for achieving a gender balance. Equal rights and all.
As noted, we have endless pumpkins already. Any flowers at this point are just things that need cheese inside of them.
Any thoughts on when the US can expect to see the Atom 2020? If it’s going to be 2 years like with the original, I’m off to buy the Stages. Easy decision with big thighs!
Not sure. I’ll ask on the next e-mail volley.
Noticed you mentioned the X-Power pedals in your “Getting the Trainer home”. Looking forward to the full review. Any guess when you will be able to share the review?
Honestly not sure at this point. We’re working through some issues. I suspect the pedals are going to have to be replaced.
I now have both a Tacx Neo bike (since March) and a Wattbike Atom (since May) on order – lets see who can win the delivery race.
If I have to choose between the 2, which way would you go?
In erg mode i found the Wattbike Atom to be very poor in dealing with cadence transitions when compared to theTacx Neo. If i lifted cadence just prior to a hike in target power the atom overcompensated and sent the resistance very low leaving me free wheeling. The next 30s to a minute was then spent nursing the atom back to steady power and cadence levels as it oscillated too high and too low. With the neo, it lets you load up with a bit of momentum then smoothly shaves this off as the new target power comes to bear. Even with constant power, this over-correction is apparent when you lift the cadence. It makes the interactive drills on trainerroad near to useless and you feel like you have have to nurse the atom through any brisk changes to cadence and power. Not ideal for hard sessions when you are just hanging on. With the neo,(v1), you just get on with it and the equipment sorts it out for you. Does the new atom still suffer from this? If it does, even though it has the same tech as the neo, it would suggest it is the algorithm that is the problem?
Can you connect the Wattbike via ANT+ to a PC running Zwift or does it need to be via the companion app as a bridge?
Is the Atom 2020 as noisy as the Last one?
ATOM 2020 noise: do you have already published the video ? Where to find it