Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hunter Allen Reviews CompuTrainer

Peaks Coaching Group CompuTrainer Review Hunter Allen

One of the best things about my job is that I get to test all kinds of new power training devices and products throughout the year. Testing and tinkering with new stuff is a blast! Constant exposure to so many new items helps keep me on the cutting edge of power training and tuned in to tomorrow's hot products. It also gives me fresh appreciation for the really good products that I stick with for a long time. CompuTrainer is one of those products.

I've been a CompuTrainer user since 2004, when I first set up my trusty blue friend in our Peaks Coaching Studio for all my winter training and client testing. In the years since then, the system has seen me through thousands of miles, hundreds of FACT lactate ramp tests, and numerous camper trials. In the end, it just keeps doing its job. This year I've centered my winter training on CompuTrainer and ErgVideo more than ever before, and I'm reminded almost daily of what an amazing tool it is.

Erg Power 

As any CompuTrainer user knows, training in ergometer mode is different than generating power on a stand-alone, non-erg trainer. Erg training allows you to set and control the target wattage and forces you to achieve it (i.e., hang on for dear life!), whereas when riding a stand-alone trainer you have to use more intention and internal motivation to monitor your effort and nail the target watts. I've seen lots of debates over which is better, but in my opinion erg mode is better. There are two key reasons:

Target Control. When they talk about power training, most people mistakenly associate power with pedaling harder, but in reality the definition of “watts” is how hard you pedal multiplied by how fast you pedal. This means that you can create 500 watts by pedaling slowly and with a high force, or by pedaling quickly with a low force. Erg mode controls the target by managing this relationship for you, so if you pedal at a slow cadence (60 rpm), the force needed is higher, and vice versa, and if you pedal at a quick cadence (110 rpm), the force needed on the pedals is lower. I see plenty of trainer files, and in lots of non-CompuTrainer files I see declining RPM and declining power files as athletes fatigue and drop cadence. With the CompuTrainer erg system, however, the resistance goes up as you drop cadence to make sure you hit the target wattage. This allows a more steady workout (or faster failure!) for athletes and leads to improved development of muscular stamina and fatigue resistance. 

Quality AND Quantity. Using the Computrainer in erg mode makes it an amazing tool for completing highly defined, structured workouts that will improve the quality of your indoor training time while allowing for motivation to do more work. I know you can mimic the workouts on a standard trainer, but it takes a lot of mental focus and energy to stare at your head unit and control the output. CompuTrainer can manage this for you; all you have to do is pedal! This allows you to hit highly defined targets while you watch a good movie or enjoy a killer playlist of tunes. Improved quality and quantity is a big win for the CompuTrainer!


Another key benefit to the CompuTrainer is the accuracy of its numbers. More and more trainers are focused on good power curves and accurate readings, but CompuTrainer is still the gold standard. Once I set the calibration, I have confidence in the numbers and can consistently match them to my power meter files when tested. Part of improving your efficiency from time on the trainer is improving the quality of the data. When you do the calibration, I suggest using the same amount of pressure in your tires on each ride and then looking for an RRC (rolling resistance calibration) number close to 2.0. Heat, humidity, and other factors can of course affect your set-up, but I've found these two things to be the most important in making the wattage highly accurate.

Integration with Computer Animation and Videos

The “compu” in CompuTrainer is an outstanding part of the unit, and I enjoy riding on the courses inside the RacerMate One software suite; not only are they entertaining, but they're also great workouts that address the different areas of exercise physiology that are important for making this year's season great.

In addition to RacerMate One, a company called ErgVideo has made some excellent videos you can use to ride with real racers over actual courses throughout the world. I've really enjoyed the ErgVideos this year; they contain pre-built training plans, built-in workouts for each video, and the ability to create new workouts. This has made a difference in training consistently, and it also addresses the exact physiological training zone that I need at the correct time. Plus, riding on a course with other riders makes the time go by faster! One of my favorite videos is the “Sweetspot Over and Unders,” where you ride at just below your FTP and then do short bursts above and recover back to just below your threshold. These are tough, but they allow you to recover just enough.

Simple Cadence Capture

The new Puck is absolutely wonderful! So simple and easy. Place it under the right crank at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and you have instant cadence! I love it. No more fiddling to find just the right position on the frame for the cadence sensor.

Bottom line? My trusty CompuTrainer will be part of my winter training stable for years to come!