Cutting through the fat: energy and power

Written by: Andrew Buckrell, Innovations Director, 4iiii Innovations Inc.

This question always comes up.  How do I lose weight while exercising, and what are those pesky calories anyway?  Well, this is a two part discussion, and focuses on two different areas: thermodynamics and metabolism.  These are very scary words to many people, possibly behind only “VO2 Intervals” in terms of the fear that they elicit!  It doesn’t need to be though, we can have a very interesting discussion without scaring people away!

At its simplest, thermodynamics is just a study of energy.  There are a few laws in thermodynamics that govern pretty much everything, the same way that gravity does.  One of these is that energy can’t be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another.  What we are doing through our metabolism is using thermodynamics to convert chemical energy into mechanical energy.  When you eat a bag of potato chips and convert it into riding your bike, this is exactly what happens.  Alternatively, you can convert that bag of potato chips into a bit of fat on your body, which is an example of a conversion from one form of chemical energy to another, but unfortunately a powermeter won’t help you out much in the latter case.

The reason power is important is because it’s a rate of performing work, and the amount of work done is energy.  The faster you perform the work, i.e. the higher the wattage (Joules per second, which is Watts), the more work you do over a given period of time.  This is why increasing your power makes a workout harder.  I think this is pretty easy to follow so far.  Looking at some sample numbers, 1kWh (kilowatt-hour), which is a pretty standard unit of energy, is equal to 1kW output for 1 hour, or 3.6 million Joules (1000J/s * 3600s/h * 1h).  This is almost the same amount of energy as our good friend Cody Beals used performing his record breaking IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant bike course effort (technically, at 260W, this would be about 3h50, which is a bit faster than he completed the bike course).  It’s unbelievable to think that exercising at an elite level like that is only worth about $0.11 of electricity in Canada. 

Cody Beals at IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria 2019 – collecting data with his 4iiii Powermeter

There is a slight correction to make to this number though, and it’s related to metabolic efficiency.  This is where the conversion between food energy, which is usually in calories or kilocalories (note the capital letter difference – it’s a ridiculous convention, but means there’s a factor of 1000 in this case), or outside of North America will be measured in kJ, or kilojoules. 

In reality, we don’t convert 100% of our food energy into mechanical energy.  Roughly speaking, this ratio is our thermodynamic efficiency, which can be compared directly with a car engine.  A gasoline engine will typically reach about 36% efficiency, meaning 36% of the chemical energy in gasoline is turned into motion.  This may not sound like much, but it is actually very close to the theoretical limit.  Our bodies, by comparison, are converting about 20-25% of the input energy (food) into mechanical energy (pedalling).  This is actually phenomenal, since a car engine will not run very well on donuts or french fries, but we sort of do (there are other foods that will power us much more effectively!). 

Using this efficiency factor, it means that Cody would have had the energy input of about $0.40-$0.50.  If you happen to run into him, please don’t tell him that I thought his record breaking performance was only worth $0.50!!

4iiii Ambassador – Ryan Standish – enjoying a donut ride

Although it’s a gross simplification to say that all of the energy burned will come from fat, if you exercise at a low enough rate, this is largely true.  When you’re performing in the truly aerobic (i.e. oxygen powered) regime, your body is converting fat stores into energy through a form of combustion.  The reason you can’t just exercise infinitely harder and burn fat faster is because this is a slow process, and it’s not possible to push it fast enough to supply all of your energy this way.  Instead, your body has a supply of glycogen stores ready to power your muscles in a pinch (anaerobic process — doesn’t use oxygen directly).  This is the energy source for sprinting, or longer super-threshold efforts (technically, creatine phosphate is used for the very short efforts, but this is splitting hairs).  The glycogen runs out quickly though, which is why you can’t maintain these efforts for very long.  This is also why you often see “fat burning zone” on cardio equipment.  It’s not to say that you’re not burning fat above this output — that part of your metabolism is always contributing — it’s just that you won’t be able to maintain that rate of fat burning for as long because you’re dipping into your glycogen and depleting your stores faster than you can replenish it.

Mmmm… carbs

What does a Tour de France rider burn on a given stage?  Well, let’s take an output of 250W for 5h for a particularly tough ride.  In that time, approximately 4.5 million Joules of energy were burned.  This is equivalent to about 1100 calories of energy.  Because of that pesky efficiency factor, you would actually need to consume about four to five times as much food energy to power your muscles, or up to around 5000 calories of food.  That’s 4.5 KILOGRAMS of brown rice.  Per day.  Interestingly, the conversion factor between human efficiency is very similar to the conversion between kJ and calories.  This means if you do a workout that is 1000 kJ of work (278W for 1h), it means you burned approximately 1000 Calories of food energy.  If you want to accurately measure and track your Calories burned during a ride, the most accurate way is to use one of 4iiii’s powermeters4iiii Powermeters accurately track the energy output for every rotation of the crank, meaning you can figure out whether or not you’re achieving your fitness goals, or whether you can pick up another donut after the ride.  

But, before inhaling that donut and entering a state of sugar and fat-induced bliss, just think of this: during the Tour de France, 176 riders will burn about 15-18 million Calories, which is the equivalent of almost 2000kg of fat!  Gross!

4iiii Innovations Inc. is the Official Powermeter Sponsor for Israel Start-Up Nation’s Historic Tour de France Debut

Historic Debut

Israel Start-Up Nation and their eight man roster will be riding with the dual-sided PRECISION PRO Powermeters and Viiiiva Heart Rate Monitors to help them reach their peak performance to reach the podium at the Tour de France.

“4iiii provides the world’s lightest and most accurate power meters. Their heart rate monitor technology is trusted and popular in global cycling communities and their dedication and support to our team has been exceptional,’’ says Jost Zevnik, Operations Manager of Israel Start-Up Nation.”

During Israel Start-Up Nation’s Press Conference on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 they shared their excitement of taking on their very first Tour de France – and this year’s edition is a great one!

Team co-owner Sylvan Adams: “This is a special moment for our Israel Start-up Nation team, as we embark on our first competition around ‘la grande boucle’ in cycling’s biggest race. I’m looking forward to the journey and seeing the riders finish in grand style in Paris in three weeks.”

The Team for Tour de France

Israel Start Up Nation has an exceptional group of athletes. The team consists of eight riders from six different countries – Dan Martin, Andre Greipel, Nils Politt, Hugo Hofstetter, Ben Hermans, Tom Van Asbroeck, Krists Neilands, and Guy Niv (the first Israeli to compete in the Tour de France).

Team co-owner Sylvan Adams called it, “A dream come true. We are here not to just ride along but to be seen. We will be in the mix in every stage!”

Team captain Dan Martin: “I’m truly grateful to the team for being so patient and allowing me the time to really assess my condition after the crash in the Dauphine. I expect to suffer through the first stages as I have missed a bit of training, but I am incredibly excited to use my experience in the race to help the team. Once I get back into the rhythm of racing I will look for opportunities to take a stage win.”

Andre Greipel: “This will be a great celebration as the first Tour for the Israeli team and with the first Israeli rider. The team can be proud. But it will be a challenge!”

Guy Niv: “I am honored and privileged to represent my country and team in the biggest race in cycling and one of the greatest sporting events in the world. And to be the first Israeli to do so? It might sound like a cliché, but it’s a dream come true.

What Does it Take to Ride in the World Tour?

We will be following Israel Start-Up Nation through every stage of the tour on our social media channels. We will be running a series of contests featuring Israel Start-Up Nation’s riders and their power numbers – join us and test your power knowledge!

4iiii Instagram: @4iiiicom
4iiii Facebook: @4iiiicom

Lex Albrecht on Power & Progression

Written by: Lex Albrecht

I’ve been racing professionally since 2012. I got a late start. I don’t come from a typical athletic background where families often enjoy sports together, or encourage their kids to get into competition. I was the odd one out: I negotiated permission to attend dinner late so I could go jogging. I’ve dug big holes in an empty garden plot in the backyard when I couldn’t get off the property to get to a gym. I tricked my parents into “making me” mow the lawn or shovel snow, to get out of vacuuming their carpet. (Because, pushing the mower or the shovel feels like a sport.) I liked to move. (Full disclosure: I’m grateful that my parents signed me up for swimming lessons as a kid, and I was always glad to get the end-of-year soccer trophy for…participating. In 5 years, I scored one goal.)

During the 2020 Covid Pandemic, since races are on hold, I took my motorcycle and bike on a trip to visit the town that I grew up in. I hadn’t been back in 4 years. I rode the same roads that took me on my first cycling adventures. It was trippy. Trippy because it put me back in the same mindset I had 15-20 years ago, and I understood on a deeper level why my bike meant so much to me.

I always liked riding my bike, and I really fell in love with cycling as an adolescent. The bike became my ultimate tool to access freedom and independence. At first I rode my father’s bike that he found in the garbage. (Only when I had permission. Sometimes that permission would unexpectedly get pulled from under my feet.) Dad would tell people that the bike actually cost 38 cents: the price of the electrical tape he purchased to wrap its bars. Eventually I rode a department store-double suspension monster that I gifted myself for my 13th birthday. I was always riding. The Roadies started waving at me. What. An. Honour.

My highschool boyfriend’s older sister warned me that as soon as I was old enough to get a drivers license, I would stop loving cycling. Christy was wrong. I just loved it even more. Eventually, without hardly noticing, I developed a fear that something could take the joy of cycling away from me. It took a while to get over bad habits I used to protect myself from falling out of love. Tossing each one out the window made me a little better:

First: I would avoid the little chainring as much as possible. In my mind: “The little ring is for weak people. Weak people can’t access the joy of the ride.” When I tried to start group riding, a guy named Brad noticed immediately, and called me Hammerhead. If I wanted to do group rides with him and his crew, I had to spin. I followed his rules. I discovered the joys of a good cadence and smooth pedal stroke.

Second: I put off using a computer for the longest time. I didn’t want to feel pressure to go at a certain speed, over a certain distance, or for a certain time. I wanted the sense of satisfaction to come from within. Not from what some number said. I installed the computer, and I learned I could put the thing in my jersey pocket when I’d had enough of using the numbers to make fun games and challenges. (It took a while to get over the idea that a ride under 60km “didn’t count”.)

Third: I started racing in my twenties when I decided I had to learn to be really bad at something, and just roll with it. I knew I’d suck at bike racing (because I’d never done it). It was unplanned, but eventually after lots of practice at being a bad bike racer, I started to get better. I wanted to do more races and it became apparent that I could use a coach. However, I was disgusted at the thought of someone dictating when and how I would ride. That would siphon the pure joy right out of cycling. But it didn’t. I learned so much from my coach and I started to arrive at races on FIRE. The year after working with him, I signed my first semi-pro contract. The following year, I got my first true professional offer. It happened that fast.

Thuringen Win.

The curve of my progression in cycling took off when I started using a powermeter for training. I’d gotten to where I was in cycling because I rode so MUCH. Most newer riders can relate: I wanted to get better so I could experience cycling in even more new ways, so I figured I needed to ride even more. With a powermeter installed, suddenly the concept of quality vs quantity became apparent. Power data proved when I was tired, I could not hit the numbers I could with fresher legs. Even if I felt like I was going hard, the watt readings would say I was creeping along. “First World Suffering” through rest-days was all it took to prove that recovery is not for wimps.

The point of training with power is to be more calculated, strategic, and efficient with every training plan and in what I do during each ride. I find, when you know you can fully rely on the quality, precision and consistency of your powermeter’s data, it brings a certain level of comfort and confidence that makes going all-in on every effort (even when it’s a super easy recovery ride “effort”) feel that much more rewarding… And in turn fun. Amazing results in cycling have their roots in fun. It’s the truth. That’s why I love being able to rely on my data from my 4iiii powermeters.

As a professional cyclist, training with power is what allows my coach (Chris Rozdilsky of P2 Performance in Montreal) see exactly what I can do during any given race, workout, or block of time. The numbers help paint the picture of what type of workouts I need for my body to make the adaptations it needs to so I can hit certain targets or peak for certain events. We use Training Peaks to follow historical data from previous seasons too, and that helps understand why some blocks are more fruitful than others, and even make plans and set goals for the off season.

Lex shows off her 4iiii PRECISION Powermeter.

Most of my high-quality, high-intensity workouts are very structured. Chris suggests specific power number targets, the duration of time to hold the power, and how long to recover between each effort. Training with power has huge psychological benefits for me because I don’t second guess whether or not I’m going hard enough. I simply do what it takes to follow the numbers for each session, and give myself permission to rest afterwards. The power meter also helps me understand when I am tired. Many of us cyclists learn to disconnect ourselves from the instinct to stop, from the feeling of discomfort, and from signs of fatigue. I definitely have my power meter to thank for helping show some hints that “YO, LEX! Time to chill out. Take a nap. Have a spa day. Ride your moto. Call your grandmother.” Gotta love a power meter.

About Lex Albrecht:

Lex Albrecht is a professional Canadian road cyclist, a member of the Canadian National Cycling team and has ridden for several professional UCI and UCI Women’s World Tour Teams.


Getting Crank-y about Accuracy Testing

Written by: Andrew Buckrell, Innovations Director, 4iiii Innovations Inc.

Let’s face it: when you buy a powermeter, you buy it because you want to know your exact power. You don’t want to know “I might have set a new FTP today”, or “I approximately had my best workout”. Accuracy is everything, but what does accuracy actually mean?

What is Power?

First off, let’s start with the definition of power. Power is the mechanical energy generated or dissipated by a system. In general, power is calculated as a force multiplied by a velocity (F x V). Similarly for rotating devices, this is equated to torque (𝛕) multiplied by angular velocity (𝛚) or (𝛕 x 𝛚). A rider turning their power meter will generate a torque on the pedals (turning force) and will rotate at some angular velocity (say, 80rpm). By calculating both of these values, we can now calculate the power generated at the crank by the rider.

Put simpler: the faster you turn your pedals or the harder you push, the more power you generate.

But we don’t turn the crank evenly! No matter how smooth you are, there are pushes, and jabs, and most importantly, every rider is different and no machine can replicate this. So, companies that test with a machine that spins the cranks at a constant torque aren’t testing for accuracy in the way a real cyclist actually pedals.

Instantaneous torque data from 3 pedal strokes on a 4iiii Fliiiight Smart Trainer. Note that the rider goes from a minimum of 4Nm to nearly 18Nm – that’s a 4x swing in torque every pedal stroke!

How to Measure Power

In a perfect world, everything is 100% efficient, and it would be very easy to measure power output. Unfortunately, thermodynamics is a harsh mistress, and we lose a bit of power with material flex (hysteresis losses), chain and drivetrain (bearing and chain friction), tire losses (rolling resistance), etc. Anything that generates heat or noise is a form of lost power.

This is important because it becomes very difficult to establish an accurate testing protocol to make sure that what we (or anyone) claims is actually accurate. Accuracy is really just a measure of how close we are measuring when compared to a real value, but how do we even measure that “real value”? You have to go much further than just putting a few different powermeters on a bike and comparing results. All that would accomplish is that the different options are precise and not accurate, since there is no real baseline measurements.

Historically, measuring accuracy has been done with a dynamometer (no, this has nothing to do with Jurassic Park) which accurately measures torque and speed. These devices have been used for years in the automotive industry, but are generally not well suited for the torque input variations that even the smoothest rider provides. Besides, even the automotive industry has a history of “cheating” and manipulating results in their favour.

How to Measure Cycling Power Accurately

Instead, we went to Prof. Dr. Rodger Kram, professor of Integrative Physiology and manager of the Locomotion Lab, University of Colorado, for a ground-up, physics based measurement approach. Dr. Kram and his team have developed a simple, but very accurate method of measuring the actual power getting to the ground with a given rider. By running a treadmill at a very accurate speed and inclination, and by measuring and eliminating variables such as rolling resistance and drivetrain efficiency, he is able to measure the power output with unprecedented accuracy. Another major advantage of this laboratory test protocol is that it takes out a lot of the variability for test conditions, like wind, temperature, and even allows us to test against a variety of different rider pedaling styles. He is even able to pre-cool or pre-heat the cranks to test the extremes of temperature. And let’s face it — would you want to be volun-told to maintain 350W in 50°C desert heat, or would you prefer to do it under controlled lab conditions?

An example of testing rolling resistance during the power measurement protocol

The whitepaper produced during this test, including accuracy results is available here: Boulder Whitepaper.

The Results

The testing was extremely encouraging. Our PRECISION Pro Powermeters were able to achieve less than 1.58% error, while the Podiiiium Powermeters were better than 1% error. These weren’t some “perfect” cranks that were chosen because of repeatability either — they were actually purchased by Dr. Kram’s lab from our website — our fulfilment team didn’t know they were going out for testing — which is the only way to guarantee that selection bias has been eliminated.

What does this mean to me?

So, at this stage, you might be saying, “I really appreciate the physics lesson, and now want to devote my spare time towards the pursuit of science (or maybe that’s just what I’m saying), but why does it really matter to me?”

The answer to that is that it’s a real world demonstration of accuracy. By testing at an independent university lab, we are confident that the results are accurate, unbiased and based on how real cyclists pedal, not machines. It’s also further proof that our 3D strain-gauge technology can capture the unique pedalling dynamics of real cyclists, instead of just a machine that spins the cranks at a constant torque all of the time.

You will be very hard pressed to find any other manufacturer publishing such transparent accuracy data, but for the sake of everyone we encourage them to step up for this benchmark testing at Dr. Kram’s University lab as well. In the meantime, we think you should buy the most accurate powermeter on the market!

PRECISION and Accuracy

Written by: Andrew Buckrell, Innovations Director, 4iiii Innovations Inc.

We often hear discussions about precision and accuracy, with the words being used interchangeably. Although I’ll admit, many things about how people perceive engineers drives me batty, this one possibly tops the list. Precision and accuracy are not interchangeable, and although they are both goals in measurement, they are far from the same thing.

My favourite visual description is related to targets: if you have several attempts to get a bullseye, there are many different results that could be achieved.

If you are accurate but not precise, your measured average would still match your real world average, but you wouldn’t necessarily have confidence in a given sample or measurement being the right measurement. This is like putting 200W to the pedals, but one measurement showing 210W and the next showing 190W. Even though it is highly accurate, the measurements lack precision. Your average measurement will still read as the same, but how you get there could be slightly different.

Let’s consider the other possibility: what if you have something that is very precise, but not accurate at all. Taking the same ride of 200W input at the pedals, what if your measurements came back as reading 140W? Knowing that it felt like a lot more power, what if you exactly repeated the ride and it came back at the same 140W? This is a perfect example of a highly precise powermeter, but also inaccurate. I don’t think anyone would take consolation in the fact that their measurement was precise, but still 60W lower than what they actually achieved — I know that I certainly wouldn’t be happy about it!

Possible reaction from high precision, but low accuracy, Huffy Toss

The best of both worlds is to have precision and accuracy. This means, if you measure 190W at the powermeter, it actually means you’ve ridden 190W, and you can be confident in that being the actual power. Many people will argue that precision is more important than accuracy (since it will help you gauge your actual physiological input during a ride), but why not strive to have both?

Simple answer, you can! We have gone to great lengths to show that 4iiii Powermeters provide unprecedented accuracy, reliability and durability. When even the Canadian Olympic mountain bike team trusts us, you know it’s good enough for you! Check out our online shop to make sure that you get your raceday best.

“Why does this matter? I’m only a regular athlete”, you might ask. Let’s take a page out of my own not-very-illustrious racing career as an example. In November 2019, in the long-long ago days before COVID-19 changed the racing landscape, I was competing in IRONMAN Cozumel. Despite having a phenomenal swim (for me), I could tell it was hot that day. Much hotter than my training days leading up to the race. I could tell that something was a bit off. In maintaining my target race power, my heart rate was not going down to where it should have been. The accurate data I know and trust from my 4iiii Viiiiva Heart Rate Monitor and 4iiii PRECISION Powermeter were telling me that my body wasn’t reacting well to the heat. Knowing, and more importantly, trusting this information told me that I really needed to be cautious and dial it back a bit. In my infinite wisdom, and with a solid case of “race-brain” (trademark pending on that one), I decided not to listen to the data, or my body, and kept pushing on at my target power. Although I maintained my target power for the first lap, my HR kept climbing from my target of 145 to about 165!! At the 130km mark, I pulled out with a borderline case of heat stroke, and spent the next 30 minutes sitting in the shade without being able to dip my HR below 120bpm. Lesson learned — listen to the signs, and trust in accurate data. Have a solid plan, a solid backup, and trust your numbers.

A rare photo of me actually racing at Cozumel 2019 — note the “retro-cool” STAC tri suit

Although my next race(s) have all been cancelled so far, I’m very much looking forward to getting back out racing (fingers crossed for IM Arizona, if not 2021 Victoria 70.3 then 2021 IM Canada), and this time I’ll be “wise” enough to not make poor race day decisions, and trust my accurate and precise data from my 4iiii PRECISION Powermeter and Viiiiva Heart Rate Monitor.

A Summer Without Racing – Creating the Ultimate Fondo

Written by: Mac Potter, Sales Key Account Manager, 4iiii Innovations Inc.

It was 4:50 am and I woke up to what sounded like a car alarm going off outside of my house. In a tired daze I came to realize that it’s just my phone alarm. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and I got out of bed, it was time to ride. Before setting off I slammed a cold brew coffee (that had been in my fridge since last summer’s Sea Otter Canada) and three stale pancakes made the day before which I drenched in maple syrup, magically bringing them back to life. After a quick breakfast,  kit on, and power meter calibrated, I headed out the door for what was to be an epic day on the road.


I was not setting out on this adventure alone, and admittedly this ride was not even my idea. Due to  Covid-19, races across North America were cancelled. My co-worker Bailey, who is 4iiii’s Sales Account Manager for America, thought of this crazy idea – what if we trained to do Highwood Pass door to door in one single ride? Highwood Pass (located in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada) is a cyclists paradise. Up until June 15th the road is completely closed to all traffic, allowing cyclists to have the mountain pass all to themselves. It’s a once a year opportunity to enjoy the beautiful vistas of the Rocky Mountains worry free. What makes this pass significant is that it’s also the highest paved road in Canada, topping out at 2206m. Once the snow melts in late May, you will find your Strava feed inundated with Highwood Pass rides. It has become an annual tradition with most cyclists in Southern Alberta, Canada to complete before that June 15th date. Most riders choose to do this ride as an out and back making the typical route 110km, but starting and ending in Calgary was going to turn it into a 347km mission.


By 6:00am the four of us, Bailey, Mike, Scott and myself, were together and  we officially started our ride. As we knew that we were in for a long day, we set one ground rule at the start of the ride. Pulls were to be kept at 250w and around the 5 minute mark. Mike commented that holding 250w was going to be hard…because it’s tough to go that easy. Mike, who is 4iiii’s Director of Engineering, has been using Trainer Road to train religiously in 2020. Since January, he’s raised his Threshold from 290w all the way up to 333w, or roughly 4.8 w/kg. Riding with Mike is like riding with a kid on a sugar high who just finished a package of Fun Dip, but the sugar high lasts the whole ride and seems to peak on any presence of an incline. Admittedly, the 250w pull rule was more for Mike then the rest of the team that day. Heading out of Calgary Mike took to the front, riding tall and relaxed on his hoods leading us up the first kicker. At 250w, I let Mike know that he passed his first test and we were off, getting us that much closer to the mountains. 


After about an hour and a half of riding a low flying owl swooped across the quiet road while we approached our first challenge of the day. “A good omen!” Mike commented as the owl flew off into the distance while hunting for a field mouse with the same determination as Bailey looking for an expired Clif Bar in his back jersey pocket. Bailey, who manages our North and South American sales channels, was adamant that we added a 7km gravel portion to our ride even though we were all rolling on 25c road bikes. My guess is that for 7km he wanted to relive his glory days as a pro cyclist and bring back the now distant memories of racing in the Tour of Alberta. Although Bailey has pro pedigree in his blood from 5 years of racing the North American continental circuit for Red Truck and H&R Block, he was the one that we were most worried about on this adventure. Bailey’s training for this event consisted of 1 hour mountain bike rides followed by beer and hot dogs in the parking lot, randomly selected 45 min Trainer Road workouts that looked “fun”, adjusted to what he felt his FTP was that day, and a few “repeats” on a 1km climb around the corner from his house. Although Bailey didn’t put in the training hours for this “mission” that he created, he will unapologetically remind you that he can still hold 1000w for 20 sec and close to 500w for 2 minutes…even if he can only do it once. Bailey is a soul rider now, but you can always pull the inner racer out of him with a few pokes.

Scott and Bailey fueling up before hitting the Unofficial Strade Bianchi Alberta 7km Group Ride Championship portion of our ride

As Bailey and I flew through the gravel section, Scott and Mike were closely behind but riding a bit more cautiously, clearly on less of a suicide mission then Bailey who was busy leading the charge through the loose and washboarded gravel road. We finished the sector with no flats, no crashes, and Bailey was crowned the unofficial Strade Bianchi Alberta 7km Group Ride Champion. We took a quick pit stop to chow down a few Snickers bars and turned onto the Trans Canada Highway. For those not familiar, the Trans Canada Highway connects Canada from Coast to Coast and is the main corridor for anyone travelling across the country. We decided to up the pulls to 300w to get through this 25km section quickly as even at 8 am, it was still quite busy with adventurers on their way to the mountains and semi drivers blasting their way to Vancouver, British Columbia. Having ridden from Vancouver to Calgary a few years prior I was unphased by the passing semis, but Bailey was eager to push the pace as apparently riding the Trans Canada was his worst nightmare come true.


After covering 25km in only 40 minutes, we turned south and started heading into the Rocky Mountains. With the crisp mountain air and the sun radiating on our backs, we took our first pitstop at the Centex just across from the forever “reopening” Fortress ski resort junction, which has seen more movie sets than skiers in the past decade. We refilled our bottles with Gatorade and kept heading Southwest towards the base of the climb. We met my girlfriend Jaylene at the base of highwood pass who parked in the shoulder and turned her Tacoma into a fully stocked aid station. With a few mini cokes, fresh pizza buns, and a handful of potato chips we made our way to the gate. Sticking with our rule of 250w we paced the climb at a steady tempo. Starting at 1690m my heart rate was steady in the high 130’s. The effort felt manageable, but the altitude immediately took effect at the 2000m mark. Our mountain bike trails frequently touch the 1900m mark so for myself, edging above this point was an altitude that my body was far less accustomed to. It was obvious from looking at the data being broadcasted from my Viiiiva that the wheels were starting to fall off. The last 200m of climbing my heart rate climbed from 143 BPM to 160 BPM (max is around 176 BPM) all while steadily holding 250w. Mike even half jokingly asked Bailey, who formerly held the KOM on this climb, if we were at the top yet, unfortunately we were not.

Scott chose to still ride in the shoulder even on the closed road while Mike sets the tempo up Highwood Pass.

Cresting the top at 2,206m, we caught our breath and began the 37km 700m descent. We had a bit of a headwind on the way down so we stuck to our 250w pulls to keep the speed high on the way down. As it was the final weekend to ride Highwood car free, the descent was as busy as commuting along an urban bike path. We were consistently yo-yoing a group of cyclists who would push the little kickers while we stayed steady for the entire descent. Our groups joined, and by the end of the descent we had amassed a peloton of around 30 riders which was pushing the pace as if the south gate were the finish line in a Tour de France stage. Like playing tactics in a road race, we stayed at the back and enjoyed the free ride for the last few kilometers. 

Although the climb up Highwood Pass felt difficult due to the altitude, the toughest part of our ride was the South East stretch to Longview, which is a small town in Alberta best known for not only its Heartland style Alberta cattle ranches, but more importantly its famous beef jerky. Half way up Highwood Pass I started to feel a pain from my right hip that radiated down to the top of my foot. I knew something in my hip was tight but pushed through, hoping that whatever had a death grip on my IT band would loosen itself up. It wasn’t until we hit the cross winds to Longview that my right leg began to really bother me. It almost felt like I had a dead leg. I was running a 4iiii PRECISION Pro Powermeter for our ride and saw my balance go from my typical 52/48 earlier in the ride to 65/35 meaning that my right leg was only doing 35% of the work, about the same amount of work that Bailey does during booth tear down at whatever cycling festival we are working at that weekend. My right leg did the equivalent of  “I’ll go get the car. Left leg, can you pack up the 4iiii tent”?

A steady increase in heart rate once we hit the 2,000m mark.

As we battled the crosswinds towards Longview, Scott was keeping a steady tempo and was definitely the strongest rider on the day. Scott, who joined us for our ride has some serious long distance pedigree in his legs. Formerly a pro Ironman triathlete, the current course record holder for Sinister 7, and Black Spur Ultra, Scott has the ability to push power for hours on end. His “Just Keep Swimming” attitude of Dory from Finding Nemo also pairs with his forgetfulness of how badly we suffer every time it was his turn to lead in the rotation. At 5’8, Scott rides an aggressively set up Cervelo S5. Scott is the only person that I’ve ever ridden with who gives off what seems like a negative draft. Every time I saw my power spike to the 270’s I’d pipe up reminding him of the 250w limit. He’d politely reply with a simple “I haven’t gone above 240w!”. Since then, we draw straws as to who has to ride behind Scott on the group rides as you are guaranteed the equivalent of a double pull when riding behind him.


After all of us were worn down and tired of being thrown around in the cross wind, we arrived in Longview exhausted, in need of a coke and a piece of salty beef jerky. I chased down two Tylenol’s with the remainder of my lukewarm Gatorade to help with the pain in my right leg. At 230km in, we turned North and made our way along the foothills back into Calgary. When checking the weather earlier that morning I had seen a tornado watch was listed for South West Calgary and to be on alert in the afternoon. Looking West towards the Rocky Mountains in the distance, a dark cloud could be seen approaching in the distance which was accentuated by the bright green pastures and cattle grazing off in the distance. Asking Mike what kind of omen a Tornado represents, he responded “I’m pretty sure it just cancels out the owl”. With the wind now on our backs we made a quick stop in a small town Millerville to do another restock of food and Gatorade. At this point we were 260km in and we were all starting to fade. I reached into the back pocket of my salt stained jersey and pulled out a Maurten gel (which I purchased through my local bike shop’s customer financing program the evening before). With the consistency of a Jello shot and the flavor of icing sugar I sucked back the gel and felt the energy come back into my body.

Shooting back my emergency Maurten gel in Millerville while Scott is ready to Rock n’ Roll and get back onto the road. I’m pretty sure Mike is pondering whether to dip into the Redbull this stop or to hold off for our final stop in Bragg Creek.

At 270km into our ride, Scott’s tire slowly began to leak. It was bound to happen to one of us, but we finally had our first (but notably the only) flat of the ride. Rolling into Bragg Creek we reached our final stop before home. With a Snickers bar and Sprite in hand, I sat with Mike and Bailey on the steps outside of the Shell station at the Bragg Creek intersection where we watched the Canadian flag blow in the wrong direction. Shattered, we knew that only 50km remained in what was already an unforgettable day on the road. Clipping back in the flag changed directions and it seemed like that good omen earlier in the day came true. Sailing back into Calgary we averaged 41km/hr until we hit our final climb. Cresting to the top of Springbank the skyline of downtown Calgary glistened in the distance and at that point I knew that we had made it. We rolled back into Calgary and parted ways with Bailey (who proved that it’s possible to ride over 300kms on only 6 hours a week of training), while Mike, Scott and I took the bike path back to our homes where we started our journey at 5:30am that same morning.

Complete map and elevation profile of our ride. That last little hill at 330km was harder than it looks…

An hour later, after showering and refueling with a whole pizza, we met at the local Brewery to share a pint and poutine to celebrate the epic journey that we all took on that day. Although struggling to stay awake I opened my phone to Google maps in search of our next adventure and I think I found one at 428km long. I turn to the boys, “Calgary to Jasper anyone”?

Distance: 347 km
Elevation: 3,608m
Ride Time: 10h56m
Avg Power/NP: 170/195
Avg Heart rate: 124 BPM
Avg Speed: 31.7 km/hr
Calories: 6,777
TSS: 385
Tornados: 0

Straining for Power

Written by: Andrew Buckrell, Innovations Director, 4iiii Innovations Inc.

There’s no question: we all know that pushing harder on the pedals makes you go faster.  But, what are the effects of how you push?  It shouldn’t be a surprise that everyone has a slightly different physiology, which results in a different pedal stroke, which then changes the forces on the crank.  To further complicate things, the way you push on the pedals differs between an easy recovery pace and a full-on, no-holds-barred sprint to the line.  You don’t want to sacrifice the accuracy of those numbers, especially when it could be the difference between breaking that big power number you’ve been chasing after! The real question should be: how does a 4iiii powermeter measure those forces accurately for every rider and every pedal stroke?

When calculating power, we’re relying on one very important feature.  Strain.  Strain is a measure of how much physical deformation is present in a component, which is often directly proportional to the force applied, even if it’s far too small to actually see.  These are measured with tiny gauges that stretch with the material and tell us exactly how it’s moving, but each gauge only tells us one direction of movement.  This is how your bathroom scale tells you how much you weigh (even if you disagree with its assessment), but it’s also how the scales that measure the weight of fully loaded trucks on the highway work.  Without delving too deep into the science, there are a few different types of forces that we’re actually interested in measuring.  The most common and most significant force is the bending strain. Every crank based powermeter on the market measures bending.

We didn’t stop there though.  In order to get the highest accuracy, we kept measuring, since knowledge is power! (and power is what we’re interested in, actually!).  If you imagine holding the brakes on your bike and standing on the pedal, you’re not only going to cause a bending of the crank, but also a twisting motion.  This is exactly the force that a driveshaft in a car has to sustain.  It’s not the primary loading of the crank, but it’s much more than nothing.  

Now, this is where the competition stops, but we kept going!  In order to become the most accurate powermeter on the market, we went even further, and patented our triaxial strain gauge technology to resolve the other major force acting on the crank, axial loading.  This is more or less stretching the crank to make it longer or shorter.

Why did we go to this length to measure all of these forces when others don’t? The easy answer is that we’re engineering geeks and appreciate capturing all of the available detail, but in reality, the real answer is that we’re cyclists too, and all we want is the most accurate measurement possible.  Using these three components gives us the best possible picture of what’s actually happening in the crank, and exactly how much power you’re making.  And don’t think that it’s just the elite cyclists that benefit from this, regular riders will benefit from this measurement as well!

In reality, a simulation of the crank shows the forces and strains in action:

Not to worry though, unless you’re maybe Peter Sagan, your crank doesn’t deform this much (we amplified the movement by about 200x so that you can see it), but it gives you an idea of just how complex the results can be.  Because we took the extra time to go to these extremes for measuring more forces than anyone else, you can be sure that your next sprint AND your next recovery ride will both be measured with the highest level of accuracy in the industry, with less than 1% error, and that yes, you really can be confident in your brag about that latest #WattBomb.