Pursuit of Aero


I can tell you that is this is a fairly uncomfortable position and that the power drop disadvantage is clear. I think that my head positioning should be lower, but out on the road, I prefer to see way ahead because I am paranoid about accidents.

My size small Nike Tour De France 2006 (Floyd Landis) Yellow Jersey (gift from sister) is now quite baggy, but even then, my stomach is pretty compressed leaning over with my legs coming up.

Getting my VO2 Max Test with Revvo

As I use TrainerRoad for cycling training and listen to its podcast, I have become more curious about VO2 Max. What are my genetics, what is my ultimate potential?

In general, I like looking at data from TrainerRoad, Strava, Wattsboard, and Stravistix, even though I neither race nor plan to race, unless it’s to be part of a team as a domestique. At best, I want to hit the magical mark of 4 watts per kilogram (I’m currently between 3.5 and 4) and be a potentially good Category 3 racer.

Unfortunately, VO2 Max tests, which measure how much of incoming oxygen your body can process (think of it as oxygen efficiency), are quite expensive at $100+. Thus, when I had a chance to try Revvo‘s simulation of VO2 Max for free in San Francisco, I just thought, why not?

Revvo claims 97% accuracy (P value please!) of the real thing, and since most power meters are +-2%, that seems reasonably good.

My results:

VO2 Max Michael Nguyen 2018-02-08.jpgI was pleasantly pleased with the results as my performance was better than expected. Then, suspicion crept in and I kept reading to think about whether I should believe in them.

The two things I’ll point out are my measured VO2 Max at 61 and FTP (threshold) at 259 watts. 61 is 1 percentile for my age group. Wow! How badass am I? Even if we give Revvo a 5% error (versus claimed 3%) buffer, I’d still be at, worst case, around 58, which is really good. Unless I go pay for an official test, I don’t have much more to dispute, but imagining I can be in the top 1% of anything physically seems unreal.

The FTP test result, is a bit different. Revvo claims that my FTP/kg ratio is already 4. However, since I actively train and use a power meter, I think my actual FTP is perhaps 235. I say perhaps because my indoor FTP with TrainerRoad is 225, and even that is tricky. I always fail my FTP tests and just use that setting for my workouts. 225 works well (kicks my butt) for me except for oddly enough, VO2 Max workouts, which I’ve been reducing by 3-5% of FTP to complete them properly.

There are a few things that suggest my real FTP could be higher than my TrainerRoad one.

1) Indoor trainer power for many people is lower than outdoors. That may sound like I’m making an excuse to feel better (which I would love to do), but I can easily do 250 watts outdoors for a few minutes compared to indoors. For example, take this workout from 9 months ago in which I climbed at 271 watts (4.3 w/kg) for 4.5 minutes. I assume (when I first started using TrainerRoad, I didn’t have a power meter, so I don’t have an apples to apples comparison from one year ago) I am stronger right now, but I don’t think can do that indoors. I’ve read different explanations for this. Some of this could be due to heat (air flow is not as good indoors even with fans), some of this could be due to the type of power you have to use on an indoor trainer versus outdoor roads.

2) My mental endurance is kind of weak. Going through longer TrainerRoad workouts, I really do get lazy and have to fight to avoid stops mid-way through 8, 10, 12, 20 minute bursts. Therefore, as Revvo suggests, perhaps I’m capable of doing much more.

3) I use a Powertap G3 power meter, which measures power at the wheel. Most power meters are pedal or crank based, which means they measure power at the source (your legs and feet). When power is measured at the wheel, this is the real-world power that’s driving the biycle. The difference is power that is lost through that transition from the frame to the drivechain. From different opinions I’ve read, this difference could be 5-10% or around 10 watts.

4) The positioning on my bike right now is quite aero. I’m probably slightly small for the frame (which is an aero-oriented bike already), and this likely means I’m stretched out even more horizontally than normal. How this impacts FTP is that it’s harder to breathe, which affects power. The Revvo bike, however, is more upright and with geometry more comparable to a normal or endurance focused road bike. Therefore, I could be losing significant power due to my position. I’ve been setting aside money to get a new properly fitted (perhaps 49CM) super duper (Specialized Tarmac? Roubaix? Canyon Ultimate SLX?) disc brake road bike, and have set 4W/kg as a performance requirement before looking at a new purchase seriously.

I mentioned some of this to Siva, Revvo’s CEO. He agreed that the power would more likely come out during an extended climbing session such as on Mt. Diabo (which I’ve never done). Revvo’s equipment is built on the Wahoo Kickr.

One thing I confirmed that I had long suspected is that my maximum heart rate is lower than the predicted rate for my age. My predicted max heart rate is 183 bpm. I always felt there could be something wrong with me because I would want to die cycling a little above 170. My friend David’s heart rate (he’s the same age) is mid-180’s. Revvo measured my max at 173. Cycling outdoors, I felt like I could sustain 165 reasonably well, but thinking that my true max was 180+ made me feel that I was just lazy.

I wanted to look more at VO2 Max as a meaure of performance and found this breakdown:


This chart suggests that I have a lower bound Cat 2 VO2 Max. If I adjust the FTP results for watts/kg, it suggests a 4w/kg power to weight ratio and about 250 watts.

So if we consider my indoor training FTP, wheel-based vs pedal based power measurement differences, and sitting position, is it possible I’m much closer to 250 and 4w/kg than I think? It’s possible. We’ll know more once I start to do more outdoor runs on my own (Strava KOM time!), but I prefer to keep training for the next couple of months to make sure that I’m at that level.

Here’s hope!

Trying out LucidCam and the YouTube VR180 Format

I’ve been playing with a LucidCam recently as part of my work. LucidCam’s is a really easy way to start taking 180 degree VR content, both with photos and videos. Just turn it on, choose a media mode, and then point and press the “shutter” button to shoot. There’s no viewfinder, though you can enable one through your phone if you tether it to the camera via a direct wifi connection.

The 180 degree lenses basically takes away the need to focus – as LucidCam says, you can “capture moments from your perspective”, which just means you can capture everything (technically more) your eyes see, so there’s no need to spend time framing a shot.

Below is a playlist of some bike rides I took this week in the South Bay (you can view in 180 degree 3D with a VR headset like the Google Daydream one). The first set of videos is from an evening commute ride from Apple in Cupertino to Mountain View, the second set is an early morning ride through Palo Alto and Los Altos.

Finding the Harvey Weinstein in Me

As the Weinstein allegations start to go Cosby, I wonder about my role as a man. Am I part of the problem, part of the solution? How do I know, other than boosting my own ego thinking, “I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”

When I was living in Vietnam at the beginning of this decade, a friend told me of this story of Weinstein. I didn’t know the person involved, or Weinstein, but should I have done something? What could I have done?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the casting couch. It seems like common knowledge today that women, whether in show business or not, are going to be harassed / coerced / manipulated, but is having this knowledge improving anything in society? In the Vietnam incident, my thought was more along the lines of “Well, I guess that seems to be the price of admission.” I wasn’t happy or being humorous, but that seemed to be it in terms of my involvement.

My sister-in-law is a successful fashion model, and that’s where those thoughts return. While I want to be outraged at what’s going on (to women), at the same time, I just do not want to think about it because I don’t know what I can do.

I feel castrated in my possible reactions. What is the civilized way to fight back, to really have impact?

And yet, I’m not an innocent in this discussion. I have my own story of guilt: 20 years ago in high school, I was going online during the starting days of the internet, the time when people started transitioning away from AOL and finding the internet: Yahoo, Google, Excite. E-Mail was a miracle. This was Web 1.0, the early days of Geocities, where anyone could create his own website and show off a cool animated “hits” counter to show off the number of page visits.

As many teenage boys do, I gawked at the attractive girls in my classes. I had an idea of naming the most attractive girls in my year and putting it on a website for everyone to see.

I learned basic HTML, scanned photos from my yearbook and put it up. Scraping emails from group threads among classmates, I executed my first example of spam / mass emailing / grassroots marketing. I didn’t ask permission from any of the girls, being scared of them (never had I talked to most of them) and their possible responses, yet still wanted the site out there, getting attention.

As that was, perhaps it wasn’t so bad and I started to get some hits. I can’t remember all the details at this point, but I’m sure I continued working on the site, seeing how I could adjust things. Some friends of mine gave feedback, and this is where I made the wrong decision.

A friend mentioned (paraphrased) that one girl had a physical feature that would be great for oral sex. I don’t think I really knew what that meant, but I thought, hey, more content, and something to put on the website.

And so I did. I remember showing the website to my dad at this point, and he made a very astute comment (as usual) that I should reconsider putting comments like that on the website.

But I wanted the attention, I wanted people to visit the site and have a reaction (even though I truly feared a negative one), so I kept it. A few days later, some anonymous students had a negative reaction to the site and I was actually harassed (pretty stressful for my teenage self) for it. I do not know if they were doing so in defense of one of the girls, or some other reason. It does not matter.

I clearly put my need for attention over something that was not nice to put in full public view. It could have affected one of the girls negatively, and it was a form of harassment.

I don’t quite remember what happened after this. I am fairly sure I removed that one comment that was out of line, but probably kept the site up for some months after.

But…”I couldn’t possibly be part of the problem!”

NBA Business Lessons from Jared Dudley


I listened to this newest episode of Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Woj Pod this morning on my commute – it is excellent, perhaps the most educational NBA business related podcast episode I’ve ever listened to. Jared Dudley goes into details about what makes a veteran valuable to a team, and how he got paid for that. I’ve never heard a current player be so frank about his situation before – you’ll usually only hear about that stuff once it’s long over (Jalen Rose). Jared Dudley keeps it real!

My favorite quote, from something Jared Dudley learned, “Be a star in your role.” I love the direction of doing what you’re asked to do at your very best, not what you think you should be doing or what you want to do, but fulfilling your assigned role to the maximum and forgetting ego.

I’ve been listening to Woj for the last year. At first, his interview style was a bit annoying because he tends to ask positive-tilting leading questions, but once I understood that people aren’t coming on to be grilled by a homicide detective, I’ve really enjoyed the quality of guests he brings on and the stories they tell on the podcast.

Through this, I understand the relationships Woj has built around the NBA, why’s he’s such a scoop machine, and his value to ESPN.