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Apple Watch for Tracking HRV, Resting Heart Rate and Sleep

The Apple Watch is recording a lot of great information for workouts and rest data, such as sleep, HRV and Resting Heart Rate.  I’ve been using the Apple Watch to record my non-cycling workouts and tracking HRV, Resting Heart Rate and sleep.  This is a valuable information for a coach.  It shows how your body is responding to workouts and how rested you are after each night.  Using the Apple Watch makes it easy to track this information.  The Apple watch doesn’t upload to workout tracking sites. So how do you upload this data to TrainingPeaks to view patterns and share with your coach.

Enter HealthFitApp!   HealthFitApp will sync your Apple Watch workouts to TrainingPeaks, Strava and other workout tracking sites.   We’ve been working with the developers of the HealthFitApp to sync the resting data, HRV, Resting Heart Rate and Sleep to TrainingPeaks.   This week those features were released in the app.  It’s really cool to see the data, but it’s even better now to have our MTBCoach athletes upload the data for us to analyze.

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Stages Power Meter Review

Training with power is the best possible device to train based on intensity intensity.  The power meter when properly calibrated, doesn’t lie.  That’s why I recommend to use of a power meter to all my athletes.  It helps me be a better coach when my athletes use  a power meter.  The analytical data I get from the ride helps me decide how the athlete is progressing over weeks and months, when they should rest and other patterns to make them strong and fast.

I’ve been training and racing with power meters for 5 years. I’ve used the Power Tap Road and Disc version,  Quarq Road and MTB, and SRM on the MTB.  All of these have had their advantages and disadvantages.  Last winter I acquired the Stages Cycling Power Meter.  This one was for the and MTB paired with the SRAM X01 Crankset.

Installation is super easy.  Simply remove the left crank arm and slide in the new crank are with the Power Meter on it.  After the power meter is on you need to calibrate it.  Using your smart phone download the Stages Cycling app and connect through Bluetooth.  The easy to use app has a calibration feature to make sure it sends correct values to your Garmin or other Ant+ head unit.  I use a Garmin 500 and 510.

One of the issues I had with the other Quarq and SRM power meters is the magnet which attaches to the BB shell.  Placement is difficult and with a 2x crankset if you drop your chain you’l likely loose the magnet, killing the power meter until you can replace it.  This happened to me countless times at the worst possible moment, during a race.  The Stages has an accelerometer built into the device, no magnet needed.

I have two mountain bikes, a hard tail and full suspension.  I was able to swap the power meter between them within a couple of minutes.  Having this ability is critical to me so I can always have the power meter on the bike I’m racing or training on.

I did have some issues with the power meter shutting off after I broke the original seal.  If water entered the battery compartment the power meter would short out.  Taking the battery out for a few minutes or putting the battery back in seemed to solve the immediate problem.  To seal the compartment I applied vaseline around the seal and the edges of the battery cover.  I haven’t had any issues with water since doing that.  It seems to be the most reliable out of all the power meters I have used.   Living high in the rocky mountains we get some nasty weather, which I still train in.  The cold, snow and mud didn’t effect the power meter at all.  It was consistent throughout all my training sessions.   And consistency is key when using a device that is measuring your output.

As far as accuracy, I found that the unit was very close to the SRM and Quarq.  I was able to use the Quarq and Stages and SRM and Stages at the same time and found the watts were close to each other  One down fall was that the Stages only records the left leg and where the SRM and Quarq to use both legs to record power (only one data point though).  If you are being lazy or not focusing your power on both legs your results will vary.

The price point for the Stages Power meters are very reasonable compared to the full crank set of the Quarq and SRM, and reliability of much better the the Power Taps I’ve used.   If you are looking for an affordable power meter check out the Stages Cycling products.

Get discounts on Coaching Services with the purchase of a power meter.

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Elevated Legs Review

The second most important element to training is recovery.  Recover fast and often and you will be able to train harder, become stronger, and go faster.   There are many ways to apply recovery to your daily training routine: 8-9hrs a sleep a night, mid-day naps, hydration, nutrition, massage, stretching and compression.   For proper recovery all of these should be applied each day.  One of the most difficult methods to apply is the massage.   Unless you are lucky to live with a massage therapist or can afford the money and time to see one daily or at least every two weeks it’s not going to happen.

Daily massage is an excellent way to clear the waist from your legs after races and hard training days.   You’ve heard about the pro’s having their massages after each race.  One of the benefits to this is to clear all the waste that has built up.

elevated-legs-photo
Elevated Legs Digital Compression Device.

Another way to get your massage is to use a pneumatic compression device. This is a sleeve that goes over each leg and an air compressor pumps the sleeve up super tight from the foot all the way up to your hip.  It push waste up to the lymph nodes and then out through the kidneys.  Pretty cool if you ask me.   I was lucky enough to get one of the first sets of Elevated Legs last winter.  I started using them daily as I was training for the 24hrs in the Old Pueblo mens Duo race (where my team came in second).  During this training period there was a lot of big 6-7 hrs rides, and lots of short hard Zone 4 and Zone 5 workouts.  

Squeezing after the Bailey Hundo
Squeezing after the Bailey Hundo

After Old Pueblo I continued my training and racing the rest of the spring and through the summer, ending with the Breck Epic 6 day in August.  I used the legs almost daily, and everyday during the Breck Epic.  I didn’t change much in my recovery routine during the season.  I applied the same nutrition and rest I had found worked for me from previous years.  I was actually getting less sleep because of some added stress in my life.  However, since using Elevated Legs I was able to training harder and most importantly I saw a 5% increase in my power over the previous years.  For me 5% is almost is 20 watts and is significant enough to make a difference.  Unfortunately I had some weight gain with the stress which offset the power gain.

Another benefit of using Elevated Legs is it instantly reduces the pain and aches you feel after hard workouts and races.  With a family, there is often times when I get home from training and we have to go somewhere.  If I have time to use Elevated Legs, I’ll be able to do the walking or standing without feeling like I’m in misery.

Squeezing after training
Squeezing after training

I typically use Elevated Legs in bed and read a book just before I’m going to sleep.  This really relaxes me so I get to a deep sleep quickly.   The device is easy to use.  It’s all digital with an pressure level indicator, time and massage and circulation area.  There are 4 chambers in each leg.  You can disable some chambers so you can focus on the areas that need the most massage.  I like to do the whole leg for 30 min, then if my IT Bands are tight, I can focus all the pressure on them.

I live 45 min away from the closest massage therapist, so it’s not practical for me to see one on a regular basis.  I’m also pretty frugal, so I doubt I’d pay for one anyways.  However, I gladly paid for Elevated Legs since it was a known cost and I could do it at home.

It’s been a great investment for the whole family.  I find my family using the ‘Legs’ after their workouts and sports practice.  My son will use them during his homework to recover his legs after football, basketball or track practice.  My wife uses them for her running and swimming recovery.  And my mom used them after some surgery on her hip.  The device has had some heavy use the last 10 months and has no sign of failure.

At the cost of $899 retail, it’s a deal over a massage therapist.  After about 20 visits you’ve paid for Elevated Legs and and then you are saving money.   I also leaned that since Elevated Legs is classified as a medical device you can use your Flexible Spending Account money to purchase them.

I’m very pleased with the unit and expect to be using it for many years to improve my training and recovery.   I highly recommend these to anybody serious about training and succeeding in their athletic goals.  Check them out at ElevatedLegs.com

Use the MTBCoach discount on your purchase.

elevated-legs-logo

 

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SRM MTB 2×10 Power Meter Review

SRM is the gold standard in power meters.  I don’t know if they were the first to come up with a power meter for bikes, but they have been around a long time.  They were one of the only power meters available for  many years.  SRM is known for their high quality products and excellent customer service.   I recently received the SRM MTB  2×10 power meter for testing, which I have been pounding the dirt for the last couple of months while I train for and race the 24hrs in the Old Pueblo. I started training with power on the MTB and Road three years ago and have used the PowerTap SL on the Road bike, PowerTap MTB Disk on my MTB and I currently have a SRAM Quarq on my Road and MTB.  While training  in the snow, rain, through creeks and mud and of course dry roads and trails, i’ve really put these devices through the test.  Each of the above listed power meters have had trouble in all the adverse conditions.  My goal with the SRM was to see if this device would have trouble in MY normal riding conditions, which means snow, rain, ice, mud, sand and dry trails.

Whats in the Box

SRM MTB 2x2 with PowerControl VII
SRM MTB 2×10 with PowerControl VII. I dig the CO flag decal

Out of the box the Power Meter included

  • Power Meter
  • PowerControl VII
  • Speed sensor
  • Magnets
  • Manual

Installation

Before installing the Power Meter you need to install the magnet on the bottom bracket.  SRM provided two magnets.  One to connect directly to the BB shell and one that will install under the BB shell that is connected to a little aluminum piece that mounts near the power meter.  The  magnet needs to be 2-5mm from the power meter to get accurate recordings. I’ve had a number of problems with mounting the magnet on two superflys (hard tail and full suspension)  with both the Quarq and SRM.  If you get the magnet to close to the power meter, the small chain ring bolts will hit it and you’ll either hear a click click click with each crank rotation, or if the (or when) the chain drops off the small chain ring the magnet will get knocked off.  I’ve tried many different  placement locations and different sized magnets and each time my chain dropped the magnet was knocked off.  This would occur at the most inopportune times, like during a race or the ever important intervals.   The trick is to find a spot on your bottom braket where the magnet is 2-5m from the power meter, and out of the chain line.  Of course, making sure your front derailleur is properly aligned will help too.  I have yet to find a perfect spot for the magnet on my MTB’s.  I asked SRM about this and their response was this “Magnet placement on the Superfly frame specifically is particularly difficult. We’ve been able to find reliable solutions for just about every other bike out there.”

After installing the magnet, you can add the  power meter which is as simple as adding or changing a crank set.  My bikes came with a SRAM XX GXP BB crankset and like the Quarq the SRM was a simple replacement of the XX set.    No bearing or washer replacement or changing was necessary. Keep in mind that if you have a non GXP BB, you  need another power meter with a different BB option.  SRM has many options. It is also easy to switch to other bikes if they have the same BB size and bearings.   I was able to switch between my two MTB’s in 10min.  Just remove the non-drive side crank arm and slide out the BB spindle and install on the other bike.  Piece of cake!  I have done this many times on my MTBs as I race and train on both my bikes throughout the year.

Calibration

After installing the power meter you need to calibrate it with your head unit.  The power meter is ANT+ compatible so it will work with your Garmin and other ANT+ head units.  It also connects with the PowerControlVII (see below) included with the power meter.    Instructions included in the manual provide the steps to calibrate.  It’s pretty simple.  Push a couple of buttons on your head unit to the calibration page, then spin the power meter backwards 4 times to turn the power meter on.  Once the head unit reads the power meter the calibration is done.   After the head unit and power meter have synced and calibrated, you are ready for your ride. I recommend recalibrating every ride or at minimum every other ride.  The calibration number should be with in 2% of the last calibration number.  This will ensure you are getting consistent power reading each ride.  A bad calibration will give you bad power numbers with false readings.

PowerControl VII

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SRM PowerControl VII (top) Garmin 500 (bottom)

The power meter came with a PowerControl VII (see picture on right), which is a cycle computer that records the power, cadence, speed and altitude.    It mounts to the handle bar and sits out in front which makes it nice to see while riding.  It is a little vulnerable on a MTB.  One over the bar crash, the unit can be lost or broken (SRM says they are designing a new mount so the device is more protected).    It doesn’t have GPS, so it records speed with a wireless wheel sensor that mounts to your fork, and magnet fixed to a spoke on your front wheel.  Cadence is recorded by a magnet mounted to the Bottom Bracket.   Altitude is calculated by barometric pressure, like most GPS devices including the Garmin.  As a mater of fact the PowerControl VII is similar to the Garmin expect it doesn’t have GPS.  It does have a lot of the same features, but it is missing,NP, TSS and IF data points, which is great for training.

Data Recording

Threshold Intervals
Threshold Intervals with PowerControl VII

During many of my rides I used both the Garmin 500 and the PowerControl VII.  While cadence, speed and elevation where pretty close to each other, power was consistently 10watts higher on the PowerControl VII.  It really doesn’t matter that it was higher, but I thought it was interesting.  I mentioned this to SRM and they said to make sure that the Garmin Smart Recording feature is off,  which it was.   The most important aspect to this it is to be consistent with what you use.  If you are switching between two head units, you may get different values, which in turn may change how good you feel when you use a particular head unit.   I found that If you don’t have the speed senor on, when coasting for long periods of time, the power control will turn off and no data is recorded.

Reliability

I found the reliability of the SRM power meter to be the best I have used.  I’ve used PowerTap SL, PowerTap MTB Disk, Quarq MTB and one thing those three had in common is they didn’t work well in abnormal riding conditions.   Water killed both my PowerTaps, Quarq MTB has problem with mud and snow if they get on the chainring, causing calibration issues.   A bad calibration leads to bad power readings. While training this winter for the 24hrs in The Old Pueblo I used the SRM exclusively.  I trained in snow covered, mud covered, dirt roads, for 6hrs at a time, many 20min threshold intervals, 3×3 VO2 Max intervals, and each ride the SRM worked flawlessly.   I was impressed considering the issues I’ve had with other power meters. I also raced the 24hrs in the Old Pueblo with it.  I relied on the power reading to assist with my pacing  and fueling strategy.  I raced 24.5 hrs with it and it was spot on the whole time, no recalibration needed. The one attribute I don’t like about the SRM power meters is that it does not have a user replaceable battery.  Given the battery is stated to last 700 hrs, which is probably more then a year for most serious riders.  To replace the battery you have to send it to SRM.  I am told the turn around time is fast, with in a week or two.  So if you time this at the end of your season, it’s really not a big deal.

Conclusion

Overall I am impressed with the SRM MTB 2×10 power meter.  It held up to the elements, it doesn’t get tired and works as expected.   The price is higher then all the other power meters.  Power meters can be finicky, especially when you put one through water, rain, mud, sand and snow and what else you can think of,   If you need a highly reliable power meter the SRM is the one you want.

Stay tuned for a comparison between the PowerTap MTB Disc, Quarq MTB 2×10 and the SRM MTB 2×10, and review of Stages Cycling power meter.

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Stans NoTubes ZTR 29er Race Gold Wheelset Review

Stans NoTubes ZTR 29er Race Gold

Mountain bike riding and racing is a lot easier with lighter bikes.  The  lighter the bike and rider, the faster you go.  Light wheels have a great advantage over heavy wheels, where acceleration and  snap is much harder to accomplish with heavy wheels. Fatigue sets in sooner with heaver wheels.  29’er wheels are heavier then traditional 26’er wheels because of there size.  Not only does the rim have more material, but the spokes are longer and the tire has more rubber all adding weight.  With more weight, it’s takes more energy to sprint or accelerate of short hills or grind up longer hills.

Last season (2010) I started racing a 29’er, and the stock wheels weighted 1900g, without tires or cassette.  That’s pretty heavy for a race wheelset.  Where I ride, there is no shortage of long climbs, most climbs are 20min to 1hr (or more), so I searched for a light 29’er wheelset.  I knew I wanted something around the 1400g weight, and didn’t want to spend more then $1000.  That’s not an easy task.  Most carbon rims are 1400-1500g, but cost $2000-$3000.  I saw a lot  of people riding the Stans NoTubes ZTR 29er Race Gold.  The price and weight fit right into my criteria.  However, the product website stated there was a rider weight limit of 170lbs.  Last year I was weighing 10-12lbs + gear more then that.    I’m not very agressive downhill rider, even in races I tend to pick a smooth line when possible. Also I knew I would only race with these wheels, using the stock wheels for training.  I decided to get a set.

I put these wheels on and noticed right way how light the wheels are. They dropped the overall weight of my bike from 25.5-24 lbs,  all rotational weight.  The set came with the valve steams and  rim tape.  The Maxxis Ikons tires mounted as tubeless very easy, much easier then the stock wheels I had.

I put a whole season racing on these wheels.  I raced them in a 24hr race in Feburary, many marathon distrance races, and 2 100 mile races, and a couple of XC races.  Each of them I PR’d my time, significantly.  I think part of the improvement is having a lighter wheel set, obviously much of it is fitness.  These wheels held up great in all occasions.  No dents in the rims, and only trued them once, all season.  I did break a spoke, which isn’t too surprising, because they are pretty thin.

I am very happy with the performance.  I found I could run less air than the stock wheels because the rims are a little wider at 24.2mm.  Having a wider rim, allows less air pressure while giving more traction and suple ride. I did notice on fast  hard corners, there was some flex in the rear wheel, which I haven’t felt on other wheels. Climbing and sprinting became a bit easier.  I could go faster, with less power (proved with my Quarq Power Meter).

Overall, I think this is a great set of wheels.  Would I recommend them to anybody?  I don’t think so.  If you are a heavy and/or aggressive rider, you would probably damage/destroy these.  Lighter  or less aggressive riders would probably have the same experience as I.

Specs:

  • rim width: 24.2 (external)
  • axle: Ti
  • weight: 1340
  • axle size: 15mm QR F, 9mm R
  • material: 6061 Alloy
  • color: Black
  • hubs: Stans 3.30Ti
  • tubeless ready: yes
  • spokes: 1.8/1.5 DT Revolution Black
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Endurance Sport Drink Shootout: CarboRocket 333 vs. Infinit Nutrition vs. HEED

Most of you know that I race endurance and ultra-endurance MTB.   To get through these races, you need a great nutrition and hydration plan that is easy to execute.  The simpler the plan the faster you go and better you feel during the event.  There are three products I have been using for the past two years.   I’m not going to get technical, or  get into the ingrediance.  You can find that on your own.  I’m simply going to explain how and why I use each one.

CarboRocket

CarboRocket 333 is one fuel key to my racing success.  When I have CR333 it’s my goto race fuel. I generally don’t train with it, but I do on occasion.  The calorie content is high, and my training rides are usually not long or intense enough to need CR333.   With 333 calories per serving, some other users  reduce the serving size per hour, however, I have found having those extra calories really helps late in the game.

I have used CR333 in a 24hr race, many 100 mile and marathon (MTB) races.   In two marathon races I did get some hunger feeling, but I didn’t feel weak.  I have always felt strong while using CR333, and I have the confidence the fuel is going to get me home.  One of the things I really like about CR333, is that I alway feel strong.  In no occasion did I feel that I didn’t have energy to keep going, hammer up a hill and even after 9-10 hrs, I can still chase or hold off chasers.  No stomach issues, no gas or other GI issues.

I use a full serving (3 scoops/333 cals)  per 20 fl. oz of water, either in bottles or hydration back, and one serving (3 scoops) is 1 hour of fuel as recommended by CarboRocket.  I haven’t tried multi-hour bottles.

Carbohydrate (84g / serving):
Complex: Maltodextrin
Sugar:  Fructose

Cost: $.88 per scoop  (33 per container)

What I like:

  • Good mix of electrolytes and amino acids
  • Contains good balance of complex and simple sugars (2:1 ratio)
  • No pills or extra fuel needed.  No gels or bars need
  • Easy to go down, no stomach issues.
  • Great flavors
  • Dissolves in the bottle or hydration pack well.
  • Never had cramps or stomach issues.
  • Order shipping is quick (when product in stock)
  • No consultant needed, just order and go.
  • No complex ordering system.

What I don’t like:

  • On a couple of occasions I had hunger feeling after 4-5 hours of racing.  That could have been poor pre race fueling.
  • Not available in many stores in my area
  • Was out of stock for a couple of months.  This lead me to lean more on my other fuel sources
  • Raspberry is two sweet for me to put in a multi hour bottle.  The other flavors are good for double servings in one bottle.  More is too much for me.

Infinit Nutrition

Infinit Nutrition custom-blend has been included as my race fuel during many events.  I like the idea behind this product, make it how you want.  You can can adjust about any aspect of the drink.  Before I placed my first order three years ago, I had a consult with the ‘Chief Nut Gather’ Laurie.  She helped me understand the sliders when customizing the drink and after explaining the type of racing and fueling I need, we had a base blend.  My base blend included a light flavor, so I could add many hours of fuel, some simple sugar, for the quick fuel and high intensity efforts, a little (3-4 gr) protein amino acids and caffeine.

This blend works well for me for races up to about 5-6 hours.  After that my stomach starts to turn  a bit, and tend to slow down.  I found that around the 4-5 hour mark I can curb the feeling by drinking plain water, maybe add one gel so you don’t lose energy, or the Infinit JetFuel blend. Basically, empty the stomach out.  I believe the feeling has to do with the protein added in the drink.  The reason I added it is so I don’t get hungry, but it has a side affect.  I’ve had some great result on this product, but my next order will not include protein.

I have used Infinit in a few of 24hr races, many 100 mile and marathon (MTB) races.   The only issues I’ve had is the stomach problems mention above.  If you must have protein, then you need to go with a lighter drink such as the Infinit JetFuel blen or plain water every few hours.  If you mix in the lighter drinks, the you won’t have the stomach issues.  I did this during the 24hrs of Moab, and was fueled well and no stomach issues.

I generally do 2.5 scoops of powder per 24 fl. oz water bottle.  8 scoops in a 100 fl. oz hydration pack.  This equates to 2 scoops per hour, as recommended by Infinit.   I haven’t tried multi-hour bottles.

Carbohydrate:
Complex: Maltodextrin
Sugar:  Dextrose

Cost: $.94 per scoop (50 per container)

What I like:

  • The custom blend allows you to make what you need.
  • A consultant is there to help you make or adjust your blends
  • They will change your blend within the first 30day for free
  • No pills or extra fuel needed.  No gels or bars.
  • Easy to go down
  • Good flavors
  • Dissolves in the bottle or hydration pack well.
  • I control the flavor and multi-hour bottles are easy to handle.

What I don’t like:

  • Hard to get, you can only order from their website.  sometimes it take a while to get your order, especially during their sales
  • If you don’t use a consultant, you can really screw up your blend.
  • When using the custom order sliders, you don’t know how much you are actually adding, such as how many grams of protein, caffeine or complex sugars etc.

Hammer HEED

HEED has been my training fuel for the most part over the last few years, mainly because it’s been easy for me to get when I run out.   When I know I’ll need a few calories on a 2-3 hour ride, Heed is what I use.     It’s been great to keep me fueled for the slower zone 2-3 training rides.  It’s easy to go down and isn’t two sweet.    I have not used HEED during any race, only training.  Typically I using 1 to 2.5 scoops per 20 fl. oz of water  depending on my length of ride.  I calculate take in about 16-20 fl. oz of water per hour.

Carbohydrate (26g / serving):
Complex: Maltodextrin

Cost:  $.67 per scoop (80 scoop container)

What I like:

  • Not to sweet, light in flavor for single serving in one bottle.
  • Good fuel for slow/moderate paces rides
  • Easy to obtain, available in most bike shops.
  • No GI or stomach issues.  goes down easy

What I don’t like:

  • Doesn’t mix well in the bottle.  always some stuck to the bottom of the bottle.  needs a good shake before drinking.
  • Doesn’t have any simple sugar, which for me doesn’t give the the higher output needed in races, i.e. zone 4 for many hours
  • Without simple sugar, you are not fueling all your energy systems.  this is a big debate.  I’m convinced you some simple sugar  in endurance racing.
  • Not enough electrolytes and amino acids, so you may need to take extra pills for events/training longer then 3-4 hrs.  Not easy during races.
  • Too sweet when mixed as multi-hour bottle

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Squirt Lube Review

Squirt Lube

I started using Squirt Lube about mid point last season.  I had been searching for a long lasting lube that didn’t leave a huge mess on the drive chain.  After reading about Squirt, I decided to give it a try.

Squirt is wax based, with a water propellant, which means it’s environmentally friendly.

Since trying the first application, I haven’t tried anything else.  I use it on my road bike, and mountain bikes and all year long.  Not only does it last a long time, even after a hundred mile ride or race, it’s still shifting great and the only thing on the chain is dirt or road grim.  No build up of grease or dirt, so cleaning is easy.

I was most impressed with Squirt during two of my races this year, the Breck 100, 10 hrs, and the Park City Point to Point, 8+hrs.   Neither course was terribly dusty, but it was dry, and still a lot of riding on dirt.  Each race I only needed one application the night before. The lube lasted well and keep the chain quite and shifting smooth until the very end.   There have been many other 5-7 hour races where I had the same experience.

On my shorter weekday rides, which are usually really hard, and around 1.5-2hrs, I apply Squirt every other ride or two.  This seems to make the little bottle last longer then other brands.

It’s really hard for me want to use another lube because I know it will make a huge mess, and I’ll have to keep applying it.

One trick in using Squirt is to apply it a few hours or the day before your ride.  The water needs to completely dry for the lube to be effective.   Applying it right before a ride will just cause the water and wax to fly off or collect a bunch of dirt, causing poor shifting and a noisy chain.

If you haven’t already, give Squirt a try.  You won’t be disappointed.