How to analyze a MTB ride with Strava, TrainingPeaks and BrakeAce

I’ve lost track of the number of MTB rides that I’ve analyzed.

It’s in the thousands.

My first ride analysis software was Power Agent. This was a free software that came with PowerTap hub-based power meters. I must admit that in 2008 I really had no idea what I was looking at, but it was a good start.

Good old Power Agent! It was not bad at all 🙂

See, before this, we didn’t have ‘ride data’. At least not any that was affordable to my poor ass.

What we did have then, was HR monitors. I had heard of units that could be uploaded to the computer, but I didn’t do that or have the option. All I could really do was see my HR at the time, then see my average between button pushes. It wasn’t high tech and it didn’t really do much.

But between 2008 and 2010, I became hooked on power meters. By 2011 I had a disc PowerTap for my MTB. The next year I had the first Quarq MTB power meter.

The rest is history.

Still loving that prototype power meter!

But then what?

Well, we knew for a long time that power meters weren’t the end-all be-all for MTB.

After all, there is this massive component of MTB, broadly called skill.

Pedaling doesn’t win MTB races outright.

I mean, yeah, it definitely is priority in XC, no doubt. But in DH, it’s possible to win a World Cup race with no pedaling at all. What gives??

[Check out the research page to see the project that jump started this whole thing. We looked at coasting, pedaling, oxygen uptake, pacing, vibrations, etc. to get to where we are today]

Back in 2014 when we had started looking VERY closely at MTB

Analyzing races with a hunch

Analyzing Seamus Powell’s National Championship winning enduro race power file was a waste of time in a way.

He had trained with power for many years, and we knew he was fit. Power did tells us this, so it was 100% key to training and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

But on the race stages, there was almost NO pedaling apart from a few sprints.

These sprints didn’t win the race, but rather being fit allowed him to pump, pedal, focus on good lines, hit his braking points and ride fast WITHOUT GETTING CROSS-EYED OR TIRED.

So apart from training and making sure he was fit, we couldn’t say for certain where or why he went slow or fast.

We were left to guessing.

Races shouldn’t be left to guesses

Races shouldn’t be left to guesses. Races shouldn’t be left to guesses.

When athletes pour their hearts and souls into training and competing, we can’t be relying on the latest golden gear cluster to find us the performance we need. Improvement takes focused training. Focused training requires knowing where we are at the start, creating a training intervention, then following up with measurements to test how much the training intervention has worked. This is science 101. This is training 101.

For a long time we were guessing. But this is changing.

Improvement takes focused training. Focused training requires knowing where we are at the start, creating a training intervention, then following up with measurements to test how much the training intervention has worked. This is science 101. This is training 101.

Strava v. TrainingPeaks v. BrakeAce

These platforms have been game-changers in ride analysis.

Unfortunately, if you came here for some good old software bashing, I won’t be getting in to it. All these softwares are great and I use all of them. But each one has its pros and cons, and each one is tailored to its specific use.

Briefly:

  • STRAVA: this platform is amazing. It changed the game. Strava allowed us to be able to compare ourselves to ourselves or to our friends. It was literally the easiest thing to use and to this day requires almost no effort. You literally hit start on your phone (or Garmin) when you start the ride and hit stop when you finish. The ride uploads on its own. You can instantly get into it.
    • PROS: Super simple
    • CONS: Not super accurate
  • TRAININGPEAKS: I use TrainingPeaks every day as a coach. I can view my athletes’ rides, prescribe training, and do in-depth analysis on everything related to fitness. As I detailed before, I can literally feel like I was on a ride with my riders no matter where in the world they are. The app is nice, but I use it mostly on my desktop via the web app. I gladly pay for this service.
    • PROS: Great for ride analysis with power meter, HR, etc.
    • CONS: Stops at fitness data
  • BRAKEACE: BrakeAce fills a gap. Just like all the questions I had on Seamus’ winning ride file, BrakeAce slides right in and will tell me what I needed to know. The BrakeAce app uses the BrakeAce brake power meter, and we can simply quantify and compare how rides use their brakes. We can finally analyze descents or technical uphills.
    • PROS: Tells us everything about braking with simple metrics
    • CONS: Not everyone has a BrakeAce yet

I put together a video detailing how I use these softwares to analyze a ride. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE ARTICLES:

How to get fit for gravity racing

Getting the most out of your power meter

How to avoid blowing up

Pace yourself to the perfect race

Picking a MTB power meter

Why you need bigger rotors

Check out the MERCH for more

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