Best Strategy on Zwift

At first glance, Zwift looks like it’s designed for a road racing cyclist. However, the more I ride on Zwift the more I realize that a bicycle touring mindset is a much better game strategy and here is why.

Screen shot of the 120 Experience Point Bonus for completing the Railways and Rooftop Route Badge on Zwift.
120 XP Bonus for the Railways and Rooftop Route Badge on Zwift.

Remember, Zwift is a game where you earn points and the more points you earn, the higher your level in the game. A road racing strategy is all about speed. The faster you ride the faster you accumulate points. However, if you wanted to double your points in a Zwift session, that means you would have to ride twice as fast as your normal pace. Not a realistic strategy.

A bicycle touring mindset on the other hand is not about speed. A touring cycist focuses on traveling down roads and trails that they never traveled before, new environments, and the satisfaction of knowing they’ve the got the guts to continue the journey no matter what conditions they encounter. As a result, a bicycle touring strategy can easily double their points riding at their normal pace on Zwift by simply focusing on riding new routes. When a rider completes a route for the first time, they earn a route achievement badge. In addition to earning the points for the distance ridden on the route, they also receive a one-time XP bonus equal to the XP already earned for the route. And there is no shortage of new routes to doubles point with currently 129 routes on Zwift.

Screen shot of the 500 Experience Point Bonus for a three-week training streak on Zwift.
500 XP Bonus for a 3 Week Streak on Zwift

In addition, that daily determination of a bicycle touring mindset is also rewarded on Zwift. When I cycled across the United States, I realized that the real challenge was not the daily milage. Rather, it was all about the determination to get up and ride again day after day for almost two months. Similarly, Zwift rewards a bicycle touring mindset by giving bonus points for consecutive Riding Streaks.

So, the best strategy on Zwift is to ride like you’re bicycle touring. To illustrate, at the completion of my last 9.2 mile I would have received 288 XP no matter how fast I rode. Yet, I earned 912 XP as follows: Milage 288XP (9X32), Route Badge bonus 124 XP and a Training Streak bonus 500XP. It pays to ride Zwift with a bicycle touring mindset. Ride On!

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Ken Whittaker


Three Rules for a Successful Zwift Session

Screen shot of author beating a personal best time on Zwift
Zwift Personal Best

While I am a fairly strong rider (for my age), it can sometimes be demoralizing when other riders fly by me on Zwift, especially those Tron bikes with the glowing wheels. I found it helps to keep these three simple rules in mind during my Zwift sessions.

Rule #1 – Put Zwift into Perspective: Zwift is huge! There are roughly 4 million users from around the world with a wide range of abilities on Zwift. There is no way I would expect to be leading the pack in such a diverse group of riders. So I shouldn’t be surprised when someone zips by me during my Zwift sessions.

Rule #2 – Focus on Your Strengths: Zwift can be humbling. However, I am proud that I rarely see an avatar with gray hair like me. I want the other riders to know that I am not a young man. If fact, when I’m Zwifting it is the only time I ride without a helmet so other ride know that I’m old. I find it empowering to still be out there as a septuagenarian.

Rule #3 – Use Yourself as the Benchmark: Forget the rider that just passed you. I focus on self-improvement rather than comparison with others. The only real competition I have is with how I did yesterday and whether I can see improvement over time.

So, if while Zwifting you see the gray-haired K.Whittaker avatar, give him a Ride On. Better yet, empower every rider you pass with a Ride On.

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Ken Whittaker


Never buy a new bicycle

I admit it. I’ve always lusted for the latest and greatest bicycle and gear. Even though I thoroughly enjoy riding my current bicycle, I’ve always wanted the latest and greatest gear as soon as I see it. Sure derailleurs, disc brakes and tubeless tires were great improvements and justified upgrades to improve comfort, safety and performance. However, in reality there have been only a few truly breakthrough technological innovations in cycling in the past several decades. As cyclists we are like a child that only wants what’s advertised on the TV Saturday morning cartoon show for Christmas.

A brand-new bicycle can cost you anywhere from the hundreds to several thousands of dollars, depending on style and brand. Yet, with a fresh coat of spray paint or just a tune-up, an older bicycle can be made new at a much lower price point. By getting into the “Buy Nothing” group online you might just snag a bike for free. Especially kids’ bikes, which they outgrow so fast that it’s worth investing in a used bike to save money. But you can even buy adult bikes online at sites like eBay, Craigslist or checkout your local bike shop. Many bike shops take trade-ins. For example, as part of Trek’s sustainability objective Trek will begin selling used bikes through its Red Barn Refresh program. Spend the money you save on a brand-new helmet, which you’ll need to be safe.

Ken Whittaker


How to Eliminate Disc Brake Squeal

Picture of Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner.
Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner

I rarely write product reviews. When I do, it is always of a product that I use and paid for myself.  I do not benefit in any way by my product reviews. I share my opinion of a product with the visitors to this website so they might benefit from my experience with that product. With that said, let me tell you about Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner Aerosol

I made the transition to disc brakes when Avid bb7 cable disc brakes were introduced in the late 1990’s and I’ve never regretted it.  In fact, I’m still using those brakes today, decades later.  I love disc brakes, BUT I HATE THE SQUEAL.  While there are many things that can cause disc brake squeal, generally with well-maintained brakes in good working condition contamination of the disc and rotor has always been the cause of my brake squeal.

Over the years I have used Dove dish soap and Isopropyl Alcohol to clean my brake with good results.  While these products work for me, I did have to remove the pad to use them.  With Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner Aerosol, I simply sprayed the brakes and rotors, and the squeal was gone.  It is a product well worth trying if you are plagued with disc brake squeal.

Ken Whittaker


Old School Solution When You Can’t Go Tubeless

Tubeless Tire Sealant Sealing a Punctured Tire

In the past, I’ve been very outspoken about the advantages of tubeless tires, see “Ten Reasons To Go Tubeless“. But as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The picture illustrates how I fix most bicycle flat tires now. I simply let the tire sealant fix the puncture for me. It’s that easy. Admittedly, sealant alone doesn’t always repair larger punctures and sometimes I have to use a plug, see The Trick to Using Stan’s Darts on Tubeless Tires“. Nevertheless, given a choice, I will take a tubeless tire over a tube tire any day. However, there are times when you simply can’t use a tubeless tire. For example, the Bafang Monster Bike Build was a budget project, and I didn’t have tubeless ready wheels, and my 2.5 ” MAXXIS – Hookworm Tires weren’t tubeless tires.

Photograph of a Cannondale mountain bike conversion to E-bike using a bafang 750W BBS02 mid drive motor kit
Cannondale Mountain Bike Converted to an E-bike.

So, I had to revert back to an old school solution to flat proof my tires. The process is relatively simple, as follows.

  • Start with a good puncture resistant tire.
  • Next, pop Velocity Veloplugs into each spoke hole to eliminate spoke hole flats. 
  • While not necessary, I also put rim tape over the plugs to ensure the plugs stay in place.
  •  Finish the process by adding tube sealant in the tubes to self-repair any puncture. 

For a more detailed description of process, see “How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!” I never thought I would revisit this topic since going tubeless, but since I’m doing this process again for the Bafang Monster bike build I thought I would share, for those who are still riding tires with tubes.

Ken Whittaker


Wheel with Velocity Veloplugs in Spoke holes

Disc Brakes Increase Bicycle Versatility

While there are many advantages to disc brakes, I rarely hear anyone talk about one of the biggest benefits I enjoy with my disc brake bikes.  Disc brakes have greatly increased the versatility of my bikes.  Today there are so many different types of bikes.  There are road bikes, commuter bikes, cross bikes, touring bikes, fitness bikes etc. and the list goes on and on, and the bike industry would like us to buy them all.

In actuality, there really are only minimal variations in the different bike style geometry.  For the most part, the most noticeable difference in the various bike designs is the wheel size and tire width.  However, with a disc brake bicycle that can accommodate a wide range of tire sizes, the versatility of the bike is greatly increased simply because it is so easy to change the wheel size and tire width.

As illustrated above, I can simply remove and change the wheel and tire set on my touring bike from 700C road wheels and tires for the road to 26″ Mountain Bike wheels and tires that I use on trails and paths. This flexibility has made my disc brake bike a great investment for me because I use the same bike to do on and off the road riding.

Ken Whittaker


Hiding an AirTag on Your Bike

AirTag Concealed in a Bicycle Reflector

I’m not the first person to think about concealing an AirTag on my bike to help in its recovery if it is ever stolen. As a result, there are many commercial products on the market for this purpose.  There are products to hide AirTags in the fork, under the saddle, in a bike bell, in a reflector, under the water bottle, etc.  The sky is the limit for possible hiding places.  In my case, I believe in keeping things simple so I just found my own place to hide my AirTag. 

Since using AirTags to find stolen items is becoming more common, some people suggest hiding a second AirTag on your bicycle.  Hopefully, if the thief finds one AirTag they will feel safe and stop searching, leaving the second AirTag to help in locating and recovering your bike.

Think about recovering your bike before it is stolen.  Many bikes look the same and law enforcement will want to make sure that the bike you claim was stolen from you is indeed your bike.  If your bike has a serial number, write it down now.  I keep a photo of my bicycle serial number on my phone so that I have the serial number with me at all times.  In addition, I keep a copy of the sales receipt at home just in case I need it to prove ownership.

Ken Whittaker


How to Recover Your Bicycle if it’s Stolen!

According to the latest FBI Crime in the United States Report, 162,547 bicycles were reported stolen in 2016. While this number is shocking, I’m sure it only represents a fraction of bicycles actually stolen, since many bike thefts go unreported.  Fortunately for cyclists, devices like the Apple AirTag and the Android Tag can assist cyclists and law enforcement in recovering stolen bikes quickly.

Setting up my Apple AirTag was fast and easy.

Apple AirTag

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

  • I pulled the tab to activate the battery. The AirTag played a sound to indicate activation.
  • My phone detected the AirTag and I simply tapped connect on the phone screen.
  • I gave my AirTag a custom name, chose an emoji and registered the AirTag with my Apple ID.
  • Just to make sure everything was working, I checked the FindMy  app to ensure the app showed the location of my AirTag. More details on setting up your AirTag can be found at this link: AirTag – Apple Support
  • The final step was to place my AirTag on my bike where a thief would not quickly locate and disable or discard my tracker. 

Now if my bicycle ever goes missing, I can track its latest location on a map in the app.  For less than $30 for an Apple AirTag or an Android Tag, it is a good investment for recovering your bike if it is stolen. Will it really work?  Checkout Catching a Bike Thief with AirTags on YouTube.

Ken Whittaker


How to Unlock Garmin Maps

For years I’ve held off on publishing a step-by-step guide on how to unlock Garmin maps because I didn’t want to encourage software piracy.  However, I like to have a backup of my route and Garmin maps on the SD card in my device just in case of a glitch.  For cyclists that have a legitimate reason for unlocking their Garmin maps, this guide is for you.

Caution – Do not attempt this unless you fully understand the process and your computer is fully protected from virus and malware.    

  1. Create a Garman folder on an SD card
  2. Locate gimgunlock.exe on the internet and download it into the Garmin folder on the SD card.
  3. Locate the file gmapprom.img on your Garmin device and copy it into the Garmin folder on the SD card.
  4. Drag and drop the gmapprom.img onto gimgunlock.exe to unlock the maps.
  5.  Rename gmapprom.img to gmapsupp.img on the SD card.
  6.  Test the SD card to ensure that the files are in fact unlocked.

If you are considering using this method to pirate maps from Garmin without paying for them, DON’T!  It simply isn’t worth it considering how costly a mistake can be. Especially when you can buy legitimate maps for just $19.99.  Check it out at Cycle Map North America at Garmin.com.

Ken Whittaker


Next Stop on My Yoga Journey

A group Yin Yoga class was the next stop on my yoga journey. Yin Yoga is a slower-paced and meditative form of yoga as compared to other yoga disciplines. The poses are held for longer periods of time. In my case we spent about one minute on each pose.

The 75 minute class was designed to target the body’s connective tissues, rather than the muscles. It was billed as the perfect complement to athletic training and recovery plans. While I don’t know if that is true, I do know that I did enjoy the class and I continue to see improvement in my flexibility, so I signed up to continue classes.

My yoga experience reminds me a lot of my cycling experience. I returned to cycling as an adult because I felt it was a beneficial sport for my health that I could continue into old age (I am now into my seventies and still riding strong). I feel the same about yoga. It is a beneficial activity/exercise for my body that I can hopefully continue until the day I die. And I’m enjoying my journey with yoga as much as I enjoy my journey on my bicycle. Stay tuned, I’m sure I will have more to say about yoga and my journey in the future.

Ken Whittaker