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James Knox's Biking Blog

October 12, 2015
by James Knox

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Bikes on a Train



In mid-September Amtrak started offering what they call Walk-On service for bicycles on the Capitol Limited train that runs from Chicago to Washington D.C. For a fee of $20 (not including your train ticket) you may roll your bike into the spacious converted cargo area in the belly of a train car and hang your bike up by its front wheel. You must be able to lift your own bike to shoulder height and hang it yourself. Your bike may not exceed 50 pounds and 70”X 41” X 8.5” (so NO recumbent bikes). There are only seven slots per train.

I thought it would be fun to bring a group of trail veterans through this process just to see how it all worked out. Our team was made up of myself 42, my wife Katie, 43, Joe Brandt, 55, his wife Becky, 48 and Steve Swartzlander, 44. We have close to twenty trips up and down the C & O between us. So, here are some things we learned.


[I call this “Waiting for Santa”]
  1. Arrive early

I am someone who is always on time or way early. So is Steve. My wife, too. But, Joe and Becky were at the station by 3:50 for a 5:20 departure only to be rewarded with a 45-minute delay. The trains are usually delayed because they share the rails in the Northeast with freight trains that get priority. Amtrak had a 21% on-time rate for the capitol limited during August of 2015. That is not very outstanding. But, if you know this going in you won’t be so ticked off.

  1. Amtrak has awesome employees

It must be a great job because everyone from the ticket lady to the porters were attentive, helpful and unbelievably cheery at the early hour.

“The service itself is solid,” Steve said. “The Amtrak folks were helpful in pointing out where the bikes needed to go, since it was not really obvious. The racks were solid and very easy to use. It was also a secure area of the train. The cost was a bit high, given that it was more than the base ticket to add a bike. $10 would be better.”


  1. The cost

On the ten Amtrak trains nation-wide that offer the walk-on service the Capitol Limited is the most expensive by double. Amtrak Cascades offer 10 bike spaces per train at only $5. Not sure why this is. There was much hand wringing before this launch about the price. Which from one report was as high as $25 before it was dropped to $20. Is this price gouging or capitalism at work? Let’s call it Capitol-ism.

  1. Your bikes are safe

You must be able to hoist your own bike to shoulder height and strap it down. The porters, nice as they are have a schedule to keep and they are not allowed to help you lift your bike. But, the process is pretty self explanatory and if you are with a group you’ll have plenty of help.

“I was pleased the process was relatively simple and easy,” Joe said. “One hook, one strap and a safety chain, all done in less than a minute, even by beginners.”


  1. Order your tickets WELL in advance

We bought our tickets about three weeks out from our trip. We left on a Monday. I bought my two tickets and called Joe, Becky and Steve and told them to go ahead. Turned out that after my two bikes there was only one of the seven slots left on the train. So Joe spent the better part of a week trying to figure out a solution when all of a sudden there must have been a cancelation of the group of four and we were good to go. That said I would recommend making sure your group can all fit before you book. I would also book at least four weeks in advance.

“Current capacity limits will prevent the service from being useful for any large group, even if they book well in advance,” Steve said. “However, for individuals and small groups it is going to be quite useful. Normally for trail rides you are limited to a fixed distance from your starting point. This service opens up a much wider range, since you can plan to ride only one way. It will make larger sections of the GAP and C&O feasible for day trips. It will also make planning multi-day trips simpler and cheaper, since small groups can now get their bikes transported long distances without complicated logistics.”


Is this the best solution? Transportation is all about choices and this is another great one. We spent about $31 per-person to ride from Pittsburgh to Connellsville. It was a day trip 60-plus miles on the bike after a delightful train ride. If we were going all the way to DC you would have to weigh the cost of hiring a van to drive you and your bikes the 4 hours, take the all-day train or just rent an SUV and drive yourself. However, if your group is over 7 people the options get smaller. They all run close to the same price from Pittsburgh to D.C. when all is said and done. But, for shorter day trips it adds a lot of flexibility. You could take the train to say, Hancock, MD and ride your bike to Harpers Ferry, WV. Then ride the train back to Pittsburgh. The options are great. The train ride is the bonus to the journey.


September 15, 2015
by James Knox

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Wave to me!




[photo by Jo Harrop- she waved at me and she was in a car!]

Have you ever ridden around town and spotted two riders on “Hogs” pass and give a wave to each other?

Most see this act as a sign of shared worldview, an acknowledgement of similar tastes and beliefs, possibly. A camaraderie of kindred spirits. It could also be that they see themselves as knowing partners in an endeavor outside of the norm.

Or, they just pretend to be in some secret “club” of people who buy over-priced and underpowered toys that people ride when they are too lazy to ride a bicycle.

If I owned a Harley, I would probably want to punch me in the face right now.

I saw my buddy Chaz, a fellow photographer out riding his custom Harley today looking like the offspring of Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame and the Duck Dynasty Guy. I had my window down, made eye contact and gave him a wave…from the driver’s seat of my Honda Odyssey. He smiled. We’re both photogs. We have worked together for almost 20 years. We shot the last game at Pitt Stadium together amid tear gas and State Police horses trampling wayward and boozed up Pitt students. But, after all of that he had to chuckle as he waved to me in my minivan. I wasn’t on a Harley-Davidson and he had to keep his street cred. I get it.

Should other bicyclists wave at each other? We share the same kindred-spirit emotions about our human-powered two-wheeled steeds. But, have you noticed that some cyclists DO NOT wave back??

Let’s try an experiment. Take your fat-tired hybrid for spin around your local park. Wear sweat pants or gym shorts and aviators. Wave and smile at everybody you pass on two wheels. Take note of who waves back.

I’ll bet only half of the people wave back. Mostly fellow bikers dressed in the same casual manner. I bet the guys and gals riding the more expensive carbon fiber race bikes definitely DO NOT wave back at all.

What gives? Am I stereotyping?

Well, I am one to ride aggressively fast around North Park. I wear a black Italian kit. I ride a bike worth more than my old crappy car. But, I wave at everybody.

My wife does the same thing. She does it out of spite sometimes. “I just smile and wave good morning to everyone, it’s not my fault they are snotty,” she says.

Why do “elite” cyclists feel the need to ignore their fellow velo-travelers?

Well, I have two possible answers.

One is that they are knee deep in the middle of a workout so intense and painful that they can’t see two inches in front of their face for lack of oxygen. Their lactic acidosis has dulled their place in the time/space continuum plus, they would have to break out of their aero position to wave at the guy riding the unicycle while walking his dogs. (He’s got HIS hands full but HE waves.)

The second possible answer is what I think is the real reason. Snobbery. People on fancy bikes size you up and if you don’t pass the test they just stare at you through their Oakley Jawbones resting on their turned-up noses. It took me about five years of racing to finally have someone say “hi” to me at the velodrome. Racers are a shaky bunch. They are used to eyeing up the new guy and wondering weather or not he is going to be safe to ride 30 mph at close proximity for the next hour. Or, whether he is too squirrely and needs to get flicked off the back.

But, everyone on a bike has made a decision to break out of the norm to do something we’ve done almost our whole lives in some cases: to pedal on two wheels like a kid. Remember that the next time you’re rolling around town. The other people on the bicycles have the same mindset as you. They may not have the bankroll or dedication level but they are our brothers-and-sisters-in-crazy.

I guess some people can’t turn it off. But how hard is it to wave? Really. Its not like I’m wearing leather chaps or something.




August 19, 2015
by James Knox

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The Art of Wrenching



I am your friendly neighborhood mechanic. OK, I’m actually a photographer but it seems of late I have become the go-to wrench. My prices can’t be beat. Free. Or, Romolo’s Sponge Candy if you insist. And, I’m always open for a drop off or I can pick up.

The past few weeks I have serviced about 10-12 bikes for friends. From minor tune-ups to brake adjustments and wheel truing I got you covered.

I must admit; I love it. I always loved taking my 1986 Ross HiTech apart and cleaning it. It was my livelihood. It carried the 60 Erie Time News editions I delivered through rain sleet and snow. And, in Erie, PA: snow ain’t no joke. I still am learning the intricacies of maintaining a carbon fiber race bike so, you see the fun never ends. Right now on my work stand I have a 24” Schwinn Ranger that belongs to my 11-year-old daughter. She came in to the garage pouting that she needs a new bike. Tire was flat and torn and the front brake was wonky. I’m NOT buying a new bike. Her 8-year-old friend was escorted into the garage last night and they all said her bike needed my help. Her tires were low, her pedals stuck and her breaks were broken. Fixed, fixed and fixed and she asks me, “Do you love you job?” I tried to explain that this wasn’t my job but that indeed I do love it.

There is a book by Robert M. Persig called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The narrator takes us along for a long motorcycle trip with his son and a friend and his wife. The friend has a fancy new bike and refuses to learn how to maintain it. When problems arise he is frustrated. Kind of like my daughter. The narrator is attuned to the ebbs and flows of his older machine as the trip goes along and adjusts accordingly giving him the satisfaction of a job well done. Kind of like me. Except, I don’t have to worry about pesky motors.

It doesn’t have to get all metaphysical and heavy, I guess. It also could just be a person using rational problem solving skills to achieve an inner piece of mind. Very Zen. I just prefer to get dirty and not have to pay people to do something that a soon-to-be sixth grader could have figured out. Do you hear me Maggie??

So, if you have a flat tire or a stuck break and you also have some beer or chocolate you’d like to get rid of, let me know.

I love my job.


July 30, 2015
by James Knox

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Take The Lane


Ride 1

(photo: Patrolman Matthew Immekus)

There have been a lot of anti/pro cycling items in the news lately.

Last week a woman was shoved off her bicycle by a motorist in Lawrenceville. Her boyfriend was quoted as saying, “I just think the guy behind us was upset we were taking up his space.” The mayor announced a plan to put in bike lanes to Oakland. These two events alone have caused a social media firestorm in the ‘Burgh almost as fierce as Caitlyn Jenner or a dead lion.

What is the answer? The public is pushing back against the speed at which bike lanes are being installed and infrastructure is changing to accommodate all things NOT cars. This isn’t just about bikes. It’s about pedestrians, too.

I usually don’t weigh in on this topic. I don’t feel I personally need bike lanes. I ride some pretty gnarly roads that don’t have any shoulder let alone a bike lane. And, I’m comfortable with it. The only way people driving cars are going to be comfortable with bikes on the road is if they see them in growing numbers, riding safely and deliberately on the road. Dedicated bike lanes are a great way to get more people out and about, away from traffic and keep the two separate. But, eventually you will have to ride on a road with cars. So, how do you handle that?

Ride 2

(photo: Patrolman Matthew Immekus)

One of the worst roads in the region to walk or ride your bike on is McKnight Road. There are almost no sidewalks or bike lanes. McKnight Road is the portion of US 19 Truck that runs through Ross and McCandless Townships in the North Hills. It was created in 1946 as a bypass route for trucks that were not allowed on US 19. It is six lanes of cars going at highway speeds at times and turning lanes going to the glut of shopping along the corridor. During the month of December as we approach Christmas it is arguably one of the worst places to have as a part of your commute. (I do)

Enter Walk // Bike Ross, a grassroots committee of people working to make alternative forms of transport accessible to a community where the main drag is nicknamed McKnightmare Road.

Last night we took the right lane of McKnight Road with a group of 17 riders. One of which was Patrolman Matthew Immekus, Ross Township Police Bike Officer and an International Police Mountain Bike Association Police Cyclist Instructor. No one honked. As my buddy Steve noted, “It’s tough to honk at someone who’s armed.”

Ride 3

(photo: Patrolman Matthew Immekus)

We also obeyed all traffic stops and moved as a group through rush hour traffic two abreast on arguably one of the worst roads in the county to ride a bike (besides a one-mile stretch of Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg).

It was the first of many Walk // Bike Ross monthly rides on the road led by Joe and Becky Brandt with military precision. The group was filled with all levels of ability, yet we rode together and made our point. With familiarity comes comfort. The more we are visible on the roads and riding safely the rest of the world will catch on. It won’t be so strange to see bikes going down McKnight Road and everyone will lighten up after a while.

So, take the lane in YOUR community. I’m pretty sure there’s a law about that. Just ride safe and smart because you don’t always have a police escort.


July 7, 2015
by James Knox

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The Greatest Show on Earth



When I was a kid, summer meant one thing: Wimbledon. Right? You too? My parents loved tennis and the snooty British tennis tournament with its strict rules on tennis whites, strawberries and cream and grass courts was the pinnacle of all they held dear. I only looked forward to it personally because Wimbledon was only televised on HBO. That meant, for three months we got premium cable. Wo hoo! It’s the little things.

Now I am the parent to four little monsters and they will have the same memories. During the year we have about three channels. There is so little to watch that we basically don’t. We watch Netflix reruns of Mission Impossible. The ‘60s TV show not, the Tom Cruise franchise. But during July we get premium cable because the Tour de France is only on NBCSN. There’s so much TV to watch now we’ve been going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5am just to get it all in.

You may scoff at me but, come over and have a croissant and some Beaujolais and let’s fast forward through the commercials (I had to get the DVR model) as we get immersed in five hours of coverage a day for three weeks. I know I’m excited just thinking about it.

It’s like watching the Olympics. You get the back-stories on the villains, the heroes and the contenders and who to care about. As a kid I never watched football or baseball or (gasp) golf unless I had no other choice (I had two older brothers). It served me well as a young sports photographer for the Trib shooting on the sidelines of Three Rivers Stadium. I could care less who won. But, I appreciated the action, which was the sole reason for my access.

The Tour is the big show. It spans the beauty of Northern France, to the high Alps and the streets of Paris. The traveling circus brings the show to the people. No one buys some overpriced ticket to sit and watch. The spectators line public streets and are within touching distance from the riders. Screaming inches from the competitors as they toil. No other sport can boast such intimate access. Granted you have to get to France to appreciate it in person. But, name one other major sporting event that has the chance of happening in your front yard. As long as your yard is in France somewhere on the race route.

So, enjoy your Steelers if you can afford the $20,000 seat license. I’ll bide my time until next year when I am planning to be there in person on the Champs-Élysées for the final sprint after three best weeks of the summer. But, until then I’ll enjoy the greatest show on Earth from my couch until the cable bill comes.


July 2, 2015
by James Knox

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The Good, the Bad and the Hairy



(An 8 on the Chewbacca Scale)

Let’s talk about men shaving their legs.

Are you cringing, yet?

Well, bike racers for about 100 years have been shaving their legs. And, if I was being paid to race my bike I would get dipped in wax every week if it was called for. But, I don’t race bikes for a living. I do it occasionally for fun and fitness and to feed the beast that is my competitive nature.

I shaved my legs two seasons ago. My wife signed off on it. “It’ll grow back, right?” she said. “Sure, have you NOT seen how hairy I am?” My kids balked and kept saying “Eeeewww! It’s creepy!!”

That season I was turning 40. I was racing almost every week. I was also training to crush my personal best in the Pittsburgh Triathlon (I did). I wanted every ounce of help I could get. I put tape over the holes in my helmet. I bought a 14-pound bike. I shaved my hairy stalks. I felt fast and fit in the water and on the bike immediately. I had great season. I even made my own embrocation. (look it up)

The downside was that the maintenance was exhausting. I mean I have trouble shaving my face every day. I had to wear pajama pants to bed because the stubble would keep me awake at night.

Was it worth it? Why should you shave your legs? Does it help?

The reasons for shaving are many. At least bike racers have many. A Category 5 amateur racer/once-a-year triathlete (me), not so much.

The list goes something like this:

It makes you faster

It did FEEL faster but it could’ve been a placebo

Cuts down on wind resistance

Specialized’s wind tunnel tests

showed that hairless legs shaved

on average 70 secs per 40Km.

I guess that’s pretty significant.

Helps you treat wounds

It’s kind of sick to do something anticipating a wound

Hair can grab the asphalt in

a crash and make cuts worse

Not sure if I’m buying this one but, a bike racer who’d know told me so

It’s tradition

No hairy legs at the Tour de France

It’s a show of commitment/dedication

Better than wearing a lame PGH Marathon Tee

No pulled hairs from your post race massage

Never had one, personally

Looks great

Style over substance wins every time. Did you ever see a hairy model?

These are good but thought I’d ask an expert. So I called Josh Friedman of ATP Race Consulting. Friedman, has been racing since 1997 and coaching other cyclists since 2008. Josh is USA Cycling Level 2 certified coach. He has raced on two wheels on four continents, and holds a master’s degree in experiential education.

ICyclePGH: Is there any one reason that’s more valid to go hairless?

JF: “If you do something like this it should be for a bunch of different reasons otherwise you have to look at your motives for doing it. I guess there is a degree of the superficial to some people doing it but all of these reasons are valid.”

ICyclePGH: Do you remember the reasons behind shaving for the first time?

JF: “I first did it sometime in high school I don’t really remember my frame of mind. I did it because that what you did when you raced bikes.”

ICyclePGH: Have you any experience with it helping with wound care?

JF: “I have a lot more scars on my legs than my arms because that’s the first thing to hit the ground. It’s a lot easier to clean a wound when there’s no hair there. It’s just easier to tape and to gauze. When you race bikes it’s not IF you’ll crash, it’s WHEN.”

I hope this clears it up. It did for me. I’ll stay hairy. But a tip: Use clippers BEFORE you hit that jungle with a razor. Just saying.


June 24, 2015
by James Knox

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Shamwow! It’s Vacation Season



(Sterling Pond, Smugglers Notch, Vermont)

Vacation season is upon us and June is usually the busiest month of the year for me. Between vacation and an extra workload riding my bike slips quickly down the list of priorities.

I spent a lovely weekend in Chautauqua, NY with my dad and brother at the Cherokee Lodge. A secret “invite only” society of people whose only link is that they know the guy named Chester who owns the place. We usually spend the weekend alternating between sitting around and drinking and eating and drinking. Somewhere in there I remembered to bring my bike. I got in a nice 40-mile loop around Lake Chautauqua before anyone got up to offer me a beer. I stopped in the drive through at the Starbucks in Jamestown on my bike and as I ordered my doppio, the barista told me this was a, “Starbucks First” for her. Well, you’re welcome.

That was my last ride for twenty days. Can you say withdrawal?

My family (all six of us) drove (?!?) to Vermont for our next vacation. A week spent in the home of Cabot Cheese, maple syrup, hippies and Ben and Jerry’s. The last two were redundant, I know. We stayed at the resort founded on the spot where JFK’s father Joe made his fortune running bootlegged rum into Canada. Stay classy New England. The bad news was I didn’t bring my bike. We did however stay active climbing mountains and going on the Ben and Jerry’s Factory tour.


(1, 2, 3 ICE CREAM!!)

Back into town for a week on my feet covering the nation’s largest invention expo: INPEX. I had no time for rides after logging close to 14 miles a day on my feet traversing the Monroeville Convention center 12-hours a day carrying 15 pounds of camera gear. I did meet the Shamwow guy though.Shamwow


(Me and Vince Offer of Shamwow fame)

Fast-forward to last night. It was my first race in three weeks. I crammed two punishing training rides over the weekend but I was very nervous about jumping in so unprepared. I got 14th place and was surprised by my top-end speed for the final sprint. I came in second place among guys with hairy legs, by the way. I’ll call it a positive.

My advice for this season of vacation: Take you bike with you. If you can’t then, don’t spend your WHOLE time eating ice cream, Cabot cheese and drinking beer.


May 29, 2015
by James Knox

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PGH Bike Share Bike:Test Ride



I met up today with Erin Potts, marketing manger for Bike Share Pittsburgh the non-profit in charge of launching this city’s public bike rental infrastructure this Sunday. After months of debate the day is finally here. The politics and squabbling aside, I just want to know what I get for my two bucks.

The gear is all I’m interested. You can go to the website to find out their philosophy and payment practices and where the 50 stations will be. There is even an App to pay for your ride and track the availability of you next one. But, all I care is how does this bike handle?

I rode the 37-pound tank around Shadyside for a test ride today. It is not a race bike, I can assure you. The purpose of the bike is for short (30 minutes or less) trips. The beauty is you can go from point A to B and not worry about returning the bike back to point A. The kiosks will be stocked up and running for this Sunday’s Open Streets affair and availability will be modest at first.


The bike itself is a space-age shape. It runs a Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub with drum brakes front and back. It sports a wide comfortable seat with a narrow nose. The use of enclosed drums are obvious. No one can mess with them and they are protected from the elements as well. A twofer. The brakes were quite mushy and required a little premeditation on the stopping. I guess the extra weight of GPSs and keypads and giant Highmark billboards were not in the braking equation. You shouldn’t be riding this thing like a crazy person anyway so I’ll give it a pass. I haven’t ridden an internal hub since the 1970s so I thought they might have improved since then. I was right. The Nexus shifted quite cleanly only buckling under pressure a little on a rise out of the saddle. But, the beauty is that unlike with a chain and derailleur you can down shift to an easier gear while sitting at a stoplight.

Out of the saddle it was like ridding a whale but with 7 gears and an overall gear range of 245% over the old 3-speed hubs’ 178% you shouldn’t need to. Even in Pittsburgh’s hilly terrain. I wouldn’t attempt the Dirty Dozen hills with this but for a lunch-time jaunt to Primanti’s, it’ll do. Potts told me the 7-speed hub is the most gears out of any bike share in the world. You’ll need ‘em.


The integrated lock is probably the coolest feature. It slides out of a holster behind the built-in metal basket and the lockbar slips through the steel fork essentially locking the bike to itself. If you pull up to a kiosk that is full, just lock it within ten feet and it’s turned in.

The bike is built to fit everyone from 4-7 feet tall and the geometry for a long ride might be in favor for the shorter rider. It was adequate for my 6-foot-plus frame and as I said there are no long rides.

Full GPS tracking with help anyone who has an idea about stealing these bikes. But, really who would buy it?

It did feel safe and solid and the upright position is highly visible and stable for novice riders. I can’t wait to get my membership and tool around town even if its only at 30-minutes a clip.

For a video on the details of the Bike Share Program follow this link:


May 26, 2015
by James Knox

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Big Data is Gonna Get You



(Strava crunches the numbers for ya)

My wife just got an Apple Watch. It is an amazing piece of technology. It tracks your fitness and activity levels through pedometers and heart rate monitors. It tells you when you’ve been sitting too long and demands that you “Stand up!”

Get off my back already and stop telling me what to do!

I am guilty of data overload. Most cyclists love data. I know guys with spreadsheets of their power meter data. Nerd alert! When I go for a ride I strap on my heart rate monitor switch on my Garmin 510 with GPS, speed and cadence. I’ve forgotten my extra tube and CO2 once and still went ahead and rode. But, if I forget my Garmin…I turn back.

You want credit for your efforts. More importantly you want to track your progress. Strava is my measuring stick. Measuring against my peers and pros but more importantly myself. Goals are met and splits are improved.

Some have taken this to extremes and have gotten injured or killed trying to be the top rider of a neighborhood segment on Strava. Stupid, I know. But, I have a few near-death experiences doing just that. I have also been steaming mad after getting halfway through a ride and realizing I hadn’t pushed start on my Garmin.

I have a problem. I know this. Big Data is coming for me.

So, how can you combat this obsession?

Easy, when you ride, ride all out, record it, then analyze it. Mostly compare it to your own efforts and track your improvement to yourself. There is ALWAYS someone faster.

The other part is this…ride for fun every once and a while. Just tool around the neighborhood to remind you of the kid inside that loves jumping curbs and going fast and going slow.


I pulled a BMX bike out of my neighbor’s trash and that is my third bike now. I love it. I ride it to the bus stop to pick up my kids. I ride it when they want to tool around the ‘hood. I also have been known to do some tricks and take it off some sweet jumps. I can do like a thirty foot skid, too. It’s the opposite of doing ladder intervals and downward spirals.

There is no record of the watts I push when jumping a curb but in my mind I’m winning.


April 30, 2015
by James Knox

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Digital EPO and E-Doping


Digital EPO or E-Doping

“What the heck is that?” you ask? I’m seeing if Mr. T and Nancy Reagan are available to be the spokespeople for this great cause.

The definition could be as follows: cheating on a fitness app to gain King of the Mountain (KOMs) or other digital prizes and imaginary awards.

Neither is in the Urban Dictionary but they should be. I mean, “Post Fartum Depression” is.


A few weeks ago I posted a picture of my Zwift avatar wearing the Orange leader’s jersey and crushing out 500+ watts. (See previous post)

Perspective…I have no clue how many watts I can produce or should produce. I just got a heart rate monitor last year. I do not own a power meter for my road bike or smart stationary trainer with one.

That said I rode around for lap after lap on Zwift Island hammering away. Sweating my butt off. Then someone chatted that I should “check my set-up” and “my numbers seemed way off’’. The telltale was when some one sarcastically said, “seems legit” while waving the Red Flag of sarcasm.

So, I exited the island amid tensions that would rival an expelled dictator and looked up what my numbers should be. Well, its more like half of that 500+ if I’m realistic. I looked up past rides on my Garmin site and Strava for real, race-time efforts. I maxed out at 445 on a final sprint of a recent race. I remember that I held that for like ten seconds then probably blacked out. Pro cyclist Jens Voigt who recently took the hour record hummed along at 400 watts for an hour. Me I’m more of a 250-300 watt creature.

To take my problem global I started a comment section on the Zwft website. Ten seconds later I was trapped under an avalanche of criticism and vitriol. But, as clueless as I was, there must be people out there doing this for real. And to what end?

There is a website called Digital that claims to be able to juice your numbers by messing with your Garmin data in a way that is not so blatant as my faux paux. Reviewers of this website post critiques with titles like: “How to be a scumbag on Strava with digital epo” or, “How to spot digital EPO cheats on Strava”. Ah, the digital democracy.

Why do people cheat like this? Vanity. Plain and simple.

A well-known cycling magazine published a story a few years ago about guys doping at local masters races. DOPING! Just to win a pair of socks or bragging rights. I race those kinds of races here in Pittsburgh (we jokingly refer to them as the “Weekly World Championships”). The competition is fierce among guys who race for fun and the prize money for first place is usually around $15. These dopers are out there spending thousands of dollars and putting their health at risk for what? Pride and vanity.

E-doping is safer I guess than injecting yourself with hormones or steroids but who wants to cheat themselves? The use of Strava is mainly as a barometer or measuring stick for your personal development. They’re a perfect way to track your progress and improvement. The KOMs and other awards are incentives for you to strive to be your best. E-doping is just buzz kill pure and simple.

I am truly sorry to all my Zwift Island companions and I will see you tomorrow and kick your butt the right way, with my legs and not my mouse.

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