bkool pro trainer fails firmware update

After trying to get my bkool pro smart trainer to update to the most recent version for almost two weeks, I finally solved the issue tonight. The official FAQ just states that you should stop anything related to bluetooth and that the ANT+ dongle should be right at the base of the trainer. I had done both things – even stopping any Garmin related products installed, but nothing helped. The firmware update would start, but after a couple of minutes (or a many as ten), bkool indoor would error out.

The solution: A new USB controller card. Apparently the USB ports on the motherboard introduced too much noise on the connection, and since ANT+ (or bkool, not sure) doesn’t have any proper error correction to detect errors on a smaller level and resend USB packages, it seems there was an error introduced somewhere in the firmware update, and the end checksum failed.

A new VIA-based USB PCI-card from Ebay solved the issue, and now my firmware is upgraded! Yay! (the trainer worked just fine except for that, so it was still usable – but I had a bug appear that the firmware should fix (or maybe that was caused by noise on the USB bus as well? We’ll see. Zwifting away in a couple of days)!

I survived!

(Yes, the headline recycling is becoming a trend. Get on with the program!)

The view from the bridge at Hvaler at 05:45I can happily report that I survived this year’s version of Birkebeinerrittet! Together with 16.000 (!) other people, I set out from Rena on saturday morning, heading for Lillehammer – 94.5 kilometers away and with the highest mountain in the world (1100 meters) in between. I left from my home at Hvaler at 05:30 in the morning, joining my parents at Rolvsøy at 06:00 and leaving for Rena. About 3 hours and 25 minutes later we arrived, and I went to get my starting kit (transponder, number plate / start bib), etc).

The starting kit for birkebeinerrittet 2009The track had been made about 3 kms longer than last year, as we now followed an alternative route of Rena. Instead of riding the bridge over highway 3 right after the start, everyone started in the opposite direction and went under the highway instead. Nothing much to report about this, everything worked out fine and the additional kilometers don’t really matter. Compared to last year I spent two minutes more this year up to the first registration point at Skramstad, which means that I had about the exact same pace as last year. Remember to pick the LEFT track when the road splits (I did that last year, while I picked the right track this year – which seemed a lot steeper).

People getting ready for their start at birkebeinerrittet 2009
One of the groups heading out for their start!

But before we go any further, I’ll have to mention the weather. Oh, the weather. It had been raining for at least a day before the trip over the mountain, which meant that everything was muddy and dirty. Grenserittet was also muddy, but that were localized to a few key areas. At birkebeinerrittet everything was muddy (but a few areas a lot more, of course), and people were approaching zero recognizability. As one guy asked me at the second stage: “Atle?” (another common Norwegian name) “Noooo?” “Oh, Sorry. It was impossible to see who you were with all the mud..”. VG has a collection of pictures showing the mud problem.

One of the things that I’ve had on my todo list was to get a nice pair of glasses to use while biking. While I actually managed to get a new set of long biking shorts and a new long sleeved bike jacket before starting (and yes, those were probably this year’s best investment), I failed to get a pair of glasses. And how I regret that. It was completely impossible to follow anyones back wheel because of all the dirt that came blasting! I had to remove chunks of dirt from the corner of my eye for a day and a half after finishing the race. Quite a new experience!

The race went a lot better than last year, even under the current conditions. Although behind my previous time at the second checkpoint, I had a lot more energy and endurance this time. I was still able to get a bit of speed and passed quite a few other riders on my way to the next checkpoint. When I reached the famous “Rosinbakken” (“Raisin hill”), I were experiencing quite an energy loss, and I’ve realized in retrospect that this was because I failed to get any new energy into my body during the 20kms running up to the hill. I try to get at least one serving of energy gel each 30 minutes, but I think I had at least 1 hrs and 30 minutes in this segment. After getting some carbs into the system everything went a lot better, and I were able to get up on my bike and put in a few stints up until the highest location of the track.

In the middle of one of the downhill segments right before the second checkpoint we suddenly met three sheep walking right in the middle of the track! After a bit of panic braking we managed to avoid them, and they trotted along the road as nothing had happened. There were a lot of sheep along the track as usual, but at two occasions they went a bit further than just grassing by the side. Amazing experience anyhow.

After passing the highest point, everything goes downhill almost exclusivly until the finish. I’m usually a lot better at the downhill segments than the uphill parts, and I were able to tag along with a train consisting of five other bikers. We really got up a bit of speed and passed lots of other riders, and I were happy that I finally got a bit of effective riding. Next year I’ll hopefullly be able to tag along with someone for most of the trip, making it a faster journey for all of us. We’ll see.

In the last downhill segment after riding through the spectator stand around the ski jumping hill from the olympics at Lillehammer (and riding down the hill from the freestyle skiing competition at the same olympics), the guy right in front of me went over his handlebar and crashed into the side of the road. He was apparently OK, but it seemed to be a rather unpleasant experience. The rest of the track was covered with five centimeters of mud, which I managed to ride all the way through – although I almost went for a “I’ll plant my complete body into the mud here, thank you” after the rider right in front of me suddenly got problems with keeping her speed and I tried feveriously to free my shoes from my pedals. I saved it, and could ride the last 200 meters and finish my ride (although I’m not sure if anyone would have seen any difference wether I had fallen into the mud or not..)!

Two of my friends who rode the race for their first time, Christer and Magne, also finished. I’m happy to report (.. and Magne is not) that I actually managed to strike back after Magne crushed my time with 40 minutes at Grenserittet a year back. Ten minutes ahead baby, it’s all the time in the world! Christer had a very bad day with two punctures and three chain breakdowns. He finished in about 5:54.


Skramstad Bringbu Kvarstad Storåsen Goal
2009 00:46:53 01:48:55 03:15:48 04:55:07 05:54:36


Skramstad Bringbu Kvarstad Storåsen Goal
2010 00:47:55 01:42:17 02:50:42 04:14:53 05:21:34
2009 00:53:17 01:57:57 03:14:41 04:38:18 05:34:01


Skramstad Bringbu Kvarstad Storåsen Goal
2011 00:48:15 01:38:03 02:38:26 03:51:49 04:37:00
2010 00:50:43 01:51:31 03:03:17 04:30:54 05:29:07
2009 00:53:04 01:59:25 03:05:39 04:30:10 05:24:30
2008 00:51:36 01:47:20 03:08:54 04:47:30 05:47:13
1996 05:47:50

I’ll leave you with the final impression of one tired man and his new friend, the mud. This is after getting hosed down with water at least once to try to clean out the mud from my face.

Myself after finishing birkebeinerrittet 2009 - A bit muddy!

So, are you ready for next year? I am! (.. even after I got the hickups on the way back home .. for at least a couple of hours.)

Birkebeinerrittet Tomorrow

(Yes, I recycled my headline from last year, thanks for noticing)

Yet again I set sail (Yes, that’s what you do when you’re biking) over the mountain between Rena and Lillehammer tomorrow! 94.5kms of gravel, dirt and mud awaits! The weather seems to be pretty OK tomorrow for the area (a mm of downpour), but the forecast for tonight seems a bit rainy. It’s going to make everything a bit slippery tomorrow at least, but hopefully the roads are up to standard and everything goes as planned.

I’ve recently bought a new bike, so this will be the first trip really long trip with a new set wheels (managed to do about 150kms during the last seven days to at least settle everything in). Looking forward to it!

Three goals for this year too, and amazingly they’re the same as for last year:

Primary goal: finishing Secondary goal: finishing below 5 hours. Third goal: escape death.

I finished in 5:47 last year, but I’m feeling a tad more optimistic this year (.. well, I always do). Five hours, here I come!

I Made It Again!

This day seemed quite faint back in february when the signup for Grenserittet (“Cross Countries”) opened up, but after just short of five hours on the bike, I have now returned! Yet again the 81 kilometers between Strømstad and Halden were the goal of the trip, and yet again it proved to be harder than planned. Christer also did the race, but I failed to make any kind of contact with him during the day – even though we started in the same group. He did an amazing race and finished in 3 hours and 49 minutes, almost an hour less than me.

The biggest issue this year was that during the last two days before the race, the weather turned really nasty and we got 60mm of rain during those two days in total. This means one thing: Mud, mud and more mud. I’ve never seen so much .. mud. In one area things had gotten so bad that the organizers declared the part of the track to be unridable, and chose to lead the competitors around the area instead. Luckily the weather today was warm and comfy (not too hot), so the parts of the track that hadn’t gone completely muddy were quite good.

Compared to last year I had a much, much slower start this year, averaging 13.37 (!) km/h during the first 29 kms, down from 19km/h the previous year. Last year things did however go from bad to worse, and the last 50 kms saw slower and slower average speeds. This year things were just the opposite, and after the first checkpoint I averaged 17.8km/h, 20.5km/h and 22.6km/h. Seems like I at least had a bit more energy late in the race this year. The total time this year became 4 hours, 45 minutes and 57 seconds, close to two minutes better than last year. Considering the state of the track in the forrest, I’m almost happy with the time. Next year, tho…

Now it’s four weeks until Birkebeiner’n, a 89.5km long race over the mountains between Rena and Lillehammer. I have no idea why I keep doing this, but I’ll still do it next year.

I survived!

As I mentioned on friday, I were going up to Rena to attend this year’s Birkebeinerrittet this saturday. I can now report happily back that I made it all the way through, even though my body felt like every bit of energy was gone even after 30 kms. I’m suspecting that it might have something to do with me feeling a bit sick the previous days, but things seemed better at friday. My body was however probably not prepared for biking 91 kms, but it made it all the way through.

I finished in 5:47, which is quite crap when compared with other people in my age group (25-29), but I conclude that they probably weren’t as happy when they made it to the finish! This means that I reached two of my goals: finish and not die. I’ll leave the 5 hour mark for some other year (avoiding saying next year is a good tactic).

The ride over the mountains were hard, and we started out by climbing the 500 height meters up to Skramstadsetra (you can see the course profile here). After a bit of forrest riding we hit the first downhill part of the track. One person apparently got seriously injuried here during the race, and I can understand why. I’m usually picking up a few spots in the downhill areas, but when you have several hundred riders close by and people approaching quick from the groups starting behind you, there’s no choice but to take it a bit easy. I made it through the downhill, and then we hit the first “time to get off your bike and climb up this mountain in the middle of the forrest” part. There’s no hope of anyone getting up these hills without getting off their bikes, with mud and dirt everywhere and a steep hill. After this things went a bit flat and rough for a while, and I just stuck together with the people around me. Everyone moved at the same speed anyways, so this is not the place to try to make a run for it.

The next part of the course up to Kvarstad went perfectly OK, but I really felt my body draining of any spare energy. Getting a bike GPS is one of the smartest things I’ve bought this year, but when I’m doing long runs, I fall into the trap of looking at it at just a few minutes intervals. Things seem to go sooooo slow… Well, after stretching my legs at Kvarstad, I started on the next climb. Just as I entered the bottom of the hill, my body apparently thought I was joking, so it went for a small shutdown. I just had to get out of the way and spend a minute at the side of the road, before walking the first hundred meters of the hill. Strangest feeling I’ve ever had, and it confirmed my suspicion that I had been a bit sick during the previous days. Should probably have had some more food before starting the race too, but oh well. After walking a bit of the hill, a guy and three girls from Adecco went past at a slower pace, and as the guy humoursly told me that the point were to bike and not walk, I decided to join them at their pace up the hill. This worked out very nicely, and you should know that you helped me up that hill, even though it wasn’t that steep, it was a hard challenge at the time!

After battling through this stage, things went better until we approached the infamous “Rosinbakken” (the hill of the dried grapes / raisins loosly translated). I think the hill got the name because of how your legs feel after finishing it, but it may very well describe the feeling I had in my legs when I got to it. The hill is just over a kilometer long, and it’s inclination is around 10%, meaning that you climb something like 120 meters while riding the hill. Because of the name the hill has been adopted by the company ica, which welcomes you to the hill and then serves you: yep, raisins, halfwall through the hill. I decided to walk here, as my legs were kaput and I still had quite a few smaller hills to attend to in the next kilometers. Got up on my bike for the last 200 meters of the hill as things were flattening out and rode along with a few bikers I had tagged along with earlier. When we got to the top here, things went a lot flatter and the hills got sleeker. Still not anything easy (as you have 58kms+ and somewhere well above 1000 height meters in your legs), but I realized that I were going to make it, and that my body weren’t going to try to shut me down again.

As I approached the last food and drink station, the guys from the elite class were passing us. They started from Rena 2 hours after my starting time, and jeeeeesus. Those guys are fscking fast. Guess the fact that we were close to the highest point of the course also had something to do with it, but seeing people ride like that uphill was very impressive. I’m never going to put down enough time to be able to come close, but a man can dream!

After the last food and drink station there were just a few hills left before we passed sjusjøen, the turning point of the trip. From Sjusjøen almost everything is smooth sailing: the hills go in the right direction (down), the tarmac reappears for several stints and since you now know that all the hard parts are over, your body is ready to contribute the last few strands of energy.

The last part of the track (~6kms) is inside the venue from the 1994 olympics, and the craziest part of the whole track is when you’re going down the hill from the Freestyle skiing event. This is steep. Very steep. Especially when your legs, your arms and your mind is dead tired. This is also where people fall off their bikes, especially if it’s wet and it’s been raining. I just kept my brakes engaged and took the easy way down, slowly descending onto the platform and then riding through the stage where the olympic fire burned for two weeks in 1994. It’s an impressive location and really sets the theme for the finish. A single hill was concealed behind the stadium in a small forest patch, but if you’ve done 90 kms, that’s not going to stop you.

I finally finished after 5 hours and 47 minutes. My parents were there to pick me up, and after getting my diploma and getting off my biking shoes, we set off for home.

Things I’ll remember:

  • The two cows we met — in the track — while biking.
  • All the sheep. Holy Cow! There’s a lot of sheep in the norwegian mountains.
  • Being completely drained of any energy
  • All the great people riding, in particular all those who I tagged along the backwheel of. I never thanked you while riding, but it really made a difference. Hopefully you also tagged along when I decided to ride first for some kms, but it seemed hard to get people to catch on. I hope someone else found my back wheel interesting and used it for all it was worth during a couple of kilometers!
  • I’d also like to thank in particular:
    • A guy from Thales (at least that’s what his backpack said) which I were conversing with through the last 30 kilometers. It really helped! I tried to tag along when you wooshed by together with another group 10 kilometers before the finish, but I lost you after a kilometer.
    • The slowest people from Adecco and ica! It’s great seeing people that are attempting to do things they’ve set out to do, and it was of great help all the way.
    • A girl in a green outfit, a girl in a blue outfit (both group 65, i think) and the guy and girls in the hill when all energy seemed lost. I know I tagged along your back wheels for maybe a bit more than I should, but it really helped. Hope you all made it to the finish line!
    • A guy and a girl from Adecco (also in group 65-67 or something) which rode together. I ended up along with you early on, and then found you again several times along the track. Very inspiring!
  • The poor person who had gotten a puncture with just 5 kilometers to go, inside the olympic venue. That’s got to suck.
  • The elite guys and their incredible speed!
  • The VERY VERY VERY cheerful crowd along the track! You guys cheered, you gave out bananas, you had your own bands, you yelled encouragement. It’s amazing. It really matters. A great thank you to the guy who stood out in the road close to sjusjøen and handed out hi-fives and a gently push on the back to all the amateurs who were just below the top.
  • I’ve learnt one thing: you’re always VERY CLOSE to the top of a hill. At least that’s what the crowd are cheering. It doesn’t matter if it’s right, it’ll always feel like it’s true. And when you get to the top, you feel that they were right all along. It wasn’t really that far.

Well. The final question now is if I’d do it again next year. I’m going to wait a few days before I decide, but… probably. Hopefully I’ll have a better couple of weeks before the race.

Anyways: Congratulations to everyone who finished, and if you’re ever considering going for a very nice, well organized mountain bike run in europe, go to Rena and start in Birkebeinerrittet. It’s something everyone should have done at least one time! I’ve now done it twice (in 1996 and in 2008)!