Extras Featured Reviews Tech

Tangent Trainer

Tangent TrainerThe Tangent Trainer is designed for use with a turbo trainer; it’s one of those deceptively simple innovations that always begs the question why hasn’t this been thought of before? Bolted between the crank and any clip-in pedal – a painlessly simple operation, well within the grasp of most cyclists – the Tangent Trainer demands a ‘tow’ pedal action for optimum transference of energy.


It takes some getting used to of course – it’s a training tool after all – and initially using the Tangent Trainer is a little like patting your head whilst rubbing your stomach, but with practice (and starting slowly) the technique becomes almost second nature. Although we didn’t find it necessary it’s fine to start with just one Tangent Trainer attached – on the non-dominant foot – and move things on from there. It’s important not to over use it, particularly at first, and the manufacturers suggest two sessions a week of around 20 minutes – that certainly fitted with our testing regime as little-used muscle groups slowly kicked in.


Tangent TrainerThe makers say that trials are still on-going to establish true power gains from working with the Tangent Trainer, but estimate that as much as 20% could be achievable. Even sitting on the side of overly pessimistic a 10% gain would be impressive and worth the investment in the Tangent Trainer.


It may not seem that important, but we also thought the Tangent Trainer was really rather pleasing aesthetically; too often we see gadgets of one kind or another hitting the market still looking like prototypes. The Tangent is both beautifully engineered and has clearly had much attention paid to detail.


The Tangent Trainer, although not cheap at £99.99, should pay dividends for those serious about upping their game and improving their technique for either road or track. Full details, including fitting instruction video, and online purchase at

Reviews Tech

ithlete for Heart Rate Variability

ithlete heart rate variability app and heart rate monitor chest strapHeart Rate Variability (or simply HRV) can be a key indicator of fitness. Daily measurements taken, crucially, at the same time each morning can be charted in order to build up a picture of the overall ebb and flow of training stress on the body and, through analysis, work as an early indicator of when ‘enough is enough’. Anyone taking training seriously is well advised to listen to the heart and plotting the HRV should be at the top of the list when it comes to determining over-training limits and planning rest days or periods. Enter – at least for true tech lovers – the ithlete for Heart Rate Variability, a small ECG receiver that plugs into Apple and Android phones/tablets and picks up the signal from compatible heart rate straps. In turn this is analysed and charted by the ithlete app, which keeps a running record of the HRV and displays the results in colour-coded form.


The principle is excellent and the thlete receiver is dinky and reliable, but the app (a separate purchase at £6.99) lets the process down somewhat by being graphically clunky and limited in both function and flexibility. To expand first on the aesthetics: the design of the graphic interface is either deliberately retro or just simply ugly and whilst looks alone may not be that important it also has an impact on functionality with both the chart and list being difficult to comprehend (who uses the dating system ‘2012-10-08’? That’s almost exactly the reverse of what we need to know…)


At its simplest – and the ithlete app doesn’t go much beyond ‘simplest’ – things work just fine. Strap up, wait for the signal (an impressively fast connect), hit ‘start’ and breath slowly in and out in time with the (ugly) graphic for one minute; then save the result. The app displays both that day’s heart rate and the HRV value – the higher the better – in list form or on a chart along with a daily, weekly and monthly change values. Depending on results either a blue/green, orange or red indication will be given suggesting that normal or lighter training be considered or that a rest day is in order.


Unfortunately the app doesn’t really allow for any user annotation beyond adding an optional ‘training load score’ (you can make up your own system, 1-10 for effort for example, but can’t mix and match.) Repeatedly we found ourselves wanting to add some detailed notes to a day’s results; to record the fact that a heavy road session had been followed by a lack of sleep or that jetlag was almost certainly a factor – but whilst any online training log worth its salt easily accommodates this, the ithlete app doesn’t. A widely missed opportunity, especially as the ithlete’s own manual lists everything from work-related stress to dehydration and diet being contributory factors.


HRV is a crucial tool for anyone looking to improve their overall performance (and downright essential for those who love to crunch every available number) and the ithlete is a brilliantly simply way of collecting the data. A shame this is let down buy an app that really needs to be thoroughly updated in order to deliver real user satisfaction. Certainly the pros outweigh the cons, but a reworked and much more user-friendly app (one that also includes the ability to record HR during exercise – currently a separate app of another £6.99) is needed to help propel the ithlete into the realms of the indispensible.


ithlete ECG receiver £39.99, or bought in combination with the Cardiosport HR chest strap £59.99 – chest strap available separately at £29.99 and ithlete app retails at £6.99.


Further details and online purchase via


Note: v2 of the app allows fuller notation on each record made, along with a sleep quality score of 1-5.

Extras Recovery Reviews


We hope we’re not getting to ‘sciencey’ here, but breathing relies on muscles. And like the other muscles of the body, those involved in respiration can be trained to maximise their efficiency. For years now the major player in training these muscles has been the Power Breathe ( and its imitators, small handheld devices that look not unlike a ventilator and which rely on slowly increasing the ‘load’ or resistance across a program of daily breathing exercises. Now there’s a new kid on the block which could go head to head (lung to lung?) with the Power Breathe…


Developed by Progressive Sports Technologies, based at the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University, the RespiBelt is, to put it in reductive terms, an elasticated belt that attaches just below the pectorals or breast and can be adjusted with Velcro webbing to increase or decrease the resistance on breathing. The unique selling point here is that, unlike the Power Breathe, it can be used during training sessions on the bike (or indeed run) to deliver results in tempo with whatever workout you already had planned.


In terms of use, things couldn’t really be simpler: line up the tabs with the marks on the Velcro webbing to increase or decrease the level of additional workout and slip the belt on; then just cycle or workout as usual whilst the RespiBelt does its thing. Gradually increasing the load over several weeks (which is recommended for maximum benefit) means that the device never feels constrictive and on testing Cyclo noticed tangible results within ten days. There seems to be a wealth of credible science behind the RespiBelt (lots to be found and pored over at and testimonials seem to be coming thick and fast – Mo Farah’s pre-Olympic training regime included its use and even at less elite levels we can certainly see the benefit.


Available in five sizes – XS to XL – and, whilst not cheap at £59.99, adding this to your bag-o-tricks means effective exercising of muscles essential to cycling but all too often neglected. Full details and online purchase at