21 March, 2013

Info Overload

We covered this topic in a previous post back in 2009, but we wanted to revisit it since now everyone and their mothers has a smartphone and GPS.

“Sweet. This is what 15 miles per hour feels like.” I was super excited when I got my first handlebar mounted computer.  From then it was downhill so to speak. I talked about cadence, lightweight components, and KOMs.  I replaced the batteries every time it died, but this one time I got lazy and put it off. Then something amazing happened. I started riding without all the information, without the knowledge about how far I had gone, what my average speed was, or what my cadence was. I felt free.

Not caring about numbers and just enjoying your surroundings is amazing. You’re free you can take in the landscape, ride because you like it, and think about things completely unrelated to biking like how to best cook
that random can of SPAM in the cupboard. I know how far my regular loop is and if I want to go somewhere new, I do one of two things: a) go on the internet and see what roads I need to take or 2) get on my bike, start pedaling, and go wherever I want.


Scott knows several randonneurs who cycle brevets without a computer. Years of experience has resulted in the ability to judge their speed very well. Some wear a watch, just so they can keep track of the control closing times, as well as provide feeback about their pace.


I’m not advocating that everyone gets rid of their computer. It is a valuable tool for certain riders and in certain situations; but with the rise of smart phones are they as necessary as before? I use the smartphone and the MyTracks app in my pocket as an aid to know where I’ve gone and where to go if I get too lost. It knows where I’ve been and can upload the map to my computer to see the route when I get home.  Others have taken up using GPS units that not only triangulate your position, but also tells you your speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, and segment info amongst other things.

So this whole thing begs the question...do you keep an eye on your performance and if so, how do you do it?

Btw, we uncovered 4 sets of MK1 50.4 cranksets and 5 sets of Dajia Lowrider Racks and we're blowing them out.

-Igor and Scott

19 comments:

Joseph said...

I ride with a Garmin GPS watch. I tend to split my rides between fun, rambling rides through the country or single track and race training. I enjoy both for different reasons. But I use that watch for both. For race training, I can use it to keep track of interval timing or heart rate (that's about as complicated as I get). And when I'm off on a ride for the sake of riding, the computer is easy to ignore since I have to take my hand off the bar and twist my wrist to read anything. I can't see the face when I'm in any normal riding position, so it's rarely on my mind when it doesn't need to be. Best of both worlds, IMO.

But, on the other hand, I like data, I've always liked measuring things. It's a pleasure for some people and a useless distraction for others.

Gunnar Berg said...

Agree. I gave up my computers several years ago. (Age had slowed down my pace anyway.) It is amazing how much I missed being too fixated on a computer.

lawschoolissoover said...

I've gone back and forth. I really prefer just a map (these days, pretty much, a smart phone) but when I'm doing a ROUTE, a cue sheet and an odometer are nice. I tried, many years ago, to get Cateye interested in producing a tiny odometer/trip odometer-only computer (the head would small enough to be mounted under handlebar wrap), but...no dice.

Upshot: I finally decided to buy a wireless computer. Sensor stays on, the head goes in the map section of my front bag along with a cue sheet for when I need it, and otherwise, it stays at home. I also have my phone in a bag pocket in case I get really and truly lost and need the GPS to find my way home.

I'm not a monkey. I don't ride to perform.

GeekGuyAndy said...

While some feel like a GPS might be adding to their mental load while cycling, I find it greatly reduces mine. I love the ability to turn wherever I please and know that I'm not lost, ever. On non-expert group rides that have a predetermined route, there was often confusion at intersections at to which way to go, and I would just roll along because I always had the route on hand.

Cue sheets are also designed by the devil. Have you ever had to follow one made by a lousy leader? The road names may have changed 10 years ago but they didn't care to update it. Half the time the distances don't add up. If you took a detour, now your odometer is off the for entire rest of the trip. On organized rides, I find I am frequently directing people where to go when they stop to figure out what they missed in the cues.

Heart rate, cadence, and Strava's "suffer score" are another matter, and one which I don't currently have any interest in. I like riding, and don't care about exercise.

I do have other gadgets on the bars though. As a type 1 diabetic, I need to know where my sugars are at. It's a real pain to stop and check my sugar level during a group ride, so instead I use a continuous monitor that wirelessly transmits a reading to a receiver every 5 minutes. I mount that onto my handlebars. This is certainly information overload, but it means I can ride all day and eat and drink as necessary without bonking form running out of sugar. I no longer need to stop to check, and spring for a few minutes to catch up again.

Wes Ewell said...

I like to focus on the sights, sounds, smells, and enjoyment of a ride. I do note start and end times, though, and when I get home I measure my route on Google Earth. That way I have an idea of my performance without the distracting paraphernalia.

Anonymous said...

I suppose if you're training for competition, you would want to keep track of your improvement. Nothing wrong with that, as I'd be doing the same thing. But I gave that up years ago and have cycled just for leisure. I have not used a computer since. I did two around-the-world trips (1996 and 2004), and I left the computer home! From just years of cycling, I can pretty much figure out how far I've covered and how fast just by looking at my watch. For me, computers are just too distracting. To each his own.

Janice in GA said...

I don't have a smart phone, and probably won't have one in the foreseeable future. I don't ride far or fast these days, but I do like to track my mileage, just to see how I'm doing from year to year.

All my bikes have basic bike computers. But I don't obsess over them.

M.caspar@unitybox.de said...

I bought an old "Tachometer" from the 60s. I only need to know how fast I am and how far I'm gone. I got it with zero kilometers from stock and love it!!!

Michael from Germany

Anonymous said...

My most enjoyable rides have always been without technology of any kind. If I'm riding on a route I know I'll usually just put my Garmin Forerunner in my jersey pocket and download the the data when I'm finished. That way I have the both of worlds a carefree ride and dat to crunch.

Chris Allen said...

Chris Allen,
I bought a Cateye computer when they first came out in the early 80's. Rode with the thing for about a month before I gave it away. I got tired of knowing how slow I was riding and how far away I was from my destination. Ever since then I only use a simple watch. Best I can tell you is what day it is and how many things I saw along the ride that everybody missed while they were staring at a device. Have yet to see a device that tells you how much fun you are having or how peaceful you feel when you are riding.

Unknown said...

Been riding and touring for over 30 years - never owned a cycling computer/odometer (pre cycling computer device).

I NEVER got lost - but I have often arrived at my intended destination later than expected. Or on occasion I simply arrived at an unexpected destination.

I don't cycle to "work out." But I always know how fast I'm going - well sort of, kind of. I do know when I'm tired.

I hope you continue to enjoy riding "unplugged."

Bob said...

I can't see a GPS without my reading glasses and I am not going to take my reading glasses on a long ride. Here are a few things to ponder along with that: Take a compass. Cue sheets from someone that has ridden the route are safer. Country roads all go somewhere. You make your best riding friends when riding while lost. And finally, a GPS won't tell you what you really need to know - where there are loose junkyard dogs.

philcycles said...

Many years ago the Feldmar Watch Company in Los Angeles-still there, BTW, sold a pocket or stop watch holder for your handlebars.
Very handy.
Pihl Brown

Anonymous said...

Started riding in '68 with a Lucas "star" odometer (tick,tick,tick) and a Timex watch on a fat Roman leather band (which left a heck of a tan line but matched my sandals) and a logbook. The odometer was munched by the spokes soon after my first DC in '71 and in the interest of helmetless safety was not replaced.

Put a Huret Multido belt drive odo on when they appeared in the late 70's. When ozone got to the belt 4yrs. later. I didn't feel compelled to replace it.

Never saw a need to install a computer.

Tried the Mytracks thing. Works great, but sans a solar charging device there are better things to save the phone battery for on a long day or tour.

Forward 45 seasons and 193,000 mi. (+ or - 5% I guess) I still am able to enjoy the occasional DC in about the same time I did the first one, while longtime non cycling friends talk about health problems.

Cycling is a great lifestyle. Enjoy your ride!

Anonymous said...

I have a Cateye and about all I use it for is as a clock. Occasionally use it as a speedometer especially if I'm trying to break the speed limit in our small town ( I want a speeding ticket on a bicycle)

Rick Risemberg said...

I used a computer briefly but found it distracting. Since I'm not "training" for anything-- I ride for transportation and pleasure--I don't need to know my speed in any but the most approximate terms. My rides vary wildly, from three to seventy miles, and I usually get where I'm going ahead of time, as I ride slightly faster than I think I do. That's fine with me. I enjoy looking at the scenery.

If I'm going someplace new I look on a online map to judge how far it is and perhaps choose a route.

Once in a while I get lost--as far as you can get lost in a big city whose main roads you know--but it's always been rewarding so far.

Anonymous said...

I had a computer but threw it out because all it did was tell me how slow I was going into head winds and how amazingly awesome I was with a tail wind. ;)
Allan Pollock

Anonymous said...

"Years of experience has resulted in the ability to judge their speed very well."

Years of experience with a speedometer no doubt.

Dale said...

I got rid of my computer after messing up my back as I felt it was more important to listen to my body and let that limit my efforts. I do use strava on an iphone in my saddlebag or pocket which allows me to see where I went and how fast, but I only look at it after the ride.