Meditations on the V-Meter

photo: http://rustybikebell.wordpress.com

There was no need for Rule #74 until the cyclometer showed up on our handlebars. According to the late Sheldon Brown, the cyclometer has been around since the early 1900s.

“Star-wheel cyclometers, such as the Lucas unit, suffered two serious problems. They made an annoying “tink-tink-tink” noise. At high speeds, the star wheel would sometimes turn too far when hit by the fast-moving striker, then, the next time around the striker would hit the tip of one of the star points, sometimes knocking the unit out of position.”

My thought is, these things have been annoying us for much too long. As a youth no one had any measuring device on their bike. There are no old black and white photos of racers staring down at their front hubs to the Lucas meters. Eddy had retired before the Avocet made its debut. He would have caused his to go to failure or he would have removed it because it was extra weight and rubbish.

I bought an Avocet digital cyclometer as soon as I could. It had two slightly inset buttons to better hold water to seep inside. It read speed and elapsed time. That was something to get excited about. Going from no data to data was big, this was going to improve cycling.

Thirty years and many cyclometers later I’m not convinced. My most recent model was a Cateye wireless cyclometer with heart rate and it demanded a new battery every two months…enough! I needed anything else, which made me ask an obvious question- why? Do I care how fast I’m going? I know it’s not very fast and no I don’t really care.

It’s more a question of how hard am I going? Hard or not so hard and again, I’m not trying to quantify this anymore. I’m no quant. I’m beyond quant. It’s not being too old as much as I’ve been riding for so damn long the numbers no longer interest me. Even if I was training for a specific event I have moved past the desire to have data. I did encourage my wife into upgrading to a Garmin 500 as she is into data. I encouraged her because I wanted to know the grades of some of our climbs. I should have kept quiet and emulated a friend who actually went out with a tape measure and long level and quantified the grades to the island’s most “interesting” climbs, bless his heart.

It’s been gratifying to look around on the Sunday group ride I’ve fallen into and notice that some of my cycling friends also have no cyclometers on their bikes. I’m not even sure it’s an interesting point of discussion amongst us. The people who are training with data don’t show up on this ride often because we spend the first 40 km gossiping, riding two abreast, riding a route too curvy, hilly and breath-taking for staring at a watt meter. The second part, I’ve heard*, turns sporty as the big guns get fired leaving bodies scattered along the route home. Training with data requires control of effort. Luckily my people have little interest in that. This Sunday ride is more pleasure than pain and I don’t need a meter to tell me a serious workout was logged.

I was visiting friends who worked and lived in Monaco and was told about the eighty year old owner of the building they rented in. Most every Sunday morning he and his buddies would kit up and go for a ride either east into Italy or west into France. I assume this had been the routine for decades. Eventually they would stop for a nice long Sunday lunch then they ride to the nearest train platform, roll their bikes on the train and return home via rail. Damn, I want to be one of those guys if I get close to eighty. And damn I wish I had a bike and kit when I was there, it would have been a riot to ride with them. I bet those old dudes have V-meters on their bikes.

*either I have turned  back before the official turn around or I’m shelled out so early that all I hear are the distant reports. At some point the return always becomes a death slog and as such, a good training ride.

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121 Replies to “Meditations on the V-Meter”

  1. @Dan_R

    moose, at 85km/h during a descent, stepped on to the road.

    Sad story from a few years back here when a bloke was descending around dusk & came round a corner straight in to Red Kangaroo (6 foot tall, built like brick shithouses). Broke both arms, ribs, some facial bones & smashed his sternum amongst many other injuries…was basically laid up for a long period of time living on his own during which he developed depression & ended up committing suicide.

    Local cycling community pooled some funds to help the family with the funeral costs & there’s a memorial plaque on the cliff next to where the accident happened.

  2. @mcsqueak

    I love having data after the ride, and I particularly like that when you have Strava properly set up it’ll let you how many kms you have on all your components.

    Hadn’t thought about that, when I swap out the chain & cassette soon (getting toward 6,000ks) I’ll enter the new stuff on there to track how far I’ve gone on them separate to the bike itself.

  3. As the Lead Violator of the Velominati Strava club I guess there’s no doubt which side I’m on…

    I would however just throw into the discussion that I don’t see this being about quant v qual . It’s just data until you give it some meaning, and in that respect it doesn’t matter if the data comes from your Garmin or your quads.

    I also agree on the mapping side of it. I found that very useful when I first came to Abu Dhabi and would go on a weekly ride with the club but never be quite sure where we had been.

  4. @Dan_R

    moose, at 85km/h during a descent, stepped on to the road.

    Great to know how fast you are going as you stare death in the face…You must have balls the size of the Prophet if you saw the Moose and then took the time to look down and check your speed before taking evasive action…Chapeau!

  5. @Dan_R

    moose, at 85km/h during a descent, stepped on to the road.

    Scary shit, I once saw a picture of a car that had hit a moose and it was not pretty.

  6. I forgot that I do have a garmin speed / cadence sensor on my bike that I use with a Garmin FR60 HRM / watch. This only gets used when I’m trying to train properly indoors at the five and dime. I largely ignore the cadence but I find the heart rate to be really useful particularly for over/under intervals. I never do anything with the data afterwards, its just for real time info.

    I also have a rough idea of wattage using the rear whel speed sensor based on what resistance setting I’m using on my tacx satori turbo. I doubt its very accurate but having the information does help kills the time.

  7. @motor city

    I also have a rough idea of wattage using the rear whel speed sensor based on what resistance setting I’m using on my tacx satori turbo. I doubt its very accurate but having the information does help kills the time.

    here is the wattage graph thing. http://www.tacxbooster.com/en_remwerking.html if you click in the graph you get an idea of wattage. its certainly cheaper than a power meter.

  8. I confess to being a data hound. It is one of the things that keeps me motivated to keep going out. A gap on the calendar just looks so … messy.

  9. @doctornige

    I confess to being a data hound. It is one of the things that keeps me motivated to keep going out. A gap on the calendar just looks so … messy.

    Ahh, another member just like me.  The support group meeting starts at 1000.  Welcome aboard.

  10. My first intro to the meter was in the 70’s when a kid in the street had a dragster with the 3 speed T-shift on the curved TT, big bars, long sissy seat, candy apple red, fitted with a Sanyo speedo smack bang in the middle of the bars on the stem. It was sooo cool to get a ride on it when you start off in 1st gear, watch the needle arc over the numbers on the black rectangle box, shift to second hitting 15km/h, shift to 3rd and get to 20-25km/h, then run out of road.

    When I took my dad’s Raleigh Europa, I fitted a clicker meter which I thought was the coolest thing as the bike talked back to me with how far places are and how far I’ve ridden. As @Gianni  /Sheldon Brown mentioned the problems at higher speeds.

    When I started to race I got a Cateye Solar. It was the best! Sat in the middle of the bars and I recorded every ride/race I went on. I became a ‘data hound’. Still have the Cateye and log book somewhere in the man cave, or at the folk’s place.


    I changed bikes and didn’t put a Meter on it and felt better without it. Had a few years off and thought I put a Sigma on, rode crapper with it. So I went without and enjoyed and felt better without it. I now have a shitty Meter that rattles. It’s gotta go!

  11. Good to see I not the only dataholic on here, although this entire discussion is clearly in violation of the masturbation principle.

    I’d forgotten clicker meters even existed!Made me remember I had one on my old 5-spd road bike BITD but never went fast enough to get any issues with it. Had a Cateye Mity 2 on my first proper MTB, ignored computers for a bit due to batteries running out, had a wireless Trek for a while before batteries became an issue again, now using an Edge 500 and have become a complete data geek. Strava is great if disturbingly addictive, like so many others I find gaps in the calendar annoying and I just enjoy seeing the kms rack up. So much functionality in that little box too – wish id had one for lap data when i raced motorbikes but datalogging cost a fortune! The Garmin occasionally goes in the pocket to ride by the V, but the whole setup has been improved by a Raceware Direct SRM style mount. Looks much nicer now the 3T stem logos aren’t obscured.

  12. I already have theme music (and meditations) coming to mind for this weekend’s effort. Wrapped the bars in ZIPP Service Course Black and back to 52/42 rings. Black Campagnolo cable housing has replaced the Red. Mechanic and I are now calling my MX Leader The Black Sword!

    The Ramones, Blitzkrieg Bop

  13. unversio – Well ya can’t write that and not put up a photo! Jeez.

    VeloVita – On fire again! You hardly cooled off from the other week.

    I wonder if Oreo (Nabisco?) okayed that or back in the olden days things weren’t so litigious.

  14. @sthilzy

    @Marcus

    Here you go!, Twist, lick, dunk!

    The Yeller one was called the Lemon(d). I got one for Christmas one year, I was so happy with it, it took me a month or two before I stopped walking around with it in my pocket.

    I also got back into the cyclometer after getting a Garmin 500 and have been using Strava. But then the battery died a few weeks ago and I haven’t recharged it. And it’s been way more fun to ride without it.

    The thing a lot of people who don’t work with data on a daily basis is that good data is great, but bad data is worse than no data. The data the Garmin reports is always speeds a little off or a little slow or grades a little too steep or not steep enough. The worst is that you can ride the same climb twice and it will report two different gradients. Everyone who ever rides the Kapelmuur should always ride it with the same gradient!

    I think a service like Strava is most helpful if its accurate and comprehensive, but too many times something happens; either a workout gets missed, or two are merged together, or the data from the Garmin isn’t quite right. I’d love to have Strava be my training diary, but a diary with missing entries is nearly useless and only serves to have you construct a false picture of what was happening.

    And to Gianni’s point, no computer exists that can measure the V, and that’s the only number that matters. How much wattage should a rider my size be able to put out? V. How far should I be able to ride at threshold? V. What makes up a long ride? V.

    So I’ve gotten rid of it again, and I’m back to riding with the V-Meter. On key rides (which are the only ones I was ever posting publicly to Strava) like Cogals, races, and things like Haleakala, I will take it in my pocket and hope the data comes through OK or I’ll put it on the bars and keep the screen set to off if I’m worried the jersey pocket will bugger the signal. And then I’ll take it off.

    Ride on feel, baby. Vive la V-Meter.

  15. I frickin’ love my Garmin.  Everything about it.  I love the data, I love all the esoteric numbers it give you, I love the beeps, I love the blue backlight, I love the cadence/speed sensor gadget, etc.  It is a COOL device.

    But then, I’m a bit of a gadget junkie, so why wouldn’t I love such a cool gadget.  I do like looking at the numbers, but they certainly don’t rule my life or take precedence over the enjoyment of the ride.  For me, it’s a happy confluence of my love for cycling and my love for nifty electronics.

    Besides, when you’re riding in the dark and the only thing you can see is whatever’s visible in the cone of your headlamp, the Garmin display gives you something else to look at.

  16. @mcsqueak the deer in WI are in heat right now, and it’s the beginning of gun-deer season.  I’m going to have to slalom around the road-kill on my ride this weekend.

  17. @The Oracle

    I frickin’ love my Garmin. Everything about it. I love the data, I love all the esoteric numbers it give you, I love the beeps, I love the blue backlight, I love the cadence/speed sensor gadget, etc. It is a COOL device.

    But then, I’m a bit of a gadget junkie, so why wouldn’t I love such a cool gadget. I do like looking at the numbers, but they certainly don’t rule my life or take precedence over the enjoyment of the ride. For me, it’s a happy confluence of my love for cycling and my love for nifty electronics.

    Besides, when you’re riding in the dark and the only thing you can see is whatever’s visible in the cone of your headlamp, the Garmin display gives you something else to look at.

    I hear that. The garmin/strava combo is pretty cool and I understand why people dig them. For a while strava’s business model was in question. Their free version was so useful there was little incentive to pay for the better version. I never upgraded. I hope they are successful as it is great to see one’s data overlaid on geography. And for the more competitive among us, you can kick someone’s ass without them being there.

  18. @Mikael Liddy

    @mcsqueak

    I love having data after the ride, and I particularly like that when you have Strava properly set up it’ll let you how many kms you have on all your components.

    Hadn’t thought about that, when I swap out the chain & cassette soon (getting toward 6,000ks) I’ll enter the new stuff on there to track how far I’ve gone on them separate to the bike itself.

    My Garmin has a odometer on it. I chuckle when I hear about “setting up strava” or “logging the data into the computer” for the purpose of tracking components. I just write down the date I put stuff on the bike on a fucking piece of paper. A wall calendar works nice. I replace stuff when it is worn or broken.

    And again for the record – I’ve decided I don’t need more bike shit. I need more time to ride my fucking bike.

  19. Do we have a word in the Lexicon yet for the fear of stripping all the meters off all the steeds and riding only on feel? I’ve toyed with the idea but was fear has paralyzed me…

  20. @Ron

    Do we have a word in the Lexicon yet for the fear of stripping all the meters off all the steeds and riding only on feel? I’ve toyed with the idea but was fear has paralyzed me…

    “Feel, don’t think. Use your instincts.” — “Trust your feelings. Let go.” — that’s a Rebel Fighter* or Luke*

  21. “What’s wrong Luke?” — Nothing…

    (edited from original script) — “Ah Fuck! Why am I listening to that Old Man Ben?”

  22. @unversio

    @Ron

    Do we have a word in the Lexicon yet for the fear of stripping all the meters off all the steeds and riding only on feel? I’ve toyed with the idea but was fear has paralyzed me…

    “Feel, don’t think. Use your instincts.” – “Trust your feelings. Let go.” “” that’s a Rebel Fighter* or Luke*

    You could refer to it as “going native”……

  23. @Ron

    Do we have a word in the Lexicon yet for the fear of stripping all the meters off all the steeds and riding only on feel? I’ve toyed with the idea but was fear has paralyzed me…

    Rule #6: Free your mind and your legs will follow.

  24. @frank

    I had the green one (not shown). It got smashed in a crash a few years after I arrived in oz, not to be replaced.

    Now I’m on Strava, but I just use the iPhone app with the phone in my pocket (in a ziplock bag-apparently the moisture corrodes the pins on the jack at the bottom, rendering the phone entirely useless in time).  This allows me to ride entirely on feel but to geek out on the numbers afterwards.  What I like about it is that I can track progress as a trend as well as to see how fast I’m sprinting / climbing, whatever.

    I hear you about reliability, and whilst I’ve had a few instances of the app not properly recording, I’d suggest their strike rate is about 99% for me, so I’m pretty happy with that.

  25. Only here could a thread about reverence for riding without a cyclometer, become a thread revering cyclometers… I just have a clock so I know I’m late for work or to get back to the missus… Odo/avg speed for events, that’s it. Not sure I’d be keen to strava each commute on my bikes. I like the back pocket idea for training rides.

  26. OK number nerds, here’s a question for you:

    I was on my rollers last night, which I don’t use very often but I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of setting up my trainer and swapping my rear wheel out.

    I had my Garmin on to record speed and cadence. I was easily able to get up and over “40kph” without any trouble.

    Riding outside, I very rarely ever reach that fast on flat ground. A comfortable relaxed speed for me is more like 25-28kph, and really working it I’ll be in the low 30s.

    Is it the simple lack of wind resistance that allows such a ‘speed’ on rollers? Or do the rollers themselves somehow cause the Garmin to mis-measure speed?

    I find speeds reported while riding my trainer reflect my real-world speed very closely.

  27. @Beers

    Only here could a thread about reverence for riding without a cyclometer, become a thread revering cyclometers… I just have a clock so I know I’m late for work or to get back to the missus… Odo/avg speed for events, that’s it. Not sure I’d be keen to strava each commute on my bikes. I like the back pocket idea for training rides.

    I think it may be the least-followed rule. There just seems to be a desire with a lot of people to quantify their rides as something more than just having fun. Totally guilty of it myself.

  28. @eightzero

    @Mikael Liddy

    @mcsqueak

    I love having data after the ride, and I particularly like that when you have Strava properly set up it’ll let you how many kms you have on all your components.

    Hadn’t thought about that, when I swap out the chain & cassette soon (getting toward 6,000ks) I’ll enter the new stuff on there to track how far I’ve gone on them separate to the bike itself.

    My Garmin has a odometer on it. I chuckle when I hear about “setting up strava” or “logging the data into the computer” for the purpose of tracking components.

  29. @mcsqueak

    OK number nerds, here’s a question for you:

    I was on my rollers last night, which I don’t use very often but I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of setting up my trainer and swapping my rear wheel out.

    I had my Garmin on to record speed and cadence. I was easily able to get up and over “40kph” without any trouble.

    Riding outside, I very rarely ever reach that fast on flat ground. A comfortable relaxed speed for me is more like 25-28kph, and really working it I’ll be in the low 30s.

    Is it the simple lack of wind resistance that allows such a ‘speed’ on rollers? Or do the rollers themselves somehow cause the Garmin to mis-measure speed?

    Absolutely. The “rolling resistance” on a flat ride is insignifcant compared to the wind resistance (that goes up as as square of the velocity.) Naturally the power required to climb on an incline rather changes the calculus. I’d prefer the nastiest, knarliest sustained climb over pushing wind any day.

    Or as Vader would say “the power to destroy a planet is insignificant compared to the power of the Force.”

  30. @unversio

    “What’s wrong Luke?” “” Nothing…

    (edited from original script) “” “Ah Fuck! Why am I listening to that Old Man Ben?”

    This holds a place in my office right next to the photo of Merckx from Friday’s AOP.

  31. @eightzero

    @mcsqueak

    OK number nerds, here’s a question for you:

    I was on my rollers last night, which I don’t use very often but I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of setting up my trainer and swapping my rear wheel out.

    I had my Garmin on to record speed and cadence. I was easily able to get up and over “40kph” without any trouble.

    Riding outside, I very rarely ever reach that fast on flat ground. A comfortable relaxed speed for me is more like 25-28kph, and really working it I’ll be in the low 30s.

    Is it the simple lack of wind resistance that allows such a ‘speed’ on rollers? Or do the rollers themselves somehow cause the Garmin to mis-measure speed?

    Absolutely. The “rolling resistance” on a flat ride is insignifcant compared to the wind resistance (that goes up as as square of the velocity.) Naturally the power required to climb on an incline rather changes the calculus. I’d prefer the nastiest, knarliest sustained climb over pushing wind any day.

    Or as Vader would say “the power to destroy a planet is insignificant compared to the power of the Force.”

    Also, trainers are designed to provide increasing resistance similar to actual riding.  Rollers: I can spin out with some effort in 50×11 or 53×12.  In the real world I can only do so on a descent.

  32. Wow, this went from riding computer free, to animals causing (or almost causing) near death experiences, to loving data, to Star Wars, to Lego!

     

    I have the Sears Tower and the Empire State Building. Oh, and a few dinosaurs too.

  33. @frank We (family) honor a LEGO DAY every year — whatever date we decide on for that given year. LEGO DAY 2012 was just 2 weeks ago and only me and my 6-yr old son attended this time. We’ll have to have a LEGO DO-OVER DAY

  34. @frank

    Older son has a Lego space shuttle — so far.  It got built, and stayed built.  He also has about 1000 miscellaneous Legos for actually building with.  More to come, I’m sure, on both fronts.

  35. @Adrian

    I’m at legoland as we speak, I’ll see if I can get a good photo

    Jealous! Which land? My childhood dream is to get to Denmark Legoland.

    @unversio  Everyday is LEGO DAY! Boys & I like making garages and carports. Eldest son, 7 has the Hero Factory collection. Youngest, 3, there’s not enough Duplo!

    “D’oh! Those were the droids I was looking for!”         (This was our coffee table.)

  36. @sthilzy

    @Adrian

    I’m at legoland as we speak, I’ll see if I can get a good photo

    Jealous! Which land? My childhood dream is to get to Denmark Legoland.

    @unversio Everyday is LEGO DAY! Boys & I like making garages and carports. Eldest son, 7 has the Hero Factory collection. Youngest, 3, there’s not enough Duplo!

    “D’oh! Those were the droids I was looking for!” (This was our coffee table.)

    Went copious times when we lived in DK & then last went back when I was 17, still just as awesome!

  37.  

    @eightzero

     

    @Nate

    @mcsqueak
    resistance on rollers is all about the friction baby – explained here

    http://www.babol.co.uk/kreitlerwhichrollers.asp

    The thinner the roller, the more resistance (you could also put one of those kooky wind fans on there). But roller speed bears no resemblance to road speed. The only reason I can think of that you should use a speedo whilst on rollers is to set some sort of baseline from which you might then do efforts, eg. depending on your roller diameter, you might have an easy cruising speed of say 40kph. So you do intervals of say 2 minutes at say 45 or 50 or whatever – just so it keeps you honest. But once again, no resemblance to road speed… 

  38. Went only V-meter on the new bike, so much more enjoyable.  I do want a chronograph after seeing Faboo rock one early in the season.  As it is I just pull my phone out to check the time, no Strava even.  Without crappy numbers showing up, I don’t overexert into the wind or up hills, I am much better off for that.

  39. @Marcus

    @eightzero

    @Nate

    @mcsqueak
    resistance on rollers is all about the friction baby – explained here

    http://www.babol.co.uk/kreitlerwhichrollers.asp

    The thinner the roller, the more resistance (you could also put one of those kooky wind fans on there). But roller speed bears no resemblance to road speed. The only reason I can think of that you should use a speedo whilst on rollers is to set some sort of baseline from which you might then do efforts, eg. depending on your roller diameter, you might have an easy cruising speed of say 40kph. So you do intervals of say 2 minutes at say 45 or 50 or whatever – just so it keeps you honest. But once again, no resemblance to road speed…

    The Kreitler flywheel is a nice addition to “even out” the feel.

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