Meditations on the V-Meter

Meditations on the V-Meter

by / / 121 posts

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.

// The Rules

  1. @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.

  2. @unversio Awesome. My favourite Ramones song.

  3. @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.

  4. 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…

  5. @Ron I will start Friday Foto Fuck me! Days with The Black Sword updates. This Friday.

  6. @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*

  7. @The Oracle

    I frickin’ love my Garmin. I love the beeps.

    If you were the guy who I elbowed into Lake Washington this morning due to his beeping Garmin, I apologize.

  8. “What’s wrong Luke?” — Nothing…

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

  9. @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”……

  10. @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.

  11. @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.

  12. Use the Force Luke…

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. @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.

  16. @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.

  17. @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.”

  18. @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.

  19. @frank

    Funny, this is on my desk at work:

    I never got around to painting the top orange though…

  20. @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.

  21. 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.

  22. @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

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

  24. @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.

  25. @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.)

  26. @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!

  27.  

    @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… 

  28. 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.

  29. We are at Legoland in Malaysia but have been to both Denmark and Windsor. The kids like it, I love it!

  30. @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.

  31. @itburns I have never had the chance to use the flywheel. 

    I have the 2.25 inch diameter kreitlers and I always can get a good workout, although I completely agree that it is easy to spin them up to 50 kph or more while riding them. 

    On the rollers, I go by time and heart rate for indices. 

  32. @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…

    Awesome, thanks for the info everyone.

    According to the specs online, my rollers are 85mm (or 3.35 in) in diameter. They are some cheap-ish “Travel Trac” brand rollers from Performance Bike, but they seem to work OK. While my legs don’t feel “worked out” like they do when I do intervals on the trainer, it certainly gets my heartrate up and makes me sweat a lot.

  33. @itburns

    @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.

    I have the fan, it’s noisy as hell and I took it off.  Seems like if the flywheel “evens out” the feel you’re getting less feedback on the souplesse of your pedalstroke.  I’ve been thinking about putting some strips of paper in my spokes for a bit more resistance.

  34. @Nate

    Some clarification – the flywheel adds resistance (dead weight that has to be spun up) and gives more of a road feel because of the momentum when you stop your pedal stroke.  My experience is that it adds resistance during acceleration, allows a bit longer “spin down” time, but has little effect once you are maintaining a pace.  I have the 3.0 rollers and the flywheel additional resistance allows me to destroy myself doing ladder intervals when needed.

    I have read of people adding a towel under the back roller to add resistance but that seems like a catastrophic failure in the making.

  35. @itburns

    I’ve heard of the towel thing too, and reached the same conclusion about it.

  36. From my recent Legoland trip…

    Love the authentic buckled front wheels from all the potholes…..

  37. for everyone talking about rollers and trainers…yeah, i’ve ridden them, but to me, riding rollers or trainers is sort of like jumping up and down “training” to jump rope for the day you actually have a rope.  same motion, but just not the same.  nothing is better than the actual road in my (totally useless) opinion.

  38. @silkrider

    for everyone talking about rollers and trainers…yeah, i’ve ridden them, but to me, riding rollers or trainers is sort of like jumping up and down “training” to jump rope for the day you actually have a rope. same motion, but just not the same. nothing is better than the actual road in my (totally useless) opinion.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with this opinion.  Roller sessions are when a ride isn’t an option for whatever reason but an indoor workout is.  One good thing about rollers is that as my “roller season” starts (winter – early darkness and end of year work deadlines mess with weekday evening rides) it glaringly shows any bad form that has crept in over the previous months.

  39. @itburns

    @silkrider

    for everyone talking about rollers and trainers…yeah, i’ve ridden them, but to me, riding rollers or trainers is sort of like jumping up and down “training” to jump rope for the day you actually have a rope. same motion, but just not the same. nothing is better than the actual road in my (totally useless) opinion.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with this opinion. Roller sessions are when a ride isn’t an option for whatever reason but an indoor workout is. One good thing about rollers is that as my “roller season” starts (winter – early darkness and end of year work deadlines mess with weekday evening rides) it glaringly shows any bad form that has crept in over the previous months.

    My friend (who inspired me to come back to USA Cycling) went thru a divorce. He held custody of the kids (2 girls). The rollers became his sanctuary. He never gains weight and is now aiming to come back to race again. I wish that I had rollers (Kreitlers) to maintain training. Rollers seem to be a secret weapon for him to stay sharp.

  40. @itburns

    @silkrider

    for everyone talking about rollers and trainers…yeah, i’ve ridden them, but to me, riding rollers or trainers is sort of like jumping up and down “training” to jump rope for the day you actually have a rope. same motion, but just not the same. nothing is better than the actual road in my (totally useless) opinion.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with this opinion. Roller sessions are when a ride isn’t an option for whatever reason but an indoor workout is. One good thing about rollers is that as my “roller season” starts (winter – early darkness and end of year work deadlines mess with weekday evening rides) it glaringly shows any bad form that has crept in over the previous months.

    @unversio

    @itburns

    @silkrider

    for everyone talking about rollers and trainers…yeah, i’ve ridden them, but to me, riding rollers or trainers is sort of like jumping up and down “training” to jump rope for the day you actually have a rope. same motion, but just not the same. nothing is better than the actual road in my (totally useless) opinion.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with this opinion. Roller sessions are when a ride isn’t an option for whatever reason but an indoor workout is. One good thing about rollers is that as my “roller season” starts (winter – early darkness and end of year work deadlines mess with weekday evening rides) it glaringly shows any bad form that has crept in over the previous months.

    My friend (who inspired me to come back to USA Cycling) went thru a divorce. He held custody of the kids (2 girls). The rollers became his sanctuary. He never gains weight and is now aiming to come back to race again. I wish that I had rollers (Kreitlers) to maintain training. Rollers seem to be a secret weapon for him to stay sharp.

    i guess i’m a little jealous of guys who can ride rollers. i’ve tried, god knows i’ve tried.  i tried in front of the tv, i tried with music, i once tried drunk (bad idea).  the longest i ever managed to ride them was about 15 minutes.  i just couldn’t take it.  i no longer have them.

  41. I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned the one glaring advantage of the newer ‘computers to the Velominatus seeking pastures new – route planning.

    With my trusty forerunner 305 I get a simple black line that guides me on new rides. I can spend ten minutes plotting an entirely new route online, then load it up and forget about stopping for signs on roads I’ve never set eyes on before. It completely revolutionised my approach to riding.

    Of course, interpreting the single black line is an art in itself – does this slight kink mean follow the lie of the road, or turn onto that motorway slipway?

    I’ve come to feel like my 305 is at least trying to channel the V too – if it thinks I’m not working hard enough it will think nothing of ‘Roubaix’-ing my route by sending me bouncing and swearing down bridleways.

    It has also given rise to what my friends and I refer to as the UHOD – the Unexpected Hill of the Day. Invisible on the initial route planner, this mount of epic proportions unfailingly looms in the final 20 miles of any ride, with a percentage and length designed perfectly to sap the guns of any remaining ammunition, leaving you enough to crawl home but nothing more.

  42. @Tom

    That’s everything that is bad about computers right there.

  43. @Tom

    I prefer just getting myself lost, no meters  or planning whatsoever.  I have found so many nice rides this way.  I think that is what Brett means.

  44. @itburns

    @Nate

    Some clarification – the flywheel adds resistance (dead weight that has to be spun up) and gives more of a road feel because of the momentum when you stop your pedal stroke. My experience is that it adds resistance during acceleration, allows a bit longer “spin down” time, but has little effect once you are maintaining a pace. I have the 3.0 rollers and the flywheel additional resistance allows me to destroy myself doing ladder intervals when needed.

    I have read of people adding a towel under the back roller to add resistance but that seems like a catastrophic failure in the making.

    I’ve had a friend experiment with chopping up a plastic ice cream container into blades and taping them to his spokes for added resistance – basically making overgear training harder but it did slow him down significantly (added a couple of seconds to his lap time at an outdoor velodrome) can’t see the same not working on rollers.

  45. @minion

    I couldn’t bring myself to disfigure my wheels in such a manner.  How much noise did that setup generate?

  46. @minion

    @itburns

    @Nate

    Some clarification – the flywheel adds resistance (dead weight that has to be spun up) and gives more of a road feel because of the momentum when you stop your pedal stroke. My experience is that it adds resistance during acceleration, allows a bit longer “spin down” time, but has little effect once you are maintaining a pace. I have the 3.0 rollers and the flywheel additional resistance allows me to destroy myself doing ladder intervals when needed.

    I have read of people adding a towel under the back roller to add resistance but that seems like a catastrophic failure in the making.

    I’ve had a friend experiment with chopping up a plastic ice cream container into blades and taping them to his spokes for added resistance – basically making overgear training harder but it did slow him down significantly (added a couple of seconds to his lap time at an outdoor velodrome) can’t see the same not working on rollers.

    My ancient, noisy Cinelli rollers have plenty of resistance. Dented steel drums and crapped-out bearings make for a pretty good pavé simulation. More deterrent than anything — the very idea of riding this torture rack pushes me outdoors in the worst Rule #9 conditions.

  47. @eightzero

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

    Amen to that.

  48. The enduring advantage of the V-meter: I rolled into the café post-ride along with a group coming from a different direction. As they all beeped, booped, and pocketed their computer-gizmo thingies, I was first in line for my espresso.

  49. I had one of these when I was about 8. It was the strava of its day. I covered hundreds of km’s just to see the numbers roll around. A neighbour had one too, so it was a “to the death contest” to see who had the highest mileage covered at any time…….. Im sure I covered more miles then because of that speedo  than some pro-team riders did at the time :) Eventually it broke (Sabotage I’m sure :( ) I I could go back to walking occasionally.

  50. Rode for the first time in an age without a screen blaring back at me from the stem today.

    Fuck

    it

    was

    good

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