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Meditations on the V-Meter

by Gianni / Nov 14 2012 / 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

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