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. YES!! Awesome, Gianni! I’ve been contemplating this lately too. I really don’t care about numbers. My riding these days is purely for fun and to get out there because I have a lot else going on in my life. I know I’m not very fast. Why do I need help?

    I was contemplating pulling off my goddamn Vetta computer because it just dies when it feels like it and totally shuts off. Happened the other day and I spent a minute wondering what my total kms would be when I should have been enjoying the ride and the beautiful leaves.

    I do like knowing total distance but boy oh boy, this has me considering just ditching them. Like the smooth looks of the bikes and bars without them anyway.

    Great one! And yeah, I hope I’m living somewhere when I’m 80 that allows me to ride into one country, or another, then take a train home. Let me write THAT down as my training goal!!!

  2. I just got a Garmin 500. It was so cheap I couldn’t pass it up. I like the data myself. But I can also see, especially with things like Garmin’s, where you get too focused on the numbers. I tend not to pay attention to the computer out on the road (“Dooode, How many watts are you doing right now? My coach said not to do anything over 250 today.”) as it’s distracting. But I do like to crunch numbers at home, off the bike.

    And I can see where Strava segments become like Vegas hookers to a sex addict; totally useless and harmful, but fun at the time you’re doing them.

  3. bought my first cyclometer a few months ago, and immediately was fascinated by knowing my speed and annoyed with looking at my stem every 12 seconds. as soon as the battery started dying, I removed it and have no plans to replace either the battery or the meter, ever. are my guns blasting with pain? no? then i’m not going fast or hard enough, period.

  4. Being new in Belgium I bought a Garmin Edge 500 just to find out where the hell I went on my Sunday morning rides with the local club (http://www.twc-hoekske-maleizen.be/).  There were so many killer climbs that they routinely took me on I had to know where they were.  I would say it paid for itself after one month of awesome rides.  I never much looked down at the display as most of the time it was reflecting sunlight back into my face but the route recording was well worth it.  I did, however, keep close attention to the time of day because I was only given a four hour window by the wife and that was not negotiable.

  5. I once found myself out on a ride with exactly 3 time-pieces or at least 3 pieces that could in one form or the other tell me the time including the cat-eye.  At one point I found myself actually wanting to know the time but none of my three time pieces could actually tell me the one thing I wanted to know.  Distance travelled, average speed, heart rate everything but the actual time.  In the end I gave up and asked a pedestrian.
    I have now ditched my combined watch and heart rate monitor when during another ride it stopped its incessant beeping because I was “in-zone” or maybe I was “out of zone” I am not sure which.  Anyway at the time I was cycling through a disused railway tunnel converted to a cycle path.  So picture the scene.  I am travelling down a dark tunnel, there is a light at the end, I am travelling towards the light.  My heart rate monitor stop bleeping………………….

  6. 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.

    I like seeing my overall progress, and being able to see year-over-year improvements (I’ve been using Strava since 2010). Of course, you could get the same info by logging everything by hand in an Excel spreadsheet or similar, but I like being able to combine laziness with technology and have Strava do it for me.

    @scaler911 do yourself a favor and make the main screen only show one thing, like your current speed or the time of day or something like that. It makes collecting ride data easy while keeping you from becoming distracted during the ride with all that data.

  7. @Overijse  That was a good purchase. If I moved to Belgium, knowing where and how steep all these hidden climbs are would be very important. And how to get home again might be a good thing too. When we were there last spring I never knew where I was. Especially in the van, hurtling around the country by highways and secondary roads, in equal amounts.

    @E    Clear!

  8. Nice one @Gianni!  It’shard riding in a group (for me) using a V-meter.  I need it at the moment to reign me back when I get to the front as the “Easy!” shout doesn’t come till I’ve opened a gap (on a couple of occasions during the Scottish Cogal).

  9. “Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.” – Steve McQueen.

    Well, Steve was racing cars in LeMans, so there was no need to train. But when not racing or training, crunching data is a fine pursuit. I map rides out with GPS Visualizer, and record the results into Excel.

    During the ride? V-meter only. I use a Planet Bike 9.0, which is simple and reliable. I modified the mount to fit the stem on #1. And even then… when I forget it, sometimes I go harder. I’ve learned to not pay too much attention to it, and just ride off effort. It’s mostly there so I can punch in elapsed time and km traveled at the end of the day.

    And as someone who dismantles their multi-tool and removes the hex keys not needed for my bike – I’ll be damned if you’ll find me riding around with my iPhone. That’s for reading Velominati whist on the loo at work.

  10. I’ve been riding with a clean stem/bars for the past year and it’s great.  I like Strava too, so I stick a Garmin 200 in my jersey pocket.  No data during the ride.  Then I get to re-live the ride later when I upload.

  11. nice one!

    i like having data, but can’t stand the cyclometers. i’m using strava with my phone, which i’m keeping in my pocket so i don’t get distracted from the pleasure of the ride.

  12. So many people using Strava…er I have to confess, that I like data and ride every ride I can with a Garmin.  However I don’t look at it at all during the ride, I am not sure why I would want to.  But I do enjoy loading the data on to the PC at the end whilst I am cooling down and just looking at where I have been, and in particular the gradients of some of the climbs.

    I’m not that keen on Strava, the social/competitive nature of it does not appeal to me.  I use ridewithgps and cross match with garmin training center…but I also manually enter in to a spreadsheet…call me paranoid, but I really want a record of all my rides, I put in comments like wind, weather, how the ride felt.  This is not to get any better, it is really just like keeping a diary, if my Garmin broke tomorrow, I really would not care, but I would still log my spreadsheet just for the memories…..

  13. @mcsqueak I’m a  big fan of Strava as well.  I like that I can just turn it on and put it in my pocket and then just ride on sensations.  I have a Cateye Strada Wireless with mounts on Bikes #1 and #2, but none on my other two bikes. Lately I’ve found I enjoy riding without the immediate data feedback more,  but I do like knowing its all being recorded for viewing later at home.  I may just ditch the Cateye – the bikes look much better without it anyway.

  14. @Nate

    I’ve been riding with a clean stem/bars for the past year and it’s great. I like Strava too, so I stick a Garmin 200 in my jersey pocket. No data during the ride. Then I get to re-live the ride later when I upload.

    I’ve been thinking of doing that as well. No reason not to that I can think of. Plus since I switched out my 100mm stem for a 90mm stem, the Garmin looks a little stupid on there as it’s basically takes up the whole “neck” of the stem.

  15. Strava and Garmin, I’m loving it but still use the Sunnto for the odd ride and indoor work outs, just to keep the Stravaneski guessing.

  16. I roll with a Garmin, the nice thing about it is that it allows me to limit what it displays to me. I roll with speed, HR, temperature, and distance. I like a bit of data, but not too much. I do have every computer I’ve ever owned since 1993 though. I find it really interesting that I used to operate comfortably at 185BPM for 30-40 minutes, now that’s pretty much my max.

  17. @Nate

    I’ve been riding with a clean stem/bars for the past year and it’s great. I like Strava too, so I stick a Garmin 200 in my jersey pocket. No data during the ride. Then I get to re-live the ride later when I upload.

    I like this plan a lot! Hmm, maybe I should see if my wireless Cateye computers will record from my jersey pocket…I’d love clean bars.

    scaler – Do you there is such a thing as a sex addict? I know how I’ve reacted to sports stars and such claiming as much. And, just read an interesting discussion on the topic.

    And now things get totally wacky…

  18. @TBONE I hear you there.  My max is definitely around 185 these days.  I guess age has inevitable effects on our on the bike abilities.

  19. My biggest enemy on rides in my mind; about 95% of my rides are solo, leaving me to ride against myself.  When with another cyclist, not drafting, I can push myself immensely further and harder, for the same amount of time & suffering as solo.

    To counter this, I’ve been slipping my wireless cycling computer into my jersey after I turn it on.  I can tell when my cadence needs to be adjusted using my legs, and I don’t need numbers flashing at me constantly, telling me what I should be able to feel with my body.  I only keep it in my jersey pocket because I like to record distances on exploratory rides.

    Hiding my computer is as much Rule #6 as it is Rule #74. It’s easy to get caught up in data.  But numbers only tell limits.  Free yourself from numbers and you’ll free yourself from those preconceived limits.

  20. No computer. I don’t count annual or weekly mileage from each ride. The hours and kilometers from yesterday (throughout the year) are already forgotten and the only hours and kilometers that I need to think about and ride are coming tomorrow. Ride, Rinse, Repeat.

  21. i have no computer on my bike but I do usually have Strava running on my android phone in my pocket.

    I like the way it works and the data it kicks out but I must admit that the main reason i use it is for the segments. For me its the cycling equivalent of territorial pissings.

  22. absolutely Gianni, spot on.  I am not a numbers man.  Data is much of the time, meaningless.  Sometimes helpful, but when I am on this bike, its always a hard ride.  I cannot chose a gear differently (ok, on the ride) and distance doesn’t even matter…its point A to point B.  Enjoy it in the meantime

    and yes, its a pinarello, the aluminum Paris model ergo ’97 or so.  It corroded on the TT (as many did), and the paint was less than good, so I blasted it, and painted it myself, no decals.   There is no mistaking its MY BIKE!  and she is still on the road and with purpose

  23. @Nate

    I’ve been riding with a clean stem/bars for the past year and it’s great. I like Strava too, so I stick a Garmin 200 in my jersey pocket. No data during the ride. Then I get to re-live the ride later when I upload.

    Super idea!  I am an info data whore and I only started using strava this spring for about half my rides and not full time until this September.  I must admit, I LOVE it! 

    But, during the ride, I do not need it.  I really think that I will try the back pocket garmin on the next few rides.  Do you ever have a signal problem with it being in your back pocket? 

    I have loved cyclocomputers since my first two button black Avocet in 1989.  Felt like LeMan when I put that puppy on my bike!  Nothing cooler back then.

  24. @Souleur I love that you have a “bike room”….bookshelves with an absence of books, clean lines with a mere smattering of bike related literature and a couple of damn comfy chairs to be watching some of the best clips of Grand Tours and Classics from….I am assuming that you have a wall to wall flat screen there in HD just out of shot to view it on…and…that’s a great looking paint job…even the seat post…love it!

  25. @Buck Rogers

    I think I’ve had one instance in a year where I accidentally stopped the Garmin by fishing about for something else in the pocket.  That’s an operator error; now I have the Garmin set to beep when it starts/stops, to make sure it’s working.  I don’t think I’ve ever had signal problems.

  26. I’ve never used a cyclometer, it’s a pleasure feel and guess how fast (slow?) I am.

    Being ‘self aware’ while cycling is very important to me.

  27. I blew a wad of v-bucks on the original garmin 705. I was quant.

    While I do like the unit, and put it on my bars for every ride, I am less quant now. While I do like knowing how long the ride was, and seeing where I went on my screen at home, the truth of the matter is I rarely look at the thing during the ride for numbers. Since my jawbones aren’t progressive prescription (distance only) I actually can’t see the display. And stay off my lawn.

    I ditched the dumbfuck speed/cadence sensor. Don’t give a Armstrong. (!) I ditched the dumbfuck HR monitor too, except for uphill time trials (like Mt. Baker.) On an extended climb, that is the one number on the bike I can use.

    However, one function I really like on a planned ride is apre-programimed moving map. I really hate pulling out wet paper maps. I actually can see the highlighted route on the 705 GPS moving map, and this is cool. No need to drag out the iPhone for this.

    Which brings me to Strava. My iPhone is an indespensible part of my ride tools. It is a safety device. I don’t want to use its limited battery on recording quant or dealing with KOM horseshit. Fairly, the Garmin Connect web site basically sucks, but I can make do. Mostly, I just like posting the link to my rides to twitter and here in the V-comments as well.

    Actually, it is rather shocking how bad the Garmin online system (“Connect”) sucks given their investment in cycling. Go figure.

  28. @xced

    nice one!

    i like having data, but can’t stand the cyclometers. i’m using strava with my phone, which i’m keeping in my pocket so i don’t get distracted from the pleasure of the ride.

    I’ve done that too on long rides to find out total elevation gained. Once we all stopped on a climb to fix my wife’s flat tyre. Grrrrr, strava gave me the slowest time on that climb, like #104 so I had to go back weeks later and redo the ride to make sure my shit time did not stay up on strava. Take home message-pause your strava on the iphone if you stop to fix flat tyres.

  29. I love cyclo-computers – and have owned a gazillion different types. Oh how I pined for an avocet when I saw the magazine ads with them next to an Oreo. The fact that i had never seen an Oreo before made the ad pointless to me – but I still knew it was small.

    And the skill of being able to wrap the wire around your brake cable to keep it clean. I never had it.

    My all-time favorite, the Campy Ergobrain. The way it attached to the bars to sit forward of the stem – sheer beauty. The changing of functions via your brake hoods? Fantastic. That it told you what gear you were in? Sounds not that useful, but it actually was – somewhat. The genius of it calculating your cadence based on your gear and speed – beyond genius. And for the first fuckwit who suggests that wasnt useful because it didnt know if you were soft-pedalling – if you are soft-pedalling why the fuck would you want to know your cadence?!.

    I now have a K-edge mount for my Garmin that gets it a bit closer to the Ergobrain look – still a bit bulky but a vast improvement on having the thing sit atop my stem

  30. I have a race computer. It sits somewhere between my ears, It never runs out of battery, And it only measures one thing.

    The V.

  31. @Deakus

    @Souleur I love that you have a “bike room”….bookshelves with an absence of books, clean lines with a mere smattering of bike related literature and a couple of damn comfy chairs to be watching some of the best clips of Grand Tours and Classics from….I am assuming that you have a wall to wall flat screen there in HD just out of shot to view it on…and…that’s a great looking paint job…even the seat post…love it!

    best part brother is this is my work office…and yes, for viewing the Giro, Tour, Vuelta and every single spring classic, pull up a chair friend!  bring beer

     

  32. I have a simple wireless Velometer setup on all bikes. Same model on each that tells me all I need to know, i.e. speed, distance, total, max & avg. The only time I really look at it whilst riding is going uphill. More so to see how slow the butterflies beside me are travelling than anything else. All other info may or may not be looked at when I get home. If I do happen to look at it then it’s probably because I’ve changed or increased my usual route  and may be curious as to the distance.

    I did install Strava and Map my Ride on the phone, used it a couple of times and then…..boring to my mind. If it floats your boat, enjoy the data.

  33. Much like a few others I love the data post ride but tend not to look to closely while I’m out there, my 500 has 3 readings on the front ‘page’ (not that I ever actually use the other 2).

    Speed, time of day & distance covered…they’re the only things I want to know when I’m out riding, the rest I’ll have fun playing with at work.

  34. I am saving my dollars for  Garmin 200 – I’ve had to forego the Strava goodness of my iPhone as it doesn’t last the whole ride and inevitably cuts out right before I really go after a segment.

    The only time I really wish for power data is when I’m trying to pace myself for later in the ride or stay at base.

  35. While I see the charm and regularly enjoy rides where you just ride for the sake of riding, I also love my cyclometer. I have a Garmin 800 for two reasons a) you need a [email protected]#king map if you live in Kuala Lumpur and b) I love pouring over the data both during and after a ride. I enjoy breaking down the output of my monthly mountain time trial run searching for where I lost cadence, where I can go faster, what do I need to work on in the next month to improve. I create a run in my mind, where to stand, where to push, where to back off ( a bit like those boys from “Cool Running” in the bath tub) and then during the ride I will use the little screen in front of me to try to execute my mental plan hoping that my legs will follow my imagination. The best bit is when the pain is all over rolling through the rest of the ride, not caring about speed, cadence or HR, but knowing that for a short moment in time I was in the zone and executed my plan to perfection.

  36. @Auto-X Fil YES –  the iPhone is exactly that.

    Have an Edge 500, LOVE data, to me it’s like internet banking – information any time any where on how poor/unfit you are. It keeps the desire to keep riding burning. Have a spreadsheet that documents the last 10 years of rides – what does it tell me? Basically the only trend is that every ride increases my total kilometres…..no shit, Sherlock.

  37. @scaler911

    I just got a Garmin 500. It was so cheap I couldn’t pass it up. I like the data myself. But I can also see, especially with things like Garmin’s, where you get too focused on the numbers.

    Wife-“do you want to know how far we gone?”

    No

    Wife-“do you want to guess how much further we have to ride?”

    No

    Wife-“Care to guess how many feet we have climbed?”

    Not really

  38. @Adrian

    I want to know if you have been chased by any monkeys? And what would happen if they caught you? I assume they would fuck you up.

  39. @Gianni

    @Adrian

    I want to know if you have been chased my any monkeys? And what would happen if they caught you?

    Most of the monkeys we see are the macaque ones, which are everywhere and are almost considered vermin (we will often see 50+ on a ride). They are quite small (30cm) and relatively harmless. Sometimes the alpha male will run at you if you get too close when the family is crossing the road, but it’s all show more worried about him getting caught in the wheel than any real attack. But mostly they are more interested in the garbage on the roadside than in us. The only bad bit is that the little fuckers will occasionally fling their shit at you from a tree …………. three to four hours in the sun and monkey skat is a unique experience.

    The cool monkey experiences are the bigger sort, howler monkeys and gibbons. Sometimes we have the howler monkeys cheering us on as we go past but they are very shy so you don’t see them…But my coolest experience was seeing a gibbon cross the road in front of me…we were on the steepest mountain route around, the last section is about 28% and I was cooked. All of a sudden out of the jungle walks this meter high jet black gibbon. He crosses the road in front of me (not difficult as I was going so slow), gives me a look that says HTFU and then swings off into a tree. Got to admit that was a bit scary cos I knew if he had wanted to attack I was in trouble as I was redlining.

    Anyway enough Animal Planet….

  40. @Adrian

    All of a sudden out of the jungle walks this meter high jet black gibbon. He crosses the road in front of me (not difficult as I was going so slow), gives me a look that says HTFU and then swings off into a tree. Got to admit that was a bit scary cos I knew if he had wanted to attack I was in trouble as I was redlining.

    Heheheeee, beauty. HTFU’d by a gibbon. Those bastards would have your brains out of your skull in seconds if they were inclined.

    Thanks for the information. Getting lost in Kuala Lumpur on bike and then cornered by some jet black gibbons. Good reason to have a Garmin.

  41. @Adrian

    Thinking about seeing wild animals like that on a ride is crazy.

    I’ve seen the odd deer while out, and I saw a peacock this past summer (hint: they are NOT native here). And when I ride in eastern Oregon I see little chipmunks running around in the dirt.

    The worst is the dogs that want to chase you, but those are usually only around because of their dumb owners. Never had a problem with a wild animal (yet).

  42. @Adrian

    Only gibbons around here are at the Oakland Zoo.  Impressive creatures.  Else we have the standard deer and turkeys.  Turkeys are unbelievably stupid creatures.  Also, I saw a fox once, pretty early in the morning.

  43. @Gianni

    @Adrian

    Thanks for the information. Getting lost in Kuala Lumpur on bike and then cornered by some jet black gibbons. Good reason to have a Garmin.

    And a mobile phone……

    To complete the full wildlife picture we regularly will see scorpions and snakes, have seen hornbills, water buffalo (those are scary mothers) and several 4-5ft monitor lizards. but mostly we just see crazy morons driving cars badly

  44. Gianni, great post. rode most of this fall on my CX bike sans cyclo-computer. it was great

    I will throw the phone in the jersey and if I remember I’ll track with the gps.

  45. Made the decision a year ago not to have a computer on #1 bike.  Only use the one on the rain bike to time intervals, and I suspect when this one dies I’ll be bodging a cheap watch onto the stem instead.  I figure out how far I’ve gone with mapmyride…and no-one in my house cares either…

  46. I accidentally knocked off my Sigma (BC 1909 HR) while riding in the middle of a group during the Tour de Hans. Needless to say I did not slam on the binders so I lost it and have been riding without data ever since. Well not quite. I usually ride with my brother. He has a Garmin 500. His data is my data so I check his segments, distances, elevation gains and average speeds on Strava. Since I always carry my android on rides for safety reasons, I’m liking the above comments re Strava on the phone and pour over the data later. That means I can clean off all the barnacles on the mo-sheen, leave the chest strap in the drawer and use the V-meter only. Nice.

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