Riding Without Data

No Cyclometers Needed.
No Cyclometers Needed.

I’m compliant with Rule #74: no Garmin, no cyclometer, just an uncluttered cockpit. I’m not anti-data, if I could generate some awesome data I’d like to know about it. If I was racing I would train with data. I just got bored with looking at the numbers and not doing anything about them. When my Cateye cyclometer/heart rate monitor demanded yet another bi-monthly battery change, I took the whole thing off and never looked back. Total milage, elevation gained, I no longer care about these numbers.

Can you ride without data? Does a ride even happen if it doesn’t show up on Strava? Bretto brilliantly introduced the V-meter three years ago. It was an idea that flew in the face of all the new technology we needed on the bike. Push on the pedals and if in doubt, push on them harder.

I did buy into a heart rate monitor or two in my time. Early on we used them like kids used the early alcohol breathalyzers installed in bars. That was an ill conceived notion if there ever was one; it’s a damn bar, only young drunk males are going to use breathalyzers and it won’t be to see if they are too high to drive. Rather, they are going to use it as a drunkometer, to see who can get drunker. For us it was young males on bikes, I’m gonna peg this HRM, see, see, I can get a higher number than you because you suck.

Without data I know when I’m going faster than 65 kph, things do change at those speeds. And I know when I’ve done a 160 km ride only because it’s a route I know from past centuries. I do live on an island. But I still make deposits at the pain bank at regular times. Being too big to climb and living on the side of a volcanic island has made every ride something. When I was younger I couldn’t enjoy a forty-five minute ride, I actually wouldn’t go on one. What was the point of such a short ride? Now forty-five minutes can mean forty minutes of steady climbing and five minutes of descending. That’s a ride.

Getting shelled by your friends tells you something, something you already knew, they are faster. Riding with friends who are faster is the best training aid. I figure it’s a quality training ride if I barely make it home. Do more of those, keep doing them a little harder.

Keepers Tour 2012 was doubly fun for the training required before the trip even started. We all need incentive to crank up that kind of fitness. I’m sure the 200 on 100 Cogal riders felt the same way; this ride is going to hurt but it will hurt less if I murder myself in the months before. The Spring Campaign is looming and I’m already devising  training rides that will either make me fit or ruin me, or both at the same time, which is what usually happens.

 

Related Posts

116 Replies to “Riding Without Data”

  1. If strava and powermeters were around when that guy made that Video, he’d be all over them.

  2. Yep, if you aren’t riding so hard your brain is about to explode out your ears, you aren’t using Strava properly. Best interval training tool ever.

  3. I live by the V-meter and even had one built into the paint scheme on my bike.

    I like the Garmin 500 (get the black one) but I think it’s only 1 in 3 rides where I ride with it at all. After a day of staring at a computer screen, it’s nice to be fully analog for a change.

  4. @Marcus

    I wonder how many of you “data-free” riders who bag power meters have actually used one?

    When they are used with even a modicum of common sense, they make you train oh so very much harder.

    The thing about power meters is that they remove any chance of you kidding yourself.

    But in keeping with the Masturbation Principle, anyone who talks about their wattage is generally a cunt and should probably be killed.

    I agree with him…

    Training with power has made a huge difference to me in the relatively short time I’ve been doing it.

    I have a measurable way of showing how much I have improved, and I have a way of communicating with a coach in another country somewhat more accurately than simply telling him I felt good today.

    Yes it’s true that it doesn’t teach you how to find your way through the pain cave but it helps you avoid burning a match that you might be grateful to have later on.

    Would I use it if I wasn’t racing ? Probably I wouldn’t have started, but now I can’t imagine not using it at least as part of my Bike #1. I think even in casual riding it has its uses and it makes people better group riders.

    For example you see how foolish it is to get out of the saddle and stomp up a little rise doing do 500 watts for 20-30 seconds, then coast over the top and down the other side to bring your thumping heart under control.

    Or, when you get to the front if you think “I’ll sit on the same speed” it doesn’t allow for perhaps a small incline or a change in wind direction so actually you do end up surging in effort, if not in speed. With a power meter you can think “I’ll sit on 200 watts” and it keeps everything nice and steady for the whole group.

    As for them being expensive, a Powertap hub is under US$1000 – in the scheme of stuff we buy for our bikes it isn’t that much.

  5. I don’t know. I use a power meter at the beginning of long rides to hammer down. When the fatigue spreads and keeps you down, I put away the numbers and keep trying to hammer down.

  6. Exception should be made for older bicycle cyclists who have had their heart re-plumbed by a surgeon. A heart monitor lets you know the engine is still running and the tachometer is not still in the red zone AFTER you’ve reached the summit and want to scream down the other side. Very useful information!

  7. @viking

    Exception should be made for older bicycle cyclists who have had their heart re-plumbed by a surgeon. A heart monitor lets you know the engine is still running and the tachometer is not still in the red zone AFTER you’ve reached the summit and want to scream down the other side. Very useful information!

    I’d think the fact that you haven’t died at the side of the road would indicate whether the engine is still running or not. But you’ve made a good and valid point.  Knowing your zones if you’ve got a dodgy ticker could help your riding pleasure.

  8. “Okay, guys! Can you just put your heels together for me? You’re not looking camp enough yet… That’s perfect”.

  9. @G’rilla

    I live by The V-meter and even had one built into the paint scheme on my bike.

    I like the Garmin 500 (get the black one) but I think it’s only 1 in 3 rides where I ride with it at all. After a day of staring at a computer screen, it’s nice to be fully analog for a change.

    Fully analog makes room for Rule #6. Analog effort:

    1. Warm up…riding in a group and talking trash
    2. Tempo…talking in single sentences
    3. Threshold…grunts
    4. Anaerobic…sheeeeee-itttttt!
  10. I use my very basic Cateye Strada purely for the time and distance. I’m only interested in how far I’ve ridden year to date, and if I’m gunna be late for work/picking kids up/Ale!

    I’m a Strava premium user, but only because of the great cycle training vids they have now for when I’m on the turbo trainer.

    I am ever so slightly intrigued by this though…. http://www.hammerhead.io/

  11. I train with power when I ride in the basement during the winter, but outdoors I use no computer on the bars and just use an iPhone app.  I find that I’m more present minded for not having a visible bike computer.  Also, I used to have a Shimano flight deck and it had a little up/down arrow that showed if your current speed was above or below average.  That little arrow was a slave driver to me and I’m sure I ruined a good number of rides just trying to make sure it always pointed upward.

  12. @ChrisO

    @Marcus

    I wonder how many of you “data-free” riders who bag power meters have actually used one?

    When they are used with even a modicum of common sense, they make you train oh so very much harder.

    The thing about power meters is that they remove any chance of you kidding yourself.

    But in keeping with the Masturbation Principle, anyone who talks about their wattage is generally a cunt and should probably be killed.

    I agree with him…

    Training with power has made a huge difference to me in the relatively short time I’ve been doing it.

    I have a measurable way of showing how much I have improved, and I have a way of communicating with a coach in another country somewhat more accurately than simply telling him I felt good today.

    Yes it’s true that it doesn’t teach you how to find your way through the pain cave but it helps you avoid burning a match that you might be grateful to have later on.

    Would I use it if I wasn’t racing ? Probably I wouldn’t have started, but now I can’t imagine not using it at least as part of my Bike #1. I think even in casual riding it has its uses and it makes people better group riders.

    For example you see how foolish it is to get out of the saddle and stomp up a little rise doing do 500 watts for 20-30 seconds, then coast over the top and down the other side to bring your thumping heart under control.

    Or, when you get to the front if you think “I’ll sit on the same speed” it doesn’t allow for perhaps a small incline or a change in wind direction so actually you do end up surging in effort, if not in speed. With a power meter you can think “I’ll sit on 200 watts” and it keeps everything nice and steady for the whole group.

    As for them being expensive, a Powertap hub is under US$1000 – in the scheme of stuff we buy for our bikes it isn’t that much.

    Shit.  I didn’t realize that Froomie’s middle name started with an “O”.

  13. @wiscot

    I’ll admit to tracking kilometrage. Mind you, for some reason I’m looking less and less at the computer. If I’m doing a recovery ride I’ll put some tape over it to eliminate the temptation to look at speed and distance. It can be quite freeing.

    Here’s an issue/goal for next year. I did my longest ever ride this summer – 157 miles. I felt good at the end as I ran out of daylight. I’d really like to shoot for a 200 mile ride next year but fear there will be no takers to join me. If this was posted as a cogal and only I showed up, would it count?

    200 miles…Sounds very tempting, although I’m afraid Mrs. KW would tell me I’m fuckin crazy. Well, I already knew that.

    That being said, I might be able to convince her to provide some SAG support. Might be worth thinking about.

  14. @JohnB

    Doesn’t a 4 hour gps monitored ride just eat the mobile phone battery anyway?

    my phone tracks 200k and has still something left for possible emergency calls.
    but it’s in my pocket, nothing on my bike, it rides so much better without having to look at something you know pretty much anyway

  15. @Puffy

    @wiscot

    I’ll admit to tracking kilometrage.

    Is that a word now? I hope so… I’m pretty fed up with living in a metric country and getting strange looks when I use it. We don’t measure distance in miles so why the hell would I be racking up mileage?

    [/rant]

    What’s wrong with ‘distance’?

  16. I use a Garmin and upload rides for comparison and tracking kilometrage, but don’t get too worked up about numbers. I moved recently and map and download routes and it’s helpful getting away from heavily traveled roads. Never used strava, don’t feel the urge. I just wanna have fun. Since I’ve embarked on the path to Rule Compliance, I’m experiencing a higher level of enjoyment…fulfilment…on the bike. Rule #74 compliance is in my future. It’s inevitable.

  17. I am afraid I am not going to jump on the anti data band wagon.  I do not race, I am not even particularly competitive (on a bike).  When you are the size of a small rhinoceros you come to quickly understand that although you will be off the back on a climb….you will then be out the front on the downhill…to some extent I feel a little guilty about people waiting for me at the top of climbs, because I don’t want to hold back on the other side…especially with all the effort I have been through!

    However.  I like to capture data because it gives me a history of my riding.  I do not micro analyse data, in fact I only inspect it periodically….one season to the next or even just looking back over past years.  I record all the usual data including HR and weight and map my rides as well.  I do not however use Strava (personally I use ridewithgps and garmin and a self recorded spreadsheet).  I have 2 linked friends on ridewithgps just so I can see when they are out and about and I am not interested in sharing my data.  Sharing data is like swinging….it seems a good idea at first but pretty quickly loses its appeal.

    Capturing data is like taking a photo.  It records an event, it can evoke memories days, weeks, months or years afterwards especially if you add comments but it does not validate a ride.  Only your legs and mind can do that.

  18. @RedRanger

    @PeakInTwoYears I just use strava and google maps. out here there are so many trails that dont show up on any site or even google maps. today I got pretty lost and then panicked cause I needed to get to my truck to get me to work. I have an S4 if you have any recommendations on apps.

    Right, then. You want either Backcountry Navigator Pro or Gaia GPS. These are both highly functional apps. With either of them–and topos downloaded to your phone, which is simple–the only disadvantages of your phone in comparison to a dedicated GPS unit are shorter battery life and no waterproofness. The latter concern is easily dealt with (aloksak), and the former can be ameliorated by using downloaded maps and running the phone in airplane mode.

    I used Backcountry Navigator to map the mtb trails across the highway from our house. More accurately, I used it to gather .gpx data and know where I was when I was riding, and then I dumped the .gpx data into some topo software on my Mac and then ran it through Photoshop. Now I can share the map via print or image file, and I can share the .gpx data with the tech-savvy. By the way, and I cannot overemphasize this point, UTM is the only acceptable coordinate system for serious people. Lat-long, in any format, is for losers.

  19. @Nate

    It was big of Eddy to let his teammate win the Belgian national road race that year. That must be Herman Van Springel, the 1971 champ.

    Correct! Merckx was Belgian champ in 1970 and world champ in 1971 (at Mendrisio).  Herman van Springel (Monsieur Paris-Bordeaux to his pals) was Belgian champ in 1971 and only rode for Molteni from 1971-72. I’m guessing the pic was taken at the beginning of the 72 season when both would be wearing the appropriate jerseys.

  20. @Puffy

    @wiscot

    I’ll admit to tracking kilometrage.

    Is that a word now? I hope so… I’m pretty fed up with living in a metric country and getting strange looks when I use it. We don’t measure distance in miles so why the hell would I be racking up mileage?

    [/rant]

    I hope so! I was trying to think of the metric equivalent of milage and as we all know, all Velominati measure distances in kilometers. So your ride or cumulative distance would be your kilometrage.

  21. @Mike_P

    @viking

    Exception should be made for older bicycle cyclists who have had their heart re-plumbed by a surgeon. A heart monitor lets you know the engine is still running and the tachometer is not still in the red zone AFTER you’ve reached the summit and want to scream down the other side. Very useful information!

    I’d think the fact that you haven’t died at the side of the road would indicate whether the engine is still running or not. But you’ve made a good and valid point. Knowing your zones if you’ve got a dodgy ticker could help your riding pleasure.

    It was my HRM that sent me to the doctor for my stent last Dec.  If I was going by V meter alone it would have been pegged at Hard As Fuck, but the fact that it was ~25BPM lower than my usual HAF I knew something wasn’t right.

  22. @seemunkee

    @Mike_P

    @viking

    Exception should be made for older bicycle cyclists who have had their heart re-plumbed by a surgeon. A heart monitor lets you know the engine is still running and the tachometer is not still in the red zone AFTER you’ve reached the summit and want to scream down the other side. Very useful information!

    I’d think the fact that you haven’t died at the side of the road would indicate whether the engine is still running or not. But you’ve made a good and valid point. Knowing your zones if you’ve got a dodgy ticker could help your riding pleasure.

    It was my HRM that sent me to the doctor for my stent last Dec. If I was going by V meter alone it would have been pegged at Hard As Fuck, but the fact that it was ~25BPM lower than my usual HAF I knew something wasn’t right.

    Good to hear!  Conversely, the first time I used my Garmin HRM in the days before it was relegated to my jersey pocket, it was registering 268bpm on a 2% downhill gradient. The fact that my heart hadn’t exploded out of my chest like some John Hurt look-aloke had me thinking that maybe I hadn’t put the chest strap on quite right. Doh!!

  23. @blackpooltower

    “Okay, guys! Can you just put your heels together for me? You’re not looking camp enough yet… That’s perfect”.

    I couldn’t help but use this photo even though it does not help my case at all. The whole article could have been about the picture. I imagine it’s an early season training camp in Italy. They did this on a annual basis, the Molteni team photo with team cars and a bike or two. These guys are built for the Spring Classics now and maybe thinner by May for the Giro.

  24. I think a lot of this bickering could be cleared up if people calmed down and realized that even Followers ride for different reasons, and for different reasons at different times.

    If you are doing a stage race with your club, a hill climb event, some serious fucking race, by all means numbers and power meters might be useful and nice.

    The only pinning on I do is for cross. I don’t need numbers to tell me how I’m doing; I go out to the weekly practice and try to hang with guys I know who are fast. Depending on the result, I’m either doing okay or need to ride more. But for me, handling skills are always the biggest hinderance, since I’m mainly a road rider, not an off road rider.

    On the road, well, I ride a lot of the same loops over the years. If it’s easy and I come home feeling dandy, I’m probably okay. If I feel like a fat fuck and slow as hell, I know I need to ride more, sleep more, and eat less. I don’t road race. I basically want to be on form enough to hang with the local fast group rides, should I choose to head out for them.

    After many years of competitive sports, I’m very good and knowing what my body is telling me. Also, after many years of competitive sports, the allure of cycling, for me, is testing myself against myself. But, when the test is something off the bike (work, career, marriage, home buying, etc.) cycling is purely a way to let my mind go for a bit & I don’t care what my numbers say.

    It all depends on why you are swinging the leg over the bike on that day.

  25. @ChrisO

    Or, when you get to the front if you think “I’ll sit on the same speed” it doesn’t allow for perhaps a small incline or a change in wind direction so actually you do end up surging in effort, if not in speed. With a power meter you can think “I’ll sit on 200 watts” and it keeps everything nice and steady for the whole group.

    True, and a speedometer only screws that up but that skill. Riding tempo, has always been about riding at the same effort, not speed. People should be able to ride tempo at the front of a group, even if it’s a group of two people and keep the effort even, not the speed. No data necessary. 

  26. @Gianni

    @blackpooltower

    “Okay, guys! Can you just put your heels together for me? You’re not looking camp enough yet… That’s perfect”.

    I couldn’t help but use this photo even though it does not help my case at all. The whole article could have been about the picture. I imagine it’s an early season training camp in Italy. They did this on a annual basis, the Molteni team photo with team cars and a bike or two. These guys are built for the Spring Classics now and maybe thinner by May for the Giro.

    That’s what I am saying.  So, aside from Merckx and Van Springel, who else is on the team?  Herman Van Der Slagmolen? Schoenmaeker?

  27. I don’t find myself riding any differently with the Garmin than without, but, I’m a sucker for any type of gadget, so it’s kinda a foregone conclusion that I’d have one on the bike.

  28. @Ron Having cycled over thirty years now and having formerly been a techno-geek, I too know what it’s like to have all the gadgets on a bike and to monitor “all systems” continuously on a ride.  I’ve watched folks, including overweight and out of shape folks, buy more and more gadgets and more and more expensive bikes, all in the hopes of improving their times.   I’ve seen lots of people become slaves to their bike techno-stuff.  First, the easiest way to improve your cycling times is to work like heck when you are working and taking it REALLY easy when it’s time to rest.  Second, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to simply lose a couple pounds off your body instead of buying the newest, latest and lightest bike.   All the gadgets (speedometer, odometer, heart rate monitor) don’t make you faster.  Cycle with folks or cycle alone but mainly pay attention to what your body tells you.  You will find that on certain days you can go harder than you think you should be able to go and on other days, not fast at all. That’s your body’s way of telling you it’s time to rest more.

  29. I’m a bit torn on this one. I used to keep all my mileage in a notebook (How far, who with & notes) which lasted maybe 10 years but that faded away as I got more of a life. Wish I had kept it up as its kind of cool to go back and peruse old rides. I’ve most always had  bike computer/GPS to track time & miles but it is always subjective depending on the wind and who you are with. Used a heart rate monitor, excessively at times, too… Then comes Strava where you can micro manage every foot of your ride along with power & HR data and compare that to you friends, team mates and arch enemies. That’s all pretty subjective too since wind and group size has a lot to do with who wears the crown on any given segment. The power meter is surely the best  way to gauge your effort but the days when my Garmin gets left at the house and its just me and the bike and a group of riders – those are some of the most fun rides I’ve done. Can’t look down at your Garmin too see if your heart is going to explode- you just go till you can’t. How far did i go? Does it matter? Figure it out … I’ve ridden these roads a million times! Get on the front and tap in to that inner cadence meter that doesn’t get used nearly enough. If the ride doesn’t really happen because Strava didn’t record it, you can always rely on the V-Meter… It always works!

    VLVV

  30. Our Saturday gruppo that we lovingly refer to as the witch curse IV is making an effort to cut the ride duration under 3 hours. We decided to keep the entire route intact, but push the etiquette to ROAD RACE rules. Normally there is one water stop (Coca Cola) at the 45 km checkpoint, but it is going to be refreshing to put this stop out of mind. Interestingly there may be only six riders for this inaugural gruppo — and then more to start as we continue.

  31. I “trained” all of this past year without the computer, hr monitor or pt wheel.  Tremendously liberating! Had not had this much fun since I started riding……a measly “V” years ago.

  32. I just noticed something about the lead picture. It’s taken on a beach and the tide is coming in! The car to the right is already getting its wheels wet and given the left-hand drive set up, whomever has to drive it outta there is going to get wet feet unless he clambers through the passenger side.

    No wonder everyone looks so glum: “hurry up and take the damn picture already!”

    Also noteworthy: if that’s the whole team, it’s 17 riders. Compared to today, that’s a small squad, but then they didn’t ride as many races at once or on as many continents.

  33. @PeakInTwoYears

    I used Backcountry Navigator to map the mtb trails across the highway from our house.

    Aww, that’s no fun. Part of the excitement of riding MTB trails is having no idea where you are or how to get back to civilization. When you find yourself calculating how much protein is in a 2″ rubber tire, you know you’re doing it right.

  34. @G’rilla

    @PeakInTwoYears

    I used Backcountry Navigator to map the mtb trails across the highway from our house.

    Aww, that’s no fun. Part of the excitement of riding MTB trails is having no idea where you are or how to get back to civilization. When you find yourself calculating how much protein is in a 2″³ rubber tire, you know you’re doing it right.

    on those few days I actually have an entire day off from work or school I dont care about where I am.

  35. @G’rilla

    I’m a navigation geek. I just dig it. On the other hand, not knowing where I am feels like having a rash.

    But I don’t have a Garmin on my road bike, do I?

  36. @eightzero

    Next up on the crap-tastic-o-meter will be the HUD for cyclists. Some twatwaffle will design a google-glass thingy with a heads up display that will display more pointless shit in front of you. Stay home, ride the rollers in front of a merckxdamn HDTV instead.

    what, like this?

  37. As to power meters, it’s all good if you want to use one. I don’t, but whatever, we all have our own path. HOWEVER, don’t keep rambling on during group rides about how much power you’re putting out (or not putting out). I don’t give a flying fuck, and the numbers have no meaning to me whatsoever. 400 watts, 10,000 watts? What are we, lightbulbs now? I have no way to relate those numbers to my effort.

    @ChrisO: Good on ya, but $1000 is $1000. I could spend that on a ton of other stuff that is satisfying to me. I just can’t bring myself to drop that on what I can get a nice set of carbon tubs for. Or throw it at the mortgage. Or food.

    Carry on…………

  38. I loves me some post-ride data on Strava but during the ride the only things showing on my Garmin are speed, distance covered & time of day.

    Nice little feature on Strava (beyond most of the standard features) is the distance tracking for each bike & also any components that you’ve added/replaced.

  39. @Mikael Liddy I have seen that before. In my opinion it’s absolutely ridiculous. Why don’t they just make a computer simulator that you can get on and ride and then track every last metric of your performance. That way you can stay off the roads and leave them less congested for those of us who would like to just ride.

  40. Data and numbers are tools, as such, they are useful if one wants to measure, track, and improve one’s progress.  I rode with a HRM/speed/cadence for several years when getting back into cycling, and it was very helpful and motivating for me to see my improvement, especially while I was recovering from a broken foot that pretty much kept me from doing anything aerobic for a couple of months.  Then, at some point a couple of years ago, the mounting tabs broke off, which coincided with the advent of apps that used the GPS functionality of my iPhone, and I couldn’t be bothered to replace it.

    I now enjoy riding free of immediate data, but also like to be able to look at what I’ve done in the last ride/week/month.  For me the best feature of an app like Strava is its ability to generate the ride profiles.  There’s something supremely satisfying to me about having completed a ride where I keep doing just one more hill and being able to look at the sawtooth like profile that it generates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.