Computer Games

I have never liked computer games, but with the influence of the Co-Habitant I am finally starting to get into them.

Here he is, taking a break after a particularly heated round.

What you need to play: an open road and a fast bicycle. Challenging hills can be introduced after you pass Level 1. Oh yes, and of course you'll need a computer.

After I mocked the Co-Habitant for putting one of these on his own bike, he decided that I was just jealous and got me one for Graham (my Rivendell Sam Hillborne). I reluctantly agreed to try it, and quickly grew to love it - much to my dismay, as there is really no attractive way to attach these things to a bike.

For those not familiar with it, a bicycle computer is basically a speedometer with some extra features. Mine tells me: distance covered during a trip, current speed, maximum speed during a trip, average speed, and total distance covered so far (since installing the computer). There is also a clock, which is handy since I don't wear a watch and extracting my mobile phone requires stopping the bike. If you are training yourself for touring, the bicycle computer helps you measure your progress in terms of how fast you are able to cycle. Keeping track of the distance you have covered is also useful. My top speed so far is 27.4 mph (44.1 km/h), which I reached the other day on the hills in Maine. I know that to the roadies out there, this is far from impressive. But for me, it was shocking to learn that I was capable of cycling this fast. 27.4 mph is of course a downhill speed, but on flattish ground I was consistently cycling at 16-19 mph.

The Co-Habitant is faster, so I guess he won the computer games - and probably will continue to win for a while. But who knows, maybe someday I will catch up.

The main thing that makes me lose speed, is fiddling around with my shifters. I don't shift gears on my usual rides outside Boston, so whenever we go to an area with real hills it takes me a while just to get comfortable with shifting. The Co-Habitant thinks that my friction shifters are an affectation, and if I got "brifters" (brake levers that contain indexed shifters within them) it would solve all of my problems. I feel attached to my wonderful silver bar-end shifters, but I do see his point.

For those interested in touring or in cycling for sport, the bicycle computer can be useful and fun. But beware: Once you have one, it can also get addictive! I know some people who have one on every single bicycle they own and are incapable of cycling without knowing their exact speed or distance covered.  I am not likely to suffer this fate, but I am glad to have a computer on Graham.  And a question for the randonneurs and roadies out there: What speed should I be working toward for touring and for club rides? It would be great to know where I stand.


  1. I know what you mean about bicycle computers, some cyclists resent them for a number of reasons, besides the un-attractiveness you mentioned. However, I find them useful for 2 things, tracking total milage and to track how many miles a given component lasts. They are very useful in this regard.

  2. When's the heart rate monitor coming?

  3. Tom - Nooooooo : )

    Anon - I find mine useful for that as well. I wish the average speed function was more useful though. Because the computer counts every movement of the bicycle (for example, when you walk it), the average is always skewed to be lower than the actual cycling average. I know that I can remove the computer every time I get off the bike, but it's a pain and I usually forget.

  4. It's incredibly helpful hearing this from someone who's consistently two steps ahead. I've been on a city bike for a year and, inspired by Graham Greene and his power to make hills disappear, am getting a Rivendell for longer rides. It just occurred to me yesterday that a charity ride might be fun, while last year I was excited to get groceries! And now a computer? Yep, I can see that happening in the future.

    Can't wait till you start blogging your first long-distance tour.

  5. velouria, i doubt the small amount of time that you spend walking a bike would cause a notable decrease in an average speed over an hour or more of riding. (i'm assuming that walking your bike would include, for example, from your house to your car? that sort of thing?). my computer usually gets activated just from my carrying my bike down the steps of my house, but it doesn't really affect the long-term averages.

    what i like about the computer is that it doesn't average time spent at rest, such as at traffic lights. i've found that my average speed on rides outside of town is around 14-15 mph, while strictly commuting within the city i see about 10-11 mph averages. i have no idea about "target" speeds, but i guess it would depend on the type of ride.

    another feature that some computers have is a thermometer. i find this useful in the winter for knowing whether it's above or below freezing.

    i too became addicted to simply having a clock right there in front of me!

  6. I think if you can average 20mph on flat terrain you should be fine on a club ride. However, many clubs offer periodic "no drop" rides, where the faster riders stop at hill tops and intersections to keep the group together. Might be a comfortable place to start.


    P.S. I just started reading your blog last week and I've really been enjoying it. Keep up the good work!!

  7. somervillain - I don't typically involve the car in my cycling : ) What I meant was walking the bike a couple of blocks through town once you arrive (i.e. I cycle to Concord, then walk the bike a block down main St to look for a cafe). 3-5 minutes of walking the bike at 2mph does make a difference. And then there are places - like cramped town centers - where although you remain on the bike, you are forced to cycle at minimal speed, because there are pedestrians crossing or too much traffic. As you track the average, you can see that those stretches do make a difference.

    Around Boston, my speed is hampered by traffic - both human and auto - more than my abilities. On the Minuteman Trail my average is probably 14mph, because there are just too many other cyclists and pedestrians to feel safe speeding up beyond that. But on an open road I am comfortable with 17-19mph (not in the city of course!).

  8. you mean you rode your bikes to maine? :-)

  9. No, smartypants. But I am talking about my general experience, not this one trip. As you know, I do not drive. 99% of the time, my cycling trips do not involve a car.

  10. SlimPickens - Thanks for your input. An *average* of 20mph on flat terrain, you say? Hmm, I am not quite there yet. Perhaps by the end of the summer. But I really need to find roads that will allow me to do that. On m usual rides to Bedford and Concord MA I only feel comfortable with that speed once I am a good 10 miles outside Boston.

  11. I have a love/hate relationship with my basic wireless comp. I don't think it suits my bike and most of the time I don't think it suits me. In the past I've found myself racing my previous times, with one eye always on the stats. So, these days I resolutely keep it turned off so as I can pootle along and enjoy the scenery.

    Where it does prove invaluable, which is the reason I've still got the ugly thing, is when I go camping on the bike for a few days and follow a route I'm not familiar with. I am a hopeless map reader and would have gone astray in the past without the computer telling me how far I'd gone so as I knew to look out for turnings or landmarks.

    As soon as I pluck up the courage to buy a GPS the little, black box is going!

  12. Feh on brifters.
    First, it's a relatively ugly word. Or at best, it's always struck me as proto-militaristic, like "spork"...
    Second, and more importantly, it's just a matter of training your hand a bit through practice.
    It'll be quieter, more reliable and work with whatever drivetrain you ever choose to use. When his integrated shifter/brake lever tires out in a few years, and the clicks don't hold, and you are smoothly dropping into precisely the gear you need at exactly the time you want it, maybe then he'll understand.
    In the meantime, shift a little more in-town to practice, ease off the pedal pressure as you do so, and you'll surprise the dickens out of him next time you venture to the hills.
    - J

  13. Cyclofiend - I have 2 main problems with shifting:

    1. Hoping against hope that shifting will be unnecessary, I tend to start too late, when the hill is already too steep for me to handle and the bike nearly falls over. In that state, it is especially challenging to take the right hand off the handlebar and pull the lever. And yes, I know that I should shift earlier! I am just spoiled by the Hillborne's ability to take smaller hills, and I generally hate changing gears.

    2. The sound and feel of a rubbing derailleur drives me insane and it takes me a while to adjust it just right after a major gear change. So it isn't just a matter of pulling the lever once and pressing forward, but fiddling with both levers until there is no rubbing sound. Is there anything I can do about this?

  14. I once had a bike computer too (even solar-powered :)), on my mountain bike. I lost it to a gully, and never bought one again. Was nice to see how much I cycled throughout the year.

  15. I love my bike computer and have been trying to convince my boyfriend to get one. If I didn't have it, I'd truly have no idea how fast I was going. I think it's just kind of nice to know. On my city commute I average 10-13 mph. Pretty darn slow. I'm trying to work up to 14-16 mph. My bike is not exactly built for speed but I think the true weakest link are my puny legs. :)

  16. I've got a GPS unit (I got it for mapping originally) which doubles as a bike computer. It doesn't need to be mounted on the handlebars (sometimes I just put it in my pocket and it works fine) but it is even uglier than a little computer is. It gives me altitude as well which is sometimes good, and sometimes depressing (who needs to know they're 700 feet below where they have to be at the top of a long hill? Not me). And of course, then I have a spreadsheet to track all my miles... I found it quite addictive at first but now I only take it with me when I'm going on a new ride and I don't know the distance, I've stopped caring about speed.

  17. If you don't like the sound of rubbing chain, you won't like brifters. The big advantage of friction shifting is the trim adjustment, and you give that up to a large degree with integrated shifters. What you might like instead is a bar-end that can give you indexed shifting on the rear cog and friction in the front: easier shifting, plus more trim control. That would still mean giving up the nice Dia-Compes and using the slightly less nice-looking Shimanos, but it would be better than STI. Also, less expensive and more reliable than STI.

    Just a suggestion.

  18. I use my bike computer all the time. I do have one for all of my bikes.

    I track my mileage and time partly as a way of judging how my fitness is improving. I'm no spring chicken anymore (I'm 57), and the fact that my average speed has increased from a pitiful 8 mph to 11+ on my hilly commutes, to 14 on flats since last May, helps keep me going.

    I have a few other motivators that I use, like cycling 200 miles in the last half of June, and working on cycling 1000 miles before October 1.

    The downside? I tend to mope when my speeds go down, like if I'm tired or depressed or something, or my route is hillier than normal. I am the world's worst hill climber, and lots of hills really hammers me. It doesn't help that it's usually in the mid-90's here in GA, USA now, with high humidity. But knowing that a 6 mile ride would wear me out in May, and that now I can do 20+ on multiple days of the week now, keeps me going.

    I'll never be fast. The fastest AVS I ever showed was almost 17 mph over 15 miles, which lasted till a car right-hooked me, and I fell. :( So no club rides for me. But bopping around town and to the grocery store, and to my pet-sitting visits? yeah, I can do that.

  19. velouria, it sounds like you are friction-shifting? i'm curious why you don't like indexed shifting? i know a lot of retro-grouches will nay-say indexed shifting and claim it's not as accurate as manually feeling and listening to the drivetrain cues and fine-tuning accordingly, but even on my crude, early incarnation shimano indexed shifting on my 23 year old trek (indexed shifting is only about 25 years old and has evolved a lot), i just love it. click and forget it... no fiddling with the proper derailleur alignment, no derailleur rubbing between shifts. i've had no problems with mine, and i'm sure current-day SIS drivetrains such as your hillborne's are even more accurate and buttery. there have been a few times when i've approached a hill and thought i wouldn't have enough time to downshift, but did because of indexing.

  20. oops-- i didn't see moopheus' post before posting. i didn't know you have dia-compe friction-only bar-end shifters... i thought you had shimano SIS-compatible bar-ends.

  21. the one semi-attractive way that I've found to mount a bike computer is to use one that allows you to place it in the middle of your stem, rather than on your handlebars.

    personally, I like having the trip odometer as a navigation aid on long trips, knowing that I have to turn left in 3 miles is more reliable than feeling I have a left turn coming up in 'about 15 or 20 minutes or so'. Nowadays, I'm a little less obssessed with tracking my average speed, but it is greatly satisfying to see how many miles one has covered in a day through various errands and jaunts.

  22. Re indexed vs friction shifting: I am confused by conflicting accounts of it. Everyone tells me something different, with some saying what somervillain and moopheus just wrote, and others saying that indexed shifting often malfunctions so that you are basically stuck in a position of perpetual chain-rub. And others still rave about "brifters". There is a particular model that is classic-looking and quite attractive, and a man I met on one of my rides (you were riding a Bob Jackson in Bedford - holler if you are a reader!) showed me how they work. Needless to say, I am reluctant to switch from my current system to another that might or might not work better. I would like to test ride a bike with indexed shifters, including brifters, so that I can feel the difference for myself.

  23. chris C -- i agree! i have mine mounted right on the top of the stem, and i think it's the most innocuous placement. plus i already have a headlamp mounted to the bars and don't like the idea of tying up bar space with other stuff.

    velouria -- indexed shifting works great, but it does require the derailleur cable to be in perfect alignment. friction shifting doesn't require this since you can simply compensate by fine-tuning the shifter to achieve the correct derailleur alignment (which you have to do every time you shift). but a nice thing about indexed shifters is that they (most of them, anyway) can toggle between indexed and friction modes with just the turn of a knob, so you can choose whichever mode you prefer (or, if the indexing goes out of alignment, you can just switch to friction mode until the cable gets adjusted).

  24. just my $0.02 on index v. friction v. bar-end v. brifters.

    I use bar-end Shimano shifters that can toggle between index and friction mode. My rear derailleur, by default is indexed, and the front derailleur is on friction. I do not find it to be too much of a hassle with keeping up on club rides or brevets. If I get dropped, it's not because of my shifting. During times when I've fallen behind on maintenance and may be postponing an evening with my bike, tuning the rear derailleur for cable stretch and/or chain wear, it's nice to toggle the rear shifter into friction mode to give me more steady shifting until I can sort things out.

    Also, as someone who's had a couple of crashes, I know that I'll have to eventually replace one of my brake levers (where the rubber and plastic in the housing is slowly disintegrating at the point(s) of impact) and it's more economical to replace a brake lever than a whole brifter.

    fwiw, indexed shifting with my bar ends never spontaneously malfunctions. It gradually becomes less reliable because of wear and tear on the drivetrain or shifting cable. Not because the indexed shifter is getting mischievous. I don't have any real experience with integrated brake lever/shifters so can't comment on the reputation of those.

    I know one fellow who pedals a Bob Jackson around the western suburbs, but he's also an avowed retrogrouch who doesn't go in for that new fangled technology.

  25. I considered mounting the computer on the stem, but on my bike it really seems to stand out there: the stem is silver, whereas the computer is black. Pus, I really like the look of the Nitto quill stem and don't want to interrupt its elegant lines. Maybe some day I will twine the computer, or paint it to match the handlebars : )

  26. speaking of computer aesthetics: in the closeup shot of your computer, is that black tape i see covering up the branding? :-)

  27. Yes! It doesn't look as bad in person as on the picture; everything is sweat and sunscreen-smeared in the photo. The computer is CatEye. The large lettering distracts me from reading the numbers on the screen when I glance at it quickly, so I covered it up.

  28. Wow. 25 comments and not a one, until now, critical of cycle computers.

    I used them when I was young, but took them off when I started caring too much about speed. I have never gone back. I care not a bit about my speed. I go slower every year and am the happier for it. I have no idea how fast I go, although I suspect it isn't over 15 mph ever.

    Did you read the story about the guy in CA who hit a car head on and died as he was riding down a hill at 49 mph just so he could get his stat on the net listing him as the fastest rider on that stretch of road? See

    I don't see you going there, but I do suspect that anything that commands even a bit of your attention while riding is a bad idea. For your safety and the safety of others, you should be looking at the road ahead and the road behind. Nothing else.

    Stepping off soap box.

  29. I just switched from brifters to indexed bar ends on my road bike. You will have no problems moving from your current bar ends. The new ones will work the same except the rear will click for each gear change unless you set it to friction mode. The bar ends are much simpler to keep working right than the STI shifters.

  30. Most touring bikes are set up with bar-end shifters such as Chris described above, the rationale being that, if the index shifting fails, you can always default to friction. This is a real advantage if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and don't want to stop for a tuneup.

  31. Steve - Thanks for the info; that is good to know since you have used both!

    randal - I agree with you about the importance of keeping one's eyes on the road while cycling. But I also feel that doing so is a matter of personal responsibility, regardless of what you have strapped to your handlebars. Just because one has a computer mounted does not mean that anybody is making them stare at that computer the entire time they are cycling. A quick occasional glance at the speed is enough, and the rest of the stats can be checked when pulled over and taking a break. It is not the computer's fault that the unfortunate rider in CA decided to cycle at 49mph on that road; it is the rider's fault. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I think it is misguided to blame objects that have valid uses for individuals' bad decisions.

  32. I gave in and fitted a computer (a present from the lady friend) to my Mercian. It isn't the most attractive thing around, especially as it's a wired type. Wireless sensors can malfunction with powerful LED lights like I use. I find the main problem with it is it tends to make me sweat, trying to push the average speed on the commute up a bit more each day!
    My average is around 14.2 MPH, including a couple of stops: the top speed so far is 41.7 MPH (that would be downhill). I can do around 22 MPH on the flat (for some values of 'flat').
    As it's an original 1982 machine, I also use friction shifters, but mine are on the downtube, not the bar ends. You need to learn to time your shifts, and to be able to shift with confidence any time you need to. It's just practice! However, in a hilly area you will get more practice.
    Enjoy your cycling!


  33. I agree wholeheartedly with Somervillain, Morpheus, Chris C. & Steve- setting up indexed bar-end shifters will allow you to switch to friction if need be, and keep you comfortable otherwise. I really enjoyed the index shifting on my last road bike, though it was new tech in 1986.
    (For what it's worth, the SIS system still worked reliably when I sold the 23-year-old bike last year.)
    I have used friction bar ends off and on for a very long time, though, and they just became second nature. I did a tour of California's Trinity Alps area in the late 80s with them and had very little trouble. Index bar-end shifters would probably have been even better.

    I do not trust integrated brakes and shifters myself, though I am not exactly a luddite- at least not in all things. The extra cost when one part wears out does bear thinking about, though.

    As an aside, have you thought of perhaps making a lightweight steampunk inspired case for your computer? It would look much less jarring if it were clad in a brass & walnut case...and no distracting logo.

    (just thinking about MDI's Pash-mounted coffee rockets.)

    Corey K

  34. "co-habitant" is a very strange definition.

  35. Velouria,

    I've never posted before, but always read your blog. I enjoy your site quite a bit for the way you explore topics with a non-judgmental curiosity. You provide a fresh perspective to common cycling issues and your blog creates a nice place for conversation. This post is a good example.

    When it comes to computer games, beware of the speed game. It's an addictive game one rarely wins....

    I use a computer, but only on my road bike, and I use it only to check my cadence. When I first got my fancy, light, road bike, I really worked on increasing my speed without having a clue as to what I was doing. By the end of the summer, I felt tired, a bit irritable, and I barely increased my speed. I was over doing it.

    I wised up and began to read a few books. I realized I wasn't gaining the benefits of aerobic exercise because I created energy anaerobically; I was going too strong. So my speed game turned into a fitness game and I became enslaved to my heart rate monitor. I lost weight, increased my endurance, had more energy, and, and, increased my speed. However, by that time, I lost all interest in speed. Years later, I purchased different bikes, one being an ANT, and became bored with these games. Now I just ride for the reason I began riding, enjoyment.

  36. I like the idea of a computer, but only because I like staring at the data after I'm finished a ride or trip.
    I've been using my iPhone and an app called "" that keeps track of my speed, elevation, averages, mileage, and time, along with the GPS map of my route. They make mounts for my phone, but I think it's silly, ugly, and unimportant.
    "Computer games" might be fun though. :)

  37. maxwellhadley said...
    "Wireless sensors can malfunction with powerful LED lights like I use."

    Mine is wired, but I did not know that.

    Anon 6:20 - the word "husband" reminds me of farming, so I write "co-habitant".

    Anon 6:21 - I find that it is difficult for me to gain aerobic exercise while cycling; I would have to be going pretty fast to get out of breath and I almost never reach that point. Don't know whether that means I have good lungs, or that I am not cycling fast enough, or that I'm "doing it wrong".

  38. This is a really interesting discussion. When I started riding my bike to work, I thought I was going to just enjoy the ride. But I think the need to compare, to be competitive, to measure ourselves even against ourselves, is wired deeply into our genes. I am philosphically opposed to such a device for my own purposes (commuting), and that's just my sense for me, not a judgement on anyone else, but I find myself cheering when I pass someone (especially if they are much younger, and male!) and I check my time for the commute. So despite myself, I find ways of measuring myself, and take pleasure in being faster than I was at the beginning of the summer! Such is human nature....

  39. My husband (I can't type that now without imaging him in overalls and riding a tractor or something. Thanks! :) ) just bought and iPad this week and keeps coming up with ways in which I could find it handy. One of which was to attach one to may handle bars. No thanks. But I can see how a small cycle computer could be a nice addition. I wouldn't mind knowing my speed and the time at least. My dad recently attached an altimeter from his ultralight to his bike, just out curiosity.

  40. OH NO!! You too? I am soon going to be the only Luddite left. I have 3 or 4 computers, even a fancy wireless German one that I actually bought NEW with real money... I never use any of them anymore. I kept finding myself staring down at the dorky little thing and trying to figure out what I should be doing with all that data.

    If you find it usefull or interesting than I understand, but dang it, I just hate having one more electronic device worming it's way into my life. All of my computers show around 2,500 or so miles before I took em off and chucked them under the bench. One of them is an old solar powered Cateye that has to be 25 years old, it still works if you put it in a window and let it soak up some sun. It shows 2,349 miles(back then that was only 4 or 5 months riding so I got tired of it fast), I think it's biggest fault was covering up my Cinelli stem and looking like Capt. Kirks communicator...

    I don't think you need to worry too much about shifting options and techniques(timing and planning, yes, machinery, no), you are obviously in this for the long haul and it takes a couple of years to figure some of this out all the way. You will figure out what you like and need on your own I'll bet. I've got friction bikes, an all Campy 9 speed indexed roadbike and some mongrels that are combinations of all sorts of things(a 5 speed Sturmy archer with a friction lever on the left side cable and a trigger on the right, a 3 speed with the trigger on the seat stay, an old BMX racer with a 2 speed that you shift with a brake lever, etc.)and as I get used to a new variation it just builds confidence and skill that transfers to the next experiment...

    I've never heard them called brifters before, we just call em' "them there shifter dealies". Everybody knows what you mean.

    Oh my, I was going to keep this one short and now look at this mess...sorry

  41. Veloruia~

    Is your Cateye Strada the wired one?


  42. I don't get distracted by my computer when cycling any more than I get distracted by my watch when walking (or my dashboard when driving).

    Having said that, I like to know distances and speeds. I like to know when out on a country ride downhill that a quick glance at the computer will tell me when I exceed, say, 35mph. Maybe I want to stop pedaling at that point. I also like to know if I am pedaling up a familiar steep hill at 13 mph or 8 mph. I like to be able to compare my bikes and energy levels that way. And I can monitor my hill climbing improvement. Finally, I like to know what my top and comfortable speeds on level ground are for various bikes. I don't care so much about average speed because of what Velouria mentioned.

    So yeah, I like having these bike computers. They are awesome.

    I prefer the look of a tiny wire racing/winding up the front brake cable to the look of large wireless dongles. I hate those.

  43. Jeanette - That's an interesting point. I am not competitive by nature, maybe even the opposite (I get sad at the idea of competing and usually let the other person have/win whatever it is they want so much). So that's not what makes me like the computer. Also, I don't commute on this bicycle, it is specifically my sporty/touring bike. I think I like the computer, because I find it genuinely informative for my purposes. If it ever goes beyond that, it will probably ruin the joy of cycling for me.

    fiona - Good eye! Yes, it is the CatEye Strada.

    Amy - the image I was going for was more of herding, pig birthing, that sort of thing : )

    Spindizzy - Yeah, but you got to have your wild computer days; now let me have mine so that I have a chance to get sick of it too and talk about "back when I still had one of those stupid computers..."

    MDI - I pretty much agree with your second paragraph. The point about exceeding speed is especially important. On a 25mph country road with hills, you can find yourself speeding!

  44. Cars/minivans that don't normally exceed the speed limit on a winding country road will do so in an unsafe manner attempting to pass a cyclist going near or above the speed limit. They just can't wait for the cyclist's speed to fall back due to hills and pass then (or when safe). They always have to pass now, because they are, after all, cars, and cars pass bicycles.

    It happened to us on our trip and it's always a little sad, and a bit maddening since it puts you into yet more danger. Cycling at high speed is a different kind of dangerous than cycling in the city, I think.

  45. If there's a worry about being distracted or goaded into unsafe riding by a computer, just mount it or cover it so you can't see. Pretty easy to do. I find them useful for mileage and for a longer ride with a complicated route slip it helps with navigation.

    Friction shifting, especially with bar-end shifters that you can fiddle with without taking your hands off the bars, works really well for most riding. It's not an affectation unless you are racing and your goal is to show up people who have integrated shifters. It's reliable and not fussy to set up, for any non-racing application it's fine.

    The noise is actually useful for friction because it's feedback for your trimming. Most new Shimano cassettes are ramped and pinned so the noise is pretty minimal.

  46. @Velouria - A less bare bones computer will have two average speed modes. One that gives true trip average and one that only counts when the bike is moving so the time stopped at a light doesn't lower your average (although the time braking for it and accelerating away does. On a long ride this disappears in the noise). It you don't want it to record while walking, just pop its little head off (or carry the bike, but most computer heads are easier to carry than most bikes).

    One of the things you can learn from true trip average though is how little effect riding fast, sprinting, etc. has on your average in town. Traffic control devices are in charge of your speed more than anything else. Thus when you "hold up" a car in traffic you likely aren't doing any such thing. That "holding up" is just noise.

    Overall though I've come to the conclusion that the best use of a bike computer for most people is to get over the itch of thinking they're awesome. The irony is that by that time you don't really need one anymore BECAUSE you had one. Such is life.

    Personally I also think your shifter issues are just a matter of getting to Carnegie Hall.

    "Don't know whether that means I have good lungs . . ."

    Weeeeeeeell, no. It means you have lousy legs. This too shall pass.

    ". . .or that I'm "doing it wrong"."

    Yeah, that too I'm afraid. Quick and dirty solution is to put a computer on Marianne, take her out in the country on flatish roads and run some fixed course of about 10 miles for high average speed. You'll have to learn to spin which takes leg strength out as the limiting factor. As a bonus this'll get you ready for lapping the velodrome.

    Less quick and dirty, read Covert Baily (or watch his video series if the liberry has it. He's very entertaining); and then Ed Burke.

    WARNING! Here there be heart rate monitors. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  47. "you got to have your wild computer days; now let me have mine so that I have a chance to get sick of it too"

    Ahhhhhhh, the joys of cross posting.

  48. kfg said...
    "Quick and dirty solution is to put a computer on Marianne, take her out in the country on flatish roads and run some fixed course of about 10 miles for high average speed. "

    Yeah, about that... This is very embarrassing, because I keep finding silly ways to hurt myself. But anyway, I went on a 28-mile ride on Marianne a couple of days ago. I was going 12mph or so. After mile 20, I began to experience a tremendous degree of discomfort and it fell upon me all at once, like a pile of bricks. I don't think it was due to the fixed gear, because my knees did not hurt. I think it's Marianne herself, and maybe the fixed gear contributed. By the time I got home, it felt like a truck drove over me - and not in a good "I just got a great workout way", but in a "something is wrong here" way. I now cannot cycle on *any* of my upright or semi-upright bicycles without experiencing the same pain. My Sam Hillborne is fine though (I did those hilly 35 miles in Maine on it with no trouble after the fixed gear incident), because somehow the drop bar position does not activate whatever injuries I caused myself. Can't sit down on any of my other bikes though! Hopefully this will pass soon...

  49. "I keep finding silly ways to hurt myself."

    Everyone needs a hobby. Is Impunity your twin sister or something?

  50. for club riding, being able to maintain an average speed of +15 mph (over distance, not just bursts interspersed between cruising at 10 or 12mph) should be just fine, but honestly, the real thing to work on there is being comfortable riding in pacelines with others. A computer will help illustrate for you the speed benefits of riding in pacelines (oh and what a slippery slope towards the dark side that will be)

    Oh and kfg (or Chic Cyclist) may be able to add to this further ... but for brevets, it's not just about what your average speed will be on the bike; but it's your average speed across the entire ride.

    If you set out at noon to go for a 25 mile ride and your computer tells you that you've been pedaling for 1h 40m, then you might be tempted to give yourself an average speed of 15 mph, but if you didn't finish the ride until 2pm, then from a randonneur's point of view, your average speed was closer to 12.5 mph. But, in general, again, being able to hold a 15 mph moving average is a good baseline.

  51. Cris -

    The Northeast Bicycle club is offering a weekly women's ride that teaches paceline skills, and I have been *considering* going to one.


    Women’s Ride
    This ride will allow women of all levels to learn or work on improving paceline skills. Every week there will be a beginners group focusing on learning paceline basics and going at a moderate pace of 12-15 mph. Ride length is 20-21 miles.

    I am not interested in road racing, but maybe this will force me learn to ride with other cyclists. Or maybe it will get me injured. Still trying to decide : )

  52. I expected few positive responses following my remarks critical of bicycle computers. Advocating slower speeds and safety is boorish. I was surprised, though, that our gracious host dismissed out of hand the increased risk of even momentary glances away from the road. I doubt anyone spends much time looking at the tiny and plain screen, but it is there, so you look on occasion. Then the buttons! There are buttons so you push them. Problem is, you don't know if you are picking the wrong moment to take your eyes off the road until you've done so. We all see people using cell phones while driving. These drivers don't want to hurt anyone. They simply believe they are more skilled than the folks for whom the law was written. It is tough to admit that even very small distractions can be dangerous, but it is so easy to see after the fact. My sister died when she allowed her truck to drift over the centerline and collided head on with a semi truck. No doubt a small distraction spelled her end.

    I didn't ditch computers to be safer. I am not that smart. When I took mine off, I was young and even more foolish and was doing so only to allow myself to pedal at the speed I was comfortable at the moment unimpeded by feedback from a computer. I found the information computers provided was unimportant and diminished my enjoyment of pedaling, and only later understood that eliminating a possible distraction was a good thing. I won't judge anyone who enjoys computers. I only want to be one voice in a sea of go fast people quietly pointing out the joys of pedaling at comfortable speeds, oblivious to performance statistics, with beautiful handlebars devoid of plastic

  53. Hmm... pig birthing, now that's a lovely image while I eat breakfast. :/ I suppose then since I practice donkey husbandry I'm the farmer in my household. I do tend to chase them around a lot, but they usually handle the birthing without me. :)

  54. randal - I don't dismiss the increased risk of glances away from the road; I probably keep my eyes on the road more than anybody I know. But I feel that you assign disproportionate responsibility for this risky behaviour to computers (as opposed to people). Cyclists glance away from the road all the time and for many reasons: to look at scenery to the side of them, to shoulder check, to fiddle with their toe clips, to adjust components, to grab water from a bottlecage, and, probably most risky of all, to chat to their companions during group rides; no one stares straight ahead the entire time they are cycling. I feel that if used responsibly, a computer does not present any more risk than riding with another person and occasionally glancing behind you, or to the side of you, to check that they are still following; in fact it most likely presents less risk than that.

    If we blame the computer rather than the cyclist for risky behaviour, then by the same logic we can blame road bikes themselves. In fact, I have seen discussions, where a transport-only cyclist will suggest that roadbikes and lycra should be "banned" because they encourage cyclists to go too fast and to behave rudely. That line of thinking is not a road down which I want to travel.

  55. I have used a bicycle computer for over 25 years and feel almost naked without one. In the beginning it is easy to focus too much on average speed, but over time one doesn't focus so much on that. The computer I currently use has cadence and heart rate too. I use these two additional functions quite a bit.

    I suggest that you get a computer with the cadence feature. When you see your cadence going down, shift. This will really help your climbing and in the long run improve your long distance stamina. My target cadence is between 90-95. If I get to 80 it is time to shift, same for getting to 100.

    If you ride at too low a cadence and are pushing a hard gear you will build up muscle mass (bulk), something most women really don't want to do. By spinning you will work more on muscle tone.

    I am a heart attack survivor so I pay attention to my heart rate. Noticing my heart rate during a ride also lets me know if I am working hard or not; plus, it lets me know pretty quick if I'm just plain tired to start with. I adjust my speed/distance accordingly.

    I just paid a visit to my cardioligist and told him my average heart rate for my rides as well as my max heart rates. He was amazed. With this information in hand he decided that I didn't need a stress test as I do a stress time every time I ride. That saved me quite a bit of money.

    I keep a riding journal. I find it very interesting to see improvements over time and I also enjoy comparing data to years past. It can be disheartening to see one's average speed for the day. But when you compare it with what you did a month ago or even 1 year ago it can be encouraging.

    As far as shifting goes I too would recommend the index bar ends. At least they give you the flexibility of going to friction should something get out of alignment. Shift often to keep a steady cadence. As others have commented it takes time and practice.

    I hope that you will take advantage of the rides teaching paceline skills. Even tourist use pacelines. It can make a huge difference in both your average speed and the distance you are able to cover. It takes time and practice to ride in a paceline. It really helps to learn/practice with people that you trust. There are some people who I hate riding behind to the point that I will pass them. On the other hand, I truly riding with my son; we can ride together very efficiently, but then we have ridden many miles together over the years.

    I ride with a group several times a week. Our (my) average speed runs around 16-18 mph for about a 20 mile ride. It really depends on who shows up, what course we ride, and the wind. During these rides the speed can go up to 25 on certain stretches, but there are other sections where we only go 12. Yesterday there were some long stretches where we were only doing 15, but there was a head wind. It sounds to me like you could hold your own as far as average speed goes when it comes to club rides.

    BTW, I am amazed by what appears to be many more comments since you started advertising. Is that just me or is it actually so?

  56. I also love my computer!

    I wish there were still these mechanical odometers around, that you could mount
    above the hub on the fork. They made a
    somewhat distracting, but also somewhat
    hypnotic tick-tick-tick-tick with every
    revolution of the front wheel.

    Actually I think there was an electronic
    version of this as one of the very first
    cycle computers: mounted on the fork it
    was a very clean solution. No buttons,
    just a (larger) speed display and a
    smaller odometer. I would buy one in an
    instant, just to get rid of cables,
    free space on my handlebar etc.

  57. One more thing I forgot: I keep my computer on manual instead of the default automatic. Sure, I have to remember to turn it on and off, but my average speed is more accurate. I ride 1/2 mile to the end of my street to start my ride. That is where I turn the computer on and off when I return home. That is what I want to measure in trip distance and average speed. The odometer actually measures the entire distance rolling.

    That said, most people I know keep their computers on automatic.

  58. People respect you and are influenced by your work here. I am in that group, but not on this one point.

    I enjoy pedaling more when I don't have a computer and I believe that by removing computers from my bicycles I have eliminated one of many distractions. If I wanted to know my speed, I would add a computer and accept the risks accompanying the added distraction. I harbor no ill will toward computers or anyone who uses computers.

    I feel strongly about keeping myself and others safe and thought I'd share my alternative viewpoint on this issue. I have done so and will let it rest.

    Thanks for the back and forth.

  59. randal - We do not have to agree with each other on every point and it is good to know your point of view.

    Prentiss - I am glad to hear you are healthy now after your condition, and thanks for your description of pacelines. I am more of a freeform/"lone wolf" cyclist and in the long run I don't see myself going on group rides. But I nonetheless think it would be useful to learn these skills, as well as to be generally more comfortable around other cyclists.

    Re the number of comments - I think it has more to do with time of the year and topics. Prior to this I was in Vienna for a stretch and while there I usually post less and the topics are probably more limited in their appeal. Now it is summer, I am back in Boston, and I am doing all kinds of new things - so people have more to say. But you are right in that the ads do not seem to have hampered the activity on the website, which of course makes me glad and relieved. I try to pick sponsors who I think will be relevant to and even beneficial to readers, and most of the sponsors whose ads are up right now I have known and interacted with before they became sponsors. So hopefully all this contributes to this being a positive thing.

  60. If gauges were a serious threat to safety, than those individuals who routinely put their lives on the line, second by second, by riding the fine line between ultimate performance and fatal disaster would remove all the gauges from their vehicles. We see, however, that they do not.

    What they do is learn to manage their attention appropriately.

    Keith Code's The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles is a valuable read for anyone who operates a vehicle, even those who operate their vehicle at Slow Bicycle Movement Speeds.

  61. Shifting...I have indexed, non indexed, bar ends, brifters, stem mount and down tube mount. I even have the original indexed shifting...the 3 speed Sturmey Archer trigger shifter. ;-) Can't say I really like one over the other, they are all different and have their places.

    Computers/odometers, etc. I don't have one on any of my bikes at the moment. Best installation I have ever seen was on Raleigh Tourist where the person was using a wireless unit and had the pickup mounted on the rear wheel and the computer head was in the side pocket of their Carradice saddle bag. :-D


  62. I can hear The Clash singing "Long Rides Calling."

  63. Dang,I get the point about not wanting a computer anymore because I had them long enough to get the benefit of them and then put them away for a while... I hadn't thought of it in that way, but the fact that I keep getting another one every 7 or 8 years does sort of spoil my argument. One more poseur Luddite exposed...


  64. I've been wanting a computer ever since I started getting around town exclusively by bike. I'm so curious how much I bike on a daily basis. I think I will be adding one to my cruiser shortly, so I look forward to that.

    When I first began running, I got a GPS watch and it was so rewarding to know how I was doing and to know my speed, pace, distance, etc. after each run. I think the same will happen with cycling now. After a year of running, the novelty of the watch wore off and I can now easily judge my distance and pace on my own. I'm sure the same will happen with the bike after a while, but I think having that computer to get me started will be great.

    Also, to respond to your comment on my blog - I got used to the dropbars and am totally fine with them now. I actually have come to (surprisingly) really like my roadbike. I used to be very anti-roadbike but now that I feel more comfortable as a cyclist, I can enjoy the pros of one. But I really liked you recent post that used the running analogy for cycling - just because I love my roadbike now, I would never replace my daily commuter bike with it just like I would never start running to work/to the shops/to the movies just because I *can* run and enjoy running on a regular basis. I loved that post and really identified with a lot of the comments you made.



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