I’m a slave to numbers … 🤓


I’m a slave to numbers.

It’s my formal training. I’m a computer engineer where concise algorithms, and tight logic that lower costs and reduce staffing are rewarded. And, how do we know we’ve done it right? By the numbers. We measure before the new procedure, and then measure again after it’s implemented. We know by the numbers.

Well today I planned on a 75-80 km ride I completed once last year. A beautiful ride that passes by several recreational lakes on smooth roads (mostly) peppered with frequent short, steep hills, and long flat sections that includes Victoria Road. This ride would be a good test of my fitness, I thought. I was anxious to see what speed I could maintain spinning at 90-100 rpm.

You see, I track a lot of numbers. Average speed. Distance. Average cadence. Heart rate. Time spent in each of the training zones. Elevation gained. Average slope. Maximum slope. Every ride, I record these statistics. I’m a slave to these numbers. I subscribe to the theory that if it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed. And, I want to manage my training. I want to improve. Get faster, and stronger.

Imagine my horror when I saddled up only to discover my cycling computer was dead. Dead. Nothing worked. No heart rate. No cadence. I stopped. Check my HR belt. It was fine. Checked the cadence sensor. It was fine too. And the speed sensor. It seems all the batteries expired at the same time. What else could it be?

I continued without my numbers.

I was lost at first. Then I began to judge my speed, HR, and cadence by feel. After all, I have ridden long enough to know what 30 kph and a 95 cadence feels like. I could tell a lot by my breathing. When it became laboured, I knew I was working above Zone 1. The longer, steeper climbs my heart was pound, and I was out of breath submitting. I was in Zone 4. I had a 20-25 kph hurting wind on the way out, and a helping wind on the way back. Slow on the way out. Fast coming back in. 15-20 kph out, and 30-35 kph back. And, because I maintained a high cadence most of the time, I was not really tired when I finished. Not like I was last year.

Maybe I don’t need that cycling computer after all.

I can’t compare the numbers from one ride to the next. The wind and terrain is different every ride. Maybe cycling by feel is all that is needed.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “I’m a slave to numbers … 🤓

  1. You make a good point, after years of cycling your PE(percieved exertion ) is probably very accurate,and as you say conditions can make ride comparisons fairly inaccurate anyway.
    The main thing I watch now is trying to keep an even cadence.
    One benefit of no comp is you get time to enjoy the scenery without the distraction of constantly checking data. I find it hard not to keep checking my garmin during a ride.
    I’ve never ridden compless(is that a word)so might just give it a go,but would find it tough to leave my £200 computer in the draw at home.
    The main thing I would miss is not having my data logged at the end of the ride,it’s the first thing I check post ride.
    I only know one rider who very rarely uses a computer,and never ever whilst on a group ride, where he says you need your wits about you,he just seems to be able to sense his speed and cadence.
    But if your a slave to numbers don’t think you could last long without your data.😉

  2. Loved that post. I’m a sales & marketing person (yes that helps me pay my bills, so that is what I do apart from being a cyclist), who also keeps some track through numbers and I couldn’t agree more about measurements. My cyclo-computer is basic, and it broadly serves the purpose of a speedometer – mentioning the current speed and the total kilometers I have crossed in the current journey. The more meaningful tracking used to happen through the app Endomondo I used on the mobile phone. Though the free version of the app doesn’t mention cadence or heart rates, it was still quite useful to me. I am describing it all in the past tense, since my mobile got damaged in the heavy rain (despite keeping it covered in a water-proof box) while I crossed my long-distance ride (longest so far) in January this year. Since then, I had been just focusing on riding, and not seriously the measurement part. As you rightly said, after significant time spent on the saddle, one can identify the average speed and the related figures. And I fully agree, it is time to enhance the feel… that solely drives my passion for riding now a days. 🙂

  3. Well I tried your plan of not looking at my garmin on today’s ride,and guess what, my avg speed increased by 0.5 mph and I enjoyed the ride more than usual,apart from the weather.

    I did however commit a cardinal sin in not taking a rainproof jacket(something I’ve never done before.
    But the weather was set fine and dry when I set of,but 30 mins in and the heavens opened with what I can only describe as a monsoon, the roads were like rivers,with a big drop in temp to go with it.
    I should have turned around and come home but I carried on for another 1.5 hrs.
    Couldn’t feel my hands or feet when I got back.
    I’ve learnt a very hard lesson…always take a jacket no matter what the forecast says.
    Wondering if maybe the bad weather contributed to my better than avg speed by taking my mind of the uphill struggles ,and wanting to get home..I think it’s possible..mind over matter?

    • You may be right. The cold and wet may made you hammer harder. In any event, it shows you can push harder. Imagine how much faster you would have been in good weather 😀

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