What do you want from your cycling computer?

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,594
1,277
133
Niigata
#1
What do you want from your cycling computer?

The days of a simple speed and time cycling computer are over. There’s so much you can have on a computer these days.

I ride with people who use no computer at all and others who have the full dashboard.

For me personally, I value the following in order of importance:
  • Heart Rate
  • Cadence
  • Ascent or altitude gain
  • Speed
I used to record all my training data in a notebook like a geeky trainspotter. Then came an excel spreadsheet. After that, uploading directly to polar software. However, I found that I rarely checked back to check anything other than monthly mileage.

These days I just blog each day as a general training diary.


So my questions are:

  • What cycling computer functions are important to you?
  • How do you save your data and what do you do with it?
Looking forward to your responses.

Andy

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 

StuInTokyo

Maximum Pace
Dec 3, 2010
1,662
62
78
#2
I've got a basic CatEye wireless model, it has enough for me, I don't need or want the Cadence, the trip meter, speed, average speed, max speed and odometer are all I really need, but the one thing I'd really like is a light. Many times on late night rides, I wish I could push a button so I could see things more easily. Oh, I guess I would also like a larger screen with larger numbers, as I get older my eyes are not as good :eek:

Cheers!

PS most of the other stuff I use MapMyRide on my iPhone for if I want to know the elevation etc.
 

fredstaple

Speeding Up
Nov 1, 2009
198
1
38
Puerto de la Santa Maria
#4
Basic

I like speed, time and distance. I log my data, date and distance in a little notebook by hand. A basic Cateye does it for me, but I did upgrade to a wireless model for ease of installation. I don't wear a watch, so rely on the computer.

Cadence is not that big an issue, I have been riding long enough to know when I'm somewhere between 90 and 100, I realize I'm not riding there much of the time too.

Altitude is one thing I think I would like to have, it would be nice to know just how high a climb was. But if the view from the top is nice and the decent fast, I soon forget wanting to know how high the peak was.

If I had temperature, that would be nice also, but can live without it.

Having a GPS and map are not much interest. If planning a ride, I'll look at google maps the night before and route out a run or use someone's from Bikely.com. Getting lost is OK too on days when I am not trying to get a fast paced ride in. I few of my friends have it, and it is pretty cool to look at, but I think it would just be a gadet I would not use much after the novelty wore off.

I am not racing or trying to peak my level of fitness for a certain time of year or race. Nor am I training for a specific race. I can see where if you fall into that camp, you would want all the bells and whistles you could get. I think it is cool to be able to generate all that data and if I had it, it would be fun to look at for a while. But just too much time and effort for the type of riding I do.

I love to just get out and enjoy the ride, go fast when I feel like it, climb as much as I can, and stop and take a few ride pictures too.

Lastly, I'm a cheap SOB. Cateye is 20 to 40 dollars, much easier to swallow than a Garmin 800.
 

fredstaple

Speeding Up
Nov 1, 2009
198
1
38
Puerto de la Santa Maria
#5
Great Post BTW

this is a great topic and will be fun to see what others find important and what data they like to track.

FOR THE RACERS: do your teams require you to track certain data and have it reviewed by team leadership?
 

kpykc

Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
804
4
38
38
Tokyo
#6
I stopped using a computer in 2009 and don't feel like I need one, as long as I am not super serious about racing.

- Speed? It's fun to know how fast you are going atm, but, seriously, why would you need to know it? I do miss an average speed after finishing a ride, but then again, if it's a familiar training loop, I can mark the start time and the end time and see if I was faster or slower than before.
- Keep the cadence high, count seconds (or something that resembles the seconds) and my own pedal strokes and keep a 1/1.5 ratio or higher until getting used to this RPM and just forget about it for a while.
- And surely I can feel how close (or how far) I am to my limit without a HRM.
- Power meter is a totally different league :)

I use GPS for mapping and find that it's a very handy tool for exploration or light&fast touring.

UPD:
Forgot to add, that I like how nice the bike looks without any straps, mounts and brackets
 

Wolfman

Speeding Up
Jul 31, 2007
631
18
38
Suginamiku
#7
I'm interested in all these things: speed, av. speed, hr, cadence, altitude, and elevation gain. Having a Garmin really satisfies data needs, and curiosity.

I'm also increasingly into looking at zone information. I never used to bother with this, but now I like to have it on display.

I never used to use mapping software either but now I'm using it to map out routes that direct me out of town. In that respect it's very handy. On a climb I always tend to have the map display on so I can guess where the top is.

I like all the data possibilities and regularly refer back to past rides on Garmin connect. I don't think I'd go so far as getting a power meter, though of course, it would be very interesting to see that kind of data too. Maybe in a few years costs will come down to levels similar of the 705. In such case, then I might make the jump.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#8
@Fredstaple,

The team coach has access to my data 24/7 and will update me on where Im going wrong or need to focus. Recently he asked me to do the failure testing so he could see exactly what my power zones were in to relation with my heart rate zones and then adjust training.

To be honest the cycle computer is a tool for 2 jobs only, serious training or bragging rights. :D One in the same really.
 

echothree

Speeding Up
Sep 8, 2008
168
1
38
Mitaka
#9
I've been using an old polar HRM for over 5 or 6 years. It's super good for training and racing; in training, it's easy to think you're pushing hard enough when in actuality you've faded off and are cruising. Even if you feel like it's unsustainable, if you know your LT then you know you won't blow up.
In races it's sometimes the opposite - with all the nerves and adrenaline it's easy to blast off too hard and too fast. Looking down at the HRM brings me back to reality.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#10
Echothree,

Then it might be time to take the plunge and get a power meter. HR has so many variables that can effect you on certain days, sleep, hydration, weather, nerves ect. ect.

With a power meter there is no sliding scale, if you know you can stay just under LT at 330w then you race at that wattage. Or if you need to attack you know what zone to drop back to and start recovering and clearing lactic acid from the muscles.

My training and power has comeon leaps and bounds since switching to a power meter last year.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,661
477
103
Japan
#11
I want a predator function. It will tell me how far away the closest cyclist is both ahead and behind. Perfect for not getting caught from behind and wonderful for chasing down weaker species of cyclist. Survival, it's all about not getting caught.
 
Jan 20, 2009
130
4
38
Yokohama
#12
Regular cateye setup and added a Timex expedition watch for altitude, temp.

The watch has a "Review" function which diplays total ascent, total descent , etc.. Obviously a bit low tech compared to a Garmin, but motivating enough for me. The temp. function only works if you strap the watch on the bike, but that's a bit of a hassle. In winter, however, it's fun to know the temps at the tops of toges.:bike:
 

Gunjira

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2009
1,002
176
83
Tokyo
#13
I felt inclined to start the same thread, after shredding cadence. While all kind of analytics have an upside to them, looking them up while riding seems more like a distraction sometimes and the costs involved have to be taken into account as well.

Like I wrote before, I just gave up on cadence. With experience you just know within +-5rpms, what you are pedaling. I rather want to listen to my muscles, how they feel about grinding or spinning.

HR seems to be the poor mans wattage. I would love to measure the later, but are there any economical options around? And with the cheap route for HR you end up reading your watch. Not what I want to do when I'm in the danger zone.

Speed is nice, but you have to know the track and guess right how fast the others are going, to have a major benefit. If you just have a cheapo computer, at least you can tell, whether you are 40+ in the flats...

Navigation is great, if you are venturing into the unknown, but hardly useful for anything but an alleycat race - and for those, you want to look at traffic and navigate by memory.

I recently met the pioneer guys, working on new analytics hard- and software. What they are doing is awesome, but not market-ready anytime soon.

It will probably still take years, but I hope sometime soon we will get:
-Small, cheap, standard sensor units, communicating via ANT+ or a similar universal protocol. Just think, how gps or Bluetooth has developed.
-Display units, which work with all sensors and with a customizable UI.

If you have the money and need every advantage you could possibly get, you would get the full package now. I'm pretty happy with what I have now, iPhone with motionx gps strapped to the handlebar for touring and wireless cateye for riding.
 

sunil

Warming-Up
Dec 5, 2010
12
0
0
Tokyo
#14
Garmin 500 - has everything that is required for a great bike computer.

Was using the iphone MotionX (which was great) but the battery would die out quickly in about 4 hours (with extra battery support). The Garmin lasts about 18 hours and with Connect Garmin I can see the route. During the ride I dont need a map and if I do there is always the iphone map function or Mapple maps that I usually carry on long rides.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#15
Sunil,

I also use the Edge 500 and love it.... 3 rotating screens are set up to show exactly what I want:

Screen 1 - Trip Data: Time of day, time riding, Distance covered, Average speed, calories, ect. ect.
Screen 2 - Climbing: Cadence, Heart Rate
Screen 3 - Training: Wattage, Average wattage

Normally it sits on Screen 3
 

Badar

Warming-Up
Sep 24, 2010
88
1
0
Tokyo
#16
My inexpensive and trusty Cateye Velo8 does the job for me...

Time, inst. speed, ave. speed and distance covered is all what I need and have at my level of cycling.

..but if asked to choose ONE extra function for my cyclo computer I'd like to have a backlit screen.
If at gunpoint I am forced to choose ONE more then I'll go for a full-fledged in-built 'dSLR camera with a 1080p HD video capability' in the same size packaging it is in its current form... Thank you!
 

Sikochi

Maximum Pace
Sep 13, 2010
1,147
45
68
Kochi
#18
I can add to this, as after not bothering with one for the last few years, I bought one in one of the pre-Christmas Wiggle deals. My must-have was the altimeter as with all the hills round here, it is nice to be able to measure them and know total climbing and gradient. So for instance, I know now the hill repeat I do on my mama-chariot is 93m at 6% average, or that I hit 2 15% sections on Monday (felt worse) and I`ve racked up 3000m of climbing in the last 2 weeks. It`s also much quicker and seemingly more accurate than doing it via mapmyride.

Time has been useful, as before I was peeking into houses/combinis to see what the time was and decide whether I could make this section before it got dark or needed to head back. I also wanted a stop-watch to compare hill repeats as once you are half way I kinda start thinking `Was it 25:20 when I started or 26:20 or 27:50...` But I`m not fully au fait with that yet – it`s not as simple as just pressing start!!!

It also has temperature (which I find useful), options for cadence (but I just count revolutions per 10 secs x6 if I need to know), heart rate (but I never got on with chest belts and I find the `conversation method` and years of riding adequate for what I need to know). I`m not bothered about mapping – if I want to explore somewhere I don`t know I just either try it blind relying on my general sense of direction or photocopy the relevant page of the map book on the printer/copier and take it with me.

I would like a power meter but the cost is not justifiable, however, the makers of the model I bought (O-Synce) are working on a pedal-based power device in conjunction with Look (it will be retro-compatible with the actual computer I have) which will hit the market in the next couple of months. So going from what I read, I will only need to change the spindle from my existing pedal (I have Look pedals anyway) and hopefully the cost of that won`t prove prohibitive. I don`t currently save the data; I used to do that when I was younger...maybe it`s time to put on my anorak again...
 
Sep 2, 2009
5
0
0
#19
There is nothing I want that is normal, and that is not on a bike computer at the moment.

What would be novel for me, would be a feature that linked the computer to an ear-piece which fed me Frankie Boyle audio telling me what he why Katie Price married Alex Reid, and what he spends 10% of his income on.

The harder I pedal, the more evil it gets.

You would see a fairly brutal pace out of me in the light of such a device, let me tell you.
 

Ludwig

Speeding Up
Oct 9, 2008
871
0
36
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
#20
For me it is first and foremost my heart rate. It tells me what kind of work-out I'm getting, and how sustainable my pace will be for the rest of the day (I often do 12 hour rides, so that matters).

It is always interesting to see how little how I feel is related to how fast my heart races. If you know your limits, you can pace yourself very well with the heart rate.

When my cycling computer failed and I had no heart rate, I felt like without directions. And during this time my performance decreased noticeably.

Wattage might be nice to set goals and monitor how you are doing against them, but the same can be done also in cheaper ways: setting speed goals, especially with known conditions. When I was training for the JCRC championship, I did a lot of hill-climb time trials (just against myself).

Second most important is the track that I upload onto my Garmin. I used to rely entirely on printed maps. That was fine when I had all the standard roads and passes to discover, as they are easy to find. Now I do far more complex routes, to keep up with my aspiration of NEVER (yes!) doing just the same roads as before in a ride. There always has to be something materially new.

Everything else is just interest.

Speed - because I am a speed addict, and for the feel-good factor.

Time, distance and altitude gain - because they tell me how hard I have worked (roughly, it of course depends on many more factors).

Temperature - for curiosity, but also to compare against weather forecasts and be better prepared next time.

And lastly I watch the time of the day and my average speed to tell me how far I can still go before it gets dark!

Oh, and I have not installed my cadence meter, because I know I run at high cadence, and don't need data to tell me that. And there is no real feel-good factor to it (once you are there). I feel instantly bad when I push heavy gears...