Measuring is knowing, tracking is inspiring (Part 1 - Equipment)

In business we're used to measures, goals, key performance indicators to track our progress. For biking it's exactly the same and I wanted to share what I use to know where I stand and motivate myself.

It all starts with a bike computer. It is possible to use a smartphone but I don't recommend it. You need to see what's happening and smartphones are a bit bulky, have limited battery autonomy (especially when it's cold) and the mounts are taking a lot of space. I don't like smartwatches either as you have to turn your wrist and roll up your sleeves to see them. Some cyclists wrap their watch around the handle bar but I don't really like that, For me the best option is a dedicated bike computer.


I use a Garmin Edge 1030 with a HideMyBell mount on my bike's handlebar. As expected the mount hides a bell under the computer, that's both a legal requirement and very convenient.


The more sophisticated your bike computer the more you will know.


The bike computer will get its data from various sources and you need to pay attention to sensors. The most important one, from a health and training point of view, is the heart rate monitor (hrm). A strap on your chest hosts the hrm and transmits your heart rate continuously to your computer. It's key when you train according to programs and to keep your own competitive spirit under control. Above your anaerobic threshold you have just a couple of minutes credit. It happened to me more than once that I blew myself up trying to follow a better rider. Once you use your credit you're exhausted and the last option is to cruise slowly home or, in extreme cases, to rest for minutes along the road. Overdoing it is bad for your health and can be dangerous. Your hrm can warn you against yourself.


Another important sensor is the speed sensor. Most bike computers work with GPS signals and can derive your speed from the time it took between two GPS measurements. On average it's correct but you can have some errors due to GPS accuracy issues. With a speed sensor the number of rotations per second of your wheel is measured. This is always correct and more stable than the GPS only method.


Speed is one thing but more relevant is the cadence. A cadence sensor measures the rotations per minute of your pedals. Keeping a steady cadence is important when you ride in packs. There are training benefits of fast or heavy pedaling. Let's simplify by saying you can train on power and/or on condition and both have their place in your plan. For me I see a clear correlation between how tired I am and how heavy I pedal. My cadence always drops at the end. I use Garmin sensors for hrm, speed and cadence.


Getting more and more affordable are the power sensors. They give you the power you generate on the pedals (or crank). Good to know and some training plans are designed to improve your FTP (functional threshold power) which is the power you can deliver for a continuous hour. Most cyclists look at W/kg as performance indicator. If you can't increase your strength, lose some weight! I use a 4iiii left crank power meter.


Last sensor I use is the Shimano Di2 Ant+ unit. My bike computer is getting gear information from the electronic Di2 shifters. This allows to see which cogs you used where and when.


Do you shift when appropriate, do you pedal fast and light and slow and heavy?


I admit this is probably a sensor I bought based on my addiction to data and technology but I still think it's fun to have.


Let's recap this first part of technology for biking overview. A good bike computer fixed well on your bike is all you need. You can add multiple sensors to get more data and in part 2 we will look at the software tools I use to turn data into insights. Sounds like HPE jargon no?


Do not hesitate to share what you do to measure your bike data!

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