On the face of it, cycling is a simple pursuit; man and machine in harmony. Technology has enhanced the experience, providing us with feedback every inch of the way, but in doing so it’s introduced complexity. Have we lost the connection by staying connected?
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
John F Kennedy
When I ride I use a Garmin Cycling Computer to capture some basic information; GPS tracks my journey, recording undulations and forward motion. It also records each turn of the wheel, and every turn of the pedals; a magnet on the rear wheel beats out a rhythm reflecting distance and speed, while a similar magnet on the pedal indicates cadence. A monitor on the frame “listens” for movement, broadcasting every action.
I also wear a Heart Rate Monitor to make sure I exercise within reasonable limits. This, too, broadcasts to the Garmin, allowing it to record my exertion.
Of course, when I’m on the road I take my smartphone with me, “just in case”, but it’s generally double-bagged to keep it dry and kept safely tucked away.
When I finish a ride I connect my Garmin to my laptop to upload details of the ride to Strava, where I record all my activity and share what I’ve been up to with the outside world.
You would think that riding in the garage, protected from the elements, without any physical movement would simplify things, but instead things have got a lot more complicated…
In the garage…
The Turbo Trainer introduces another set of gadgets. It is controlled by a display unit that sits neatly on the handlebars. It provides me with feedback on my ride, cadence, speed, heart rate, etc. but I only really use it to control resistance.
In order to give my rides some structure and make them a bit more interesting I have subscribed to Zwift. It provides a virtual cycling environment, as well as lots of fellow cyclists to “ride” with. As well as tracking my ride, it also provides me with feedback on my performance. An Ant+ dongle connects the Garmin to my laptop, transferring all the details, so I can view speed, cadence, heart rate and estimated power on the screen.
Zwift uses an App to turn my smartphone into a control unit so I can control elements of my ride, choose when to turn and interact with other riders (not that I generally do either as I find it a huge distraction when I’m trying to focus on riding).
When I finish my rides Zwift automatically syncs with Strava, safely recording my efforts.
Just in case I don’t have enough feedback, I was given a FitBit for Christmas. This records all sorts of interesting information about me throughout the day; physical activity, sleep, heart rate, etc. Handy!
So, this simple pursuit is now supported by a spaghetti of cables, 5 display units, and an array of recording devices. A failed connection, or the briefest of power outages can result in chaos… and often does.
Perhaps it’s time to de-clutter and get back to basics?