You are hanging out with bike riders – some of whom seem to be “more experienced” than you. Talk turns to rides and distance and suddenly you’re asked, “Well, how many miles do you average a week?”
Does it matter?
Yes. And no.
Cycle computers are the ultimate heaven for a bike rider who is also somewhat of a data nerd. You can slice, dice, dissect, and promote improvement through your statistics. Anyone with an email address (or social media account) and a smart phone can start recording their mileage and other data like speed, elevation gain, and moving time. Or you can pony up a little bit of money and purchase a cycle computer to record all of this data for you. (It doesn’t have to be a whole lot of money, either – wired cycle computers with basic functions can start as low as $25.)
Too much emphasis can come on “getting the miles in” and not enough on “getting the smiles in”.
If you are just starting to ride again after an extended break, it can be exhilarating to note your improvement over time. But – what if you’re just going to the grocery store? Do you record your ride then? What if you’re a quarter mile shy of a 50 mile ride – will you circle the block one more time?
Too much emphasis can come on “getting the miles in” and not enough on “getting the smiles in”. The way I see it, unless you are training for a specific goal, recording every movement on your bicycle is the antithesis of improvement. There’s a plateau that you reach when losing weight where it becomes more difficult to lose weight – I find that to be similar to recording every movement on a bicycle. If you’re connected to a social sharing app like Strava or MapMyRide, you can knock down PRs (personal records) in no time in the beginning. Then, you have to work harder at achieving that goal. But – is it a goal of yours to begin with?
Knowing how far you can go is good. Knowing you can ride more is great! Don’t let the data hang you up on making progress – after all, the only odometer for feeling good is what’s between your ears.
And if you do decide to track your movements, be reasonable with your expectations.
I’ll have a general overview of cycle computers coming out in the next few weeks – stay tuned!
(Meanwhile, if you’re on Strava, you can connect with me there! I don’t have every ride listed, but it is fun to interact with far-flung bike riding friends.)
Edited to add: Thanks to a conversation with @cyclelicous on Twitter, it’s been brought to my attention that some urban and rural planning is done with Strava data in mind. Check out this article from late 2016 – and maybe it IS worth it to record more, if only to show where bike riding corridors are in cities and where a focus on bike infrastructure should be.