Garmin, Shmarmin

Guest poster Don Blount finds that sometimes, it’s better to just ride.

This was to be an early morning ride. And because of my schedule, I had to be back home no later than 7:30 a.m.

I don’t like these early wake up calls when it is dark and cold. According to Accuweather, the windchill was about 34 degrees.

But I was set to go. I was dressed, tires inflated and even had warm non-caffeinated tea in my water bottle. I pushed the button on my Garmin 305 to get it powered up as I hit the road.

I hopped on my saddle and looked at the screen of the Garmin, it was blank, showing none of the familiar settings. I pushed the button again. It beeped, the welcome screen flashed, and then it went out again.

I had charged the darn thing, or so I thought, two nights earlier. I tried two more times. Nothing.

So it was 6:30 a.m., my choice was to either go back inside and not ride or ride without a bike computer. I had my Blackberry in my jersey pocket, so if I stopped I could use that to view the time. However, I had nothing to track distance, cadence, speed, heart rate or any other of the data that I use while riding.

Left, what it's supposed to look like. Right, what it looked like on this ride.

I decided to set off on a familiar route of about eight miles out, focusing on the bottom part of my stroke. I felt as if I were riding blind since I had no idea how fast I was pedaling, or my speed or my heart rate.

But I was comfortable, warmed up quickly and my breathing was steady.

I arrived at my turnaround point and stopped to check my clock. If my calculations were correct, I had gotten there in about 25 minutes.

I doubled back, and arrived home – another eight miles – in about 25 minutes.

It was a short ride but a good ride for that time of the day. I felt I had worked but enjoyed the ride and really could’ve gone much farther.

And by not having my Garmin available to show me what I was doing, at least for this ride, I enjoyed myself in a different way than I usually do. Maybe because it was more of a self-regulating challenge and less of a “trying to do what the reading tells me to do because I want to get a workout challenge.”

I do all of my riding alone because of my work schedule and family obligations. But, I think I had gotten so wrapped up in the numbers of my Garmin that I was missing out on enjoying the ride just for the sake of riding. (It’s the Type A part of me.)

My Garmin is charged and ready but I’m going to find a way to do this type of riding more often.


  1. mildstallion says

    What constitutes a good ride is often revealed in how you feel, not necessarily by the numbers.

    ** does spit-take ** non-caffinated?

  2. KK says

    I’ve been there and done that. Most of my road riding is alone, with my Garmin, and I have years of numbers to track “progress” — I’ve felt the pang of the missing 305 on a ride. The cure, for me, is straightforward: mountain biking. I’m so focused on the terrain, my technique, my companions, the scenery and the ride that I don’t notice the numbers. And when I look at them at the end of the day, they really don’t mean much. They don’t show that I tried a section of trail 3 times, or whether I cleaned a move or turfed it again. I come back from a mountain bike ride with a totally different kind of appreciation for a day on the bike.

  3. Mark Elam says

    I just put my Cateye CD300DW up for sale on Ebay. I’m going back to my Micro. I was doing fine and making sensible progress before I knew exactly what my cadence was. I got tired of feeling ‘accountable’ to technology. I took up cycling again because I enjoyed it in the seventies when I rode with no computer at all (GASP!).

    We do so much these days ‘because we can’. That doesn’t make it meaningful.

  4. RamonH says

    This is one of the reasons why I don’t get a heart rate monitor. I know at the end of each ride what kind of work out I had by my own self-assessment, instead of by numbers. Others call it, “Perceived Effort”.

    When I rode in the Spring and Summer, it was easy to see my cadence and other numbers. However, as I have started riding in the dark (5AM or sometimes 9PM), I don’t see the numbers anymore because it is just too dark to see them. I do get a glimpse every now and then, but I have gotten more accustomed to just go by my effort overall.


  5. says

    Every now and again, it’s a good idea to get out without the computers and the constraints we allow them to put us under. I’m just as Type-A where that’s concerned, making sure the Garmin is ready even for a quick 1.01 mile out and back to the grocery store.

    But it’s definitely an exception. Now that I have it, I don’t think I’d want to go back to the way it was before.

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