Change Those Computer Batteries!

As I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I are participating in training rides for the Mamma Jamma ride to support breast cancer research. Sunday’s ride was in San Marcos, Texas, the town where I work, about 30 miles south of Austin. We were both looking forward to the ride, because it would be on new roads for both of us.

But while bowling Saturday, I pulled a muscle in my hip. Walking around was painful. I wasn’t sure if riding would be smart.

Pat said she would do the 17-mile ride. There were also options for 37 and 49 miles. I wanted to do the 37, but when I walked outside to get the paper at 5:15 Sunday morning, the heat and humidity were already oppressive.

“I’m going to do the 17 with you,” I said. “It’s going to be rough out there today.”

She was glad to hear that, because it meant she wouldn’t be on her own. Not that she would be anyway, because Mamma Jamma rides always have ride leaders. Today’s were from Tough Cookies, an Austin-based women’s bike and triathlon team.

At the start, I watched enviously as the 49 and 37-milers took off. The weather wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. It was about 80 degrees, and humid like Florida (yech!), but enough clouds moved through the sky that the sun was mostly blocked. Still, I was going to favor my hip.

The 17-mile riders, as you might imagine, were the slow group. Within minutes of the start, one had tire problems. A sag car with a floor pump caught up to us, and the sweep rider started to pump up the tube. But it had a bent valve, and looked like it would take some time before it was ready. Four of us, including the Tough Cookies leader, decided we’d leave on our own.

The ride was slow, but nice. My hip didn’t hurt at all — I think the flexing did it some good. We rode some quiet country roads east of town, then crossed I-35 and traveled some more quiet country roads I’d never seen before.

I looked at my computer to check distance. Nine-point-something, it said (I have a heckuva time reading the thing without bifocals). Two or three miles later, I glanced at the computer again. Oh-oh.

Speed measured zero. Cadence measured zero. Mileage was still 9-point-something. I didn’t think we’d bounced around enough to knock the sensors off kilter. At a convenience store, we stopped to refill water bottles. The computer was blank. I checked the sensors, and they still lined up closely to the magnets. My batteries had died.

Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but when you’re an OCD record-keeper like I am, it can be catastrophic. I calmed down though, reminding myself that I would just take the data from the ride leader’s computer at the end.

We wound through seemingly endless rows of apartment complexes, which house students from the nearby university. Back out in the country, we made good time and reached our starting point quickly. The sun was just starting to come out from behind the clouds. I was drenched in sweat, but the breeze had cooled me during the ride, and I was quite comfortable. I walked over to Kathleen, the ride leader.

“So, what was the mileage and time?” I asked.

She looked at her computer. “Nine-point-six-eight miles,” she said. I grimaced.

“Which is wrong,” she added.

Her computer had died, too.

An acquaintance of mine makes it a point to change his computer batteries on New Year’s Day each year, “Whether they need it or not,” he says.

My batteries had died just a year after I got the computer, but these replacements were still going strong (I thought) a year and a half later. Now I know better, and I’ll be replacing them annually, too — say, on the Fourth of July.

So instead, I logged onto Map My Ride and mapped out the route. 17.8 miles. We were out there for about an hour and 50 minutes, but that included a 15-minute convenience store stop while we waited for the slower riders — who never did catch up. The average speed worked out to 13.4 mph. Okay, that’s close enough.

But I’m not going to let that happen again. Later Sunday afternoon, I hit the supermarket for some new batteries. The computer was running like a champ on my Monday morning ride.


  1. Mel Hughes says

    Ray, I feel your pain! I am trying something new with the new bike, no computer! When the OCD runs rampant, I use this program, Gmaps Pedometer ( to view my mileage, route, and elevation changes. (Thanks to Alan Barnard!)

  2. Jeff says

    I was doing a long ride yesterday, with lots of big climbs, and was logging everything meticulously with the Strava iPhone app I was trying out so I could see the results later, how far I went, how fast I climbed, category of the hills, etc. About 3/4 of the way through stopped to take a photo…and in the glare from the sun mistakenly hit “Discard Ride” and lost everything. Almost silly how disappointed I was…

  3. JBM says

    I like to swap out my computer’s batteries every 1 January. Two reasons for this. First, you get the benefits of a fresh battery and your computer is less liekly to bonk. Second, the battery swap re-sets the odometer on the computer; great way to start the year on an official Mile One.


  4. says

    After last years Texas state time trial championships where my powertap’s batteries went out I now carry replacement batteries for the powertap and heart rate strap and/or Garmin speed/cadence sensor.

    • says

      We’ve never met, but your blog post on changing batteries on New Year’s was what I was referring to. I’ve been a reader of your blog for at least two years now. But I don’t see randonneuring in my future.

  5. kathleen says

    You are more organized than I am! It’s been a rough two weeks, but I was just grateful to be able to be out on my bike today, even though I still haven’t gotten that battery replaced. I swear I will do it this week! Kathleen

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