I’ve made it clear in posts over the last year or so that I have settled into a style of cycling that suits me. I like to hang with the B-level riders. I’m not going to knock myself out to keep up with the strong guys on the Sunday morning club ride.
At the same time, I am an almost obsessive record keeper. I have four years’ worth of rides on Bike Journal, and can compare how I’m doing this year with how I’ve done in previous years. I can also compare how I’ve done on a favorite ride compared to how I might have ridden it a month, or six months, or a year ago.
But record keeping has gotten a lot more sophisticated over the last four years. Now, you have to have a GPS device that collects data during a ride and can be downloaded to your computer. Much more detailed information is available than had been before.
The big new player on the scene is Strava. It presents itself as an easy way to track your rides and collect all sorts of interesting numbers. Not just the ride time, average speed, maximum speed, etc. — heck, my $12 bike computer does all that — but Strava does so much more, and it displays the results in a colorful, attractive layout.
Want to see how today’s ride went? Here’s how Strava shows it to you*:
(Click on these pictures to enlarge them for easier reading.)
If you want to see how well you stack up against other people who’ve ridden the same route, or maybe just a particular segment of your route, you can do that, too:
Not to be outdone, the ride mapping site I occasionally use — Map My Ride — has added segments, too. It offers a lot of the same data as Strava, but since it only started doing that recently, it doesn’t have as many comparisons available — yet.
Now, in order to get all this information, you have to have a GPS device, from Garmin, or an iPhone or Android smartphone, or a Blackberry. Well, that counts me out. Don’t have ’em, don’t particularly want ’em.
But…I did a nice 19.2-mile ride after work this afternoon, and really felt good. That long weekend ride must have built up my legs, because today they were generating some power that’s not usually there. I finished with an average speed of 16.6 mph — about 1.5 mph faster than I typically do that route. Maybe if I was more diligent about comparing my times on various routes — or segments within routes — that would help me raise the level of my performance. But I’m not sure we’ll ever know, because purchasing those items is out of my budget for awhile.
And really, does all this competition that the data sets up really offer any benefits? I can’t answer that, but maybe our readers can. What do you think? Do you use Strava? Map My Ride for GPS? Like ’em? Hate ’em?
*Screen grabs from Strava and Map My Ride websites.