Shorts — Old and New

Over the last few months, I have finally acquired some new bike shorts. I’ve been riding the same ones for about four years now — no, wait — five. It’s time to replace some of them.

In our family, the biking clothes of choice are Pearl Izumi. We know they’re not the cream of the crop, but they’re pretty good quality and have served us well. This time though, I wanted to try something different, just for the sake of being different.

Performance Ultra.

Performance Ultra.

My wife gave me a pair of Performance Ultra shorts for Christmas. These shorts, and the Performance Elite, have gotten good reviews online for several years. Furthermore, several members of my bike club wear them, and like them as well.

I was pleased with them from the first ride. The only thing I noticed was that they are a bit snug fitting. They compress my waist so that I look like my belly is even bigger than it really is. They do a nice job of compression of the thighs, too. And they’ve got a feature I hadn’t seen before: the leg grippers are about two inches above the bottom of the leg, leaving the bottom two inches feeling looser. Neither I nor my wife, who also got a pair, liked that at first. Now, we’re used to it, and it feels fine. The Performance shorts also have a feature I really like: a modesty panel. That is a piece of material that extends forward and up from the chamois and flattens your, uh, package, so it’s not as obvious when standing around in mixed company at a coffee shop or convenience store stop. I wish all short makers would include one of these.

My second new pair of shorts, which I bought as a birthday present for myself, was the Top Shelf by Aerotech Designs. I’ve read favorable reviews of Aerotech’s products for several years, especially in  regard to big and tall sizes. So, I thought I’d try a pair to see if they worked as well for a guy who has a belly, but would like to think he’s not fat — yet.

The Aerotechs are closer to true sizing, and don’t have the tight feeling of the Performance shorts. The leg grippers are in the traditional spot, at the bottom of the leg. But the biggest difference between the two is the chamois pad.

Aerotech Design Top Shelf.

Aerotech Design Top Shelf.

The pad in the Performance shorts is what I would call a traditional size and shape. It’s similar to the pad in the Pearl Izumi shorts and bibs I own. But in the Aerotechs, the pad is a pad. It’s a bit larger, and feel something like a thick diaper is between your legs. Some cyclists wouldn’t want that. But it suits me just fine. Maybe it’s my old guy flat butt, but I need extra padding in my shorts, or I’m uncomfortable after the first hour in the saddle.

The subtle differences in the two shorts came to the fore during rides this week. On Tuesday, I wore the Performance shorts on an 18-mile cruise through my neighborhood. Despite their tightness when I stand in them, they feel fine when I’m in a more aero position over the handlebars.  I do move around on the saddle more often during the ride, but I would grab this pair anytime.

I wore the Aerotechs for a 32-mile ride Friday. Here’s where the big pad separated itself from the rest. I was comfortable throughout the ride, climbing tough hills, roaring down others, riding tempo, and just rolling along easily. After two-plus hours on the bike, I was as fresh as when I started.

It might be unfair to review biking shorts after such a short period of use — three months for one pair, one month for the other. If the shorts are not comfortable that soon for whatever reason, there’s a problem. It will be interesting to see how they hold up over time. I have a nice pair of Sugoi shorts that also have a large, thick pad (although not quite up to the standard of the Aerotechs) that I like to wear on longer weekend rides. But the Sugois are separating along the seams where they connect the legs to the pad, and these shorts will not be around for much longer. My Pearl Izumi shorts have just about run their course, but the pad is still in great shape. So even though they look terrible, they still feel good on the bike, so I’ll keep them around a little longer.

Anyhow, if you’ve been considering a new pair of shorts, you can consider either the Performance Ultra or the Aerotech Designs Top Shelf. Choose according to your preferences for padding, and remember that the Performance shorts run a bit tight. I’m sure you’ll be happy with either kind.

Shedding Layers

Took a nice Sunday ride with my buddy Maggie. The main club ride left at 8:15, and during winter, I’m not ready to go then — maybe after Daylight Savings Time begins. We decided to leave an hour later and head for Creedmoor. No other B riders joined us. The Bs in our club don’t do club rides during winter, but they’ll be out in force once the weather warms up.

I got to Starbucks as Maggie was unloading her bike from the car rack. She was wearing a short sleeved jersey with a long-sleeved tee under, and long socks. I was wearing a base layer, a short-sleeved jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a windbreaker. The temperature was about 45 degrees (7C).

“I think I overdressed,” I said.

“I feel pretty comfortable,” she replied. “Do you want to put some stuff in my car?”

“You know, I usually dress this way when it’s in the 40s,” I said. “We’ll wait until we get to Creedmoor, then see.”

It was a great day for biking. The sun was out, traffic was still light at this hour on a Sunday, and the wind was an easy breeze from the north. We chewed up the miles heading southeast of town.

The only casualty during that first leg was my camera. I had the bright idea that I would snap some shots as we rode, but caught the battery door with the heel of my glove and the batteries fell out. So no pictures on this ride.

One highlight of the trip was our ride past the exotic game ranch behind the landfill. Various species of African antelopes were much closer to the fence than usual (Because I was unable to take pictures, I assume). Some had long horns that curved back from their heads (scimitar oryx), while others had those horns that spiral (perhaps a lesser kudu?). One of the biggest ostriches I’ve ever seen was by itself farther down. No zebras today.

Sixteen miles and a little over an hour later, we pulled into the convenience store in the crossroads hamlet of Creedmoor. I took off my windbreaker, and debated about whether to just remove the sleeves and keep the vest for the trip back. I decided it was now warm enough that I could stash the entire windbreaker. It stows in its own pocket, and fastens with a locking strap. But it made a pretty big ball, even after I compressed it as much as I could. Maggie jammed the windbreaker into the back center pocket of my jersey, after I moved all the stuff out of it (ziplock bag with cellphone and money, fig bars, cleat covers) into the other pockets. The result was an ungainly-looking lump on my lower back. I unzipped my leg warmers and pulled them down, too. They fit more easily into one of the other jersey pockets, and my accessories went into the third. I think the temperature was well into the 50s by now, although I didn’t bother to check it on my bike computer, since that’s notoriously inaccurate.

A few minutes later, we were ready to head back. We take a somewhat different route that gives us a longer return leg.

“You lead the way,” Maggie said. “I always miss that first turn.”

I headed out of the parking lot, and immediately wondered if I’d made the right decision about clothes. That breeze from the north might have been light, but now that I was facing directly into it, I could feel its effects. One thing about that windbreaker — it does its job well, but it does make me sweat underneath. Now, the wind was hitting my damp jersey and arm warmers, and I was cold.

And that’s the problem with layering. It’s the best way to adjust for temperature, but each time a layer is shed, the body chills. By the time we’d gone a couple of miles and were on a fast stretch of country road, I didn’t notice it anymore. I was concentrating too much on keeping the bike under control going downhill at 35 mph and being passed by locals on a two-lane road with no shoulder. The folks out here are used to cyclists, but that doesn’t mean they like them much. Once, a car passing me stayed in the oncoming lane a little too long, and an oncoming car had to brake and hit the horn. Nice to see them call out other drivers instead of cyclists.

We got back to our Starbucks starting point, and found some members of the morning’s A ride already there. I sat down at an outdoor table in the sunshine, and realized that I was now quite comfortable. The breeze from riding had dried off my clothes. At home a few minutes later, I got ready for a shower, and found my jersey, base layer, and arm warmers to be soaked through. A warm shower took care of any residual chilling I might have had.

How about you? Do you struggle with layering? Do you have any strategies you use to keep from sweating too much under layers? Or is that just to be expected?

My Haywire Bike Computer

The other day, I was out for a ride when I noticed something odd. My bike computer was behaving very oddly. It registered speeds twice as fast as I was going, then suddenly dropped to half the speed. After I’d ridden about four miles, it showed that I had done closer to nine.

Now, when you’re as OCD as I am about keeping stats, that’s a very uncomfortable feeling. I could still enter the mileage, because my route was one I ride all the time, so I know how far it is. I missed such important stats as average speed, maximum speed, and time of ride.

After traveling about half the route, I pulled over to the curb and adjusted my speed sensor on the bike’s fork. I made sure it was within two mm of the magnet, and I turned the magnet a bit to make sure it was positioned perfectly. Then I hopped on the bike and started pedaling.

Nothing. That is, nothing had changed. It still had me racing beyond my ability one moment, and in the next, wasn’t registering speed at all.

Back home, I reasoned that my headlight could be the culprit. I had installed the headlight just before the ride, because the sun is low in the sky and casts long shadows these days. A headlight on low beam would let me better be seen by drivers, especially if the sun is in their faces.

But I remembered that last winter when I had the light on the bike, the computer ran just fine. Hm. That couldn’t be it, then.

Just for the heck of it, when I rode the next day, I took the headlight off.

The computer worked perfectly.

“Magnetic anomaly!” said one of my biking friends.

That was it, all right. And I recalled that one thing had changed since last year. I have a new computer. The old was was wired. The new one is wireless. The wired computer wasn’t affected by the magnetic field thrown off by the headlight, but it sure plays havoc with a wireless unit.

I guess I’ll just have to make it a point to ride before dusk for the rest of winter.

Racks on Road Bikes

I saw something interesting the other day. It was a road bike out for a spin in the neighborhood, but he had one very distinctive feature on his bike: a rear rack.

Now, racks aren’t all that uncommon for long distance riders. Randonneurs, who are going to be on the road for a minimum of 125 miles (200Km), make a point of mounting racks on their bikes to carry larger loads than the typical rider. But this guy obviously wasn’t going to ride all day. Although I hadn’t seen him before, it was evident just from his appearance that he was going to stick close to home. So why the rack?

This bike is set up for randonneuring (Note the headlight and dynamo hub), but could be on a shorter ride here, since his rear rack is empty.

This bike is set up for randonneuring (Note the headlight and dynamo hub), but could be on a shorter ride here, since his rear rack is empty. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

Well, apparently some riders also want to carry a little more than just some flat fixing items. Commuters, for example, often use a second road bike and fit it with a rack to carry their work sundries.

The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a favorite of commuters, although it's designed as a light touring bike.

The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a favorite of commuters, although it’s designed as a light touring bike.

And one of the basic problems you might encounter if you decide to mount a rear rack to your road bike is how to attach it. Road bikes don’t have the braze-ons needed to screw in the rack mounts. With a little ingenuity, it’s possible to do a workaround to get the rack to fit.

A 2014 Orbea Avant with disc brakes and a rear rack.

A 2014 Orbea Avant with disc brakes and a rear rack.

So — would you put a rack on a sleek road bike? What are the advantages? If you’ve already done it, I’d love to hear your experiences.

The Kinda, Sorta Garmin Edge Review

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back, with a look at an item the Bike Noob has so far successfully avoided.

HemmelsRide2Judging by the stems and handlebars of an increasing number of riders, Garmin is taking over the cycling world. Or at least, the bike computer part of it. Seemingly everyone has, or wants, one of the brand’s pricey little, GPS-equipped Edge units. Ray confirms he’s about the only one in his group who doesn’t use one. Fellow guest blogger Don Blount is a longtime user. I’m not immune to the little gadget’s allure. When I got the chance to test ride an Edge 500 for myself (I have a relationship with Garmin through my real-world job in the boating industry), I jumped at the chance. Normally, that would result in a standard-issue review, but considering that by now endless other outlets have already done that job quite well, I decided to take a different approach.

Jeff's Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he's not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)

Jeff’s Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he’s not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)

To be blunt, I decided to look at why so many riders had happily purchased a computer that costs several hundred dollars, when far cheaper alternatives — that do the basics quite well — could be had for much less.

For my friend John Matthews, part of the answer was the unit’s multitude of features. “It goes so far beyond the standard wired or wireless bicycle computer that there really isn’t any comparison,” he says of his compact Edge 500, referencing the computer’s ability to display not only speed, time and distance, but up to 61 other pieces of data including cadence, heart rate, elevation, lap times, and grade. Don agrees. “Lots of data,” he notes, while also pointing out the Edge’s accuracy, long battery life (12-18 hours), and auto shutoff feature. “That saves me from putting my bike away, forgetting to shut it off and discovering before my next ride that it is not charged.”

John also points out the unit’s ability to be easily transferred and configured to multiple bikes, and the Edge’s extensive customization potential. On the 500, up to five separate screens can be individually configured, with as little as one — or as many as eight — information fields per page. John also found the customization process, and the unit’s overall operation, highly intuitive and “ridiculously” easy to learn.

It seems to me that an equal part of that answer, however, is that a lot of us take our riding pretty seriously. As the Edge units are ANT+ compatible, they work seamlessly with any number of external add-ons, including wireless heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, even power meters. They can also record and store all sorts of stats from multiple rides for those who like to upload the information to sites like Garmin Connect or Strava. Don notes Garmin’s online log allows him to “download my data and compute totals and compare as far back as when I first began using a Garmin.”

Stats recording was a compelling reason for another friend, Tim Robinson, who purchased a touchscreen Edge 800, a larger device that includes color maps and can display turn-by-turn directions. Tim likes to track his rides, but found fault with the current slate of smartphone apps. “I had been using MapMyRide and Strava on my cellphone, but it would die part way through a big ride,” says Tim. “I wanted something that would do the same thing, but keep my cellphone fully charged for emergencies.” As part of our local group had recently taken to heading out of town for hillier rides in preparation for Georgia’s Six Gap Century, he also wanted a unit that would show his position and a route map so he wouldn’t get lost if he got dropped from the group.

As to Edge model’s high price points, all seemed willing to make the investment. John contends his 500 is actually a great deal. “I have not found anything else that comes close to this functionality,” he says.

Initially, I thought I’d go back to my previous computer after my test period with the Edge 500 ended, but now I, too, have grown pretty attached. Why? All of the above. Like Tim, I also got frustrated with the Strava iPhone app killing my phone battery. That same app also seemed to not accurately record my elevation, a minor detail but something I like to track when I get the chance to do some serious climbing. I also like the Edge’s ability to be recharged via the same USB cable that uploads its data to my computer. My old computer’s battery indicator was woefully inaccurate, and batteries died unexpectedly several times.

What’s not to like? Don notes the somewhat flimsy, rubber O-ring mounting system. He’s opted for a stiffer mount from BarFly that also puts the computer ahead of the handlebars. I’ve tried a similar mount from K Edge that I would recommend. Don also adds the 500’s side-mounted buttons can be cumbersome to use if you’ve also got a light close by on your handlebars.

Still, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives…but is that enough to justify the expense? I guess the answer will depend on how serious you are about your cycling, how obsessive you are about your stats, and maybe just whether or not you think there’s better stuff to spend your money on.

Clearly a lot of people, however, are living on the Edge…pun intended.

What’s In Your Saddle Bag?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel opens a discussion of one of biking’s most common items.

HemmelsRide2Recently I came across a discussion of what people carried in their saddle bags. It piqued my interest, because over many years I feel like I’ve really streamlined mine to the true essentials, while still allowing for a few items I’ve come to appreciate from experience…and some people might overlook.

What do I bring along for the ride? I dumped the contents out to jog my memory. Chime in to add anything you think I’ve missed.

bag

A Spare Tube — This one is obvious. A spare tube is there to save the day should you flat on any of the detritus that lines the roads, and as such should be the key item in any saddle bag. Tip? Bicycling magazine recently suggested to wrap a spare in plastic wrap. I guess the idea is to keep it “fresh,” but it also keeps the tube as compact as possible, as well as protects it from some abrasion by other items in your bag.

Perhaps the real question should be one tube…or two? I try to keep things as minimal as possible, so I go with one, reasoning that I can call someone for a ride should things go really haywire. If I’m venturing out into some unknown area, however, I sometimes squeeze a second one into my bag…just in case.

Patch Kit — One reason I often go with just the single tube is that I carry a patch kit. You can find them in tiny little packages that are easy to add to your bag. That way if you ruin your spare, you can do a quickie repair.

Tire Levers — I usually just use my hands to remove a tire, but I still keep a pair of tire levers in my bag. They’re helpful for getting a tire off the rim, especially if the tire is new and not very pliable.

CO2 Inflator — My brother gets on me about this one, noting that all of us quick-fix types aren’t doing the environment any favor. But a small CO2 inflator is the simplest, quickest way to get you back up and riding, especially if a group may be waiting for you…or you don’t want to lose them. CO2 inflators, however, are notorious for misfiring. After a little trial and error, I’ve settled on a Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Elite. It’s a tiny, spring-loaded, inexpensive inflator head that’s got a great reputation. There are flashier solutions, but I’m not sure any really better.

CO2 Cartridges — I have a mini frame pump that tucks behind a bottle cage, so I stick with just one CO2 cartridge in my streamlined bag. For the typical road bike tire, one 16 gram cartridge should get you back up to about 110-115 pounds. Theoretically it should fill to 130 psi, but I’ve never quite seen that happen.

Presta Valve Adapter — This summer I had what I’ll call the “flat change from hell.” Suffice it to say my old CO2 inflator leaked, my frame pump broke, and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes on the side of a steep country road. I was finally able to walk to a convenience store, only to find I had to do a little surgery on their air hose just to get a little bit of air into my tire. Then and there I vowed to get one of these little adapters (about $1.50) and throw it in my bag. I may never need it again, but if I do, it’s cheap insurance.

Multi-Tool — I’ve seen better (and bigger) alternatives, but I think most people can get by with just a simple tool, like Park’s tiny IB-2. It’s got a multitude of hex wrenches, a flat-blade screwdriver, and an I-beam handle for strength.

Grease Monkey Wipe — I scoffed at this when a friend gave me one, but these little foil-wrapped wipes really do clean up your hands after a chain issue, or even a dirty tire change. I just used the one I was given. Time to find some more.

Oh, a side note…the makers were funded by one of the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank.

As to the actual bag I keep this stuff in, I’ve found one — again, a small one — that works perfect for me, the Serfas EV-2. I like the bag’s durability, but I primarily appreciate that it’s not just one wide-open bag. Instead, there’s a mesh pocket in the zippered entry flap (a great spot to stow that little inflator and Presta valve adapter), a pocket on one side to hold my multi-tool, and a strap on the other to tuck in my CO2 cartridge and tire levers. Best of all it’s even got a strap with a clip to securely hold a house key…something you definitely don’t want to lose out of your saddle bag when changing a tire on the side of a hill while being attacked my mosquitoes.

Not that I would know about that sort of thing.

Orthotics?

A newer member of my cycling club jumped on our Yahoo group with a question.

“I am having some pain in the outside of my right foot that has been slowly building over the past few weeks,” he wrote. “I used custom orthotics (pronator) when I used to run to alleviate plantars. Unfortunately those orthotics are too thick to fit in my cycling shoes. I found some footbed systems from Gyro and Specialized on line that provide some additional arch suport.

Has anyone had similar issues and what did you do to solve it?”
I’m always interested when I hear people complain about foot pain. I went through that mess several years ago, when I started cycling. In my case, the problem was a poor quality bike shoe. Once I got a pair of Specialized Body Geometry shoes, my foot problems ceased. But his pronation problems are different than the complaints I had with my feet. I waited to see what other club members had to say.
“I use the Specialized inserts and they are excellent,” opined one fellow. No details.
“I too use Specialized inserts,” said another. “They form fit and last a good while. However, if you are a pronator you may need a custom orthotic.
“Also there are several options for increasing your Q factor (distance between pedals) to offset the ankles. I use 25mm Knee savers (they come in stainless at 30mm too and 20mm Titanium). But you can also just purchase longer spindles for Speedplay pedals and possibly others too. “
Knee savers. Hadn’t heard about them for awhile, and I didn’t know this rider was using them. I wrote a post about them several years ago. I’m not sure they’re the kind of relief the original poster was looking for, though.
“Try the Sole thin footbeds on Amazon,” wrote one of our better female riders. “You heat them in the oven and then custom mold them to your feet. They work really well imho, I use them in my cycling shoes and love them.” She supplied a link to the item.
I don’t use orthotics, but I do have insoles in a pair of my walking shoes. I love the extra comfort they give. When riding a bike, though, the relatively flat insoles that come with the shoes are adequate for me. I’ve experimented with insoles in my biking shoes, and find I don’t need them.
But what about you? What kind of advice would you give the original poster? Do you have custom orthotics for your bike shoes, or do you use the moldable insoles, or just off-the-rack from Dr. Sholl’s things?

I Am Such A Noob

After my crash during the week, I was anxious to get back on the bike. The road rash was painful (at this writing, still is), but would rub against nothing while in the saddle, so riding wouldn’t be a problem.

But I needed to replace my trusty old Schwinn bike computer. It had been flattened when a car ran over it right after my crash. I swung by Wal-Mart after work Friday and picked up a new one.

compNot exactly like the old, but pretty close. Instead of the Schwinn name, it was by Bell — the helmet and cheap bike accessory folks. It has the familiar two buttons below the display that the previous one had had, and operates the same way. More bells and whistles, though — this one also has you input your age and weight, so it can calculate calories and fat burned during a workout. Oooh! Who needs Strava?

So, I sat down with the instruction booklet Friday evening and set the computer. I inputted the wheel circumference (after manually measuring it in my driveway), and all the other stuff you’re supposed to do. Saturday morning, I mounted it on the bike for its first ride.

Immediately, I saw that something was wrong. As I pulled out of my driveway, still with only one foot clipped into a pedal, the computer was reading 15 mph. Farther down the block, once I started cruising, it showed a speed in the high 20s.

Hm. I must have set something wrong. I did my ride along a familiar route, so I would be able to save some of the data. But the readings I was getting on the new computer were around twice as high as I should get if it was accurate.

Sunday morning, after resetting the computer for the umpteenth time, I set out on another ride. I had decided to skip the club ride because of my road rash. Although I could ride easy, I didn’t think I was up for a 40-mile, two-and-a-half hour jaunt in the country. Next week.

Again, the computer registered high numbers. I stopped a few blocks into the ride, and adjusted the sensor mounted on the fork. Then I reset the computer to kilometers per hour, assuming that maybe there was a manufacturing flaw, and the miles and kilometer settings had been reversed at the factory. All that got me was cruising speeds upwards of 60 kph.

This disappointed me. I’ve been somewhat smug about not needing a fancy bike computer when all my friends have one. Current speed, max speed, average speed, and distance are really the only numbers I need. But now, after spending considerably more for this unit than the one it replaced ($23), I wasn’t getting any usable readings.

As I pedaled along, I noticed something odd from the front wheel. That sensor magnet was really spinning fast. Why, it looked like it was going twice as fast…oh, crap.

I stopped at the side of the road again, and this time I took off one of the two magnets on the front wheel. When I disconnected the old unit’s wiring and sensor, I had forgotten to take the magnet off the wheel. Instead, I installed the magnet from the new unit. Now, I had two. Double the magnets, double the fun.

I set off again. The speed was right where it should have been — between 12-15 mph. On the slight downhill through a nice subdivision, it registered 26 mph. I rode over to the Veloway, which has a known distance of 3.1 miles per lap, and did two laps. Yep, 3.1 miles each time.

Next time you get a new bike computer, remember to take off the old wheel magnet before you install the new one.

And you wonder why I still call this blog Bike Noob.

Catch ‘em With This Helmet

If you’ve already seen this, my apologies. But I think it’s an interesting way to make sure you’ve got the evidence if you get hit by a car while on a ride, or just to deal with a driver harassing you. It’s intended to get the drop on hit-and-run drivers, which we’ve seen far too many of lately. Called the “Helmet of Justice,” it runs about $300.

1681480-poster-1280-chaotic-moon-helmet-2

I think its looks leave a lot to be desired, but it does have seven — seven! — video cameras. That ought to provide enough visual documentation.

 

In Defense Of Strava

Dan Colvin

Dan Colvin

I’ve tweaked Strava a few times for data overkill, but the other day I heard from Bike Noob reader Dan Colvin. Dan pointed out that Strava has its uses, and can come in handy for any rider. I asked him to turn his comments into a guest post. Here it is.

For better or worse, Strava changes your rides. In an extreme case, the ride can become all about trying to capture the King Of the Mountain on some segment. Or multiple segments.

Personally, I don’t care for rides that become all about that, but I am OK with pushing a segment if it just occurs naturally. It might occur to me, for instance, that I am really working hard into a fierce headwind going south on an out-and-back, and maybe I should back off a bit. Then, when I turn around and give it everything I’ve got on the northbound leg through a particular segment, see if I can improve my standing there.

Or, I will remember that there is a particular climb on today’s route for which I’ve never recorded a particularly good time. Maybe I will push it really hard and see what I can do with it. More subtly, there is the idea that friends are watching – can’t turn around now, how will that look? Can’t hunt arrowheads, got to finish strong. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

Then, there is the after. I rarely take more than a glance at the Garmin as I turn it off after a ride. I wait to get home and see if the ride was as good (or as poor) as I thought it was. It is sort of like Christmas morning there, as I upload the ride, give it a name, and wait to see if my time on some particular segment was as good as I hoped it was. There have been times where I was just trying to post a good time on some segment and discovered I had a KOM. Or a top 10. Other times, I’ve thought I climbed something really well, then discovered that it wasn’t as good as some previous attempt I had made.

Once the ride is up there, friends start to notice, comment and/or give kudos. On any given day, someone I know is posting some cool ride from some other part of the area. Or, I will see that some friend who normally rides in town was out on my local roads. Pretty cool. Not so cool, on the other hand, on days when I didn’t ride, but see that others did.

The really cool thing is when I run across some of those same names in the pro ranks. A number of the up and coming pros, particularly the ones who’ve come through the Livestrong-Bontrager team, have spent their off-seasons training in the Austin area. So, they show up on many of the local segments. Of course, there is no way to tell whether they had a headwind or a tailwind, or if they had a clue they were on a segment, but it is still fun to think, “Hey, the next guy in front of me on this segment is currently racing in the Tour of California.”

I’ve only used the free stuff on Strava. From what I’ve seen, the upgrade is pretty reasonable, and I have friends who use it to tell all sorts of stuff about the training efforts of their rides. I guess knowing that I was able to sustain an average of X number of watts over a 10 minute period today, and it was so many watts higher than what I had been able to average three months ago would be nice. But, it would only mean something if they were measured watts instead of estimated.  I guess you need that for the Suffer Score as well. I’m not sure I need a computer to tell me how much suffering I did.

It is helpful to have all of my rides for the year out there. I don’t have to track mileage or average speed or try to remember where I rode on a specific date. I can just refer back to it. It also helps if I am trying to remember a particular route, or figure out how long a route would be.

A friend who has recently been cycling in various parts of the country tells me that Strava is somewhat of a regional thing. In some parts of the country, it hasn’t achieved critical mass, so there are few, if any, segments established. With no segments and few other riders, there is much less benefit to using Strava. In other areas, Strava is well established and not being on Strava can make you somewhat of an outlier.

Our area, Central Texas, seems to be one in which a very large number of riders are on Strava. I start to feel a certain kinship with riders whose names I see on the segments I ride regularly.

All in all, it has been a mixed bag. I wouldn’t say that it is for everyone, but I have enjoyed it.