A Look Back at January

Guest poster Don Blount is back (he’s been blogging here more often than I have lately) with a look at his January biking miles, and how they’re helping him build for the coming year.

BlountOnBikingI finished January with 606 miles (975 kilometers), my highest monthly total ever.

My previous high was set in July; I rode 573 miles (922 km) that month.

Winter is when we get the bulk of our rain in Northern California. However, this winter has been dry. So dry, in fact, that we went more than 50 days without any rain and when it finally rained to break that streak, it was a fairly insignificant amount.

However, those dry days provided plenty of opportunities to ride outdoors.

And I took advantage of that.

For the past nine months I have been riding about four to five days a week. I continued that in January while also adding quite a few longer rides, of about 50 miles (80 km) a week.

To put this in perspective here are my previous January mileage totals: 2013 – 260 miles (418 km); 2012 – 291 (468); 2011 – 313 (503); 2010 – 220 (354).

Another change I have made these past few months is riding for time instead of distance. Instead of planning a 40-mile ride (64 km), I will plan a 2 ½-hour ride with the distance dependent on the pace.

And also, I have changed how I use my bike. I ride for fitness and performance. It is part of my cardio activity for staying healthy but I also ride to become a stronger rider. That change may be just semantics or attitude. But it has worked for me.

A bike mechanic once told me that it was more important to focus on the time you spent in the saddle instead of the distance. Distance will build as you put in the time he said (and no, he did not look like the Ancient Mariner).

I did not understand what he meant then but I do now as I go about preparing for rides I have planned for later this year. The only way to prepare for longer rides is to spend time in the saddle. Some of those rides I am targeting will require about 12 hours of saddle time. The longest ride I have done was a full century that took 6 hours 39 minutes.

I feel comfortable and confident spending time in the saddle, I just need to continue building.

In January, my long rides were three to four hours. They will be getting longer this month. I already have planned a ride that I am told will take six hours, it is 87 miles (140 km) with 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) of and a metric century too.

I do not expect to ride 600 miles (965 km) every month, but I take satisfaction in getting off to a good start in building a strong foundation for the year.

 

The Hills, Revisited

Guest poster Don Blount is back again, this time regarding his never-ending battle with the hills.

BlountOnBikingNo mea culpas from me. No apologies either. I previously have called hills evil and I am not backing down from that statement.

Well, at least not until they apologize for throwing so much hate in my direction.

Hills, and their partner Gravity, worked against me greatly.

They made climbing torture and frequently stripped me of my dignity. You ever tried to look cool pushing a bike up a hill while wearing cycling shoes?

But of late, climbing has become much easier.

I can comfortably do rides that I could not handle a few months ago. I can look at the scenery and even talk to other riders at times. I can do rides I would not have attempted previously.

This is not because of any change in the hills as they have made no concessions. It is because I lost a boatload of weight and improved my fitness.

Now that I can ride in the hills, I have plenty of climbing planned.

On Jan. 2, I was part of a group of six who rode a route that is part of the Amgen Tour of California . We started in Danville , rode to the summit of Mt. Diablo , descended down the other side of the mountain to Walnut Creek for lunch. We then rode back up to a junction a few miles from the summit before returning to our starting point.

In total, the ride was 49.44 miles (79.56 kilometers) with 6,138 feet (about 1,871 meters) of climbing in 3 hours 57 minutes.

Summit of Mt Diablo in Mt Diablo State Park near Danville, Calif.

Summit of Mt Diablo in Mt Diablo State Park near Danville, Calif.

And it was something I would not have attempted a year ago.

But as I do these rides, I keep in mind that Hills and Gravity are tricky. They are just waiting for the right moment to ambush me. It could be on an extended climb or a climb with a steep grade or even a series of rollers. I am not letting my guard down. I plan to continue working at riding and climbing.

And I keep in mind what I was told by Bennie, a member of my bike club. He would know about climbing as much as anyone. A few years ago he climbed a million feet in a year. He consistently tells me: It gets better the more you climb BUT NOT EASIER.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Guest poster Don Blount is gearing up for a banner year.

BlountOnBikingLast year ended up being a big cycling year for me. I rode more than 5,400 miles (8,690 kilometers), climbed 111,960 feet (34,125meters), completed a metric century, full century and lost 28 pounds (12.7 kilograms).

It did not start out as if it would be anything special. The first 3 ½ months of the year, I only rode 995 miles (1,609 kilometers) and I weighed 196 pounds (about 89 kilograms).

It was after an April 15 visit to my doctor, who also rides and climbs like a billy goat, that I became determined to lose weight in order to become a better climber.

During the last 7 ½ months of 2012, I rode 4,500 miles (7,242). I tackled rides that I never would have attempted before. In short, I became an overall better cyclist.

That would be looking back.

Looking forward I have a number of riding challenges ahead. 

Approaching the summit of Mt Diablo in Mt Diablo State Park newar Danville, Calif.

Approaching the summit of Mt Diablo in Mt Diablo State Park newar Danville, Calif.

For organized rides, I have planned, so far, a metric century in February. Next are two full centuries, one in April; the other in May. I will ride one with my sister-in-law from Ohio , who started riding last year. It will be her first century and I am delighted she picked me to ride it with her. We are calling it the “In-law Century.”

I am also registered to do the Tour of the California Alps – Death Ride. It is 129 miles (207.6 kilometers), 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) of climbing over five mountain passes. It is July 12, the day before my 53rd birthday.

And I am targeting my first double century in October.

My training rides will be used to build toward each event, so I will get in enough mileage, variety, challenges and fun.

Setting a schedule may seem rigid for some but it works for me in helping to plan my riding around my family, work and other obligations. I have never had a riding schedule before. This is a long way from looking at the bike club riding calendar and thinking “maybe I can do this ride.”

It is shaping up to be an interesting and challenging cycling year.

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.

Cycling vs. Domesticity

Guest poster Don Blount has some time management issues, and they’re causing trouble with his family life.

BlountOnBikingIn the history of the world a good conversation never began with the words: “We need to talk.”

But that is essentially what my wife said to me recently.

“And it is about your biking,” she added.

Uh oh. I wondered if I had gotten grease on the carpet.

“I don’t want you to stop riding,” she said. “But you’re spending a lot of time away from home on weekends riding. It’s not the days you have club rides. It’s the days that you don’t have club rides,” she said. “And quite frankly, when the kids ask ‘Where’s Daddy?’ I’m tired of telling them, ‘He’s on his bike.’ “

And of course she was right.

The problem was not the time I spent on Saturday club rides, it was the time I spent on solo weekend rides.

But some background first.

At home, I have two daughters, ages 7 and 10. And of course, I work a job that requires more than 40 hours a week.

I ride about four days a week and go to the gym twice a week. During the weekday, I workout or ride before work. On weekends, well that’s where the problem occurs.

Club rides begin at 8 a.m. during this time of the year. Those ride starts are often a good 45-minute drive or longer from my home. So on those days I am out of the house about 7 a.m. And depending on the length of the ride, I am often not home until well after 1 p.m. By the time I get all of my gear put away and myself cleaned up and fed, it could be well past 3 or 4 p.m.

But that’s only two, maybe three times a month if it is a month such as this one with five Saturdays. I usually clear those dates with my wife to ensure they do not conflict with family plans.

However, on weekends when there is no club ride, I still get out to ride. And although I leave from home instead of driving to a starting point I have often been getting out later than 7 a.m. Sometimes I do not get out until after 10 a.m. Three or four hours out during that time of the day when I have been away a long time the previous weekend does not create for good parenting or husbanding.

It is something that empty nesters do not have to contend with but a working man with a wife and kids at home does.

Fortunately, it is a correctable problem. I do not have to stop riding or even cut back my time on the bike. I just have to better manage my time. The easiest solution is to get out earlier on the non-club ride days. I am confident I can do that.

And I am confident that if I do not then I will be sat down for another talk.

The Weight Loss Battle

BlountOnBikingGuest blogger Don Blount is serious about dropping some poundage.

WEIGHT_04-15-13One hundred ninety-six pounds (89 kilograms). That is what the scale showed as my weight on April 15, the morning I went in to see my doctor for a troublesome right shoulder. I mentioned previously that my doctor is also a cyclist. For him, the longer a ride is and the more climbing it has, the better. My doctor, who is in his mid-50s, weighs 136 pounds (62 kilos). I kid him that he is the size of a seventh-grade boy.

And each time I see him we discuss my riding, climbing and eventually my weight. And I always pledge to lose some. And I do. I have lost as much as five pounds. The only problem is I usually to gain it back.

I watch what I eat. I eat no red meat, only poultry and fish. And I don’t snack between meals. But it seemed that no matter how hard I tried I could not lose a significant amount of weight or keep it off. So I was kind of resigned to remaining in that low-to-mid 190 pound (86 kilo) range.

That is until that doctor’s visit. For some reason I left vowing to lose weight and to keep it off. Maybe it was because I was tired of struggling up hills. Maybe it was because I was tired of my little doctor chiding me. I don’t really know.

During the first two weeks I lost four pounds. I was pleased and prepared for the long, hard slog.

Then a friend, a former work colleague, announced that he had lost 74 pounds (33.5 kilos) over two years. When I asked him how he said: “Just what you used to always tell me, diet and exercise. There are no shortcuts.”

And as a throwaway line he mentioned that he also used myfitnesspal, a calorie-counting app. He suggested I check it out.

And I did.

WEIGHT_07-31-13One hundred seventy-eight pounds (81 kilos). That is what my scale showed on July 31. A weight loss thus far of 18 pounds (8.2 kilos).

What did I do differently? In short, I used the calorie-counting app to see exactly what I was eating. Quite frankly, I had no idea of the calorie content of some of the foods I ate. And although I worked out regularly, I often ate more calories than I burned. (Let me know if you want more detail and I will send it to you.)

And although these calorie counts are only estimates, they served as a good guideline for me to follow what I ate. For me, it became a daily goal – Win the day. To burn more calories than I consumed. It later became a guideline. Eat 2,000-2,500 calories a day and be active.

I made sure to consistently go to the gym and to consistently ride my bike.

From April 15 to July 31 I rode 1,802 miles (2,900 kilometers). That is 460 miles (740 kilometers) more than I rode during that same period last year.

I rode 505 miles (813 kilometers) in May, 543 miles (874 kilometers) in June and more than 573 miles (922 kilometers) in July.

Weighing less is better both in everyday life and for biking. I now look forward to rides I would not have considered just a year ago. (And don’t tell the hills but I no longer consider them evil, at least most of them.)

And although I am not yet at my final goal I am already thinking of how to stay at this smaller size.

As my doctor says: What comes off, stays off.

Nicknames

Guest poster Don Blount has been musing about the names cyclists call each other.

BlountOnBikingIt seems that my bike club is full of nicknames.

They are so numerous that I cannot remember many, but here are a few:

You could start with Fearless Frank, FF for short. He rides down hill like a man without fear. His epitaph should be: He never touched his brakes.

Then there is Ex Trez, the former club treasurer. This guy is 70 years old but rides like he is 40 years younger.

CB or Cherry Boy, a retired farmer, whose family grew or grows cherries.

Leadbutt for obvious reasons, I think.

Lonerider, who often puts in megamiles on his own. He also disappears from club rides as he goes off to do his own thing.

Grasshoppa – I am not sure about this one.

The Good Dr. Carl, not to be confused with the Evil Dr. Carl.

The Anti-Gravity Girls, two strong women riders whose name says it all about their climbing abilities.

Rocket. I have been told that he was fairly fast back in the day. He claims that he still is, even at 206 pounds.

And Capt. Hawk, sometimes shortened to just Hawk. He is a former Navy and airlines pilot. He said he was given his nickname during his Naval days when while flying a mission looking for enemy ships that a crewmember remarked that he looked like a hawk looking for prey.

That nickname stuck. He said the only people who called him by his given name “David” were his wife, always a sign of trouble, and people who did not know him real well.

That’s the thing about these nicknames — everyone who has one, likes it.

One of the funniest conversations I have heard  while out on a group ride happened when we met someone who followed our Yahoo group conversation.

One rider proudly introduced himself: “I’m Cherry boy,” he said. “Hi, I’m Leadbutt,” said the other. I was just flummoxed.

And if you are wondering, I am occasionally referred to as “The Editor. That is after all, what I do in my day job, but that has not really stuck — nor am I hankering for a nickname that would stick.

Hawk said that to have a nickname, you have to do something really memorable or boneheaded. I usually manage to avoid both (knock on wood).

What about your club? Is it full of nicknames too?

Keep It Simple, Newbie!

Guest poster Don Blount has a new biker in the family, and he’s learned that sometimes, “Keep it simple” is the best tip he can give.

BlountOnBikingMy sister-in-law Gina, who lives in Ohio, recently took up road bike riding. She bought a Giant Avail 1, a slick aluminum frame bike designed for women.

She has already managed to get out for a few solo rides and was planning to join in on a group ride soon.

We have talked and texted a lot about biking since.

Our conversations have reminded me a lot of when I purchased my bike in August 2008. I wanted to know anything and everything I could about cycling. And yet, it seemed that I repeatedly received the same answer from more experienced riders: “Just ride and enjoy it.”

And although Gina and I have discussed quite a few things I now find myself saying to her: “Just ride and enjoy it.”

I see now that it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of cycling whether it be cycling cadence, breathing, what to carry in your jersey pockets or saddlebag. Particularly when you are as inquisitive as Gina, and I guess I would fall into that category as well. But many things about cycling you learn in time.

The most important thing is to just enjoy your time on the bike no matter what type of riding you do.

There are plenty of things that will be learned in time.

Don Blount's sister-inlaw, Gina, practices fixing a flat tire. The supervisor at right was no help but would not move out of the photo.

Don Blount’s sister-inlaw, Gina, practices fixing a flat tire. The supervisor at right was no help but would not move out of the photo.

I did share a few things with her during her recent visit to Stockton. I told her to carry a spare tube, an inflator whether it be a C02 cartridge or pump (I carry both). And I also recommended she to learn how to change a flat on the road. To that end I had her practice by changing the tube on my bike’s rear wheel.

Finally, I suggested she wipe down and inspect her tires after each ride and to wipe down the chain too. By inspecting the tires you can see the wear and remove any objects embedded in the tires before they have a chance to penetrate the tube and cause a flat. Wiping down the chain removes dirt and grime the chain picks up while on the road. Removing it helps the drivetrain run more smoothly and helps reduce wear on those parts.

For that matter, our flat-fixing lesson came in handy. Less than a week later as Gina prepared to go out for a ride, she discovered that she had a flat front tire. “Let’s just say it took a little longer than when I did it with you,” she said in a text. Unfortunately, by the time she had the tire repaired it was too dark to ride.

She said the lesson she learned was to check the bike well before it is time to ride.

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.