Monday, July 16, 2007

My low-tech bicycle computer

I have no desire to fit a computer to my bike; it would probably give me way more information than I need.

If I were seriously training for competition it would be a different matter, but now a days I ride for two reasons only. Physical fitness and pleasure.

The two go hand in hand; the more physically fit I become, the more my riding pleasure. The more my riding pleasure, the more I ride, which leads to increased physical fitness.

It is not necessary that I know my exact speed and mileage. However, I have a regular seven-mile circuit that I ride on; it takes in quite residential streets and some yet to be developed areas of the city. As my fitness increases, the more laps of the circuit I complete.

When I was doing up to five laps there was no problem, but now I am doing 7, 8, or 9 laps it becomes difficult to keep track. So, I installed this simple counting device; five beads on my brake cable housing.

When I start my ride, I reset my computer by sliding all five beads to just above my brake lever. Each lap completed, I slide one bead to rest just above my front brake.

The circuit is in a rough “T” formation; there are three dead turns. Each turn is at the end of a stretch of divided highway, so I ride on the left as I approach the turn. That way I do not have to cut across traffic behind me when I turn.

There are also three speed bumps to negotiate, and eight stop signs. Because of all this stopping and starting, this circuit is not particularly fast.

However, I am not out to break any speed records, and it makes for some excellent interval training, which is really the best in terms of burning calories and achieving aerobic fitness.

My immediate goal is to reach ten laps, (70 miles.) and by the end of this year when the weather cools, a century. (15 laps, 105 miles.) I like it because I pass my home on every lap and I can make a pit stop whenever I need to; replenish water and get something to eat.

My low-tech computer never needs batteries, and is unaffected by moisture and vibration. Of course, it will only work on the old skool, non-aero brake levers with the exterior cables.


John Natiw said...

That's awesome Dave. I am the other end of the spectrum with the Garmin 305. I'm an information nut I guess. I used to be really bad about it when I was a runner (I know... how much information can you track when running???), but now that I'm on the bike (and, more importantly, older) I find that I don't worry as much about the data. I still love tracking it though. I even go for runs without my watch these days...

Great article, as usual!

Jim N said...

I used to have no computer, but it's hard to be a minimalist. When I led my first group ride for the local club, and was expected to maintain 20 mph at the head of the paceline, I had to have my clubmates yell at me to speed up or slow down.

Anonymous said...

It's insane how much data we all seem to "need" these days.

Greg Lemond said it best when he said he trained by hours, not miles.

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty great idea, Dave. It wouldn't work for me because I would wonder if I had moved a bead or not and then get totally screwed up. My mind tends to wander when I ride. Having said that, however, I do have a computer on my road bike, but do not have computers on my fixed gear and my single speed roadie. With those two buggers, I simply pedal and never worry about what gear I need to be in. And when riding those two, I always bring a watch so I can ride by time and not by miles.

Anonymous said...

aren't you concerned about all the extra weight those beads add?

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! A bicycle abacus!

I'd suggest a slide rule upgrade with functions for average speed, calories burned, etc., using a sand filled hour glass held in a TA handlebar water bottle cage to serve as the timing devise. :-)