On New Year’s Day, I took time to look at my cycling statistics for the last year and think a little about prospects for the year to come. It was nothing too strenuous, the day being a holiday, just enough to focus my thinking. The statistics I write down are the total miles on my cycling odometers and the miles ridden in the past year. I put these statistics in a spreadsheet.
The total miles on the odometer are the miles that the odometer has recorded since I installed it on the bike. That number gives me a baseline for recalculating total miles in case my odometer battery dies during the year.
If that happens, I’d like to be able to reset it to the total miles ridden to that point. I can do that by adding my year-to-date miles – recorded in a cycling software program after every ride – to my beginning-of-the-year number. Say my total-miles reading is 10,000 miles on Jan. 1, and I’ve ridden 300 miles when the battery dies. I can then reset the total-mileage on the odometer to 10,300 miles.
I also like that total-miles number because it tells me how many miles I’ve put on that particular bike, just as an odometer in a car tells me the total miles I’ve driven. That number is useful for reminding me to check the chain, tires, rims and brakes to see how long they’ve been installed. I know that looking at their wear is the best way to know when to change them, but I like the odometer data to remind me and confirm what my eye is seeing. (This method assumes I’ve written down when I installed the chain, tires, wheels and brakes.)
I’ve been using odometers to record my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycling mileage almost from the time I started riding seriously 25 years ago. But, I also know that keeping records, notes and statistics about rides isn’t for everyone. Years ago I asked a woman friend who was a cycling commuter how many miles she’d ridden that year, and, much to my surprise, she said that she didn’t keep track. She simply enjoyed riding and did not want to be bothered with record keeping. I’ve since observed that many of my woman cyclist friends feel the same way.
When I started riding seriously, I discovered quickly that keeping a record of miles ridden helped motivate me to improve. At first I estimated my miles, until one day I checked my estimates against the odometer of a fellow rider at the end of group ride. He gave me a mileage figure that was much less than I imagined. It seems my powers of estimation are lousy.
So I bought an odometer-computer that registered speed, average speed, distance maximum speed and total miles. Then I created a bicycle log in Microsoft Word where I jotted down something about the ride, the distance and average speed. Much later I found a cycling-specific computer program that used the distance and time to calculate average speed for the week, month and year and could put out a graph of about any statistic I put into the program.
The program I’ve used most recently is CycliStats from Shasta Software: http://www.shastasoftware.com/ The website is confusing regarding the price. It says $49.95 using PayPal and $19.95 using a credit card.
A similar program is Ye Olde Bicycle Log: http://bicyclelog.weebly.com/ . It’s free.
There are also numerous online sites for cyclists and runners where you can record your miles and routes, and that let you upload data from your GPS and map your rides and allow you to create routes that you then download to your GPS. Two of the most popular, with a basic level that’s free, are:
I have no argument with people who simply want to ride for the exercise, camaraderie or enjoyment of nature, but I would point out several benefits for keeping a bicycle log.
If you are in training for a long ride, you need to know how far you’ve ridden in preparation. You can’t ride 100 miles in a day with only 200 miles preparation spread over three months. Well, you could, but you’d suffer a lot.
- Statistics don’t lie. You may think you’ve put in a good week, but the odometer will hand you the facts.
- Records motivate. Did I do better than last month or last year? The numbers tell me if I need to modify my routine or perhaps ease up on the miles.
- Records tell you if you have achieved your goals for the month or year. Otherwise, it’s a guess.
- Knowing your miles ridden on a specific bike is a good way to remind yourself to check the condition of your chain, wheels, brakes and tires.
No, you don’t have to write down the miles and average speed after every ride to enjoy your bicycle. If it’s a burden, forget it. On the other hand, some of us are squirrel-like, data-gathering nuts who can’t help charting our “progress.” At some level, it encourages us to continue being active.