In Cycling it’s All About the Data – or is It?

Garmin, Wahoo, FitBit, Apple Watch, Lintelek (haven’t heard of that one until today), you name it, most us of have one, or more, so we can track our rides, runs, hikes, sleep, Vo2 max., oxygen saturation, heart rate, caloric intake and on and on and on.

Is it worth the hassle?

Well after yakking with my BFF (and CA Alps Cycling member #3) Scott yesterday about the issues he was having getting his new Wahoo Elemnt Roam to upload to Strava I asked myself that very question.

My answer = YES.

My Experience

I’ve run an Apple Watch (it’s been awhile) and found it wasn’t rugged enough. At one point I used it for work and my Fenix (Garmin) for play. It became too much to manage both systems and I also found in the frequent switches that I would have “button-confusion” (the process whereby you push one button on one watch thinking it was the other button on the other watch and therefore not get the data you were looking for). I just made that up but I think it works. Hello Merriam-Webster! Next edition perhaps?

Image courtesy of Know Your Meme

Finally I decided to simplify my life and I sold the Apple Watch and went with the Fenix. Since then I’ve upgraded a few times to newer Fenix models and I absolutely LOVE this watch (Fenix 6 Pro) and with just a couple of exceptions (I’ll let you guess) it never comes off.

This watch gives me the tools and feedback to monitor and improve my health and fitness. Among other things it’s helped me lose 20 pounds this year and increase my Vo2 max and FTP. It also lets me keep an eye on my pulse ox and resting heart rate – two key indicators that can tell me if something’s awry in the ol’ bod.

What about on the bike?

But…the watch doesn’t work on the bike, at least for me. While I do wear it while I ride, and use it as a back up — which, you’re correct, adds another layer of data complexity and management — I prefer a larger, bicycle specific computer on the two-wheeler, or wheelers. The larger fonts help me see the data that matta betta.

In the saddle I’ve used a Garmin most of the time (1030 is my current model) and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt some of the time. Recently though, just before Scotty did as it turns out, I purchased a Wahoo Elemnt Roam. Why?

I was tired of the resets and screen freezes on the 1030 and I happened to notice on Strava that Levi Leipheimer was running a Roam. I had also just watched a FulGaz “How to film amazing bike videos” clip on YouTube and it suggested that the Wahoo was the best computer to use to record your rides.

I must give credit where credit is due though: Garmin support has been awesome and they have sent me two replacements. As I think about it, Wahoo support has been great too – I had problems with my original Kickr awhile back and they too sent a new unit my way and knock on wood, no further issues. Maybe I’m just too hard on shit? Or is it just that shit happens? I’m going with the latter.

Talking about confusing data…A cow with horns and an udder?

The downside(s)

Of course being the data-nerd that I am, I had to compare the difference between the Fenix and the Roam. After pairing the same speed sensor to both off I went for a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek (northern side of Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass).

Guess what? The Roam “said” I was faster but the Fenix gave me more credit for elevation gain. Seriously? I have to pick? C’mon man!

As I alluded to in the beginning of the post, there can be upload or download issues, too. While the 1030 uploads seamlessly, even when not on wifi, as does the Fenix, I’ve had challenges with the Roam (but not the Bolt – go figure) uploading when not on wifi. Wahoo support gave Scott some guidance this a.m. though (they also said that a patch was forthcoming) and so we’ll continue to compare notes. Perhaps we’re the exception, Scott and I, as Charlie, CAC member #6, has had no problems uploading via cellular.

Ignoring the data

Part of the feature-set for the Garmin models that I run is the post-ride feedback, e.g. Productive, Unproductive, Maintaining and Peaking. But I’ve had conversations like this with my watch: “What do you mean I’m unproductive (as it displayed yesterday)? How can you say that if my Vo2 max is up and I rested yesterday?” I’ve even been known to give it the finger when I don’t like what it displays.

It’s a similar dynamic that I sometimes experience when using GPS to navigate in my car. What, that’s not the correct street! I shouldn’t turn that direction. I’m going this way!

So are these things worth the trouble?

To me the key is finding the balance and realizing, as I read recently, that these data points are just that – the data helps us make decisions or gives us insight that perhaps we don’t have or couldn’t get. Note to selves: That doesn’t mean though, that we have to pay attention to our various devices like they were oracles!

In spite of all the data and equipment management, upload and download challenges and button confusion, however, I still believe these “widgets” are worthwhile.

How about you? Do you have similar challenges? Perhaps you don’t even run a bike computer (like a friend of mine here in town). Do you have some recommendations? Funny stories?

Please…I need more data!

4 thoughts on “In Cycling it’s All About the Data – or is It?”

  1. Do you really need more data? I used a heart rate monitor for a few years. I measured my resting and maximum heart rates, set zone alarms…When it died I realized two things: 1) the data only confirmed what I already felt – I knew when I was riding easy, I knew when I was in the red zone and couldn’t sustain it much longer, I knew when I was working but not too hard. In short, the numbers were just numbers and weren’t really helpful. 2) I had more fun when I wasn’t looking at numbers. I use a basic computer to follow a cue sheet in unfamiliar territory. When I know where I’m going and won’t get lost, I’d rather not have any numbers to look at to distract me from the scenery and how I feel. How fast am I going? Fast enough to not fall over, slow enough to not get arrested. Do I need to know more? Not really. I’m riding because I like it, not to be faster than someone else or even myself. Numbers can’t tell me if I’m having more fun. They can’t tell me that the wild roses are blooming today. If data help you, great. Happily, we’re not all alike.

    1. Thanks for the comments halffastcyclingclub! You’re right, I really don’t need more data (that was a bit tongue in cheek) but I really like having it. I’m generally not absorbed in the data while I’m riding (unless doing a TT then I pay more attention) but do like comparing a ride or segment to previous efforts or to other riders. The key, to your point, is to have fun on the bike however you like to do so. Cycling, mountain biking or gravel riding (and even riding on my trainer) is my happiest happy place, data or no data. Ride on!

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