Friday Group Ride #149

garmin-705-3-588x393I don’t get hung up on mileage anymore. I had a watershed moment about 15 years ago, when I was struggling to maintain 14mph into a head wind. I know I was going 14mph, because I was staring at the small digital display clipped to my stem, and I became angry that I was riding the computer rather than the bike, and I pulled it off its mount and stuck it in my pocket and I have not ridden with a visible computer since.

I do occasionally wonder how far I’ve gone on a given ride, and I’m sure some of my regular riding companions have grown tired of me asking what we’ve done. For a short time, I ran Strava, so I didn’t have to ask, but I got bored with that pretty quickly and returned to blissful ignorance.

But you know, mileage can equal goals, and goals can be motivating, so if you’re obsessed with numbers, I get it. If that’s what gets you on the bike, that’s what you use. I have not yet reached the point of diminishing returns for riding my bike. More is pretty much always better.

My friend Padraig is on the verge of 8,000 miles for the year, which given his life situation is a whole lot of distance. My friend Bryan, who commutes year round in Southern Maine, also puts up a pretty good number. In a small way, I envy them their milestones, but not enough to ruin my rides with data collection. This is what works for me.

So as the year winds down, all I can do is some basic estimation. With organized and disorganized weekend jaunts and commutes all stuck together, I’m going to guess I did somewhere between 2500 and 3000 miles. I could ride more. I could make fewer excuses.

This week’s Group Ride wonders what you did. How many miles or kilometers did you put up? Did you measure them exactly, or did you take a more offhand approach? Will you do more or less next year? Why?

, , ,


  1. Michael Theesfeld

    The numbers motivated me this year, for sure. Rapha Challenges (doing my best to wrap up the Festive 500 before the snow arrives tomorrow), miles and climbing. I’ve never been stronger (not saying much for a 39 year old dad with 2 kids at home), and I’m grateful. But it’s made things a bit noisy, of late. Too many numbers, too much going on in my head. The goal for 2013 is a bit more balance…I need a few more days where I tune out and just ride. For the record, about to hit 5000 miles with 350,000′ of climbing, in New Jersey (Jersey’s not all that bad, I swear!)

  2. Scott G

    Going to be just shy of 5000 miles for the year. I cut back last year due to lower back problems. I used to get 8000+. The miles may be less now but the quality of the miles hasn’t lessened in the least. It’s how you ride not how far you ride. (But yes I am a data junkie).

  3. Bryan Lewis

    Aw shucks. You shouldn’t’ve.

    I’d already decided that next year I’d try to ride without a visible computer. I was thinking of putting black tape over the face, but sticking it in a pocket or bag would be better for habit-breaking.

    Ya know, the mileage goal worked as a motivator, but not a great one. It caused me to favor two long slow days over one intense day, so my speed didn’t improve this year. It caused me to ride sometimes in conditions that weren’t much fun. I’m gonna try this enjoyment thing for a while… what could go wrong?

  4. Peter lin

    I’m a data geek and track my rides with cyclemeter and strava. For me, I used it to track my progress throughout the year as I train for Mount Greylock Century, King’s tour of the Quabbin and other century rides. It’s more out of habit than anything else. If I forget to turn it on before a ride, it’s no big deal. At the end of the day, I just try to enjoy riding. There’s no rhyme or reason to my rides, other than get out and enjoy riding.

    I started riding 3 years back and managed to log 5736 miles this year. For me, the highlight is riding Mount Greylock Century.

  5. Steve P

    I am just recently cyclometer free – excepting the occasional GPS navigation aid. Before, I was measuring fitness and happiness by logging miles, which often led me in the wrong direction entirely. The 2012 mileage is good but irrelevant.

    There were some memorable rides and I felt good on the bike most of the time – so there it is. Looking forward to riding in 2013.

  6. Miles Archer

    1873 miles. Manually logged in a spreadsheet after each ride or so. I set a yearly goal and keeping track helps me ride more.

  7. Jesus from Cancun

    The last race I ever did was in ’96, and the last few years I raced I didn’t keep track of distance. Hours and heart rate, along with timed laps in the track were the entries in my logbooks.
    Greg LeMond wrote once “your body doesn’t know how many kilometers you are riding, it only knows how much effort and for how long”. It worked fine for me.

    However, I will confess that I have always been as un-techie as one can be.

    This year, my total has been… around 50 hours, all of them ridden within my neighborhood at my 10 year old’s pace. And this has been one of my most enjoyable riding seasons ever.

    I should be riding some more next year. Santa brought my just-turned-4 boy a new bike. I am looking forward to some new challenges and more hours of fun riding next year!

  8. armybikerider

    I don’t do Strava…hell I’m not even on Facebook. I use a low-tech wired cyclometer to measure distance but I don’t use it to attain fitness goals or milestones. (I mostly use the distance function for bragging rights with a coworker.) According to my Mity 8, I’ve done just North of 6,000 for the year – assuming I calibrated it correctly!

    Next year I’d like to attain a little better balance with my other passion – fly fishing and will likely back off the mileage some. I retire in 2014 and will be leaving FT Campbell. I’d like to explore some of the not so local fisheries in TN/KY because I’ll not likely be this way again.

  9. LesB

    I’m a data geek even more so. When I upgraded from the Garmin 350 to the 500, I kept the 350 and use them both on rides. I subscribe to the “aircraft cockpit” school of biking. For me it doesn’t adversely affect the experience at all.

    My mileage has gone down since I replaced many of my long rides with interval training. I have about 2700 miles for ’12, 28 miles of that vertical, i.e. 150000 feet of ascent. Love those Santa Monicas.

    Being the data geek, I keep an interval training record on an excel file. If nothing else, the chart shows that I was out riding on Christmas day:

  10. Champs

    Most of my computers have been broken or stolen this year, so the total is probably around 4000, all told.

    I really don’t see what’s so awful about collecting some data. They don’t often say much, but this late in the year, you need to be mindful of the time, and with bigger rides logged on Strava, you can see pretty maps of where you’ve been, find new places to explore, and discover that stretch of road on the way home is brutal not because you’re weak, but because it’s actually a long false flat.

  11. jbRidesBikes

    Total data geek:
    2010: 4,200 miles and 185,000′
    2011: 5,000 miles and 197,000′
    2012: 6,500 miles and 270,000′

    I’m hoping to break 7,000/300,000′ next year.

  12. Dave

    I use a low end Polar HR, cadence and speed computer & record every ride. The mileage helps with motivation. Did just over 3000 mi this year with a mandatory July suspension, Crash recovery. Just over 4000 last year, had hoped for around 4500 in 2012. Just like to see the progression!

  13. Gnome

    Numbers have always ruined the mood for me because there is never an end to them. I’m older now, much older, and I share your sentiment. I’m guessing this year was a paltry 2000 miles (no pun intended) and since the beginning of the new year is upon us, I am somewhat motivated to track my data within a similar echelon of nonchalance.

  14. Ransom

    I dig Strava on my phone for the combination of fairly detailed data logging and the fact that I don’t see it during the ride.

    I am contemplating a Garmin in hopes of making it easier to try new rides; I hate futzing with paper maps or direction as they disintegrate from rain or sweat, and having to stop every 5-10 minutes to read them…

    But I am concerned that having the computer back on the bars will distract me from enjoying the riding.

    I’m so slow and so unfit at this point that riding as much as I can is probably plenty to see improvement. That said, in this nasty weather I’ve been doing some indoor stuff with guidance and target power based on a bit of testing. Overkill for someone like me who’s much more in the rough-carving and not fine-tuning region of fitness, but sometimes it helps to hang on to an interval when you have a number to focus on…

  15. christopheru

    2011 – 8345km
    2012 – 8002km (supposing I get 40km a day for the next three days ;p)

    The 2011 total was almost 50% commuter km, and 50% road and rail trail stuff on my cyclocross bike with friends and family.
    What makes me happy about the 2012 total is that I could not, due to a new work location, commute for the first six months of the year. I also had a bit of down time due to crash recovery, and some seriously irritating mechanical issues that robbed me of about 1500km riding (give or take a bit) right in the middle of the summer high cycling season. Making 8k therefore makes me very happy.
    For 2013, I should easilly best the 2011 total since I can now commute to work again (a free 30km per day) and I intend to work in a lot of road riding come spring and really ramp it up through the summer when my workload lightens up.
    This year, I started logging distance on a spreadsheet. The idea was to track the km and see which bikes got the most use and when. I find personally that it is a good motivator, especially when I strive for balance between cycling, family, and work. I don’t always have time for a “ride” and have found using my commuter bike as a car replacement and seeing the km trickle upwards in fits and starts makes me feel like something bike related got done even if I couldn’t get out on my cross bike. The goal for the new year is to average 1000km per month over the year. Should be doable if I stay uncrashed 🙂

  16. TominAlbany

    1700+ miles this year measured and tracked on a spreadsheet. I beat last year’s 1600+ miles. Goal was 2000 but, hemorrhoid…

    anyway. I use the mileage goal to keep me getting on the bike. I commute mostly. I don’t ride evenings or weekends because that’s family time.

  17. Kevin McTighe

    Started with upping annual high 500 miles to 7,000. Then a fellow bike club member, who wanted to ride Coast to Coast, joined me in early retirement Fall 2011. Scratch the 7,000 for ride every mile Coast to Coast in 2012. Accomplished in August. Spin off eliminated future goals of 1,000 and 2,000 month mileage. This month two other goals fell. Annual mileage over 10,000 miles. Proudest of 2,000 more miles on bike than in personal smoke belching iron horse (automobile) 🙂 !!! Trusty Steed (bike) wins 🙂 !!!
    As for next year’s goal, my youngest daughter graduates from college, so that $ needs to go toward fixing the family home. Retired schedule and fitness means the miles will accumulate. Fearless Kevin

  18. Patrick

    It’s funny, I can see both side’s of Robot’s situation. I’m a time-limited rider (aren’t we all) with a baby at home, so if I can get anything close to two hours on the bike, that’s a very good thing. I don’t commute on my bike, so every moment on the bike is borrowed or stolen, so to speak.

    On one hand, I’ve recently started trading the pure fast, mostly flat high-quantity miles (“stat whoring”) for some more challenging loops of hills that are slower, higher-quality challenges, but of course, less overall miles. High-mileage numbers be damned.

    But on the other hand, I love the data I produce. Get home, drag the bike inside, plug the Garmin in, and look over the results before getting a shower. Was I faster today on the crazy hill loop? Can I blame it on that vicious headwind, or a crying-in-the-middle-of-the-night baby, or just maybe, was I actually pretty quick today for no good reason (every once in a blue moon…)?

    I was aiming for 2,500 miles this year. I managed 2,350 miles with 87,000 feet of climbing, including one spectacular 25MPH crash on an otherwise friendly small group ride. I hope to continue to find balance between the slower climbing rides and quicker, higher mileage rides in 2013, while of course monitoring my stats looking for evidence of any subtle improvements.

    Happy New Years RKP!

  19. gparr

    3,500 miles for me this year. I always set annual mileage goals as motivation. Since I ride alone almost exclusively, my bike computer is the only thing I have to drive me to improve. It’s fun to have a goal, watch the progress, and have the reward of attaining it. Next year: 5,000 miles and six century rides.

  20. DavidA

    I am like Jesus from Cancun in that 2 hrs into a headwind is not the same as 2 hrs. in a sidewind or tailwind or riding in an echelon in a group. The only think that matters is the effort and time in mins or hours. The Masters worlds road race is 96kms or something like that 100kms max. if you can ride 100kms in 2 hrs 15 to 20 mins you are very very fit. It really depends on what the day calls for or if your body has recovered properly. I plan on donig alot more hours this year. But i go on how my body feels and not what the Garmin says. The longer and greater the base…and that can be just 1 to 1 and 1/2 hr a day the better it is for your form in the long run. Lots of time spent at 75 to 80 % of your max.

  21. Patrick

    Our best year was the year I retired, 2640 miles. Before that, I used to do 2000 or so, but I commuted by bike once or twice a week.. If base and total miles are your goal, commuting by bike is one of the best ways to do it. Our annual mileage, written on a calendar in the garage, is now about 1400, but this year fell to 1000 due to family “oblications” and other distractions. I took the computer off my mountain bike years ago. I would take it off the touring bike too if I could find a simple odometer to replace it.

  22. Bongo

    As of right now I have logged 5,724 miles. I will be adding more today and perhaps tomorrow and Monday too. Last year I did 5,846 so I will most likely meet or exceed that but will not reach my goal of 7,000.

    For next year my goals are to ride at least one multi-day event, perhaps the MS 150, and to ride some UMCA 12 hour events.

  23. Douglas Kubler

    I love numbers. I appreciate automation so computers, GPS devices, and Strava are part of my riding. Strava is competition against others and against yourself. How will you know if you have improved if you don’t have an objective measure? Numbers made it possible for me to set a goal and climb 1.5 million feet in 2007 (10,000 miles was just a byproduct). This year I’m just short of 500,000′ because I’ve chased Strava goals (and had a crash). Numbers don’t ruin a ride, attitudes ruin a ride. I enjoy riding with friends and helping them with their goals (number-based too). At 68 I’m probably the oldest poster here but my numbers tell me I’m not too old!

  24. Steve

    Due to work, my riding is split between New Hampshire (home) and Mass (work) so I got a Garmin 800 last spring so I don’t get to lost when riding south of the border. I have noticed I pay way more attention to the Garmin on solo rides. Group rides I tend to forget its there. I got about 2500 miles and 125,000 ft. of climbing last year. At the end of the riding season I had started doing a lot of dirt roads and class vi road rides. I am looking forward to doing more of that and maybe signing up to do the D2R2. My goals for next year is to do the 4 notches and a pass, mtn. bike trip to Fruita, CO and to ride Mt. Evans

  25. Shawn

    Call me odd, but I enjoy being able to look down while battling that headwind and see the pitiful numbers. It helps me to laugh at the absurdity of the Sisyphean endeavor and to remember that I’m still moving and not stuck on a trainer!

    5,600 miles for this year is a personal best (as each of the last 3 years have been). I don’t pick a specific goal for the next year, just a little more (hopefully).

  26. tinytim

    I to used to ride with diffrent sorts of computers; the ones that tell you how much you are suffering, how far you have gone, what the incline of the last climb was. I would always fixate on my average speed, which was not relevant or productive to my race training. Now I ride sans computer, and as a results, always ask my partners what time it is, how far we’ve gone, ect. I’ve found that the best way for me to train is to count weekly hours. If you ride on the dirt, miles dont apply to the traditional mile formula. Riding 18 miles of brutal single track on a rigid single speed is more like riding 75 miles in a group on the road. On the road though, I think that I have riden about 12,000 miles this year; a couple hours in the am on the road and then a few hours at night hitting up the trail.

  27. Paul

    1996 was the year I stopped riding with a cycling computer. I decided who cares what the numbers are? Constant frustration with results was making something I enjoyed a chore. Now I simply ride and train by feel. Somedays I get lost on the bike and lose track of time. I can still give the racers a run for their money.

  28. Patrick O'Brien

    Well, I rode the 20 today that I needed to get to 1000. Temp was 38 when I started and 48 when I finished. The wind was 18-20 mph with higher gusts. So, I am glad I did it, but it wasn’t fun. So, maybe I will just scrap the computers and just count rides, both mountain and road. By the way, I hate winter and wind. Well, maybe the combination of cold and wind anyway. Who doesn’t love a good tailwind?

  29. David Bayendor

    I like the numbers, and having an Edge 500 and Strave makes it too easy. But it can spoil the ride sometimes, but I’ve learned not to let it.

    I’m a 45+ Cat 4 rider and solid back of the packer. My second year riding, and I’m at 2900 miles for the year, with 128,000 ft of climbing. I’ve more than doubled last years numbers. Strava makes it fun to just ride hard and see how you did. I used to fuss over segments, but now just push hard when I feel strong, and ride for the joy of it when all the other times. Plus, I bought a used CX bike and jumped into some races just for the heck of it. I love ‘cross, and it’s my foul weather / commuter bike.

  30. Spiff

    I remember the year I hit 2000 miles, so long ago. The past 15 years I’ve been at 5k with the most recent years using a log. This year has been short, as will next year(wedding). But I now have a Garmin with a heart rate, and a training plan, and Strava will track it all.

  31. Paulo

    I owned a car in 1982. I didn’t like it…and missed my bike. So I ditched the car, the gas, the insurance, the constant repair bills, the hassles, the inactivity, the inevitable obesity, the daily pollution (and trying to ignore my polluting daily for the rest of my life), the giving of MY money to EXXON or other obnoxious mega-corporations, I gave myself a $10,000 / year raise (I pocketed the car expenses) and happily came back to my bicycle. Using a car is OK, but is not necessary for me. If I want a car, I rent it, very occasionally.

    Now I have the best transportation available anywhere, my own two wheels, a fit body, and a healthy heart. I feel sorry for people who own cars, especially badly for those who inevitably say “I couldn’t live without my car.”

    My reply when I hear that is:
    “I’m so sorry to hear that. You poor thing. That is so sad for you…”

    Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.

    It’s not having what you want…
    it’s wanting what you’ve got.
    And we’ve got our bikes !

    At 55 my 8000 kms a year is a blast that I would not do without, a total affirmation of life. I think I will ride as long as I can_walk_to_the_bike.

  32. Bruce

    I was deployed to Afghanistan the first half of the year, and was dealing with a non-cycling-related knee injury the last three months of the year. So the mileage wasn’t very impressive. I normally am very interested in how many miles I rode, how many I plan to ride, and how many I might ride next year. I got myself a new bike upon return this year (actually, I ordered before I came home, over the phone, and picked it up the day I came home). So I could get really down about not getting a lot of mileage, especially on the new bike. But instead, I’m pretty excited that I have all my limbs, that I rode the first back-to-back centuries of my life only three weeks after returning from “over there” (both in very good time for me by the way, with plenty in reserve), and that I rode a great ride in/around Golden, CO with my brother in August. Mileage — interesting this year but not compelling.

  33. Pat O'Brien

    Bryan, after the ride yesterday I think I will join you in taking off the computer. The older I get, the more I like simplicity.

  34. Kevin McTighe

    Ride with Cateye/Cadence. Keep computer on Cadence/MPH. Change battery New Years Day and record annual mileage on an index card. No Garmin, Strava, etc. Ride with back or front group or both depending on how I feel. If training, ride by myself. KISS (keep it simple stupid) philosophy. Ride for enjoyment, fitness, mental health and because it keeps me out of trouble. Happy New Year Y’all !
    Fearless Kevin

  35. Carl N.

    This year I wanted to average 10 miles a day, every day, for all 366 days OR 3,660. I actually hit 3743 which pleases me to no end. Keeping track helped me realized I had to commute to work in order to reach my goal. 20 miles round trip two or three times a week with a nice ride on the weekend and BINGO!

  36. Michael

    I have computers on all my bikes, and look at the thermometer most of the time. I like to watch how the temperature changes in little depressions as I ride along, and watch for temperature inversions and such. I usually ride around daybreak, so the inversions can be pretty pronounced. Sometimes, especially if I am riding in a place I don’t know well, I’ll watch the atmospheric pressure via the altimeter and try to learn the weather patterns. At the end of the ride, I usually check how far I went and perhaps how much climbing I did. I don’t keep track past each ride though, and re-set the odometer when I change batteries.

  37. Davo

    Kilometers are just numbers. I used to be impressed until I saw a chubby rando rider posting yearly totals that were huge. While I did hit 8,600k for 2012, that was a byproduct of training for specific objectives (French Alps and Cyclocross) in 2012.

  38. Jonathan

    I have no issue with using a garmin, albeit a 200 that only has the basics of speed/time/average etc. Used mainly for recording the distance covered and to keep me on track time-wise when commuting.
    Clocked just over 6000km for the year.

  39. Dr Z

    I could care less about the number of miles I’m riding. I don’t aim for any amount. When I don’t feel like riding anymore, I stop. If I feel like riding, I go. I’ve been known to do several rides a day, much to the astonishment of those around me. It’s all the same to me.

    For me, it’s not the quantity of miles, it’s the quality of the ride. A loose comparison would be it’s not important how long I live, but how well I’ve lived that life.

    I do have computers on all my bikes, but for cadence only. I always switch off the distance function so I don’t get bogged down in a mileage count. If my cadence starts wilting or slogging and it hasn’t occured to me yet, I know it’s time to get back home.

  40. jorgensen

    I measure time in the saddle, one observation I noticed, that even though I don’t race any longer, I still call my rides “training rides”. So, I don’t worry about loafing along. I too picked up Strava and use it from time to time, looking in at the end of the ride on the details. It does provide some validation of the climbing one had done and other details. No plans on being a Strava Slave though. Last year was a big leap, from commuting to work to 4 – 8 hours a week additional on the bike. That is doing its job, Dr. is very happy with what is happening. It would take an article to go into detail but the plan for 2013 is to stay at the higher end of the hours on the saddle time, break into the double digits per week soon, I always seem to catch a nasty cold around the holidays.

  41. Johnny Tenspeed

    I never ride with a computer, but I will sometimes use a mapping site after a ride to see how far I went. I find that riding until I don’t feel like riding anymore and turning around or doing a loop that takes me someplace I haven’t seen often leads to longer and more enjoyable rides than if I try to plan a ride around mileage.

  42. Nelson

    3561 Miles. I like to have the data, but 40% of the year, there is a piece of tape over my computer. I reset it each new year and it’s about the 3 time I ever look at it. Most of the time, I’m supprised. (Both good and bad) One season I thought I killed it and had 2,001 and just in 2011 figured I had a mediocre year and ended up with over 5000.

  43. Michael Levine

    I gave up counting at around 250,000 miles many years ago. I kinda like the temperature feature on my computer and not needing it after all these years. Everyday I’m filled with profound gratitude and joy for the bikes , the gear, the scenery , the weather, the endless life affirming encounters,the sheer mindless practice and mastery of a craft that has no end.

  44. SFinAus

    When I bought a bike in ’04, I didn’t bother putting the computer on. I’ve never once missed it since then. By that time I already knew the stats for every ride; i.e. miles- not enough, speed- too slow,gradients – I know when a hill easy, steep or really steep, altitude- I live in central Texas where nothing is high. 😉

    Of course I’m older than the typical demographic here, and I’m known to lean toward “luddite-ness” too. The main thing to me is to continue enjoying riding, and I do.

    Happy New Year.

  45. Pingback: Measurement : Red Kite Prayer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *