Re: Today’s Wall Street Journal…enjoy


Carol Curtis
 

Amen


On Dec 7, 2017, at 9:19 PM, Matt Blue mattheweblue@... [BBC-Bike] <BBC-Bike-noreply@...> wrote:

 

Thanks for sharing Greg. I threw away all of my gadgets, including my speedometer, more than five years ago and I have never looked back. It totally liberated me and it let me enjoy ALL of my rides once again. I now listen to my body and ride slow when I want to (and I don't care).

I think it's worth giving it a try (for more than a week). You might even find that you get faster (although you'll never know!). :)

On Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 10:06 AM, Greg Bach bachbenefitgroup@... [BBC-Bike] <BBC-Bike-noreply@...> wrote:
 

 

Why Gadget-Obsessed Jocks Need a Data Detox
Cycling gadgets can calculate heart rate, speed and energy output in real time. But are they obscuring the sport’s appeal? To find out, one amateur sheds his high-tech gear

Illustration: Kerry Hyndman
By
Lee Marshall
Dec. 6, 2017 12:37 p.m. ET
ON THE JULY evening when I arrived in the Dolomites, Italy’s most handsome mountain range was shaking off the clouds that had brought summer showers to the Alta Badia valley. Above the tree line, a jagged wall of ice-scoured rock glowed creamy pink in the setting sun. But I had no appetite for such sublime views. Disaster had just struck.
I was here to take part, for the first time, in one of the great European one-day amateur cycling challenges: the Maratona dles Dolomites, a punishing 83-mile course over seven Alpine passes. Rifling through my kit, however, I’d realized that I had foolishly left my heart-rate monitor at home.
Like most of those for whom cycling is an obsession rather than a means of transport, I embrace technology. Not just the technology that allows me to go faster—carbon frames, aero handlebars, ultralightweight wheels—but the technology that tells me (among other things) just how briskly I’m moving. How quickly or slowly my pedals are turning. How many calories I’m painstakingly burning. And how all this exercise is making my heart work. I can measure the latter in terms of either beats per minute or as an average of my maximum heart rate during workouts using my Garmin cycling computer and GPS. I’ve come to depend on knowing exactly which “zone” I’m in.
The missing monitor—a chest-strapped device that communicates with the handlebar-mounted Garmin via Bluetooth—would have picked up that heart rate reading. My dejection on discovering my oversight had nothing to do with health issues. I knew from experience that even when I’m racing, my heartbeat stays well within a range most cardiologists consider safe for a 55-year-old. But how would I know, during the race, how much effort I was putting in, mile by mile, without my computer? And when I uploaded my ride to Strava—the widely used social network that allows athletes to track and measure their performances against friends and followers—where would that neat heart rate graph be, the one that often looks like an enraged porcupine?
Yes, those questions now sound pretty dumb to me too. But when you’re a sports-data addict, all that matters are the numbers on the screen.

CHANGING GEARS
Early the next day, I set off from the village of La Villa with 9,128 other cyclists. Over the next seven hours, I settled into a pace just below the point at which the pain outweighed the gain (technically, this is known as the “lactate threshold”), allowing myself some brief recovery periods, ramping up the effort when my legs felt good. I enjoyed the scenery, chatted with other cyclists, even stopped to take selfies. For the first time in a while, I actually enjoyed a race. I didn’t come anywhere near the podium, not even for my age group. Then again, I never do.
Data-obsessed athletes are fond of telling themselves, and anyone who will listen, that perceived effort can be inaccurate—that’s why they need hard data. But I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have ridden any faster with the heart monitor. It would instead have just added to my data stress. And yet until my Dolomitic revelation, I’d been seriously considering adding another pointlessly complex data field to my ride by investing in a power meter, which calculates in watts the strain exerted on the pedals or crank arm—and which can cost between $300 and $1,500.
Instead, I scaled back, eventually shedding all technology save for an iPhone to track my rides. I was, and I still am, tempted to record and gawk at data, but I realized watching the numbers rise and fall had become an obsession.
But Piet Morgan, CEO of athletic technology company Hammerhead, does not believe cycling has reached “peak data” just yet. “Cycling is at the cutting edge of athletic-data collection,” he said, because it involves two complex machines, the human body and bicycle, each of which can generate multiple readings. Rather than rejecting data out of hand, Mr. Morgan feels cyclists need to be given tools to use measurements and graphs of heart rate, power output, and cadence—the rate at which you turn the pedals—more effectively. His company’s first product was the gratifyingly simple LED-based H1 bike navigation tool. The second, which started shipping in November, is named Karoo. It’s a much more sophisticated device designed, Mr. Morgan said, to be a combination cycling computer and personal trainer. It not only flashes up cryptic figures but also adapts to each rider automatically and generates unique training plans based on factors like fatigue, diet, and stress.
This is perfectly fine if going faster is your aim. The problem is that so many cyclists become slave to the numbers even on gentle recovery rides or social outings. Club rides, the core of the amateur cyclist’s week, are often spoiled when fellow team members race ahead of the group to chase a Strava personal best. (I’ve been guilty of this myself.)
When riding a few years ago in Corsica with Simon Mottram, founder and CEO of the cultish British cycling apparel and lifestyle brand Rapha, I noticed he hadn’t strapped a GPS unit to his handlebars. Neither, it turned out, was he tracking the ride on his smartphone. When I asked him about this recently, Mr. Mottram told me that as a young cyclist in the 1980s he was an early adopter of some of the first effective cycling “cockpit instrumentation,” including the innovative Avocet speedometer. But he gave up data pretty early on, he said. “I didn’t think it was helping in any way.”
‘I realized I was behaving like an idiot. But when you’re a sports-data addict, all that matters are the numbers.’
Pressed, Mr. Mottram bluntly explained, “I find the whole idea of measuring and monitoring—even looking back at, say, the profile of your climb or what speed you did—really uninteresting. Cycling is the most incredible, beautiful, challenging sport for so many reasons. One of those is that it’s such a rich counterpoint to sitting in a conference room or an office or a tube train. And, I think, looking at screens and stuff, who cares? You want to be in the moment.”
Three months after the Maratona, I tackled another legendary Italian cycling challenge, L’Eroica: 130 miles, over 10,000 feet of climbing, with most of the route on unpaved Tuscan strade bianche or white roads, some with gradients of up to 15%. Oh, and you had to ride it on a pre-1987 vintage steel racing bike—the kind with the gear shifters on the down tube. I left my heart-rate monitor at home, on purpose this time. None of us had Garmins mounted to handlebars. They would have ruined the aesthetic, and in any case this was not a race: You won by simply making it to the end. All the data we needed was on the regular L’Eroica course markers that, with agonizing slowness, counted down the distance left to Gaiole in Chianti, our departure point and eventual destination.
Yes, I documented the exhausting but magnificent 13-hour ride on Strava using an iPhone tucked into the back pocket of my cycling jersey. I still like to tally how many kilometers I pedal each year, how many Everests I climb. But all the data—the heart rate zones, power curve? I’ll come back to those if I ever get myself a trainer. In the meantime, I’m going to leave watts to the lightbulbs.


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