Winter commute training

In recent years it's become almost impossible to not record your cycling prowess – whether you have a dedicated cyclocomputer, GPS unit, power meter or smartphone.

Useful Smartphone Apps for the Bike

But is recording your rides in this way right for you? We take a peek at the pros and cons of keeping tabs on your performance.

Heavy rain on the road in the city
** Note: Shallow depth of field

Pros

Bicycle GPS in particular ensure that you can get home quickly and efficiently. This, in turn, probably means you have gotten home more safely. Garmin sat navs and smartphone apps make it less likely that you'll get lost when you're riding, meaning you'll get home in good time while it's still light outside.

Buying Guide: Bicycle Computers

Cons

First things first, any amount of technical wizardry on your bars is a distraction from the road. Consider that 84% of drivers think that in-car technologies are a distraction. If you're on a road with a distracted driver, and you're distracted by your Garmin, then perhaps it's not the safest thing.

Furthermore, we're all aware of the dangers surrounding using recording apps. Although Strava had a lawsuit brought against them by the family of a dead cyclist thrown out, meaning that in the eyes of the US legal system the app was not at fault for his death, it is still a certainty that when apps like Strava are used, some people will be more likely to take risks.

Racing against those in cyberspace brings with it all the dangers of racing in reality: but when you're descending a mountain on your own the roads aren't closed, and there's no medical car behind.

Garmin Edge 1000

The wealth of data that is provided by your recording device can be huge. Time, distance, pedal cadence, power, heart rate, speed, calories burned and average gradient can all be calculated without too much tech.

Pros

This range of measurements can be helpful if you're training for a specific race and want to improve a particular aspect of your performance. Some of these numbers can be worked out using maths and a pen, but other calculations are only possible with the advent of GPS.

Those who want to understand their ride fully can consult their heart rate data, and then compare it to their speeds, output and location at the time of the HR reading. This enable athletes to understand more fully how the geography of a route has effected them, and also to make sure they don't over-train.

8 of the Best Bicycle Computers

Cons

Too much data can effect your ability as an athlete to judge your own performance. It's important to listen to your body and to be able to understand the difference between extreme suffering of the good kind, and extreme suffering of the dangerous kind. If you are relying on an HR or power reading to tell you when you're pushing yourself, then you're probably not very in-tune with your body.

Many athletes will train without a monitor in front of them, but will look at the data afterwards to gauge how well their perception of the ride matched with reality. This, of course, works in the opposite way: train without any data and risk thinking that you can't push any further, when in fact you've got a lot more to give.

wattbike

Pros

Once upon a time it was only the pros that could afford enough technical equipment to get accurate readings. Now, however, even GPS-enabled machines are tumbling down in the price. A couple of hundred quid can get you a Garmin that will provide more data than your can shake a selfie stick at.

Winter Training: Base Miles for Road Cyclists

Cons

The only piece of recording technology that still presents a considerable spend is a power meter. Like most technologies, the price is slowly going down, but you'll still be dropping around £1000 to learn how many watts you're laying down.

This is still a big expense for anyone that isn't a professional, but it undoubtably provides the most accurate and useful measurement of performance.

motivation (1)

Pros

Seeing yourself improve is, of course, a fantastic aspect of recording technologies that helps keep you motivated – quite often because improvements are made so incrementally, you won't notice your better fitness levels until later down the line.

Apps like Strava have also created their own communities: other users supply support as well as your next challenge.

And finally, despite the fact that no award is as effective as your own passion or your peers feedback, there's definitely some motivation provided by those tiny little trophies... !

Indoor Training for Cyclists

Cons

It can be difficult to stay motivated if, conversely, you aren't seeing the improvements that you've been hoping for on the speedometer. Lots of older people, for instance, prefer not to see their times increase as they age, but instead concentrate on how hard they feel they've pushed themselves.

notebook

There are two main alternatives to using a GPS or an app to chart your progress on the bike:

1. Buy a watch

[related_articles]So few people have a watch anymore, mainly because they have smartphones. And that's probably not a societal trend that cyclists will be able to reverse.

But for those of you worried about being distracted by a digital screen, a watch will enable you to keep a track of just how fast you've done a segment with the same accuracy as a satellite connected piece of tech. Amazing, right?!

All you need to do it make a mental note of your start and finish time before writing the numbers down and making a few calculations. You can do this on paper with an exercise diary, or you can mix and match analog with digital by using a cycle log web app or spreadsheet.

2. Don't mount it!

Again, if you're worried that any aspects of technology may be hampering your performance rather than improving it, then it's time hide Strava in your jersey pocket. Bicycle phone mounts and handlebar mounted cyclocomputers are great for when you're using maps or when you're on a turbo trainer, but if you find it all a bit distracting then it's time to stick on your preferred cycling app and then hide your smartphone away. Who knows, you might enjoy the views a little more too!