Author Topic: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?  (Read 580 times)

Andre Jute

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What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« on: May 08, 2018, 11:33:44 PM »
To illustrate that cyclists have hugely different requirements, here's my reply to a remark in another thread, where it would be too far off-topic:

...even the allure of simple & inexpensive functionality may not be enough to pass my test of "Electronics if necessary, but not necessarily electronics."  ;)

I know what you mean. It occurred to me on my ride today that I have the same information on my handlebars not twice, but three times, as the phone reports the same basics of speed, time and distance as the Sigma bike computer and the D965 motor controller display. But each of them does one extra thing that I cannot do without:
-- Sigma BC509: the current time in a readable format (I often ride just before dinner...)
-- Polar App on phone: my heart rate, by which I divide the effort between my legs and the electric motor
-- D965 motor controller display: the reserve for an instantaneous call of current on the battery (somewhat like the current Rolls-Royce which scorns a common tachometer in favour of a power reserve meter) which I propose to call a Coulomb Gauge -- see http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=12916.0 for more on coulombs.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2018, 11:35:18 PM by Andre Jute »

John Saxby

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2018, 03:07:55 AM »
That's a very good summary of what you need to know, Andre, and that's the core issue, no matter whether 2 or 3 e-devices generate the info you need in the course of a ride. (And because you need the info, it's probably a good thing that you have more than one source supplying it. Backups can be critically important, given the number of e-corollaries of Murphy's Law which lurk in the roadside weeds.)

It's interesting (to me, at least) that none of the adverts I've read for computers addresses  why the various streams of info are offered. Maybe it's self-evident: enough people want 5-7-umpteen informational dimensions of their ride.

My own requirements/preferences are for less, not more.  On tour, I usually work with an overall plan, and then rough out a day's ride beforehand, making mental or written notes of places to eat, swim, stop, sleep, etc.  I have a fairly good sense of distance travelled and average speed. Time in the saddle is as important as anything else, especially vis--vis stops for food. All of that can be reckoned and managed without a computer.  For daily and cumulative distances, I rely on maps and regular notes in my journal.

Sometimes, I use an inclinometer because I'm interested to know the gradients on the hills I meet, especially in unfamiliar countryside. That's really a matter of curiosity rather than "need", though; and having used an inclinometer for a couple of years now, I find I can make a reasonable guesstimate of a grade.

Cheers,  John

PH

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2018, 12:52:49 PM »
I think the art is to remember who's the boss, the moment you think it's the tech, switch it off, all of it!
About 40% of my mileage is utility, I don't need any information, I know where I'm going and about how long it takes, I don't have any form of data collection.
For the rest, I'm a dedicated number collector, Garmin and if verification is important also a GPS logger.  The Garmin is usually on the map page, with the two data fields distance and elapsed time, I get a good enough idea of everything I need from these two.  When I take a break I may flip through the rest of the options, to see the elevation (Work out how many hills are left!) and get an idea of how much time I'm not moving, otherwise the data is only interesting for post ride analysis.  A few years ago, I found myself riding for the Garmin, that's OK when specifically training for some purpose, but it isn't how I normally like to ride, so I took a break from it.   

jags

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2018, 05:19:32 PM »
i used to do a few rides with my son (flying Machine) he used to say , anto never calls me dad cheeky sod ;)
anyway anto you dont need a computer your body will tell you how well your going,few minutes later Anto how fast are we going  ::) ;D ;D
kids huh they feckin know it all.

yeah i like to know my average speed if im above it on a long ride i slow down not that it happens very often good spin for me is 15mph average  40to 50 miles
trip distance and overall miles is great to know especially when i post my spin on facebook and my none cycling friends think im related to the  king Sean Kelly ;D ;D

anto.

Andre Jute

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2018, 12:38:47 AM »
My sub-ten-euro Sigma BC1509 gives me the data to calculate average speed, and I'm sure one of the other dials will give me the average as a worked result if I cared enough to spend the time to find it, but I ride almost exclusively on hills, so the average for the whole ride isn't as much use as how long I took up a kilometre-long hill while not exceeding the permitted heart rate.

Polar Beat, the Bluetooth app that comes with the Polar H7 chest belt, assumes all cyclists are roadies, and thus takes every journey as a "training session" on a closed circle, and by default, unless you specify a different "lap distance", gives you a verbal report via your phone every kilometre or mile (depending on your setup choice of metric or imperial measures) in whatever form you find useful among several worked results of time/distance. The one I find have it permanently set to is "x minutes for the last kilometer", since I aim for an average in the hills of 15kph -- rather than Anto's impressive 15mph -- which is a speed my riding companions can keep up with. So any report of more than "4 minutes" causes me to slow down, and any report under "4 minutes" and I speed up a bit.

My pedal pals were at first startled by Polar Beat's verbal report via the phone every four minutes, glancing worriedly at the hedges for the source of the voice in the burning bush, but soon started asking me to repeat it louder...

That it is a verbal report is important, because the earlier Polar Beat app's marginally useful screen on the phone has been redesigned by a non-cyclist who fancies himself a "cutting edge" designer to be totally useless to cyclists -- I rate it "actively hostile" --, giving all the information equal value with equally small numbers, squeezing eight separate number sets into the top of the screen, and making some of them pale blue and others red and some even yellow, a totally unreadable mess. It may be possible to verbalize some other numbers; I just don't care enough to discover how. Polar Beat is free to owners of Polar heart rate belts; actually, it is free to everyone, but there is no guarantee that it works with non-Polar heart rate senders (it didn't for instance work with some Chinese belts I was given to test); it works very well with Polar senders, except that the wretched screen makes it near useless for keen cyclists who like instant access to a gazillion numbers though, to be fair, that condition is aggravated by the uselessness of phone screens outside, especially in sunlight.

This is what makes the Sigma cheap series of wired computers so great, that it was clearly designed by a cyclist, so that there are only two large, bright numbers on the large screen at any time, one of them always being the current speed, and that all the other numbers will appear either at the press of the single button, or any one of them can be held on screen by simply setting the thing to non-scrolling, or will scroll onto the screen at a known interval, so that the computer doesn't claim your attention except intermittently. It's an amazingly simple, ergonomic setup; I couldn't design it better myself. Well, except for this, which is a totally unreasonable demand of so inexpensive a device: If the button were remote, the dial could be mounted in the centre of the bars and the button next to your thumb. As it is, the whole thing is most conveniently operated from next to the gear control (mine is actually mounted on top of it), where the single large button falls naturally under your thumb, so that you have to turn your head very slightly to read it. On the other hand, I find that I rarely want to operate the button while riding, so the bike computer could be mounted in the centre of the handlebars, except that where I was trained as a psychologist we had a noted ergonomist on the staff with whom I got along particularly well, so I just purely hate taking my hand off the grip, even if rarely, to operate any device.
***
What all this proves, besides the obvious fact that cyclists differ in their demands, is that tailoring a bike precisely to a cyclist's needs and desires takes a lot of thought on what the novice might consider very minor details. It took me twenty years to get to a bike that doesn't irritate in any respect. Without the internet providing access to other thoughtful cyclists of vast experience it might have taken forever, or be impossible.

John Saxby

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2018, 03:54:04 AM »
Quote
I rate it "actively hostile" --, giving all the information equal value with equally small numbers, squeezing eight separate number sets into the top of the screen, and making some of them pale blue and others red and some even yellow, a totally unreadable mess.

Exterminate all the brutes! -- seems like the only reasonable thing to do, eh?

Liked your resume of where to place the device, Andre. Front and centre on the stem makes sense, were I to Sigmatize myself. (Good thing that English still has a subjunctive mood, well-suited to this sort of conversation.)  My Raven's bars are a bit stark these days -- only my Cygolite headlamp is on display, as I removed my Skymounti inclinometer for my visit Down Unda, and haven't reinstalled it yet.

Cheers,  John

Andre Jute

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Re: What do you actually need a cycle computer to tell you?
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2018, 06:37:04 AM »
(Good thing that English still has a subjunctive mood, well-suited to this sort of conversation.)

The wishful-thinking case!