Author Topic: Should I buy a bicycle computer?  (Read 11311 times)

catccc

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Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« on: June 05, 2013, 06:22:34 AM »
I'm just starting out using a bicycle, and my goal is to commute to work (a hilly 10 miles one way). 

I am still learning- how to use gears, how to play nicely with cars on the road, how to not be terrified of going downhill really fast... 

My main concern is learning to use the gears correctly/automatically so I can navigate the hilly commute with ease.  So I've read a little about it, and I'm interested in purchasing a bicycle computer, so I can keep an eye on stats like cadence. 

Nothing too fancy, a wired model that runs about $30.  Is this a silly purchase?  Should I just get out and ride and learn by feel?  Or is this something I'm going to want anyway, so $30 is a good exchange for a product that will be useful to me?

matchewed

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2013, 06:27:23 AM »
It's kinda silly. Just ride IMO. I've been riding for years with lots of work peer pressure to buy a computer. It doesn't make you a better bicyclist unless you are getting more hardcore and need the data to find incremental improvements.

For gears use what is comfortable, a cadence can be kept in your head if you're really concerned.

GuitarStv

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2013, 07:00:54 AM »
Advantages:
- Shiny gadget to play with

Disadvantages:
- Yet another thing that can be stolen from your bike
- Unneeded cost
- Added weight (although minimal)
- Added distraction from the road


I've thought long and hard about this and for me, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.  Maybe if you were racing regularly and wanted to keep certain speeds during your workouts or something . . . for typical cycling around town it's totally frivolous.

deciduous

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2013, 07:03:54 AM »
I think you nailed the main concerns, but got them in the wrong order. I'd order them like this:
  • Staying alive
  • Feeling comfortable & confident
  • Getting strong / efficient

A computer can help with #3, but I'd say hurts the first two. Looking at numbers on your handlebars isn't as bad as texting, but it's still, strictly speaking, a distracting. Just ride.

I've been riding daily for urban commutes for 10 years, and still don't have any rules for shifting more complex than "struggling? down. coasting? up" It's OK.

Especially if you have lots of hills involved, it's much more important to get comfortable riding in traffic. Ironically, it's often safest to assert yourself and get out into the road and impede the drivers behind you--say, on those downhills. Many drivers will see a biker and think "I am faster, I need to pass!" But on a sharp decline, gravity is just as effective for you as them, and you need to get out into the lane or most cars will deprive you of your reaction space and time. Naturally, in that case it's courteous to ride as fast as you feel comfortable. But it's most important to ride safely.

Also, please don't be a jackass: stop signs and red lights apply to you too (except in certain states.) If you disregard those, you make things worse for everyone by (at least) fostering animosity between riders and drivers.

deciduous

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2013, 07:11:46 AM »
Also, congrats! Riding for transportation is one of the best things I've ever done. It kills about 5 birds with one stone.

anastrophe

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2013, 07:28:27 AM »
My main concern is learning to use the gears correctly/automatically so I can navigate the hilly commute with ease.  So I've read a little about it, and I'm interested in purchasing a bicycle computer, so I can keep an eye on stats like cadence. 

Uh, no. I really don't think that a cyclocomputer will help you with this, not nearly as much as paying attention to the rhythm of your legs and your breathing. Shift when it gets difficult and use a cadence that feels natural. If you ride the same hills often, you'll find a pattern that works for you, and as you get stronger, you'll adjust. You really, really don't need to be staring at a tiny digital screen in order to learn this.

Don't fall into thinking you need to buy a lot of stuff to pick up a hobby. Just ride your commute and next summer if you think you want one, spend the $30 for the little toy.


Khan

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2013, 07:28:33 AM »
I'm gonna go against them and say go for it. My bicycle computer is the impetus I need to push myself to ride. I want to make the batteries on it die. I want to break my record for miles travelled(in a day, in a week), I want to make the odometer max out.

If you think it'll do the same thing for you, it's worth it.

catccc

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2013, 08:20:26 AM »
Thanks all for your input, I'm going to put it off for now, at least.  Maybe mention it if someone (MIL) asks me for birthday gift idea.

I should note that my concerns are not in the order of importance!  Obviously staying safe and alive is more important than getting up the hills!  Honestly, I'm not beyond walking a bike up a hill if needed.  I've been surprised with how comfortable I am taking the lane when riding, and I've read my state's bicycle driver manual.  So I follow the traffic rules.  Hmm, I should say mostly, because at a stop sign where all is clear, I sometimes I come to an almost-stop, but not a complete stop. So I'm still in motion the tiniest bit before I take off, for the sake of not having to step off the bike.  (Is this a huge no-no, or is it okay?)  I would never blow through a light or stop sign like it wasn't there!

Yes, I have found that when I assert my rights to be on the road, I feel more confident and safe.  I try to ride smack dab between the center and right side of the road for the most part.  I do struggle with left turns/merging left across multiple lanes to turn left, so I often slow and stay right and wait for a break in traffic, or stop and cross as a pedestrian.  (any better ideas?)  Anyway, my point is, I already feel plenty safe and confident, so that is why efficiency is my concern at this time.

So far on my new hobby I have spent $10 on a light.  Kind of.  It was a mother's day "gift," but purchased on behalf of my kids by my husband, and it's really all the same money. I'm not a "spend a bunch to do new things" kind of person.  Salvaged a pretty neat wire handlebar basket (two parts, a frame that attaches to handlebars and a basket that can be clamped in or taken off like a little grocery store basket) from a junk pile outside of my in-laws place.  Needed some creative repair, but it's totally functional.

I actually had the bike, helmet and gloves sitting around unused since about 2007.  I didn't really ride much when I initially got the bike, and hadn't had a bike since I was a kid, and had never owned one with gears.  I got pregnant in 2008 and wasn't comfortable riding with my balance off...  then 5 years passed.  Two kids later, I'm ready to get back on the saddle.  Anyway, I am very much looking forward to making this a regular part of my life.  Took it to the grocery store for the first time over the weekend!
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 08:22:11 AM by catccc »

abyss

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 08:21:11 AM »
I use an app on my phone (runkeeper, it's free) to track my daily commute and give me the motivation to ride faster (beat yesterday's time!), ride more often ( beat total distance riden last month!) and ride further ( longest ride this year! ).

It tracks distance, pace and time but doesn't do cadence.

Maybe runkeeper or similar would be a suitable alternative for you?

jp

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 08:38:57 AM »
I have computers on my bikes.  I just have them to keep track out of curiosity.  It is completely unnecessary, but I just like to know how fast I am going.  As far as cadence and gears, my vote goes to just pedal and shift when you feel it needs to be done.  My commute is about the same as yours, and I will cruise on down hills a lot, quot pedaling all together sometimes... I still manage to average 15mph.   It is not perfectly efficient, but it is more enjoyable for me.

That said, it is a small cost overall and these computers last forever (mine are 10 years old and showing no signs of stopping), so I would say go for it if you think it will make you more likely to get out there and ride.  Like I said, I have them, more just to see what I did rather than dictate how I ride.

Jamesqf

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2013, 12:25:45 PM »
I'd say yes, if you are interested in biking for improving fitness.  It gives you goals/challenges - beating your previous best time for a route, doing X miles per week/month, etc.  Lights &c come first, though.

I personally never found they helped with cadence, though maybe that's because I was biking long before cheap computers became available.

If you're worried about them being stolen, many just pop off and can be carried in a bag or pocket when you're not on the bike.

ThatGuyFromCanada

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2013, 02:55:58 PM »
I've started using my smartphone to create a GPS track of my ride which I convert to a KML with colour coded dots based on how fast I was travelling at that point. This helps me with performance and is generally quite interesting.

I've attached an example from this morning - I think you have to look at it in Google Earth, the colours don't show up if you just load into Google Maps

Red <10 km/h
Purple 10-20 km/h
Blue 20-30 km/h
Green 30-40 km/h
Yellow 40+ km/h 

Jamesqf

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2013, 04:49:20 PM »
I've started using my smartphone...

Cheap bike computer, maybe $20.  Smart phone, maybe $200 to purchase plus $100/month ongoing.  Which is the Mustachian choice here?

swiper

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2013, 05:03:37 PM »
I've started using my smartphone...

Cheap bike computer, maybe $20.  Smart phone, maybe $200 to purchase plus $100/month ongoing.  Which is the Mustachian choice here?

Perhaps he/OP already had the smartphone for other reasons and this is new usecase for it ...

Rollin

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2013, 06:55:06 PM »
I no longer use one and just like to ride.  However, there was a time when I got a tremendous amount of use and enjoyment out of one.  If you like to gauge what you are doing I'd say get it.  If you can simply look up and enjoy riding a bike (without the data), then I'd say do that first.

grantmeaname

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2013, 07:41:01 PM »
Yes, I have found that when I assert my rights to be on the road, I feel more confident and safe.  I try to ride smack dab between the center and right side of the road for the most part.  I do struggle with left turns/merging left across multiple lanes to turn left, so I often slow and stay right and wait for a break in traffic, or stop and cross as a pedestrian.  (any better ideas?)
Turn around in the saddle and look behind you, then indicate a left turn, then a car may slow down and give you a spot to get over into their lane.

ThatGuyFromCanada

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2013, 08:57:02 PM »
I've started using my smartphone...

Cheap bike computer, maybe $20.  Smart phone, maybe $200 to purchase plus $100/month ongoing.  Which is the Mustachian choice here?

Perhaps he/OP already had the smartphone for other reasons and this is new usecase for it ...

Exactly

BlueMR2

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2013, 09:38:09 AM »
I've used them.  It's cool.  I'm really annoyed at having to replace the battery every year though.  Mine's actually been batteryless for the last couple of years.  I much preferred the old analog speedo/odo combos from back when I was a kid.  You bought them, stuck 'em on the bike, and were good to go.  Not like these stupid new fangled ones that chew through batteries...

Anyone in the NorthWest Ohio area, I'll give you my old electronic one.  It's a nice unit as long as you don't mind feeding it.  :-)

Jamesqf

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2013, 12:03:09 PM »
Perhaps he/OP already had the smartphone for other reasons and this is new usecase for it ...

Yes, I understand that (and thought it was implicit).  My point was that the OP should consider eliminating the smart phone, which would save far more than the cost of a bike computer.

JamesAt15

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2013, 07:17:28 PM »
I've used them.  It's cool.  I'm really annoyed at having to replace the battery every year though.  Mine's actually been batteryless for the last couple of years.  I much preferred the old analog speedo/odo combos from back when I was a kid.  You bought them, stuck 'em on the bike, and were good to go.  Not like these stupid new fangled ones that chew through batteries...

Anyone in the NorthWest Ohio area, I'll give you my old electronic one.  It's a nice unit as long as you don't mind feeding it.  :-)

What kind of batteries does it take? Can't you use rechargables?

Jamesqf

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2013, 11:21:31 PM »
What kind of batteries does it take? Can't you use rechargables?

All the ones I've seen use the little coin or button cell batteries, and I've never seen rechargeable batteries in those sizes.

Skinnyneo

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Re: Should I buy a bicycle computer?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2013, 12:40:54 AM »
Perhaps he/OP already had the smartphone for other reasons and this is new usecase for it ...

Yes, I understand that (and thought it was implicit).  My point was that the OP should consider eliminating the smart phone, which would save far more than the cost of a bike computer.

Going off of that ditch the smart phone but still use the GPS function.  I had an iPhone 4 with Softbank here in Japan and canceled it when my contract ran out in January.  I switched to prepaid and a feature phone but the iPhone 4's GPS still works with Runkeeper.  Further if you pair Runkeeper with Gympact you can start to make about an average of $1.25/week.  After a year it would pay for a bike computer (or put that money into index funds and watch it grow!)