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The Decision to Unplug the Cycling…

February 2014
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I’ve been somewhat of a stats junky ever since I started cycling.  I am not a competitive cyclist, I don’t race and don’t have a desire to.  I don’t sport a $2,000 power meter and don’t ever plan on wanting one.  I do, however, track almost every single mile I ride throughout the year on Endomondo through my iPhone – all 5,000+ miles.  With Endomondo I get a full breakdown of average speed, current speed, time and distance and with the help of the Cycle Computer App, I’m able to get a fair guess at average wattage.  When properly used and analyzed I believe it’s helped me immeasurably, get to a point where I’m able to cycle with some of our club’s faster cyclists (even if I haven’t been willing to put in the effort to catch the real racers in the club).

I have to, whether I like it or not, bring my phone with me on the vast majority of my rides so I’ve never really looked at hitting the GPS button on the phone as that big of a deal.  That attitude began evolving last year.  While I always brought my phone and tracked the miles, it spent most of the time silenced in my back pocket – and I still managed to log the fastest long distance miles I’ve ever ridden (Fastest was 58 miles at just shy of 23 mph on open roads, obeying all Michigan traffic laws).  While I spent most of those miles sheltered, ten to fifteen riders back in a pace-line, we were still averaging 26-28 mph when we had straight shots.  That’s fast baby – and miraculously I didn’t need to hear the miles chiming off every 2 minutes and 10 seconds to actually ride that fast (I’m being flippant of course).

Then, just yesterday, I read a post written by a blogger who is quickly becoming one of my favorites about the “Quality Controller“:

Some cycling companions are, to put it bluntly, numbers monkeys. When they invite you out on a ride you ask them ‘what’s the plan, where are we going’, and they will give you a forensic breakdown of the distance you will cover, the height you will gain, the kind of average speed you can expect to travel and even the gradient of some of the climbs.

But for some, for the Quality Controllers among us, all this is superfluous.

They will take you out for a ride, and you will be out on the bike for no more than an hour and a half, but you will cover 25 or 30 of the most varied, interesting and downright pleasurable miles you have ever had the good fortune to pedal. You will ride along dappled country lanes, up onto wide and breathless hilltops, down sweeping valleys, and through villages of exquisite English beauty.

I am currently a “numbers monkey” but Matt Assenmacher, the owner of our local bike shop(s) is the quintessential definition of the Quality Controller [I’m editing the quote for space]:

With each significant landmark you pass your friend will regale you with history and culture, describe the geographical features, or simply tell you a funny story. He will then whisk you along to a café which treats it’s cyclists like minor celebrities…

And as you pedal happily along, basking in the sheer joy of riding your bike with this man, you look across at him and notice…surely, it can’t be right…he has no onboard computer, and a map in his back pocket…

And finally, the most important part:

If you push him, your friend will give you stories of times he has spent engaged in some of the hardest riding, clocking up the most tremendous mileage possible. The Quality Controller has done it all and got it out of his system, and is now committed to quality.  He doesn’t look down his nose at those who log mileage and engage in fevered competition with each other to the top of the next climb – he has lived that life – but knows now that his role in life is to ride quality miles, and pass on his serene knowledge to those who choose to listen.

Now I admittedly still have a lot to learn and I absolutely don’t want to throw away the decent base that I’ve built up – I still want to be as fast as I am now, but I want to be a quality controller too, and there is one fantastically pressing reason for this:   My wife.

It turned out that my wife, while not quite the carbon-phile that I am, is really getting into cycling in a big way, she’s talking about triathlons and centuries this year.  Also, while the kids are in school on Friday’s my wife and I go for a 20 mile (give or take) ride stopping off at Wendy’s for lunch on the way home.  Even though I loved the speed of Tuesday night rides, Friday quickly became my favorite ride.  We don’t exactly tear it up, but I think that’s kind of the point – I do tear @$$ around the neighborhood almost every other day and it’s a breath of fresh air to ride easy and try my best to be my wife’s “Quality” guy.

So that, added to the rest of what I’ve been kicking around for quite some time…  I’m going to unplug the cycling, completely.  No more Endomondo, no more worrying about whether or not I’ll make the top ten in Michigan for the National Bike Challenge, no more challenges and no more watts.  While I haven’t done it all, I have taken Endomondo as far as I think I need to.  It’s time to start focusing more on the quality of the ride rather than how fast I can get back to my driveway.

UPDATE:  It appears as though I may have caused a bit of confusion with this post.  Two of my friends posted comments about headphones (or ear buds).  I never ride with either as I believe it’s far too dangerous.  I have a phone mount for my phone that clips on to my stem so I can hear the speaker when the miles chime off.  I discourage and am, in fact, quite against anyone using headphones or ear buds on a bike.  If you do, it’s your choice, but I think it’s stupid.

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19 Comments

  1. sueslaght says:

    Bravo! Hubby and I have fabulous rides together and some spectacular cycling holidays have come from it. I have never been fast nor will I ever be. Our time together and the shared adventures on the bike will be far better memories than the computer postings from my GPS. Each to their own but this is how cycling became joyful for me.

  2. magnuminsp says:

    I would probably still have Endomondo running, just no headphones! Just to keep a record of the miles.

    Now that we have moved and this city actually has bike paths and people in their cars stop for you, time for a few rides of my own. Hopefully, the wife will join me and as soon as the young son learns how to ride without training wheels, he can join us!

    • bgddyjim says:

      I never wear headphones or ear buds on the bike brother, way too dangerous. I’m talking about giving up the Endo altogether even though I’ll have to keep the phone with me.

      As for your son, I ride with my daughters several days a week and I love every minute of it. Josie’s only seven and we’ve been as far as 10 miles with her. You’ll have a blast.

  3. Sandra says:

    You have arrived. 🙂 I quit the headphones a year ago and have never even wanted to go back. I wonder now why I even have an ipod. I’m not ready to give up the garmin though. I have too much to learn about myself, and frankly, I need the numbers to push myself. Still on training wheels!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Oh, don’t get me wrong on the headphones – I’m dead set against them, ESPECIALLY on the bike. Way too dangerous. Your last point is what makes me nervous though – I may need to go back if I end up needing the numbers.

      • Sandra says:

        I totally agree. I never wore headphones on a bike, and I only wore them jogging/walking with one in (and one dangling under my shirt). I’m paranoid and always was afraid someone could use them to strangle me 🙂 LOL!

  4. elisariva says:

    I am a numbers monkey to the max! 🙊 since the focus of my rides are to get faster for specific triathlons the gadgets help me. Honestly though, even if I rode just for health I would still want my monkey toys. Reading you post actually made me a little anxious. Now that you are unplugging I am reminded of a song — “don’t drink, don’t smoke…” But I know what you do do – have fun!

  5. Sometimes it’s so important to do a “naked” bike ride or run to just enjoy the sport.

  6. Sandra says:

    Good luck! Cannot wait to read your post about it!

  7. Great post, and i’m flattered that you linked to me, thanks. Perhaps it’s time we developed some kind of ‘quality control’ logo, a badge of honour for those who ride quality!

    But seriously, a balance between numbers and quality rides does me just nicely.

    My wife was also very taken with your devotion to your other half – setting the bar pretty high there mate 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’ve got an idea for the badge! It’ll be AWESOME! Brilliant idea – we’ll have to go in on shirts and jerseys… I’m thinking about launching a clothing line this spring – I’ll cut you in on the QC stuff if I get it off the ground. I’ll email you the design before I do anything concrete so you can put your stamp on it, change it, whatever you want to do.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Oh, I got so fired up I almost forgot!.. Thank you for the kind words, and please know this: my wife makes it easy to be devoted to her. After all, how many guys do you know who get a brand new high-end mountain bike – that matches his ROAD BIKE for valentine’s day? It’s easy brother.

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