Monday, October 13, 2014

Using a GPS Thoughtfully or Just for Fun

A bit of a love-hate relationship has developed for me with my cycling GPS. For quite awhile, the idea of having a GPS for my bicycle(s) was unneeded and unwanted. At some point along the way, I decided that it made sense to track mileage - not only for my own training purposes, but even to be able to track mileage on bikes to have a better idea of how long parts have been used and how often a tune-up could be in order. In many ways, having that little device strapped to my handlebar or stem provided a way to push myself too. I know exactly how fast (or slow) I'm traveling and if I want to cover a certain distance in a given amount of time, I know I need to speed things up or that I'm on pace to complete the goal.
*Image found here
At some point, however, things seemed to turn a bit. I found myself always in a "go faster" mode, and I didn't like it. I had to remind myself that it's okay to slow down and that not every ride has to have purpose or be intended to complete some sort of cycling goal. Whether for transportation or just a joy ride, there are times when it's nice to let the electronics go and just concern myself with the view around me.  Most recently I have found myself attempting to discover balance between being able to track mileage and speed, and enjoying actually being on a bike. However, I still want to be able to get in mileage from time to time.

Perhaps you've come across some of the people who use their bicycles to create images as their GPS ride results? I've viewed several instances myself, such as wishes for a happy Valentine's Day, a rat and jellyfish, or even marriage proposals. People get pretty creative with the images they make using the device intended simply to track mileage, speed, elevation and so on.  Over the last few days, a news story has gone around about a rider who created an image of a bicycle using his GPS while covering just under 200 miles.

I've also found myself intrigued by groups whose goal is to ride every road within their own city, such as this group with Strava. It's amazing to look at the maps and see how many roads these riders are able to cover on a bicycle. The heat maps created remind me of a tightly wound spider web in many ways.

The idea of traveling every local road by bicycle is intriguing, and it's had me thinking. I wonder what the experience of a longer ride (let's say some distance between a metric and a century) would feel like if I only rode local, within-city-limits roads? With cooler weather setting in locally, I'm pondering the idea of taking on this self-made challenge simply to see if 1) it's possible to complete a long ride using only in-city roads in a city that is far from the largest out there, and 2) if going up and down neighborhood streets would be a welcome change or if it would be more challenging than I think.

Have you ever created an image (either intentionally or unintentionally) with your GPS? Have you or would you join a group whose goal was simply to ride their bikes on ever local road? Have you done a long-distance ride only on roads within a few miles/kilometers of home? I'd love to know if anyone has done any of these or has considered it. In the meantime, I'm attempting to get out and enjoy the beautiful autumn days, and I hope you are too.


  1. Good morning, G.E. - have you seen this one?
    A group near us are talking about seeing if they can draw a bicycle using OUR local roads. :)

    1. That would be a fantastic plan, Rebecca! Let me know if you end up doing it. I'd love to see the "drawing" too. :O)

  2. It's interesting you post this at this time. We are just learning about gps tracking on our bike rides. About a month ago, we both got the Polar Bluetooth heart rate monitor (HRM) and downloaded the free Polar Beat app onto our iPhones. At the time, we did not realize the app would give us gps tracking as a bonus. We bought the Polar H7 HRM for $52 on Amazon.

    Since then, we track all rides. Besides tracking all the statistics on our heart rate and calories burned (which can be interesting when you ride the same circuits every week), we collect detailed data on our route, mileage, and speed at every point along the route. The mileage, route and speed data all seem very accurate and compare exactly to our bike computers. The app provides a map view, or a couple of statistical analysis summaries. All the past rides are stored on your phone and you can track and compare your rides over time. You can share the info to FB, but I'm not sure why my friends would want to see it.

    It's interesting to see how wind can make a big difference. When we get a southerly, we pick up a tailwind on beneficial portions of the ride. Our heart rates are lower, the speed is faster and the Polar Beat app calculates we burn fewer calories. The calorie data is probably not too accurate and just an estimation based on heart rate and your physical characteristics (affecting your oxygen consumption).

    There are other apps that allow you to collect the gps data on your phone (without getting the HRM function). Based on the Polar Beat app, we've found gps tracking to be more useful than we originally realized.

    1. Yes, you are so very right... Lots of apps out there to help with tracking. I know many people prefer to stick with an app on their phone than a device, but I think whatever works best for the rider(s) preference(s) and needs is what matters most. :O)


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