Cycling in the new year

by Raymond Parker on December 31, 2010

in Cycling, Randonneuring, Technical, Touring

A new startFor me, every new year is a big zero. Tonight, I’ll be resetting my bike computers to naught and replacing batteries—whether they need it or not.

As seen in the photo above, I still use basic odometers. But why two? Redundancy, my friends. With two computers on board, if I delete a setting halfway through a 600 km brevet, I’ve still got two other distance meters to turn to.

The right-hand unit—a Cateye Enduro 8—has two trip-distance meters and a separate setting that can be calibrated to a different wheel size. This comes in handy if, like me, you have bikes with different sized wheels—say, a 700C road bike and a mountain bike or 650b randonneuse. On the left, I have an old Cateye CC-AT 100. It’s a reliable old beast that includes an aneroid altimeter that I’ve found to be very accurate. Both, of course, include total-distance odometers.

Together, these computers give me three trip-distance meters. On the Enduro 8, one can be reset mid-ride to check intermediate distances (make sure it’s not the main one!), while the CC-AT 100 is my failsafe and lets me know how much torture my quads have endured.

While many cyclists now rely on expensive GPS systems to consolidate everything—distance, heart-rate, position, elevation gain, etc.—into one package, I’m still a believer in at least one simple backup … and a printed route sheet on a holder, for brevets.

I don’t reject new technology outright (I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t a gear freak) but there’s something about analog navigation that forms an integral part of cyclotouring.

Tomorrow, we’ll all be cycling into a new year. Hopefully, that means you can hit the road where you are. Even a short spin announces one’s intention to achieve new goals, whether that’s touring in a new place, qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris, or riding further than last year.

Some cyclists find it inspiring to log their distance. It’s easy to set up a Word or Excel file to record your rides. Additionally, you could submit your rides at sites like MapMyRide or register annual distances with Canadian Kilometre Achiever Program (my #1297).

Still other road warriors eschew all worldly measurements, preferring to compute their miles in smiles. This is certainly a valid calculation. To sum things up: Whatever turns your cranks into 2011, have a very happy new year.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Vik April 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm

GPS alone is a mistake for brevets, but it can be a useful addition to a cue sheet and bike computer. Ideally I’m reading the cue sheet and getting confirmation from the GPS.

There are times when the GPS fails and you have the cue sheet to rely on, but there are some times when you make an error with the cue sheet or it’s very hard to read [rain/dark, etc…] when the GPS saves the day.

Using both gives you a double check, but if in doubt I go with the cue sheet.

safe riding,



Raymond Parker April 8, 2011 at 1:55 am

Agree to a point. But I’ve heard repeated stories of randonneurs getting off route when their GPS fails and the rider has lost track of where they are–or should be–on the route sheet.

Every turn should be observed–on the route sheet.

A good old paper map is a good thing to carry as well … and a headlamp to light the cockpit and route sheet.


Lloyd Lemons June 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I like collecting the full range of data on my rides, BUT, technology has failed me numerous times. I would never ride a brevet using my new fangled computer. I simply couldn’t trust it.

The last 600K I rode was guided by my ride buddy’s GPS. Bad decision. It sent us off in the wrong direction, in hilly country, and we were late to our final control. I’ve also read quite a bit about the latest generation of high-end cycling computers, and there seems to be a lot of disappointment among distance riders.

On rides that matter, I now go back-to-basics. I have an inexpensive Cateye that has never failed me for distance. I really like the redundancy as illustrated above, and I think maps and/or cue sheets are the way to go. Besides, navigation using the old-school methods somehow makes the adventure more authentic. I also have less to worry about on the ride–no tech failures–which seem to be a common occurrence in life these days.

Enjoyed your post, Ray. Thanks.



Raymond Parker June 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

Cheers, Lloyd:

Thanks for your input. The more I discuss this subject, the more off-route stories I hear, caused by the fallibility of GPS.

It seems to me that relying on GPS alone, and losing track of one’s position on the route sheet is the most common cause of getting lost.

I suspect the same issue is arising in other endeavours–for instance marine navigation. It’s still prudent to know how to triangulate a chart.

And, as you say, there is something more “authentic” about traditional navigation and the experience it affords.


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