Technology in Cycling?   Leave a comment

PRO:  Bring it on!

I’ve never understooddownload why anybody would be against progress. Ok, I sort of get it…some people long for a simpler time, when things may not have been so complicated. Then again, if the “complications” are defined as things like indoor plumbing and refrigeration, I’ll take “complicated” any day.

Cycling has also seen great leaps in technological innovation since the days of riding single-speed steel bikes with flip hubs.
Seriously, I’ll take 11 cogs that I can shift from my handle bars (perhaps electronically) any day over having to remove the rear wheel to go to my only “other” gear.

Lightweight carbon bikes may not be rapidly advancing the average speed of the Tour de France, but they do offer designers the ability to execute designs that are impossible when limited to bending and welding metal tubes. The resulting increases in
comfort, aerodynamics, stiffness and/or compliance have certainly improved the rider’s experience…and some of these new frames simply look really cool too.

I also get it if you don’t want to quantify every ride by looking at your wattage, heart rate, total elevation, and average cadence. Nobody is twisting your arm. Then again, when I hear that the guy who won Paris-Roubaix averaged 375 watts, and I see that Strava estimated my average watts for today’s ride approximately 200 watts lower than that, it’s nice to be able to put that kind of abstract data into perspective.

garminWhen my friends ask me why I go out for hours on my bike, rather than trying to explain the inexplicable to them, isn’t it much more straightforward to send them to YouTube to watch some ride footage that I shot with my GoPro, so they can see how much fun it is to carve turns in a fast descent, or hear the banter that goes on in a group ride?

Finally, while I may not be training like an elite athlete, some of the training data that’s now available comes in handy. Tracking fitness can be hard to do. As Greg LeMond once said, “It never gets easier, you just get faster.” If you go out on a challenging ride early in the season, you’ll probably be tired afterward. If, however, you do the SAME ride several months earlier, you’ll likely be just as tired as the previous time. If, however, you can note that you put out higher wattage, went faster, and did so at a lower heartrate, you can confirm that you’ve actually improved. That rewarding knowledge might inspire you to keep working hard.

Technology is progress. Progress is good.

(The opinions of the author do not reflect those of Bicycle World…why, they do, however, reflect the opinion of a guy who is a self-admitted gadget addict who has been known to spend 2 hours going over data from a 1 hour ride.)

CON: Does it REALLY Improve OUR Performance?

During every “friendly” Sunday ride, the conversation inevitablvintage bikey turns to the latest gadgets and gizmos that can befoul our 2-wheeled friend, the bicycle. A friend who gives us hours of pleasure and fitness benefits out the wazoo (yes, I said “wazoo”), and asks for little in return. Carbon fiber frames, electronic shifters, feather-light components, disc brakes, cyclo-computers, power-taps, etc… Where will it end?? Do these technologies REALLY improve our performance, or do they just give us something to talk about? A techno-philic miasma of one-upsmanship!

I say, NAY!! Make it stop! Let us return to a simpler time when frames (and men) were made of steel and we actually had to FEEL how hard we were working in the pedals…not glean it from a device that measures our heart rate, wattage AND elevation gain. Dammit, I KNOW when I’m climbing a big hill! I don’t need to know how steep it is or how high it is…it’s motivation
enough not to keel over and embarrass myself in front of my friends! And likewise, has the undeniable improvement and, importantly, weight-reduction, in today’s frames and

components REALLY led to improvements in the pro peloton? “Yes” you would undoubtedly say…but is it so? Compare the average speeds of the Tour de France, cycling’s ultimate crucible, from 1971 and 2015…38kph to 39.6kph. A scientific study would call that a statistically insignificant difference!! And that is for the PROS who are benefitting from the most advanced training (and doping) that science has to offer. As a doctor, I’m embarrassed to say that our improved doping technology hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference, either. Nor has our improved understanding of exercise physiology and aerobic training.

But what about us common folk? I would dare say the benefits of enhanced cycling technology are un-measurable. If a few grams of weight doesn’t matter to a pro from 1971 vs. 2015, what will it mean to us? NADA! One thing IS certain, however (other than death and taxes), and that is that there is no substitute for hard work and putting in the mileage on your trusty steed. Get out there and ride! Don’t obsess over the weight of your bike or the readout on your Garmin or the next Strava segment coming up around the bend…look up and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the camaraderie. Relax and let the technology help you enjoy the ride!

(The opinions of the author do not reflect those of Bicycle World…why, they don’t even reflect his TRUE opinions as he shamefully admits to owning a carbon fiber bike, a Garmin 500 and a Strava app.)

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Posted May 3, 2016 by bicycleworldny in Uncategorized

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