Second thoughts about a Garmin

My first bike blog, nearly two years ago was entitled “Giving Up My Garmin.” In it I described my non-techie response to a device that was more complicated and required more constant care than I had anticipated. It soon found a new home with someone who could meet the technical challenge and who in half a day made better use of it than I had in a month.

During my recent Cactus Classic bike tour in Arizona, I spent a week riding with a friend much younger than I who is fully at home with electronic devices, including a Garmin GPS designed for use on bicycles. During the early days of the week, I noticed that there was a 2% difference in the mileage he reported in comparison with the one I recorded on my relatively low-tech wireless bicycle computer. More interesting was his ability to describe how much elevation we had gained or lost

One evening he emailed me a link to his online Garmin account, and at that moment I realized how much more the Garmin can do for a cyclist than I had even tried to do. Every evening he had been uploading his day’s report. Day 4, with identifying factors cropped out, is the graphic just above. There it was, the whole day laid out on the screen in bright colors and crude map, with summary information along the edge.

Furthermore, my friend explained, he has reports of his training rides and other invitational tours and events.  Here he has the kind of record that enables him to monitor closely his performance on the bicycle. The graphic below is another example of the information that the Garmin displays.

I have used my friend’s figures to tabulate statistics for our six days on the road–three days out and three days back, with a little twist at the end of the final day. We traveled 477.3 miles in 29:21 hours on our bike and 37:57 hours of elapsed time, for an on-bike average of 16.3 miles per hour. Our shortest day was 61.7 miles, which took us 3:41 on-bike and 4:26 total time. The elevation gain was 978 feet. Our fastest day was mostly at a slight down grade, even though the Garmin reported an elevation gain of 930 feet. We rode 87 miles in 5:05 hours on-bike for an average of 17.1 mph.

The average for the entire week was about 1 mph faster than I can manage on my own. The two explanations are that my young friend pulled me along at a faster rate than I could have maintained as a solo rider, and my new bike (I like to think) helped me stay with the pace he set.

I probably won’t rush out to buy a Garmin for use later on. There are too many other things on the want list for spring and summer. Maybe in time for Desert Camp next year.



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