So much Science and Technology in Cycling

Gravity Works
Creative Commons License photo credit: Let Ideas Compete

THERE IS so much technology in cycling. I don’t think I realised it at first. But over a month on from picking up a bike and telling myself I’m cycling to Sligo (which is this Friday), I’m finding out that there is an insane amount of technology behind cyling. Between power output monitors, wireless this and ANT that, GPS tracking, speed and cadence monitors, heart rate monitors, ultra light-weight this and paper thin that, percentages here there and everywhere, there’s an incredible amount to take in.

All of this has got me thinking that cycling must be a techie’s dream when it comes to sports.

Admittedly, I’m not the most sporty of people. Yes, I love my sports, but I’m very much the armchair supporter. But spending the last five weeks out on the bike has gotten me wired into the sport (literally) on a completely different level.

I’m logging my routes with a Garmin Edge 500 (and running with a Garmin Forerunner 405). I have fitted wireless sensors to the back of bike and pedal shaft to track my speed and pedal rate over the course of a cycle. I’m wearing a heart rate monitor (quite comfortably) under my jersey which, when monitoring heart rate zones, is driving me on or reeling me in, depening on how things are going. These both talk wirelessly to the Edge unit which sits on the cross bar. Once I get home, I sync the Edge up with Garmin Connect which has been mapping my route under GPS with access to stats on length, time, speed, heart rate (max / min / average / zones), temperature, altitude, grades of hills and a whole lot more. Connect it up with Google Maps or Google Earth and I can play back the entire journey and get a solid overview of where things need to be picked up or where things were going quite well.

These small gadgets are teaching me a lot about my own body and level of fitness, what energy is being used and much more besides.

But I’m only scratching the surface.

Everything about the bike is driven by science and technology. Races are won and lost on the time difference created between bikes that are carrying one kind of bottle holder over another, or the position of a saddle, handlebars, the compounds used in the chains, gears, tyres – it’s like looking at a Formula One car for all the world (without the insane budget, and the fact that it’s a car), but you can see where I’m coming from.

Stepping away from the bike and I’ve spent the past month analysing food – what foods work well in what situations, ways to replenish energies, recover after long rides. Combine the two (the food and the bike) and I’ve got a very different outlook on things food and fitness-wise to where I was a month ago. All of this is building up of course to me cycling to Sligo on Friday. We start Friday, do 80 miles and continue Saturday with another 70 or so. If you had asked me to cycle 150 miles at the start of the summer I would have told you where to go in no uncertain terms.

But the techie in me is being driven towards it as I’m mad for the stats that come out the other side, stats that in a large part have come down to your own physical input. When all is said and done and I get back to the office on Monday morning I’ll get them uploaded here. Even before we get the cycle done we’re already talking about the next trip, and the one after that. God only knows what I’m after letting myself in for…


  1. Brian O'Donovan September 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    You are right, cycling is the ideal sport for a tech junkie because there are so many high tech gadgets available now that can enhance your cycling experience.

    Some people have an image of cycling as an old-fashioned pastime, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Best of luck at the weekend.

  2. Ken McGuire September 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks Brian, really looking forward. I’ve been thinking and talking about it for the past six weeks so come hell or high water (which is a possibility), we’ll be on the road for Friday morning. One short spin in tonight to get the legs stretched before Friday and away we go.

    I reckon once the first big spin is out of the way I’ll be back gadget hunting in the build up to Christmas, see what else is available.

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