Mapping your ride with GPS

Graphic representation of data downloaded from a bicycle GPS

Data download: bicycle-mounted GPS units can provide you with a wealth of data to help with your training.

Technology in cycling can be debated as to whether there has been, any real advances, apart from reduction in the weight of the components and frame materials. The bike still has two wheels and requires the cranks to be rotated to propel the machine.

What we are finding however is the use of more and more electronic technology that assists the avid recreational to professional cyclist in monitoring their personal performance to produce improved outputs, or just knowing where they have been on the lands surface and how their body reacted at any given point.

We have watched the humble cycling speedo advance into a high tech computer that can monitor temperature, altitude, cadence, heart rate and calories burnt not to mention the top speed average speed and total distance and still tell the time of day.  It was only a matter of time when more overlays of data collection would be available to interlink with cycling performance measures such as wattage and the ability to map the ride route in a manner that allows the user to view them all at one time.

It has been possible for some years for very small portable GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to be used to map rides with a high degree of accuracy.  GPS use a collection of satellites, owned by the US government, to provide highly accurate, positioning and navigation information by constantly transmitting the satellite’s precise time and position in space. GPS receivers (the units that you buy) listen for the information received from multiple satellites and, from that, determine the precise location of the receiver, as well as how fast, how far and in what direction it is moving.

These first units of bike GPS systems were just handheld GPS units with handlebar clips. Today’s GPS functionality is completely integrated with many bike computers that you can get with a wide range of options (and at a wide range of prices) depending on your own particular needs. Bicycle GPS units (or portable GPS devices in general), like most consumer electronics are getting better (and usually smaller and lighter) every year.

Unfortunately, the hand held GPS unit that you get today (just like the PC, camcorder, digital camera, etc.) will probably be better and cheaper next year. Does this mean that you should wait until next year? Probably not! It will be the exact same thing next year and you will not have gotten into it until a year later… besides, they are already very reasonable priced now.

The decision can be whether to get a watch GPS unit worn on the wrist making this more optional uses for life in general or to look at the more multifunctional cycling specific unit. Racing, training, touring or recreational cycling, the lightweight GPS unit can become your true fitness partner. It measures speed, distance travelled, calories, and compares course times with your personal history. Clamped on your bike, so it’s easy to see the screen for directions to go, and how far you’ve gone.

Units are waterproof, and sleek in design, and is now not much larger than the conventional computer and still attaches to either the stem or handlebars. Most brands try to make it easy-to-read, large, with a backlit display that can show up to eight different data fields along with altitude and a map view. The data collected then can be down loaded with appropriate software provided to your PC and the send off to your network of friends.

Some units have the ability to take the set data previously used and create a virtual race partner to match or better at any given point on the same circuit. With the down loaded information on your computer you can view profile of the terrain you have just ridden with the overlays of other data.

Most cycling events now provide a ride profile allowing for riders to get their mind prepared for the ride.  While all this is advancing the individual cyclist further and further along the path we can only hope that in the future such things as the velocity of the wind and direction to help determine whether it is assisting or hampering the actual performance data collected.

The mind of the rider will always be the greatest variance that we may never know how to monitor but learn to accept we all have good and not so good days that can be affected by our sleep food or interactions with others. We are not beaten until we chose not to get up after having a knock back.

See you on the road soon God willing.


2 Responses to Mapping your ride with GPS

  1. I just got myself a Garmin Edge 500 this year so it’s the first time I’ve had GPS technology with me on my ride. I’m liking it so far and am looking forward to taking advantage of all the great things it can do.


  2. Noomps says:

    Thank you so much for your information

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