Inspired by the fact that both my 10-year-old heart rate monitor and my 3 month old cycling computer are a little temperamental I’ve been forced to evaluate what I really need to track my training and gauge improvement. This is an especially good question as we are in an age in which if you can remember the roads you were on you can use an online map, or training log to figure out how far you’ve travelled.

The Needs

Needs are classified as item I absolutely have to have to be able to track my training performance. Sure I don’t even need to track my training as long as I’m having fun riding, but since I’m planning on racing next year I’d like to gauge my performance increase during the winter so I can set my goals for the racing season.

The first thing you need is some way to figure out how far you’ve travelled. While this used to be the domain of cycling computers, today you can hop over to RunKeeper, MayMyRide, TrainingPeaks or any of the other myriad of online training log sites. Throw some points on a map and voila you’ve figured out your distance.

On any given route you can gauge performance increase relative to previous workouts by seeing if you did it faster. Sure cycling computers have ‘auto pause’ but over a few workouts the reality is that stop lights, trains, other crap will normalize and you will be able to establish a trend line showing speed increase (or decrease). So all you really need for that is a clock at home. Note the time you left the house and the time you got back.

Pretty much anything else is nice to have. I know many people will tell you that a power meter, heart rate monitor, other fancy tech, is a need if you want to race, While I’m sure at certain levels it is a need the reality is that most of us aren’t at that level and will do perfectly fine with a watch and some online training log.

Not only does this simplify your training ride and get all those stats out of your head while riding, it also helps you know your body better. At some point in time when an athlete did intervals they had to gauge their body and didn’t have some computer telling them how hard they’re working out.

Many times these days it seems that people gauge their rides quality based on the stats instead of the beautiful stuff they saw.

Yeah I’m still going to enjoy my stats but I’m not going to be as uptight when my computer stops working (stopping 5 times on a ride to ‘fix it’ is a bad idea) I’m just going to enjoy my ride.