What Data Should Be on Your Bike Computer?

When training and racing on the bike, there are a few key metrics to use (and to have viewable on your watch or bike computer).   If you are riding with power, either inside or outside, your power reading is the best measurement of effort.  If you don’t ride with power, heart rate can be a very good proxy for effort as well.

What to Look at When You’re Training

So on your watch or your bike computer, what metrics are the most helpful for training?

  • Power
  • Heart Rate
  • Time
  • Distance
  • Cadence

What to Add for Intervals

For interval work may want to add (that’s why is great that so many watches and bike computers have multiple screens):

  • Lap time
  • Lap distance
  • Lap power
  • Lap Heart rate

What About Speed?

A metric that is not really a measure of anything useful is speed.  Speed is controlled not just by your effort, but by terrain and conditions.  While it is fun to zoom down a mountain at 30+ miles per hour, it can also be frustrating to watch your speed plummet as you ride against the wind.   The bike course in a race is often dictated by the conditions of the day.  Even a flatter course can be slow depending on the wind.  If you measure your effort by speed on any given day, you really are not evaluating a metric over which you have control.

A few weeks ago, Galveston 70.3 was held.   I have raced this course when there was very little wind and it was a FAST course.  This year, the conditions we different.  Check out the Strava file below:


If you were only riding off speed as your effort and you wanted to average X mph over the course of the ride, that would have taken some serious skills.  Here is where power or heart rate is a much better way to see effort.  The wind that day was obviously in your favor on the way out of town.   Likely even with this tail wind, it was harder to push the watts or keep the HR in the zone but you would have been able actually measure effort.   Coming back would have been a different story.  If you truly went on this effort, it would have compromised your run.

Dialing in true effort in any of the three disciplines is going to make you a more efficient athlete and able to race to your full potential.

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