This is one in a 2014 guest column series which builds on the one in 2009 where 50+ had written about how science/tech has evolved their hobby/interest.
This time it is Nick Hortovanyi, an entrepreneur presently researching Big Data technology, for the acquisition & storage of human sensor data and subsequent sensing of signals to improve health outcomes for individuals. He is a keen cyclist who lives in Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, Australia.
After years of working hard, playing hard and not exercising much, I needed to get myself back into shape. I can remember how much I enjoyed cycling when younger and decided to start riding again. That was maybe seven to eight years ago now.
When I first jumped back on the old bicycle, a cross trainer from the 90s, it had a trusty little trip computer on it. In essence, it was like a little digital watch that showed the current time, speed I was doing, distance travelled and an odometer. It was driven by a magnet on the spokes, a sensor to read revolutions and by entering the wheel circumference. For my purposes, it was more than sufficient as my rides were no longer than 5 to 10 Kilometers to start and I couldn’t climb hills. That soon changed.
If you wanted to record your ride statistics it was up to you to write everything down in a spreadsheet. I never really bothered doing that. When Twitter arrived though, I used to tweet the distance I’d ridden and where I’d gone. Thinking one day, I might be able to extract those tweets out for posterity. There was no Instagram yet and photo sharing wasn’t really popular. It was a superb way though to find cyclists online via Twitter and to build reputation and social capital.
This social capital came into play in 2010, when a 120 KM (75 mile) challenge ride called Coast to Coast in Adelaide was to occur. Its a charity event so they ask cyclists to seek sponsorship. In its first year it offered an online sponsorship system. I thought I’d give a go. I Tweeted details to my page, not expecting much, and went out for coffee. When I returned, I had something like $200 of sponsorship. Over the next couple of weeks, I became the top fund raiser for that event. What was most pleasant was the number of my online friends that had sponsored me, from across the globe, that I only knew via Twitter. They had been watching my cycling adventures via tweets from afar and had seen my improvement. It was very humbling.
Every now and then I used MapMyRide to record, after the event, my route. This was a manual process but it was good to get an idea of the altitude, and the difficulty of the climb. At this time, if I rode more than two, maybe three hours, using an iPhone GPS Tracking app, my battery would go flat. As it was an emergency safety device, I stopped using those apps.
I was still using a trusty old cycling computer but the Garmin Edge 500 device (a GPS tracker) had my eye. Somehow when I was changing my front wheel I broke the sensor that read the wheel magnet. Rather then buy a whole new old style cycling trip computer I decided to get the Garmin Edge 500. The Garmin Edge 500, with the GPS Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor had the ability to upload data to my computer and to online services.
I went from just seeing and knowing a little bit about how I was performing on my ride, to analysing and understanding a lot of new data. All of a sudden, I gained an appreciation of Heart Rate Zones and where I should be sitting to lose weight or improve performance. That led onto what is my Max Heart Rate was and Resting Heart Rate to be able to set the zones.
Of course, the materials science in cycling continues to evolve as in this Vinnie had posted on helmets and other gear
Bikes themselves keep evolving with alloys and composites. The Felt AR4 2010 that I bought in late 2009 had a Ultra High Modulus Carbon fibre frame. Loved that bike unfortunately had a car accident. Got t-boned in the back right, and cracked the frame and I got flung onto the road with a few injuries that I recovered from pretty quick. The new bike I have is a Fondriest TF3 1.2 2013 in the Red/Carbon fibre kit. It has a Carbon Monocoque UDM frame with Mavic Kysrium SLS rims .
Some cyclists are competitive in race settings, and some like competing against themselves against time on well known hill climbs. Around the end of the naughties, a site called Cycle2Max was used to record your times. It was a popular site, in Australia, but relied on a honor system as you had to manually enter your time. Then came along Strava, which leveraged the Garmin Edge 500, and automated the time calculations. I still think the original developers, overheard my coffee conversation on this discussion :)
I know when I’m improving as after a ride, when I upload to Strava, I can see my new Personal Bests, or when I bested a previous 2nd or 3rd best time. Now as more people are using it, I’m unlikely to get a King of Mountain award. There are too many professional cyclists, uploading their data in my area. Never the less, its a great way to share your cycling with buddies.
Now the technology is evolving, such that when you share your rides from Strava, summary information is stored against your Facebook profile and the calories you’ve consumed are synced with Fitbit. Strava also associates your Instagram photos with your ride and organises challenges.
Yes, cycling has come a long. long way since my cross trainer.