Throwing Away the Cycling Spreadsheet

Quickbeam and Capitol

A funny thing happened to me at the end of April. Funny to me, anyway. I lost interest in tracking my cycling miles, and stopped caring about the number of days I rode each month.

Instead of fighting that feeling, I’ve just gone with it, especially since this sentiment has been growing over the last year or two. Felkerino suggested that I might regret my decision, but for now it seems like the right move.

Below are my totals for the last three years:

2011
Total Miles = 8,402
Number of Days Ridden = 276

2012
Total Miles = 8,236
Number of Days Ridden = 264

2013
Total Miles = 7,135
Number of Days Ridden = 264

The bottom line is that I don’t think I’m learning much by tallying up my miles and the days I ride. In the past, I used a mileage log to see patterns in my cycling that helped me figure out things like why I might be run down, when to schedule rest days, and what my heavy cycling months were.

For eight of the last nine years I’ve jotted down my miles and over that period of time a fairly similar annual routine has emerged. I commute year-round, I randonneur with Felkerino and the D.C. Randonneurs in the springtime, and Felkerino and I make sure to find time to go on a summer bike tour.

We mix it up a little with a 1200K or another event here and there, but that is essentially the quick overview of my cycling over the course of a year. And as a result, the mileage stays fairly consistent and the number of days I ride does, too.

I like that routine, but it means that the spreadsheet doesn’t really tell me a different story from year to year. Since I’m not getting much value out of the spreadsheet at the moment, except to be reassured that all things cycling are pretty much the same as they have been, I’m going to let it go for now.

This blog has provided a more meaningful way for me to capture my cycling throughout the year. It includes some notes about mileage, but is hopefully more about the stories that happen as the miles go by.

It’s the stories that make the cycling worth noting these days, and not the numbers that are accumulating under my wheels.

28 responses to “Throwing Away the Cycling Spreadsheet

  1. Deacon Patrick

    Brilliant! Welcome to the run/bike by feel nutters club! Grin. I tracked my milage for a year or so before realizing I don’t run or ride for how far or long I go, but for the fun and elation and prayerful contemplation I get while doing it. I don’t use a computer. When navigation is required I can pull out my iPhone if I must, but usually use map and, if needed, compass. It’s amazing the freedom that comes from not constantly seeing those numbers, be they how fast am I going (could I go a wee bit faster?) to average speed, distance traveled, heart rate, and whatever else is tracked these days. Truly amazing freedom! Enjoy!

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    • I do confess that I am still tracking my running miles, but that is mostly because I’m still new to the increased mileage I’m doing. That said, I’m not going too crazy with it, just jotting down the route and who I ran w/.

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  2. I dutifully enter my miles and ride data into a spreadsheet, and after six years of doing so, I wonder why. I never go back over it. I think I must be OCD, because it has never occurred to me not to keep records. But your post has me thinking.

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    • That’s interesting that you never go back to it. I was, and that’s when I realized I wasn’t getting much out of keeping the spreadsheet. Or I should say, it was helpful at first, but after years of repeating the same general pattern, I was like, I don’t really need to keep doing this.

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  3. Good for you. I think numbers tend to take the fun out of things, especially a bike ride. That being said I joined up for the National Bike Challenge and am hating having to log miles but I felt like I was missing out on something with all the hype.

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  4. I started keeping track of my miles when I was a runner. I kept track of the miles each pair of running shoes had on them! (At 600 miles, they’d look fine but the midsoles would be shot. They’d become my bad weather shoes.)
    I use my biking journals more as a record of my cycling and personal history. I scribble non-biking life events in the journal (ELBOW!!!) and use the info for our annual Xmas letter.
    Each entry takes me only 15 seconds. I even have my own shorthand code (#23 TE BE means bike commute number 23 on my Tour Easy. And I did my back exercises.)

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  5. Mary, you could jot mileage down on paper, just in case it’s meaningful later. It’s funny why we keep track of mileage. I started when I was a runner, then transferred this task to bike riding. I’m not real accurate, just log mileage into my (gasp!) paper day planner. I total it in late autumn and see how close I come to 3000. This year I am giving up on entering the National Bike Challenge. It meant something the first year, then I was tickled that Vermont ranks so high. But this year, I just don’t care anymore. I think this compulsion to log mileage probably just comes and goes.

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    • That is a good suggestion. I will likely continue keeping a paper diary of things like our bike tours or other special outings I want to remember. If I feel like tracking all my miles again at some point, I’ll do so…

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  6. I’ve been logging my rides for about 10 years. As I’m in the later half of my 60′s I like the challenge of trying to keep up the pace. It doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of riding, nor do I feel like a slave to the miles. One of these days though I’m sure I’ll drop it as well.

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  7. I’ve never logged the number of miles I’ve cycled, not least because I don’t have any reliable way of measuring them. Cycling for me has always been about getting me to where I need to be, the pleasure of the ride and what I see along the way, and never about how far I go or how many calories I’ve burned. I know I’ve overdone it when I wake up in the morning and I can barely crawl out of bed. On those mornings I strike a deal with my legs – if they’ll get me out of bed, I won’t make them ride that day :-)

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    • That’s partly why I’m letting it go, too. I’m using my bike so much more during the week for commuting and transpo, and it’s not really about the mileage.

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  8. I have been recording my miles less and less over the past year. The only trouble is with chains and gear cables and tyres. I can’t assess how long tyres last or if I really should change the gear cables BEFORE they show signs of going wrong as I am not sure how far they have gone.
    Apart from that it’s fine.

    This business of keeping a training diary is only useful if you are er, training :)

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    • Good point about tracking the wear and tear on the bike. AND you are so right about the training thing. Since I’m not training in terms of working toward a new goal such as speed or improved times over a certain distance or something else, then I don’t see the value right now in logging the miles.

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  9. I think there is certainly value in keeping track for the reasons you mentioned. I also think it’s easy to fall into an unhealthy relationship with numbers/miles that result in one more run or ride when you’re sick or tired because you want to hit that round number. It’s one reason I have only started a “streak” a couple of times – and then only for a month or so, making sure it’s easy.
    As you and I have discussed, the art of the purposeless walk/run/ride is underrated!

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    • I agree! I have been curious about the people who start running or cycling streaks. Streaks probably are good motivators, but they must also be balanced with listening to one’s body.

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  10. Yeay! Thanks Mary…I thought I was the only one not logging miles.

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  11. I enjoyed counting miles for the Errandonnée, but as a commuting/utility cyclist I care more about quality than quantity. Yes, it’s the stories! Especially yours, Mary.

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  12. still a definite maybe gelato mike

    i think accounting, in whatever form, makes a lot of sense for many reasons for human beings…at every moment there is qualitative assessment going on, some reflective, most not…and sometimes quantitative measurement makes great sense…but i think human psychological science makes it clear most of us most of the time are more like klein bottles and mobius strips than we are difference engines…experience isnt often well reduced to fit in various size boxes…and thank goodness for that. so, goodbye spreadsheet…it’s time for more fun!…

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  13. still a definite maybe gelato mike

    “As you and I have discussed, the art of the purposeless walk/run/ride is underrated!”

    I couldnt agree more.

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  14. I have never been a spreadsheet person. I use my planet bike computer to have an idea how far and fast I am going, especially when I venture out on different rides. I know by heart what my usual commutes and lunchtime rides are. When I am out on tour I keep track of miles for each day, not sure why, maybe more as a personal achievement thing. Riding in the mountains skews the numbers anyway so why get crazy about them?? I try to be like everybody else here, it should be about the fun, experience, and people!!

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    • Another excellent point, not all rides are created equal. I think I will keep a log of miles when we tour, partly because of the achievement, as you note, and also to remember where we started and ended each day. Speaking of which, we’ll be out in Colorado again in July, taking another trip up Trail Ridge Road…

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  15. Such great comments. I am reminded that I tried to run streaks but would get dead legs. My log reminded me to take a day off. Also, when training for marathons I got up to 70 miles per week. I learned over time from my logs that ten of those miles were “junk miles” uncessary and probably counter productive.

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  16. Great read and lots of great comments! Personally I feel it does not matter, everyone has their way of how to look back at their rides. For me my mind still says keep logging my miles. I’ve been logging my miles since I was 11 (1971). I first put my mileage, air temperature, and weather condition on a calender. At 17 I stop logging my info but started again at 29, this time with more detailed info written in a notebook for each ride. Then later I added spreadsheets to the mix. From 17 to 28 I rode my bike but not that much that I can remember. At 29 I went back to being more consistent and doing longer rides. On the second half of the year 2000 I stop logging again and the mileage went down. So I guess for me I need to put my info in a place so I can stay more focused. I can also go back to compare or to see did I really do that! I also add who I rode with and if any crazy things happened during the ride, was it fun, any mechanical problem or did I have a lousy ride. I still enjoy adding to my log. It is a neat place to go back and see a little history of my past. Of all the different states I have ridden, my mini-tours, rando rides, my trip to France, Switzerland, Italy. And all of my happy little rides I had with my kids years ago when they were little and later on when they were riding as big people. Yes I logged those miles too. I don’t care if they are training miles or fun miles. It just a numbers to reflect how it went for the year, month, week and day. And for the most part, a lot of happy miles!

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  17. I let go of tracking my miles when my computer crashed and took a bunch of spreadsheets with it (I also stopped tracking how much I was saving in growing my own veg). I was never training for anything so there wasn’t any real point but recently I’ve realised I missed the challenge of increasing my Eddington Number so I might have to start some minimal logging again just to track that.

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  18. I keep a spreadsheet, sparse as it might be (except commuting this spring). I can see that once you meet a user defined threshold it might not matter, or maybe never did. I find it helpful to judge my fitness as in, “can I ride 60 miles in the Berkshires or White Mountains?”. Once I’m riding 7,000 to 8,000 miles a year then I will surely drop the spreadsheet and maybe even before then. For me it is a relatively recent phenomenon in the age of being a new dad.

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