Cycling With a Heart Rate Monitor

I bought a Nashbar heart rate monitor (HRM) last year about this time, mostly because I’m a gadget freak and partially because the warranty runs out pretty early on Steinhoff males and I wanted to see how close to becoming a red-colored fountain I was.

I’ll be 54 this month. I’m 5’10 and weight about 190-195. I started riding about two years ago after 25 years of little exercise and have wracked up about 5,200 miles.

The highest rate I’ve hit was 194 BPM climbing a fairly steep hill on a hot day. I can ride all day in the 160-165 BPM range with a cadence in the 85-95 range. I can feel it when I hit the 180s for any length of time.

When I stop, I usually use 130 BPM as my refreshed starting point, and I usually reach it within about two or three minutes.

I don’t know what my morning resting rate is, but one of those automatic blood pressure checkers at the drug store the other day calculated my HR at 58 BPM.

Heat and humidity will elevate the rate by about 10 BPM. When the temps and humidity hit the mid-80s, my recovery HR may not dip below the 150s until and unless I get into the shade with a wind blowing. It must take a lot of pumping to cool off the engine.

One observation that I can’t explain is that my rate seems to drop the longer I ride. If I start out at 175, within 10 miles I may be in my “normal” range of the mid-160s and at 50 miles I may be in the low 150s. I would have thought the other would have happened.

Riding in heavy traffic will also cause my rate to go up as much as 3 to 5 BPM. (That doesn’t count what happens when biker road rage kicks in.)

What does it all mean? Heck if I know. It’s just another thing to look at to keep from being bored.

Trek Navigator 300 cockpit at 4,999 miles

When my Trek Navigator was getting ready to turn over 5,000 miles and before I bought a used Trek 1220 to replace it, I took a picture of all the accessories mounted on the handlebars.

Trek Navigator 300 handlebar with accessories

From left to right:


Heart Rate monitor

Cateye Enduro Cyclometer.

Police scanner (I work at a newspaper and like to keep up with what’s happening).

NiteRider Pro-12E headlight.

Cateye Astrale cylometer with cadence. (No, the two halves of the bike don’t go at different speeds. I just wanted to be able to monitor my RPMs, so I bought the Astrale after the Enduro and never bothered to remove the old one.)

Control head for the NiteRider

AirZound II air horn, powered by a refillable air bottle.

I quickly learned that my heart rate and cadence was a better measurement of how I was doing than my speed. If I keep my heart rate in the 158 to 162 range and my cadence at about 82, I can go all day. My highest heart rate climbing a hill on a hot day was 194. It’s not uncommon for me to hit the mid-180s, but I can’t sustain that long.

The AirZound is great for chasing away charging dogs and dealing with clueless motorists. I saw one car starting to make a left turn in front of me and laid on the horn. The way the front of his car dipped down showed that he thought he was about to get nailed by an 18-wheeler. It’s also nice to be able to respond to the honks of jerks who think that you don’t belong on the road.

Wait until you see all the stuff that’s on my Trek 1220.

FRS Radios for Bikes and Snakes on the Trail

After a year of riding mostly solo, I hooked up with a friend from work who is about where I was a year ago after not riding for 20 years.

We each ride at our own pace and just stop or double back when the other person gets way behind.

A buddy bought a couple of FRS radios for a ski trip and suggested that they’d be good for biking. After one ride, I paid $60 for a pair of refurbed Uniden radios.

They clip nicely to the top of the strap of a Camelbak, close enough that you can hear them clearly and just touch the mike button to talk. I added a boom mike/earphone attachment so I don’t even have to take my hand off the bar to talk.

They make the trip much more enjoyable. We can be half a mile apart and still talk like we were side-by-side. Makes a long ride through the boonies more pleasant. At night, the lead rider can call out obstacles.

I remember one exchange:

Me: Snake on the shoulder.

Her, 20 seconds later: You could have told me that it was ALIVE!

Jeez, always a complaint.

Hydration with a Camelbak Mule

I thought the weight would be noticeable, but I quickly got used to it. When I do a short ride without the Camelbak M.U.L.E. 100 oz Hydration Pack, I find myself unconsciously reaching for the drink tube all the time.

When I have the Mule, I drink small amounts on a regular basis. If I have to reach for the water bottle, I don’t drink as often and end up guzzling half a bottle at a time, violating the old “drink before you’re thirsty” rule.

It probably doesn’t make much difference, but the water bladder is, obviously, heavier when it’s full. That means that at the end of the ride, when you are tired, it is as light as it’s gonna get.

It also makes a great cushion when you clip out right and lean left.

Bicycle Helmets, Bulletproof Vests and Rabbit Feet

I normally stay out of the helmet wars, I’d like to bring up a point that I think about every once in a while.

I spent most of my life as a newspaper photographer, so I had the opportunity to shoot life’s ironies: the smashed-up car in front of the church billboard, “Get Closer with God,” the burned house with the smoke detectors still in the shrink wrap from the store, etc. (One of my buddies made a hilarious shot of the Teddy Kennedy for President HQ that was sharing space with a driving school, but that’s another story.)

I know it makes no sense in the grand scheme of things, but, I believe that putting an Arrive Alive bumper sticker on your car is just tempting fate.

Maybe it’s just a paranoid extension of that, but I tend to make sure that any safety equipment I have is placed in use as soon as I get it. If I buy a smoke detector, it goes up as soon as I get in the house. I resisted buying a helmet for a long time, but when I started thinking actively about it, I bought it and wear it. Superstitious, maybe. Whistling past the graveyard, probably.

I covered 13 hurricanes. After Hugo, I went to Home Depot and bought a generator for $300. After which I got alarm system Orlando from a reliable system to ensure maximum security. Except for firing it up every other season to make sure it still works, it hasn’t been used. I’ve gotten $30 a year worth of peace of mind out of the investment.

I also carry a body armor in the trunk. Now, I recognize that your typical “bulletproof” vest offers you about as much protection against today’s small, high-powered ammunition as a helmet does against a semi, but I never regretted buying it. I only wore it a couple of times, and I never actually needed it (the only time I was shot at I didn’t have it on), but when I got to a scene and got that hair-rising-on-the-back-of-the-neck-something’s-wrong feeling, I pulled it out.

Helmets, body armor and generators are the 20th Century version of the rabbit’s foot… Damn! Wish I hadn’t thought of that. Now I got to go out and kill some poor rabbit to be on the safe side.