People ride bikes for different reasons: transportation, exercise, competition, or just enjoying an outdoor activity. To many cyclists, the exact distance of a given ride is not an important detail. However, if this has become an important detail for you (because you are participating in a virtual cycling event and are being asked to record the distance you’ve ridden), read on for some suggestions on how to determine the mileage for a ride.
There are two general options available for determining the length of an outdoor bike ride: actively track distance during the ride or enter the route ridden into mapping software to measure the distance covered. Both options are discussed below.
Active Ride Tracking
The two main methods for actively tracking a ride are using GPS data and counting wheel revolutions.
It may be obvious, but using GPS data to determine the length of a ride requires a GPS receiver of some sort. There are multiple options here as well.
A common solution is to use the GPS receiver contained in a smart-phone in conjunction with an app that has GPS tracking functionality. This approach has the advantage of using a piece of hardware that you probably already own. A few apps commonly used for ride tracking include:
MapMyRide – https://www.mapmyride.com/
Strava – https://www.strava.com/
RideWithGPS – https://ridewithgps.com/
Fitbit – https://www.fitbit.com/
While most tracking apps have premium versions that offer advanced functionality, the free versions should be sufficient for determining the distance of a ride.
Two important other considerations with this option are keeping the phone safe during the ride and whether the phone’s battery will last for the duration of the ride. Before you invest in a bike mount for your phone, be sure to read the reviews, as quality and functionality can vary greatly.
More and more smart-watches are including a GPS receiver. This offers the option to track a ride, even if your phone is safely at home.
A final option in this category are GPS-enabled bike computers. Like a GPS enabled smart-watch, these can operate without a phone. Bike computers typically come with a very secure method of mounting and long-lasting batteries.
Wheel Revolution Counting
Bike computers that are not GPS-enabled typically rely on counting wheel revolutions and multiplying the count by the circumference of the wheel to determine distance ridden. While not as accurate as GPS-based solutions, this type of bike computer has the advantage of being reliable and relatively inexpensive.
A no-cost method for determining the length of an outdoor ride is to map out the route and let the software provide the mileage. There are numerous websites that provide this functionality. Two popular options are:
Komoot – https://www.komoot.com/
Google Maps – https://www.google.com/maps
The method of determining the distance ridden for an indoor ride depends on what is being ridden.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a Peloton, Echelon, or other type of exercise bike, or have your bike mounted on a smart-trainer, you can probably get your ride statistics quite easily.
If you have a bike mounted on a basic trainer or set of rollers, a non-GPS-enabled bike computer would be an easy way to gather information about indoor rides.
For a standard stationary or spin bike, there may be nothing that can be added in order to gather ride data. In this case, estimating your distance ridden may be the only option. The table below could be used to estimate the miles ridden over a 60-minute workout.
Although not as accurate as any of the options described above, estimating mileage is perfectly acceptable for the P4P Virtual Ride.