cycle computer - miles or kilometres?

by PJ McNally   August 19, 2010  

Hi all,

I guess this question is mainly aimed at the UK cyclists on here.

If you use a cycle computer / odometer, do you have it set up to read miles and MPH, or kilometres and KPH?

I'm just calibrating my new one, and trying to choose. Always used miles on my old one, but am tempted to go metric. How many of us have done so?

Could it be a poll question, maybe?

26 user comments

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Metric and KM, myself. Also makes my (13km) comute sound a bit more impressive!

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posted by timlennon [226 posts]
19th August 2010 - 12:22

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I'm in a similar boat, always been miles but considering metric - just wondering how long after a change it will take for me not to convert to mph mentally!

posted by adscrim [105 posts]
19th August 2010 - 13:40

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I am metric. 30 kph seems so much better than 18 mph. And it is much easier to see how pathetically slow I am compared to the pros. I mean, when I'm really going for it, I sometimes reach the average speed for the entire Tour de France!

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
19th August 2010 - 13:44

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I use miles an hour for speed when in the UK, but change to kilometres an hour when abroad.

I always use metres for height gain though, luckily the Garmin 705 lets you have a combination of both imperial and metric for different measurements.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [648 posts]
19th August 2010 - 14:19

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I would have opted for miles but the shop set the computer to kph. I didn't want to re-set it as I wanted to use the odometer as a guide for when to return the bike for its first service and now have got used to kph so will stick with it.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
19th August 2010 - 14:28

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" luckily the Garmin 705 lets you have a combination of both imperial and metric for different measurements."

Maybe this is the best of both worlds. Bizarrely, my cycle computer only lets you choose miles or km, mph or kph, when you first turn it on. (free Kellogg's one, so i can't complain).

Reassuring, that UK cyclists are using km.

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posted by PJ McNally [579 posts]
19th August 2010 - 22:32

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I went metric initially because I could calibrate my computer more accurately with mm than inches. Decided to leave it that way, partly because I know 0.1km is 100m whereas I didn't want to figure out tenths of miles in feet or yards (maybe that's my less than stellar ability at maths). I prefer it, though I find I still mentally convert to mph when checking my speed out on the road. Rough guide:

kmh / mph
16 = 10
25 = 15
32 = 20
40 = 25
50 = 30

Anything more than 50km/h is too fast to be staring at the computer!

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posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
19th August 2010 - 23:04

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Personal choice I guess, and shouldn't be too difficult a decision to make since whatever you're on it's easy to do a mental calculation to see what it is in the other Nerd Having said that, miles would appear to be the logical choice for UK. I must say I tend to look slightly askance at those who have a kilometre set up and congratulate themselves on completing a 'Metric Century' as if it were as worthy an achievement as an 'imperial' century. While a 62 mile ride is ALWAYS worthy of congratulation, its conversion to a 'century' is another symbol of the 'dumbing down' and rampant acceptance of mediocrity in our society. Although this instance is perhaps ultimately harmless, it is particularly sad to see when it creeps in to our wonderful sport.

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posted by simonmb [360 posts]
20th August 2010 - 6:45

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Yep - metric and mental calculation it is, then.

The final straw was realizing (thanks to Sheldon Brown's site) that most cycle computers, mine included, "think" natively in cm or mm.

His point is that not all computers use an accurate conversion factor. They should divide the km by 1.609344 to get miles. But some lazy programmers just used 1.6 instead. So I'm going with km.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/cyclecomputer-calibration.html

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [579 posts]
20th August 2010 - 10:54

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simonmb wrote:
I must say I tend to look slightly askance at those who have a kilometre set up and congratulate themselves on completing a 'Metric Century' as if it were as worthy an achievement as an 'imperial' century. While a 62 mile ride is ALWAYS worthy of congratulation, its conversion to a 'century' is another symbol of the 'dumbing down' and rampant acceptance of mediocrity in our society. Although this instance is perhaps ultimately harmless, it is particularly sad to see when it creeps in to our wonderful sport.

Oops, might not want to go here then...
http://road.cc/content/forum/10600-metric-century-challenge-2009-2010

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posted by STATO [409 posts]
20th August 2010 - 14:41

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I have miles on mine and my other half has KM on his - best of both worlds.

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posted by Ms Morthern Rebel [43 posts]
20th August 2010 - 15:55

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simonmb wrote:
While a 62 mile ride is ALWAYS worthy of congratulation, its conversion to a 'century' is another symbol of the 'dumbing down' and rampant acceptance of mediocrity in our society.

The needle on my irony meter is going crazy.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
20th August 2010 - 16:28

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simonmb wrote:
... While a 62 mile ride is ALWAYS worthy of congratulation, its conversion to a 'century' is another symbol of the 'dumbing down' and rampant acceptance of mediocrity in our society. Although this instance is perhaps ultimately harmless, it is particularly sad to see when it creeps in to our wonderful sport.

I'm completely intrigued as to how you make the mental leap from achieving a 62 mile ride to general dumbing down. Is this a less-than sly reference to the "exams were harder in my day and everyone does media studies nowadays" lobby?

In terms of general acceptance of mediocrity, you may want to place X Factor / Pop Idol / whatever in that group, but I wouldn't call (for example) British Cycling's best ever results mediocre, or the fact that a British rider won five TdF stages ...

Do you have a specific example in mind of how cycling is becoming more mediocre?

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posted by timlennon [226 posts]
20th August 2010 - 16:33

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Continental pro race's are in km so you should be measuring the same Smile And GB converted to metric in 1880 sh (can't be bothered to check exact date) as part of some international agreement. Only 4 countries not switched as it happens.

Having said that my garmin vista is in miles and I set off doing a 300k audax with km measurements on the route sheet. Now I am ok at sums and been converting ok for years but after about 200km trying to convert from km on the sheet to miles to add to elapsed mileage was getting difficult...

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posted by Blackhound [435 posts]
20th August 2010 - 20:30

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timlennon wrote:
simonmb wrote:

Do you have a specific example in mind of how cycling is becoming more mediocre?

I don't feel cycling is becoming mediocre at all - quite the opposite in fact! But I do feel some 'century-collectors' have adopted the metric standard because it's an easier target to aim for. My point was simply that an imperial century is the traditional, and more challenging, century.

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posted by simonmb [360 posts]
20th August 2010 - 20:43

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simonmb wrote:
an imperial century is the traditional, and more challenging, century.

If you mean it's further then you're right. All else being equal, it is surely harder. But does it matter?

I've never been into ticking off lists/Munro bagging and so on. A good ride is what matters to me and with a young family the possible goal of clocking up 62.1371192 miles is a more realistic target on a weekend. That's 4 hours out of a non-work day while my family waits at home instead of 6 or 7.

This 'lesser' century wouldn't really be a Century anyway as my bike weighs less than half a ton and has those modern fangled gear thingies on, which is cheating. Harrumph! Henri Desgranges would never approve.

If my ride was only 97 miles long instead of 100 would it matter to anyone? Not that I care, I ride for my benefit and not anyone else's. Which is probably terribly selfish, but I care not a bit for some mythical 'spirit' of cycling from an era when miles mattered most and men were men. I'm half way to qualifying as a Mamil too, so feel free to pour the scorn.

It's Friday evening, I'm tired, and I haven't even had a drink yet. Does it show? Wink

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posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
20th August 2010 - 21:31

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posted by simondbarnes [25 posts]
20th August 2010 - 21:47

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simonmb wrote:
But I do feel some 'century-collectors' have adopted the metric standard because it's an easier target to aim for. My point was simply that an imperial century is the traditional, and more challenging, century.

It is an easier target to aim for, and much more reasonable training distance, you can ride 62 miles at tempo, and get a good workout, whereas a 100 mile ride tends to be an endurance ride, and so not something I need to knock out with such regularity. I ride at least one 100 miler a month usually, but fail to see the kudos you seem to attach to it.

Maybe we should put down our times for these distances too, for full elitist effect?

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [648 posts]
21st August 2010 - 9:00

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To add to rule 24 and my previous post the 4 nations that are still on imperial measurements, iirc, are USA, Albania, North Korea and Brunei. The rest of the world is in km. (I also sorted out my Garmin so now in km!)

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posted by Blackhound [435 posts]
22nd August 2010 - 19:09

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62 miles isn't really worthy of being called a CHALLENGE though. A goal maybe, but not a challenge.

He says knowing that 6 months ago he couldn't have ridden 100 miles in a day.

posted by David French [49 posts]
22nd August 2010 - 19:49

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David French wrote:
62 miles isn't really worthy of being called a CHALLENGE though. A goal maybe, but not a challenge.

He says knowing that 6 months ago he couldn't have ridden 100 miles in a day.

I think the challenge part comes in with how often you do it.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [648 posts]
23rd August 2010 - 7:50

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David French wrote:
62 miles isn't really worthy of being called a CHALLENGE though.

Some people would disagree. And there's no need to dismiss other people's targets and achievements, whether big or small.

It also depends whether you want a CHALLENGE, as you call it, or enjoy a ride the way I consider it. I did a 40 mile hilly ride the other Sunday morning. I found it quite hard but still enjoyable and I felt a sense of achievement when I got home. I have no desire to grind myself down for 100 miles unless there is a purpose as I don't find clocking up 3-digit mileages an end in itself.

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posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
23rd August 2010 - 9:53

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depends where the 62 miles go, as well. 62 miles of cornish coastline is going to do you a lot more damage than a 100-mile lap of the fens Smile

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7230 posts]
23rd August 2010 - 12:41

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the real challenge for me on the metric century side of things is trying to fit one in once a month what with all the other things to do (work/family/domestic life etc etc).

mind you after the Ex Ex i am considering doing several MC's at night.. now that would be fun Big Grin

km btw, to return to the original thread of this post, why.. because im a european!

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
23rd August 2010 - 16:37

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I'm in Ireland, which has been properly metric for a few years now. Despite this, I still measure distance in miles as I don't have any truck with any of that new-fangled Continental nonsense. The French can keep it.

posted by Cauld Lubter [117 posts]
25th August 2010 - 21:03

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It's the West of Ireland that is confusing, still a number of old finger posts in imperial with the newer ones in metric.

But wonderful cycling country though......

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posted by Blackhound [435 posts]
25th August 2010 - 21:34

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