Riding without Data - your experiences

Not trying to start a debate…

For those that actually ride without data outdoors, (no power / no HR /nothing besides a map) - what is your experience been like? What are you feeling for? What are some things you look for when (if?) you look at the data afterwards?

ETA: I’m still talking about structured / planned training here…going out with a plan and purpose to achieve higher levels of fitness…not just noodling around (or randomly hammering - unless that’s part of your plan)


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Old school stuff:
Hill repeats
Pole to pole sprints
Long slow rides


I did this for some time when I was in University. I just took my bike and rode. At home i was watching youtube videos to figure out the training. I think the most important thing for me was consistency. It didnt really matter what I was doing and for how long but that I just rode my bike.

Looking back I would say that it felt really liberating to get on the bike and jsut start riding. Smashing the hills like I wanted to. Not pedalling on the downhill because I was to smasehd from the uphill. It was definitively very fun and was what kept me going, but of course now with power indoors and outdoors and a plan the training is more effective and more efficient.

The thing that I stayed with me however is that I still go out and ride even when the bike computer or the battery of the power meter is dead. I like it. Using power for so long I have a good feeling for what a sweetspot interval should feel like, or how a Z2 ride feels. Thats definitively a benefit. So still some structure.

Anyways not to bore you. I would encourage people to go ride. With or without data, noodling around or ripping some V02. Whatever gets you going.


When I first started riding I didn’t have a computer but still made a weekly plan to start with.

I remember there was this one hill I would ride to and do hill repeats on. Over time I would do more and at different intensities. I would also go on long endurance rides and keep the efforts as consistent as I could. And on Thursdays I would get together with the CX peeps on a cross course we’d train on and race them basically, haha. This was a great way to mimic race efforts close to the season.


This. Just make it hurt, or just chill


What data afterward? When I ride without data it is precisely that. Nothing is being recorded. I’m old enough (late 50s) that most of my early days cycling you had nothing more advanced than a clicker odometer at the hub of the front wheel. I still do the odd ride with no bike computer or gps just like my younger years.

As above Fartlek, hills, long rides…


I figure i’ll still track it so I can see data of progression / training load etc…for future planning purposes??? I dunno. can’t hurt to track…trying to get better at not relying on it in ride though.

I have to have my computer with me at most times anyway because i’m useless without directions. I made an activity profile that only has a map and time of day.

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Are you doing this by choice or because you have to?

I have trained without power for a while, but it was decidedly less effective. I did hill repeats and all that. At the time, I hadn’t figured out structured training, though. And I had not had a power meter. Now I can estimate much better what power zone I am in, and I reckon I’d be able to train more efficiently without a power meter.

If you want to get faster, but are strapped for cash, I’d get a cheap sports watch. I got a Wahoo Rival on a clearance sale for 99 €. It has a heart rate sensor, you can set/use timers with it, which would allow you to do simple on/off-type intervals. Alternatively, you could get a cheap head unit (think Garmin 130) and a heart rate strap.

Having heart rate data available really changes things. It helps you stay within your limits during Z2 rides and see whether you are pushing yourself hard enough or are going too hard for e. g. threshold or sweet spot workouts. Heart rate data needs context, though, so your power at 130 bpm one day might be very different from your power at 130 bpm another day.

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Agreed. Data is more effective. No debating that.

Just looking for experiences of people without the screens / watches / monitors etc.


At that time I still was using tech, my iPhone. I used Strava to record workouts and an app for intervals.



In the before times, in the long, long ago…

Breathing rate, you learn from indoor vo2 work what the breathing rate is like at that effort. Sweet spot is more about the leg feeling as your breathing rate is still reasonable, depending on the heat.

It’s hard to keep the initial effort from being super hard because everything feels easy in the first strokes, so you have to smooth your way up to things.

Same as outdoor with power, find hills that take you x minutes so you know what you are pacing to.

Indoor, more difficult without data as it all feels a bit harder than it is.

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For the workouts I like to perform, data in my face isn’t very useful.

I was my fastest when I didn’t have data. I’m trying to ween myself off and try to get some of my performance back, and enjoyment.


is that even possible? :rofl: Seriously sometimes I put Garmin in jersey pocket. I already know what easy and intense endurance rides feel like in terms of breathing and heart rate. I’m so in tune with body that looking at data after the ride, it looks just like rides where I look down at Garmin from time-to-time. And similar for interval work.

Well, for me it was some data but mostly riding with people faster than me, or challenging myself to do longer 1x30-50 minute tempo or threshold (“sweet spot”) workouts. Plus throwing in some really hard 30-60 second efforts. When people tell me erg was a game changer, or intervals are a game changer, I truly can’t say the same.

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I have been following structured training for over 25 years. I started with just a stopwatch either outdoors or on my indoor mag trainer. Training plans were very much the same as they are today. This isn’t something that TrainingRoad invented. It is just that everything was described on an RPE basis. I would do 4 x 10 minute efforts at a 7-8 effort. That right there is a threshold workout. Or I would just do the old hill repeats, picking a hill based on the time it takes to complete. Eventually, I added a heartrate monitor, which I think I paid a couple hundred bucks for at the time. That helped, but it was still mostly feel based.

My honest assessment was that if you followed the plan as you do today, and were honest about your effort, I see no difference. In fact, there might even be advantages. If you are having a great day, you probably are putting in some higher watts and really maximizing your intervals. If you are having a poor day, you can’t really quantify it. You just pushed the effort and got the same RPE, even though your watts may have been down a bit. But you weren’t in your head about. You didn’t quit early just cause you were off 10 watts. I have been doing more RPE based workouts lately, using a screen on my computer that only displays time and HR. I think it is a good tool to use every now and again and look at your watts afterwards. Calibrate your internal RPE.


:+1: :+1: :+1:

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Data isn’t so important during a ride but it is after a ride to track improvement (or regression)

I’d be very cautious with such statements: I might have been faster 20 years ago when I was in my early 20s, too, and I had nothing but at most a simple bike computer that recorded distance and showed me my speed. I didn’t even know power meters existed.

Causation ≠ correlation

If your primary motivation is the joy you are experiencing and data takes away from that joy, then ride without data. But I wouldn’t claim that this makes you faster, it makes cycling more enjoyable for you. And that’s great. :smiley:

My experience is different: my power meter has really refined my RPE meter. I’ve been riding for decades, pacing rides and workouts by feel. I’d do hill climb repeats and the like.

I’m much better at it now, because I know what sweet spot should feel like in my legs. When my Rival’s heart rate sensor goes into lala land during my commute, I still know my effort as I am much more conscious of my other systems in my body. Yes, you can learn that without a power meter, but I’d argue not as quickly.


I wouldn’t disagree with this. But now that you know what sweet spot feels like, there is no need to use it for every ride (I do for most, but not all). My general feel is that racers should lean into RPE more than they have. Understand their body better. Don’t limit yourself by a number on a screen.


By and large, I am in agreement. I find the trinity of power, heart rate and RPE very useful when training, e. g. to gauge whether I should pull the plug during a workout (if, say, two out of those three indicators are negative). RPE by itself can be very treacherous, I have had plenty of workouts or ramp tests where I initially felt horrible, but power and heart rate indicators were just fine.

I strongly agree with you when it comes to racing. During my last race, I didn’t quite know my FTP (I was moving between continents and my trainer was still en route), so combining power, heart rate and RPE worked very well for me. At one point, I deliberated whether I could push harder. I checked my heart rate, it was around 183 bpm, and I thought to myself “Probably not.” :wink: (My max heart rate is at least 185 bpm, at least because that was the highest value measured during that race and the race prior.)

You sometimes don’t know what you are capable of and by sticking too rigidly to power targets you could hold yourself back.