The Cycling Happiness Index

cyclists riding vintage steel bicycles in Tuscany

On my first solo ride back on the road last week after a hiatus indoors, I started thinking just how good it was to be back on the road and outdoors, and why it is so important for me to ride.

I recalled an article I had read a few years back where riders were asked ‘why they ride’. One respondent said he rides because he returns from a ride “a better man than when he left”.

This made a lot of sense to me as I definitely believe riding allows me the time to process and crystallise thoughts if I am on my own, or share ideas, problems and conversation when I’m with a mate or two…. and this is always a good thing.

As I kept riding, my mind wandered as it invariably does, and next I found that I was thinking about information and information overload, and how good it was to not be on a computer or connected to a device . Over recent weeks, I had spent time each day combing through different websites to obtain some kind of understanding and get a handle on what was unfolding with COVID-19, and while the access to information was just so easy, I asked myself what was having this information really doing for me anyway.  How much is too much information?

A bicycle computer with the Sella Ronda ride profile

Cycling, data and the ride 

I think this question of ‘how much information is too much’ also applies to cycling. I know that for some, data capture of a ride is as important and sometimes nearly more important than the ride itself.  When I see this happening on rides I’m leading in Italy on our Italian cycling tours or in other situations, I do quietly wonder why anyone really cares about how far, how high and how fast they ride….. are any of these indicators of or precursors to someone enjoying their ride more than someone else?

I know that I am absolutely in the minority, but I usually ride without a speedo and cadence, never with a power metre, and  sometimes with a GPS. I love to ride by feeling, not data so I do wonder why it is important for so many to capture and share the km’s that have been ridden, and whether I am missing something? I do always arrive at the same conclusion though. For me, the numbers don’t add any value or contribute at all to how much I enjoy a ride.  If I ride faster, will I like the ride more….and will I like it more than a rider who has taken more time?


Cyclists in an Italian trattoria eating a mid ride lunch of Pici con ragu

The key elements of a good ride – ‘the cycling happiness index’

So what are the elements that contribute to a good ride?

As I enjoyed the lightest zephyr of on my back, as I was heading down to the peninsula, this thought went around and around in my head.

What makes one ride better than the other, and just because one person can ride a route or hill faster, does this mean they’ll enjoy it more?

If you do capture data, is this for yourself and your own internal processing? Or is it to compare and compete? Or is it for some other reason? All are absolutely OK as we are all motivated differently, but I know the data adds nothing to my experience of a ride.

What would be the contributing factors that would make one ride better than the next?

If there was a Cycling Happiness index, what would be the inputs? How would you calculate this?

My thinking went something like this….

You would start with five points, because you have gone for a ride. + 5….then….

A couple of different days could look like this.

a graph to measure your happiness when cycling

So for me, the key inputs to a great ride are:

  • Who you’re riding with
  • Conditions you’re riding in
  • Where you’re riding
  • How much climbing is involved
  • How much traffic is around you
  • The rewards of mid and post ride sustenance and hydration

a group of cyclists having a celebratory beer after the La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo

Speed is not important.

I like to challenge and push myself but being able to ride 30+k’s per hour on a flat road and not seeing or feeling a thing, is not in the same game as riding 19k’s an hour on a loop with plenty of hills, vistas and coffee.

Competition is not important.

I believe there is already too much competition in other parts of our lives and I do not want to add another layer of measurement and ‘competition’ into an activity that is for me about simple enjoyment, “relaxation” and adrenaline fuelled therapy.

So where did I get to after all this reflection and thinking on my ride?

Did I come back feeling a better man? I think so.

Ultimately, is there such a thing as a bad ride? I don’t think so.

What are the inputs for your Cycling Happiness Index?

During these times, it’s good to reflect on what’s important and what drives us.  We often see this reflection happening naturally for riders when they’re on an Italian cycling holiday with us because it seems to go with the territory of being in Italy and taking time out. If you’re interested in finding out more about our tours, please visit our tour pages or reach out anytime.


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