Upcoming rides I'm leading:
Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

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Cycle computers and human factors engineering


My two-year-old $49 cycle computer finally bit the dust for good this week -- not just a dead battery (at either end); the transmitter just stopped transmitting to the receiver. When I went to buy a replacement, the selection at my local shop had gone down considerably; I guess the cool kids mostly buy GPS-equipped powerhouses that have more computing power than ran my entire college way back when. I, on the other hand, stuck with the lower-tech solution, and I bought the most expensive cycle computer on offer: the Cateye CC-MC100W Micro Wireless, store price $50.

It does everything you'd expect a cycle computer to do, and the tiny night light would be a nice addition if I ever do more long randonneuring events. But there is, for me, a huge design flaw that left me shouting choice obscenities at the sky during today's ride.

On the CC-MC100W, two buttons are easily accessible to the user while riding. The top button cycles among the various display modes in the small digits (distance, odometer, pace, time, max speed, and so on). The lower button, on the front of the device, turns the computer on or off if auto-on isn't set.

So today, while I'm riding, I want to check my pace for the day so far. With my gloved right hand, I grab the cycle computer and start to press the top button to cycle through the displays. And everything suddenly goes back to zero! I lost my stats on my first 29 miles of riding today.

Why? Pressing both buttons simultaneously -- even for an instant -- is the "reset" command. Did anyone bother to think that a cyclist might naturally grab the front of the computer? Perhaps it's not such a big deal when wearing fingerless cycling gloves, but that really shouldn't be a requirement. And why does the reset happen almost immediately? On my last computer (manufactured by Sigma), the reset sequence took at least five seconds of constant pressure on two buttons, both at the top of the unit and almost impossible to do, accidentally or otherwise, while riding.

Rarely do I see a design flaw this bad in higher-end cycling products. If I hadn't already attached the unit to my bicycle and clipped the twist ties, I'd return it -- but I also don't want to spend another $50 on yet another computer.

Sorry, Cateye, I think you blew it on this one.

Update: Today, on my second ride with the new computer, it registered a maximum speed of 56.3 mph, thanks to interference from some unknown source. With my previous Sigma, in more than 13,000 miles of cycling, never once did interference cause erroneous data. (The worst that ever happened is that the receiver would stop processing for a few seconds, especially near the ferry terminal in Tiburon, but it would catch back up quickly when the link to the transmitter was re-established.) Another black mark for the Cateye.