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Senior Correspondent

It seems to me that some people feel the need to measure “everything.” Take my friend, John, for example. If he goes out for a bike ride, he’ll be sure to measure his distance peddled and then write that mileage in his exercise log when he arrives home. In fact, his exercise log contains a record of his every exercise going back some forty years or more.

Back that long ago, he was a runner. And, sure enough, he could check his records and tell you how many miles he ran on the morning of June 11, 1973. And he’s still at it — he could also tell you how many sit-ups he did last Wednesday morning.

I, of course, am just the opposite. I record nothing. Oh yes, I do step on the scale from time to time, especially when I’m intent on losing weight, but that’s about it. No, I don’t ever record my weight for I keep no quantified records.

Because John and I are quite opposite, we tease each other unmercifully. When he and I go bike riding together, he’ll ask as we peddle along, “Wouldn’t you like to know how far we’ve traveled?”

I reply, “I know how far we’ve traveled; we’ve gone 16 miles so far.” That number, of course, was simply a guess.

He then glances down at his cyclometer and announces, “Wrong, we’ve gone only 14.7 miles.”

I then apologize for being “so far off.”

Once, some eight or ten years ago, John and I went riding along the Southern California coast. We stopped for lunch at an oceanfront restaurant in northern San Diego County. Following lunch, while John was visiting the men’s room, I put a piece of black tape over the face of his cyclometer. Returning from the men’s room, John mounted his bike and I mounted mine. He didn’t yet notice the tape on his cyclometer.

After we had peddled about a half mile, John exhaled a significant string of expletives. None of those expletives seemed complementary toward me.

And then there’s Dave. Dave is not only into measuring things, he’s also into gadgets. So when he joins John and me for a ride, he wears a large wristwatch that also serves as a measuring device. And he wears an elastic band around his chest. Yep, the band is also a measuring device.

All the while we’re peddling, Dave’s measuring system is collecting data. Following our ride — like twenty minutes after I arrive home — I can go to my computer and open up an email from Dave. That email contains a fully quantified report on the ride we’d just completed.  His report includes:

  • An elevation profile chart
  • A speed profile chart
  • Total distance traveled
  • Total cycling time
  • Total non-cycling (rest) time
  • Average cycling speed
  • Maximum speed
  • Dave’s heart rate profile chart (though not John’s or mine)
  • And I don’t remember what else

Now don’t get me wrong. I think there are some measurements which are certainly appropriate. Measuring body weight while dieting certainly makes sense. In my business consulting work, I’ve counseled clients to set quantified objectives. I’ve even told them that, “If you don’t measure it, it won’t happen.” However, bike riding is different. I simply enjoy riding my bicycle without ever giving a moment’s thought about measuring anything.   

There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

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