There are lots of people developing neat cycling apps for your mobile device, but let's be honest: We typically get out on the bike to get away from the phone. And if you're stuck at a computer for your day job, it's sometimes nice to have a means to distract yourself other than cat videos on YouTube. We all know about Strava, Garmin Connect and MapMyRide, but if you haven't heard of Veloviewer and Golden Cheetah, here's why you should check them out.
Veloviewer pulls your GPS data from Strava and creates a 3-D map of your ride. You can choose to color-code routes according to different metrics such as speed or power output. The best splits tab reveals where you rode your best along the route. Classify your splits according to time or distance; this is a great way of spotting your best efforts without going through the process of creating segments in Strava. The athlete summary page allows you to see trends in your mileage over previous months and years. It also gives a summary of the number of climbs you've completed by category as well as awards for rides of varying lengths and times. Just checking Veloviewer out is a great way to kill a lunch hour, and it can become as addictive as Strava itself.
Golden Cheetah is a bit older and more technical, but still fun for the bike geek who just can't get enough data. A freeware program developed by a group of cycling enthusiasts who essentially began developing it to see if they could, the project has evolved over several years. Although many of the original contributors have stopped working on it, a community of developers makes improvements. The program is available on both Windows and Mac, and is compatible with most bike computers. There are several tutorials to help you understand the site's different functions and how to use them as well as a section on the physics and biology of cycling. It's probably best described as "easy to get started, a bit technical to master," but, like any form of cycling training, the process will make you better.
If you become more knowledgeable about the technical terms of cycling, you'll understand your training better, and the best features that Golden Cheetah offers have to do with training. If you sign up for a premium subscription, you'll receive access to an array of tools to help you keep track of your training. The performance manager function gives you an easy-to-read graphic that helps you understand your training stress. This can help you see how tough each workout or ride is and—even better—lets you manage your taper before a race with incredible precision. The metrics tab tracks and compares your progress along many different variables, including heart rate, maximum power at different time increments and critical power trends. The graphics are exceptional quick-reference tools to gain an immediate and intuitive understanding of your strong and weak points as a cyclist and how you're improving.
Those who have read the chapter on cycling from my book and have a power meter are adequately prepared to start using Golden Cheetah. How you proceed from there depends on whether you want to patiently accumulate data (you can only download rides directly from your computer) or if you want to dive into a copy of Andrew Coggan's Training and Racing with a Power Meter. The first method is a bit more "learning by feel." The latter will feel like schoolwork, but will give you a more numbers-based comparison if you're the type who likes to ride exactly according to what the computer tells you. It's up to you, but it's a fun program to play with.
If you're more of a social animal who likes to visualize your ride, then Veloviewer will appeal to you more. If you're a data hound who lives to squeeze every drop out of your training and racing, you'll enjoy Golden Cheetah. Both have their own sense of appeal, though. And looking at your rides with them is guaranteed to be a better way to get through your Monday morning coffee than any cat video. Enjoy, but don't let the boss see.race.