Many bicycle tourists consider their odometer to be one of the most important parts of their bike. They not only want to know how fast they are going and how many miles they have ahead of them, but they (most importantly) want to keep track of the total miles they are racking up on their tour.
Bicycle odometers are great and have a number of uses, but I simply can’t stand them on long distance bicycle tours!
After less than a week on my very first bike tour down the California coastline, I got so sick of staring at my odometer that I ripped it off my handlebars and threw it away. Since that time, I have never (NEVER!) ridden with an odometer while on tour.
Here is why you might want to leave your odometer at home:
Staring at the odometer mounted to your handlebars is addicting. You want to know how fast you are going and how many miles you are racking up, but when you look down every three seconds to see how much further you have gone, this only becomes demoralizing. Based on my own experiences, the last thing you want on a bike trip is to become demoralized.
Secondly, carrying an odometer is unnecessary. You don’t really need it. It’s really just a toy. It’s nice to know how many miles you have traveled, but you can usually figure this out with street signs and mile markers anyway. Rather than carry this useless item, leave it at home and save a tiny bit of weight! It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about.
Finally, I think it’s important not to put too much emphasis on the miles. Many tourists get so wrapped up in the miles they are clocking that the other aspects of the ride become less important. Getting rid of your odometer takes your eyes off of the handlebars and puts them on the scenery surrounding you. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many miles you cover. This isn’t a race. This is supposed to be fun! Hold your head up and enjoy the ride.
If you insist on tracking your miles with an odometer, here is what I suggest:
Rather than mounting the odometer to your handlebars, mount it to your seat post. Place the odometer magnet on the back wheel (instead of the front) and put the odometer itself under your seat. This way you will still be tracking your miles and speed, but you won’t be forced to look down at the odometer every seven seconds. With the odometer underneath you, you can now enjoy your ride and check how many miles you’ve covered when you stop to get off your bike.