I had long ago put aside any cycling computers, heart rate monitors, etc. I really did not care how far it was, how fast I went, etc. It was just me on the bike going riding. It took as long as it took and rides were measured in minutes/hours. It worked for me.
Then, completely unrelated to cycling, I bought a hand held GPS unit for family use and geocaching.
It was pretty cheap to buy and I enjoyed learning about how they worked and what you could do with them. In 2008, I began reading that many cyclists were bringing their GPS units with them on rides and downloading the data to web sites or software programs. It would spit out all kinds of numbers like distance, average speed, elevation gain/loss, heart rate (with the right GPS unit)and more and lay it out over maps like you would see on Google Earth. Now, THAT was cool. I love maps. I used to pour over old maps of the surrounding forest looking for old roads, trails, etc and planning rides.
Better than that, you could share the resulting files with others and everyone with a GPS could re-trace the rides you did. Excellent!
Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong brand for this kind of stuff. Garmin is the king of the hill for athletic based GPS use and I had a Magellan. Many of the programs do not talk Magellan speaky. Then, I found Topofusion. A free download with option to upgrade for $, Topofusion was written by an endurance bike geek and fellow blogger and it totally rocks.
So now with Topofusion and my GPS, I am a fount of statistics and ride info. I can download a file from the net, pop it into my GPS and, along with some good maps, ride anywhere in the country with confidence. I now know how high, how far, how fast and I can lay it out on mapping software and check it all out.
I don't bring it on every ride. I still prefer to be pretty gadget free, but I always have the option of gathering all that info courtesy of billions of dollars of space hardware and a funny looking cell-phone-type thingy on the h-bars.