Connected cycling

My first thought on getting back from a ride is usually to plug in my Garmin and upload my ride data to Strava — often before stretching, I’m ashamed to admit. In fact, I’m often thinking about my average speed while on the bike, to the point that I avoid the corresponding readout on my Garmin until the end of the ride. It’s good motivation for training and I doubt I’d push myself as far without a way of seeing (and sharing) the results but, knowing that Strava will expose my laziness, I feel guilty taking any rest. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad for my fitness, but it’s definitely changed how I see cycling.

Even worse than this was my brief habit of “KOM-chasing”, where I’d set out with the goal of seizing KOMs for particular climb segments and, getting back to find I’d missed them by just a few seconds, would consider the ride a waste. How absurd! I’m not the only one: some folks on the Strava support forum are getting very wound up about the injustice of their lack of KOMs, and how the mechanism needs to be “fixed” to correct for drafting. This would be futile, of course, but it’s kind of sad that people take it so seriously; it’s little more than a game, after all.

I like the social networking side of it, though, even as the competitive element grows tiresome (and my attachment to my KOMs grows yet more uncomfortable). I guess I’m reluctant to leave Strava because:

  1. I love seeing what everyone else is doing (and sharing what I’m doing). It’s another Facebook, I suppose: another way of communicating and competing for attention, only centred on cycling.
  2. I’m addicted to the numbers. I’m a scientist, so this is par for the course. Still, being able to see the raw data describing my ride is thrilling for me (not to mention being useful in training).
  3. I like to compete with myself. This is pretty central: it keeps me on my toes and gives me bars to aim for while I’m not competing in the real world. It makes a good training diary. Yes, there are better platforms out there, but this one works well enough, given the rest of its features.

Still, all of this said, I do sometimes wish for a ride where I’m not so distracted by the numbers flickering on my Garmin that I forget about the beautiful scenery passing me by. I often remember the blissful freedom and solitude of my first real cycling adventure — the Reivers Route — armed with nothing more sophisticated than a Sustrans guide book. If I believed in New Year’s resolutions, mine would be to go for a couple of rides every month without my Garmin. I think I’ll give it a go.


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