Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stravassholes and the real reason for cycling

How cyclits used to crunch their data before Strava.
If you've been riding a bike for any length of time at all, odds are you've either had, have or will have a servere affliction of number and statistic crunching.  I don't know what it is about cycling or cyclists, although I realize this happens in a lot of sports, but data gathering tends to go hand-in-hand with our sport.

It all starts out innocently enough.  "I'll get a computer to see how fast I go down this hill" is BIG reason a cyclist first gets a cycling computer.  But then, you realize how many other bits of info you can glean from the little 2" x 1.5" LED screen.  Top speed sure, but how about trip distance, total distance, or average speed?  Soon the data on a cycling computer isn't enough and you take the next step to a Garmin (or other GPS based cycling computer) which adds elevation gain/loss, current elevation, grade %, direction, temperature, and more.  Throw in a Quarq Powermeter and a heart rate monitor and you can add your wattage output and make sure your keep your heart rate within a "target" zone.  Whew.  That seems like a LOT of info, but wait, there's more!

I suppose at some point a person was bragging to his cycling friends on Facebook about his cycling exploits of the day when the idea struck him to combine his passion for cycling for his passion for social networking and VOILA, Strava was born.  Now you can take all your information from your Garmin or smartphone and upload it to Strava and BOOM it compares your ride to everyone else that has done that ride (or parts of it) showing you just how damn slow you really are.  Every ride or climb has a KOM status (King of the Mountain for those not in the know) for the person that has done it faster than anyone else.

And just like society's obsession with social networking, a big chunk of the cycling community has become obsessed with Strava.  Strava has gotten so big in the cycling world that someone in San Francisco, or some other big city that has more hipsters per capita crawling around its surface on fixies than we have rednecks in jacked-up 'Merican trucks, got killed in an accident on their bike and his family is suing Strava because it made him want to beat his best time which caused his fatal accident.  You just know that when you're being sued in this fashion you're huge OR you've jumped the shark, which might just be one in the same.

So, I hear it every week at least, "When are you joining Strava?" or "You'd love it, you should join Strava!" or something of the sort.  Well, if I did join Strava, I'd see hard data on just how fucking slow and pathetic I really am on a bike, which would decidedly NOT inspire me to try harder but would make me sad and make me want to drink even MORE beer than I do, which would make me even slower and drink even more beer, which would eventually lead me to quit riding all together.  BUT, then I could sue Strava for making me feel bad about myself and I would win thousands and thousands of dollars, with which I could buy a new bike and I would feel good about myself which would inspire me to ride harder.  All that sounds like a lot of work, so screw Strava.

Actually, I think I know myself pretty damn well and I know I'd get all wrapped up in the numbers and become way too obsessed with it, so that is the real reason I won't join.  I already get too wrapped up in the numbers on my Garmin Connect page, much less trying to see how I compare to others.  And while I can appreciate the desire to be faster/fitter on your bike, all of it distorts the real reason we ride (or should).  We ride for the freedom and the simple joy of pedaling a bike.  Next time you're out on your bike, don't look at your computer or even better, put it in your pocket or turn it so you can't see the numbers and just focus on the fact you're pedaling, steering, and balancing on a bike.  Just think of that, a bike cannot stand up on its own, yet we can balance ourselves on top of it, press down on the pedals and by giving gentle input into the handlebars and by shifting our weight ever so slightly, we now have one of the most efficient forms of transportation ever created.  Throw in some sweet technical singletrack and it should completely blow your mind that we can ride over some of that terrain.

How many people have actually seen the "Knifeblade"?  
If the fact that you can simply pedal a bike or  you can ride a bike off-road where we do doesn't completely amaze you, than think of the things you see when you're out riding.  Sweet locations, wild animals, or amazing views that a big chunk of society never gets to see.  And if that doesn't completely blow your mind, then, well, upload your ride to Strava I guess.  Just don't ask me to.  I'll be too busy enjoying the ride.

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