The Mountain Bike Life

Hello, My name is Damian and I am a ride data geek, it’s been almost a week since my last fix……. Its a very small, very digital world now-a-days. Facebook allows us to have virtual friends (seriously do you really ‘know’ all your Facebook friends? I know I don’t…) Twitter allows us to follow a million threads of gossip whilst on the move, without having to witness any of the events unfold, without actually experiencing them. And then we move on to the relatively new phenomenon of shared ride stats…..

Are you a slave to Strava? Perhaps its time to turn off the stats and take in the view?

The collection and analysis of ride data isn’t new, but the recent acceleration of tech kit and most importantly web enabled/GPS capable devices and perhaps most specifically smartphone apps has brought me to a slightly sad realisation. I’ve always been a nerd for bike gadgets, an early adopter if you will. I’ve been using the Garmin GPS sport products almost since they launched and (on and off) the [brilliant] Garmin Connect online service to track my rides. When I have been ‘training’ (stop laughing those who know me….) the data has been invaluable from a motivation and planning perspective. I’ve even been known to share ride data on a direct basis to friends or training buddies, but the combination of ride data and social networking is a real risk to the soul of real mountain biking.


More data than I will ever need, and a look at the title of the activity should explain the less than aggressive pace (ego protection in process!)

The trouble is that most of us, even those that deny it, are slaves to ego. Ego dictates with competitive spirit and that has a risk of making us lose sight of why cycling and most specifically mountain biking is the amazing experience it is. Strava (other apps available) is a remarkable piece of kit. For free I can track my miles, climbing, pace. I can compare my rides and its online so I can access it whenever and wherever. With a full account my ‘friends’ can even track my ride in real time which from a safety perspective alone has to be applauded. The trouble is segments. The ability to register a bit of trail or road and have Strava register a time and create a leader-board. Even if you didn’t register the segment you can’t help but get measured against those that have and that will get you in the end. I have a friend (SW Bike Mechanic) who steadfastly refuses to register on Strava purely so he can’t compare his riding, and grudgingly I’ll admit that sometimes he has a point. Chasing PB’s, fighting for a KOM crown if you’re one of the sainted few and what’s more your whole group can see where you stand, and that can take your mind off of the best reason to crank pedals.


Missing the point! This is the exciting looking segment that my bike is sat in eager anticipation of in the top photograph.
No crowns that day (nor most days)……


Like Facebook friends you don’t know or Tweeted events you never saw; the time you post on your nearest hill, or favorite descent only tells a part of the story. Its very hard to not get precious about your position in the rankings, average speed, feet climbed but the trouble is Strava doesn’t have a mood setting. There isn’t a kudos score for sunset quality watched, or amount of wildlife spotted. Saddest of all is the lack of graphs for smiles and laughs.


A picture is worth a thousand segments? My last descent didn’t do much to impress my stats, or my mates, but if it was re-named how to descend with a snapped QR (side note: as a review of original Ringle titanium QR’s? Awesome 22 years of faithful service, 1 catastrophic failure….) perhaps that crown would be mine?
So here is the proposal. Add to your training calendar the ‘do not Strava/Garmin/Map My Ride/Race My Ghost’ ride. Take time to session that sweet single track section you really want to nail, or back off on that killer climb once in awhile. Take time to seek out the coolest lines, enjoy the feeling of pedaling without pressure. The pay off? You’ll see the stuff that makes riding great, views, people, places and when you do hit Strava again you’ll have the inside track on those sweet lines, you’ll know where you can push on that gnarly old climb and you’ll have a bunch of memories of great sunsets, wildlife, laughs (etc) to distract you from the pain. See you on Strava, just not every ride…..

Best segment of the ride? Heading home from the local trails and got side tracked by some cool street obstacles… trials moves clipped into a carbon race hard tail? Bring it on……. Message: don’t take it to seriously, after all its a mountain bike life…. (Image curtesy of Andy Dockrell: Train2Bike.co.uk)

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