A follow-on to the Bike Monkey story –
I guess I just miss the time when riding and racing bikes was simple. It was something you just went out and did. All of this ancillary bullshit like online rankings and MapMyRide leaderboards and Strava KOMs didn’t exist. People weren’t out riding their faces off every single trip out the door in an effort to outdo someone they weren’t even riding with. They didn’t obsess over their finish because it was going to impact the start of the next. You were getting outside for the sake of getting outside. There was appreciation for the simplicity of the endeavor. A tube and a pump and a few bucks, and off you go. Wherever it took you. However you did.
I understand the purpose of a mechanism like Crossresults, but I hate when people allow something like this to become the arbiter of their experience. I’ve been there; in fact, I threw a whole heap of time away racing way over my head, catering to its output. But it’s only a seeding mechanism. That’s the end of it. Where it places you in the context of race, before this one or the one after, is only as important as you decide it is. If you’re an amateur racer, it shouldn’t mean much of anything. It’s a video game score. What should mean something is the fact that you’re getting out of the house and having a good time.
Strava, the same thing. If you want to let it determine how hard you ride, that’s fine, and that’s kind of what it’s for. When you have that thing running on your iPhone, you feel like you constantly need to be on your game. Out on the road by yourself, you never shake these invisible competitors breathing down your neck. That’s the irrefutable training benefit of this technology. But when it pervades recreational riding, the benefit has turned against you. It’s not a tool for blowing off your friends mid-ride to conquer some arbitrary section of earth. And if it’s in any way driving you to do something horribly stupid like descend a dangerous road as fast as possible, you’ve lost sight of a whole shitload of things.
I respect the engineering that makes these technologies possible, and I’m hardly disputing their utility, but their purpose should be very narrow. I just want us to ride again. I want it to be like when I was ten, riding for the prospect of buying a Gatorade at a village store. Or lining up to race the bike leg of a triathlon on a mountain bike because you were fourteen and it’s all you had and it didn’t matter.
4 thoughts on “A follow-on to the Bike Monkey story”
Excellent post, Plum, delighted to see it. I could go off on any one of your points. Let's take dropping your friends. Believe me, I understand male competitiveness, but on a routine training ride, or a “group” ride on a beautiful day, why can't the strongest guy just take long pulls or go back and get the guy getting dropped, then use the act of towing his friend back on as his interval? Tom Martin does this. I heard Ted King did this at the Exeter ride. But so many others drop their friends in the middle of nowhere and in some cases needle them later for getting dropped. (Now some rides are billed as merciless up front; not talking about those. I'm talking about the ones people take pains to assemble and that involve people of obviously mixed abilities.)
Shall I continue?
Another annoyance is riding for bikereg. Bikereg and other web services list every rider, every place. As you say, it's wonderful! But you end up with guys sprinting from the back to save face. And worse in some ways is defensive riding. If you're not a champion, half the fun of road racing is taking chances — going on the attack, hammering when you are just as likely to blow up, stretching out the field for a safer sprint. Taking chances like that often puts you at the bottom of the bikereg list. My thesis here is that I think it discourages people from taking chances. I had one of the best rides of my life a few weeks ago and ended up near the bottom of the contestant list because I led out the last lap. I could have sat in for 10th, 15th or 20th, but blew myself up, helped a teammate, had a blast and came in 50th. I don't regret it. But I did go through this thought process of, will I have to explain this? Should I email my buddies about what a stud I was even though I came in near last? Obviously, some of this is my own baggage, but I can't be the only one. My point: are riders being conservative(and, as mentioned, sprinting from the back) to save face on bikereg?
And then there's the cross starting grid. I've only done a handful of cross races, but I've already seen more than my share of handwringing and lawyering over the starting grid. If you're doing cross and aren't having fun, you are doing it wrong. Good ride report the other day, btw.
When I first started riding, Grampie could have buried me every single time we went out. He did not, having the good sense to realize that was in no way constructive. That's not to say I wasn't left to toil on my own plenty of times, but it was somewhat methodical in that it was probably something I needed to endure alone and we were sure to regroup. Otherwise it's just being a dick. If you want to ride and be a dick, enter a race.
Regarding (whatever results website).com, the things you describe absolutely happen.
I think maybe it's more about being comfortable with who you are and where you're at. I know that if I put the time in, I could be less than terrible at bike racing. I'm absolutely sure of it. I know my formula for getting there at this point. It's just a sacrifice I can't make right now. With everything that has happened to me over the last two years, I can't even tell you if I'd ever want to make it. I struggle with that A LOT. I'm too conscious now of the opportunity cost.
I don't like how cross evolved for me. It got into a lot of excuse making. Who did I really need to defend myself to? Then I realized I just didn't.
Grampie says this to me all the time: “We're just recreational riders”. No matter how “great” you do at something, that is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS the case. When you don't accept that reality, that's when you come off the rails and start ruining the experience. And by accepting that, it doesn't make you less capable or less talented or an inferior person; all it does is ground in reality. You're not getting paid. Me neither. Let's just fucking have a good time because the only thing we have to prove, we already know: we're not pros.
BikeSnob weighs in on the subject: http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2012/06/unfit-for-life-all-aboard-pain-train.html
Damn. Same epiphany within days of each other.