The sun hasn’t really shone since my last blog back in May but the rides continue through the perpetual summer rain. On fathers day I took advantage of a sunny morning and headed out of the door at 5am, a peaceful and secret time of the day reserved for those who stoically over come their reluctance to relinquish the Sunday eiderdown. I returned three hours later with a broken spoke, a perfect opportunity to use my new truing stand.
Since then the truing stand has seen some action as I deal with the fallout of using one’s rear wheel to chew off one’s rear derailleur. I may have found all the damaged spokes but the large dink in the rim is also preventing alignment. Sick of hoovering up sealant from my tubeless tyres every time I removed them they now stay on the rims during this exercise.
Another new addition to my toolkit is my Samsung Galaxy S3. As my first new phone in 5 years it is busy reminding me what a technophile I am and what I’ve been missing. This thing is what might have once been quaintly called a palm top, but this technology is actually worthy of the name.
So why would I label this device a tool? Quite simply it has revolutionised the way I see my rides and interact with my biking buddies, to say it is like adding another dimension, a missing component, would not be overstating it. I am talking about an app called Strava.
Strava uses the GPS functionality of your phone to map your ride. What’s so special about that? I hear you mutter. Once the ride is over you hit the save ride button on the app and Strava uploads the data to your account. It then breaks your ride down into segments that other people with Strava enabled devices have ridden, compares the results and generates leader boards for those segments. This essentially means that every time you ride you’re racing against an online community and your friends whether they’re with you or not.
If you’re as old as me you’ll remember a time before home computing when playing computer games meant pumping coins into a large box and trying to get a high enough score to enter your initials on the leader board upon your character’s inevitable demise. On successfully achieving this ambition you would dutifully come up with a swear word that could be phonetically spelt using three letters, unless you were serious about posterity, in which case you would put something personal, like your initials.
Strava have managed to take this rather geeky pleasure from my past and bring it to my new hobby, which is not entirely free from geekory itself. Yes, Call of Duty has a leader board but do I have the hours or inclination to chase the leaders, and would any of my friends care if I reached the upper echelons? No, because my mates aren’t impressed by my ability to efficiently despatch the avatars of obnoxious, American teenage boys on a virtual battle field.
They are however impressed by my ability to ride the Rocky Clough Lane downhill segment of one of our
regular routes in 1.03 and claim the title of King of the Mountain over this segment. This means that out of the 71 people to ride it I am the joint fastest (at time of writing). And if they’re following me on Strava they can tell me by giving me Kudos (similar to a facebook like) and comment on the relevant segment, and I can do the same to them. The chat in the pub after the ride is a very different affair in this post Strava landscape.
There is a downside to this new toy, it’s got me riding every downhill section like a crash proof nutter on a divine wind. As a man in my mid thirties I don’t have that many high-speed crashes left in me. For this reason I do find my internal monologue having a quiet word during a luck pushing descent of something like the Devil’s Elbow. “Mark” it will whisper, “who do you think you are eh? Steve Peat? Nah, you’re a middle aged bloke on a homemade bike and you’re about to run out of talent” I’d like to ignore him but he’s right and I rein Katie in. The final time is three seconds off the fastest girl, Lambo and I call it a wet lap in fading light and start to negotiate the fallen tree blocking our exit.
So a new dimension to my riding means a new dimension to this blog, if you’d like to follow my adventures follow Mark Tyler on Strava, and say you found me through my blog.