Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cycling For The Adventure: Part 2

Can you imagine cycling without one of these?
Yesterday I touched upon how today's version of "adventure" differed from where I came from. But am I just being an "old fart"? Maybe I'm a retrogrouch and I just am out of touch with a better version of cycling that has more people jazzed about getting out there than ever before.

Or, maybe that's just not really what is happening here. Consider that by the very nature of social media, we are, or can be, more aware of who is out there. Think about the Tour Divide, or even better, its predecessor, The Great Divide Race. In the late '90's, John Stamstad rode the route solo. Did anyone follow that dot? Well, of course not. He wasn't wired with a SPOT device. So it was with everyone else that was "out there" previous to SPOT's launch in 2007, social media, Strava, and whatever else you have to "connect" with. In other words, who can really say that folks weren't "out there" in just as big a way then as they are today? What we can say is that in 2017 we are more aware than ever of who is doing this adventuring by bicycle. 

Conversely, it is also easier than ever to be found. Think about it: We used to get on our bicycles to "get away from it all", but are we doing that anymore? Most of the time, we are not. Especially if we are carrying a cell phone. At a moment's notice, we can be drawn right back in to the rat race by a text, a notification, or a phone call. That doesn't even count devices like GPS computers for cycling which can push notifications right to your wrist or handlebars. Heck.....they even have a heads-up display for glasses for cycling now! Talk about life being "in your face"!

Of course, all those devices with GPS can be tracked too, so you can have a significant other or (who knows who) tracking your every move out there. Is that what we signed up for when we went in search of adventure?

So, yeah......to be completely honest, I don't buy in to the whole being connected 24-7 thing. If I leave my cell phone at home I kind of kick myself, but more so because it ticks off Mrs. Guitar Ted. Me? I don't care. After a moment of guilt I am really relieved no one can bother me. If something happens when I'm 20 miles from the house on a gravel road traveling by bicycle, what the heck can I do about anything that happens anyway? By definition I am out of the loop at that point, You'll have to carry on without me, or come and find me out there....

Oh, you may say that I should have my cell phone handy in case of an emergency, but really..... If I can't be self-supported/self-sufficient, should I be riding out in the country at all? Then there might be the super rare time I get myself injured, have a bad mechanical, or whatever, but look...... That's a risk I'm willing to take that wasn't a rarity at all previous to 2007 or so. Stop and think about that for a minute. Everyone that rode a bicycle away from a population center before then was likely doing what I do now when I forget my phone at home. It's a risk I'm willing to take anytime now.

But that said, I know I am in an ever shrinking group of like-minded people. I get pressure all the time from folks wanting routes provided to them, to have Trans Iowa have GPS downloadable course maps, to have on-line registration for that event, and on and on. It's hard to keep "on point" when everyone seems to be going whole hog for being connected and have everything handed to them on a silver platter when it comes to adventure stuff. Gravel roads seem to freak folks out, or they are just to lazy to do some simple research and take a small risk to see what is out there. I don't think I am remarkable in that I just go out and ride and see what I can find, but then again, it seems a lot of people are hamstrung by the idea of just winging it. It really isn't that tough, in my opinion.

Plus, the lessons learned make memories and teach you far more than checking off a list from some internet site and downloading a pre-ridden course on your GPS device. I don't know.......

Maybe I've got it all wrong.......

12 comments:

Robert Jones said...

Indeed, by modern standards you are conspicuously and refreshingly old-fashioned. Bravo!

Irishtsunami said...

G-T,

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon myself, I am posting a response as long as blog post.

This isn’t the first time you have suggested that adventure is dead or a thing of the past. This is an interesting notion and it is possible you are being curmudgeon-ish. While I think that technology and planning based on the experiences of pioneers makes certain aspects easier, I don’t think it makes it any less of an adventure for the individual. I feel that by your logic that anyone who has summited (is that a word?) Mt. Everest after Sir Edmund Hillary has not been on a true adventure.

I think the key to an adventure is that the experience have will have an element of danger or risk and excitement. While certain technological advances can reduce certain risks, I don’t feel that it completely eliminates it. When I toe the line for a fall or early spring event I know there are risks. A smart phone with a weather app can tell you there is a storm brewing and smart clothing can help add an element of comfort, but it doesn’t stop the storm or its effects or danger (hypothermia, crashes on slick surfaces…). The same applies for routing on a GPS or having a well-developed map. I may get turn for turn instructions but it doesn’t mean the town on the map will have a store open (or one at all thank you rural Louisiana and Mississippi) when I am desperate for water. It does not eliminate a river crossing that is unpassable due to flooding, or a pass is snowed. Somehow I still manage to get lost (I am not the brightest).

Is it to the degree of when Shackleton to Antarctica? Probably not. Is it an adventure? Absolutely. I would suggest that anyone embarking on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for the first time is on an adventure. Sure, you can buy the 7 map set from ACA and reference countless resources online, that only marginally reduces the risk. A smartphone will not protect you from Grizzly Bears, crashes in remote locations, weather…..luck certainly favors the prepared.

Sure, experience probably eliminated some of the anxiety for the guy that did it four times this summer (out and back twice). The experience may help him know where he can get supplies or repairs, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk of serious injury or severe hardship in a remote location.

Fret not and don’t curmudgeon (is that a verb?), adventure is alive and well

Skidmark said...

We don’t all have the “Sir Edmund Hillary vacation benefits package”, some find adventure riding from their front door.

Robert Ellis said...

Another element that hasn’t been discussed with social media map riding, is people want recognition for what they perceive to be an accomplishment. While this medium brings together like minded people, it also serves as a stage self-promotion, “look at me, my distance my speed, my elevation climbing” etc. The affirmations received for these activities (they hope) promote more of the same behavior and therefore more more time in the saddle , more fitness, and possibly more risk. This escalates and perpetuates the endorphin release. Those endorphins are released at the time of the ride, and then for a few days thereafter as people go back review their rides, and know that others are examining their accomplishments as well. It just makes the positive vibes last longer. Then there are the true soul riders, those who would be riding gravel or doing ultra-distances anyway because that just floats their boats. I think those people are really few and far between. I would venture to say that social media has greatly increased participation in riding and gravel riding in particular. Besides that, some people just like the dark t-shirt flat billed hat, beer swizzling culture; it’s fun! GT, as a fellow child of the 70s and 80s, I think you have it all right!

Guitar Ted said...

@Iristsunami: I think maybe you are thinking I am saying there is no adventure with the tech/social media aspect, but I am not saying that. I'm saying it is a different flavor. I absolutely agree with you that the risks still exist, but the way things are now changes our experience exponentially. THAT is what I am saying. Is that good or bad? Well, we can debate that till the cows come home. I'm just saying I am glad to have been on both sides of it.

@Robert Ellis- Well, maybe those aren't really "endorphin" based repeat adventurers as much as they are purely attention seekers and people who want to be affirmed and THAT is the real elixir that intoxicates us.

Irishtsunami said...

I agree that it does change the experience in some aspects. I guess the way I look at is that I will look at my phone, see a severe storm ahead, and still ride into it. I suppose not everyone will look at it the same way and may seek shelter or another method to avoid it.

I also see your point on the scouting routes. I used to do a ton of backpacking and I cannot tell you how many times we climbed/hiked to the top of a mountain just to realize it was the wrong one and were off route. That has changed with the great Garmin digital products. The likelihood of riding down the wrong road is eliminated. But so is the amount of time sitting at an intersection saying "this road isn't on the map....or is my mileage off?"

glenn said...

Just FYI: Using a GPS device does not necessarily mean you can be tracked. The GPS aspect of it is as a receiver. I think it requires a tether to a phone and using cell data to track in real-time.

That Peter Flax article was a good one!

Rob E said...

I prefer GPS over cue cards, paper is so susceptible to the environment or even being lost. While the current GPS devices are far from perfect they are IMO far better navigation devices when you are in unfamiliar locations than a piece of paper affixed to the bars. I don't really see it as not being adventurous, all explorers used the technology of their day to minimize the risks and to maximize their route planning efficiency. Lewis and Clark used the first "GPS" units available in North America when they hired Native American's to guide them, they didn't just set off blindly. The Donner Party would have given a left leg, uneaten hopefully, for a good weather app when they attempted to traverse that pass. The greatest adventurers of our time, those who travel into space, spends years preparing for a single trip into space and they use the most advanced technology on the planet. Even and old curmudgeon can embrace their inner Pollyanna now and again.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rob E- I seem to be missing the point you are trying to make in all the "what if" examples you are giving here. I don't think we are really that far apart here though.

You see, *everyone* should do their level best to use their best efforts and resources at hand before setting out on any adventure, no? I think that's fairly obvious no matter what era you want to choose to use as an example.

However; each era has completely different resources and cultural influences, which again, should be fairly obvious.

What I am saying is that NOW is completely different from where I started out, which again, *I thought* was obvious as well.

Is it really better now? That's the question I wanted to discuss. That and that I was glad to have experienced things *back in the day* the way it was.

Rob E said...

Is it better, well yes and no. From a purely navigation point of view, yes; there is no doubt that the devices today far exceed anything we had "back in the day". From an adventure standpoint, I think that is also a yes. It seems to me, or maybe it's just because of the circles I run... er, ride in, that making the navigation, not getting lost aspect of adventure less adventurous has gotten more people outside. About the only thing that maybe is better about yesteryear are the memories and often times we remember those more fondly years removed than we did in the moment they were happening so even those can be clouded by sentimentality or senility.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rob E- Whoa-Ho! So I am senile? Ha! Well, whether you meant that or not, it doesn't matter to me. Okay.....

So, you like today better than yesterday in terms of tools you have now. Great. I get that. But.....to say it gets "more people out there" isn't a metric we can accurately measure against the past. I don't think it is necessarily true either. There is a lot of evidence that shows that bicycle use is down, so obviously it can be argued that perhaps the opposite of what you are suggesting is true.

And while I can see why you might think I'm being sentimental and all, I am going to point out, again, that all I am really saying is that there was a difference, I was there, and I experienced it. Am I sentimental about my experiences? Sure! Why wouldn't anyone be? But objectively speaking, the differences are real and do make a difference in how these adventures were approached, processed, and experienced versus today.

You have the opinion that today is better. That I can see as being a valid point. I am not sure that I am convinced yet that it is actually better. Maybe something will come along to make up my mind on that, but I haven't seen it yet.

Rob E said...

The senility was just a generalization more than aimed at any one person as I think sometimes people forget that the good old days didn't seem so good at the time. I suppose we come from different angle on this subject, I grew up a city kid that rode my bike a ton because parent's rarely drove kids most places but I never ventured out of the city. I'm sure that there might have been great gravel or paved routes out of town but we never knew of them if there were. Heck it wasn't too long ago that 20 miles would be a long ride for myself and some of the people I ride with, centuries were things that seemed unreachable. I also wasn't a big fan of gravel until quite recently with the advent or popularity of girthier tires, I was almost strictly a single track guy as were my friends. So perhaps we differ because for me and my group it wasn't until we started looking at gravel routes that had already been laid down on the interwebs that we decided to venture out and see what they were all about. I guess for my microcosm of the world it seems like we get out more and for more adventurous rides than just a few years back and a lot of that is owed to the new fangled technology.