|Connected, and thus, disconnected from what makes things special.|
And to be fair, I cannot say it is cell phones, but technology, is really what it is. Everyone agrees it has fundamentally changed the way we live, how we experience things, and how we relate to each other. Broad topic there and I don't pretend to have any answers. But I did want to narrow the focus down to cycling and gravel events in particular. (And for some context this is an excellent article which speaks to what I am saying about this.)
When I helped get Trans Iowa started in late 2004, our first event in 2005 was pretty much all analogue. Sure, we had cell phones, but coverage in terms of cell service in 2005 was a joke. There were plenty of areas in Iowa that had no coverage at all. So, unless you were in an urban area, along a State, US, or Interstate highway, you weren't getting cell coverage. That was most of the first few Trans Iowa courses.
Cell phones were primitive, compared to today's computers we carry around. I mean, all you could do with a cell phone in 2005 was call someone. The internet? Ha! GPS? Whatever. Mapping? Nonexistent. All this had little to no effect upon the experience of the riders. But it changed and it changed in a big hurry. By 2009 it was apparent that riders were able to have talks with support people in homes and get encouragement, coaching, and information not available a mere four years previous. Check out my quote from the T.I.v5 race report where I compare what racer Charlie Farrow did with zero cell phone connection to what others had done with it. -
"This may sound harsh, but this is my gut feeling. If you had this cell phone "life-line" going on during T.I.V5, then you did the route with outside support. The people that accepted that support will have to live with that thought. Folks like Charlie Farrow will not. You decide which way is "right"."
And I still feel this way. But actually calling someone isn't the only way to get support. In fact, now it is even more subtle. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have taken over from voice communications. These "social" media platforms have now become the communication lifelines that racers and ultra-distance gravel riders have employed to be their psychological edge, or their means of assuaging their decision to not finish in some cases. It's a weird, complicated web which has a lot of strands to it. That said, without that technology/social media factor, things would be a lot different, as far as experience goes for the riders, and in my mind, all for the better.
|Now days support people actually track their riders via GPS Image by Jon Duke T.I.v13|
Just the mere fact that this is a feature of modern GPS based bicycle computers and cell phones is another mental support to riders. You know someone knows where you are all the time that could bring you a coat, take unwanted gear, give you food, or just to "be there". It's all happened out there on courses at events..... But even if it hadn't, just knowing it could is an edge. It didn't used to be that way. Decisions were solely upon the rider, and if you were wrong...... Well, no one was going to bail you out, and even if they could, it would be a long time before they got there. That made decision making......well, critical. More so than it is the way things are now.
It's interesting. The first run-in I had with GPS tracked riders was at T.I.v13. A certain support person was tracking the progress of his rider. Now to be fair, he wasn't communicating with him, just tracking him, but I could see the possibilities right away. We ran into this again at the C.O.G. 100 this past month. People were tracking their riders and expecting me to calculate finishing times on the spot, off the top of my head, for their rider. They may have been thinking to themselves, "I could just go out there and find them sooner than this doofus can do math in his head." Probably true.
In my opinion, all this detracts from the experience. It dilutes the way Life was meant to be lived, without guarantees of success, of happiness, or even of living. (See above linked article) And to be fair, technology is not a guarantee of any of that, but that's not how it is viewed. Not if we are being honest with ourselves. But like I say, that's a much bigger discussion. I do know it screws with the intentions for a "self-supported" gravel event, and anymore, it is a farce to say any event is "self-supported". Not as long as each rider is carrying one of those super computer devices in their jersey, bag, or on their bike.
But maybe I'm just a retro-grouch and I just don't get it. Fair enough. But if I had my druthers, I would put on an event where everyone locked their cell phones in a locker and then did the event. Of course, that raises some concerns, but think of how that changes the vibe. Your thought processes are going to be different. Maybe.