Saturday, September 19, 2015

Trans Iowa v12: As Technology Marches On

Technology that allows you to do things like never before is coming.
Trans Iowa started out over ten years ago in an era where technology for cycling applications was still, for the most part, just basic computer functions as we have known them for cycling for the past 40 years. Speed, average speed, maximum speed, and a few other staples of cycling information were all most of us had access to. Fast forward to 2015, and that feature set has exploded. What are the implications for an event like Trans Iowa?

Right now, it is a murky view, but the technology is changing as fast as the weather in Iowa. The GPS data that will be available soon from a company called Wahoo Fitness is, I think, just the forebearer of things to come. Check out the upcoming ELEMNT GPS unit they have coming out that can track other ELEMNT users and will download their track right to your unit. Think about the implications of that sort of technology for a minute!

Will riders be able to "follow the leader" by communicating via GPS units? Their tracks being downloaded instantly and that enabling the followers to use the turn by turn alerts to ease navigation? Will smart phones be able to communicate with these GPS units, allowing even those without the base GPS units to join in the navigating fun? This may be an impossibility now, but it doesn't seem very far fetched as it would have been ten years ago.

Back in the earlier years of Trans Iowa, we banned GPS units, and then later on, we allowed them as long as they were kept in a ruck sack or frame bag as a way of recording data only. Then recently we acquiesced and allowed the GPS units to be used as a computer straight up. The thinking being that the route couldn't be uploaded to the units easily, or at all, which still made the rider rely on their own navigational skills and the cue sheets.

Doing things the old fashioned way
Ah! Those cue sheets! Some see them as a dreaded, stupid, old fashioned way to navigate a course. Some wish for a Trans Iowa GPS course download, such as is being provided for by other events like the Dirty Kanza 200, or Gravel Worlds. It may even anger some folks that Trans Iowa will never do this for them.

I'm okay with that, by the way.

See, the thing is, as much as Trans Iowa is a physical challenge, it also is a mental one. Making decisions for the entirety of a 25-34 hour long ride is part of this challenge. Navigation skills are highly esteemed by myself, and are expected to be part of the challenge.

Without that part of Trans Iowa, it isn't a "real Trans Iowa" experience, in my opinion. So, when I see things like the ELEMNT GPS device, it raises my eyebrows in concern, because I know many of you want to make Trans Iowa as easy as possible. That's a natural, human thing to desire for any task or challenge we face as a species. That's what drives inventions and propels us forward. However; in the process, sometimes we lose essential skills for survival that are now being tasked to electronic devices or machines, which I find sad. Just think about your life in terms of what it would be like without electricity, as an example, for a day. I think it would become radically apparent what skills we have let atrophy or what skills we have lost altogether.

Well, I don't have an answer today for what the devices of the future may have as an impact upon navigation for Trans Iowa. However; I am watching this closely, and you can bet that if it could be used as an aid to ease the navigational aspect of Trans Iowa, I won't be for it. Maybe I am being a bit "old fashioned" in my stance, but if it comes right down to brass tacks, I would rather not put forth a challenge like Trans Iowa that can be watered down by modern day electronic gadgetry. 


Unknown said...

Turn it into a geocache like event. At least it will add a bit of a challenge.

Reflector Collector said...

I know that I can be a bit of a Luddite, but there is something special about the challenge of traveling only by a stack of pre-printed directions.

Kate Geisen said...

I was really unhappy when DK made the move from a marked course to strict cue sheets/GPS link, but I did fine with following the GPS the first year. This past year my GPS totally refused to give me any directions, and I was really, really glad that I could follow a cue sheet (though those reroutes made it interesting with the mileage changes).

Charlie Farrow said...

Bravo Guitar Ted...I do these kinds of things to get away from all those techy superficial artificial gizmos. Accept the TI as a simple albeit very hard challenge or sign up for one of those fully supported guided tours...These GPS systems have destroyed the age old art of getting lost and the sad thing is: Getting lost is when the good stuff happens (aka Adventure).