Tech is all around us, it is so embedded in our lives that imaginary future civilizations such as the Borg (from Star trek) seem more of a “nail on the head” premonition than fictional creation. These semi-robotic characters are sharing data as a hive mind where every individual has access to the others experience and knowledge. (Trainingpeaks anyone?) Now consider Strava, where every individual can access the power data, speed, distance, location and heart rate of other riders and we are getting very close. Add to this the new Varia heads up display (HUD) units from Garmin and we even look like the so called science fiction characters. As battery technology improves we will have less reason to turn these gadgets off, only adding to the immersion. This is exciting news indeed and will undoubtedly open some amazing roads yet traveled. I want to experience all of this, but is it really helping me to cycle, or is this a new version of cycling altogether. Tycling perhaps ?
The sheer amount of data available to a cyclist is beginning to affect the way that people new to our sports view cycling as a whole. Just as people born after 1995 will never know the world without the internet, cyclists starting with a fresh eye can barely imagine cycling without Apps and gadgets turned on and logged in, as they say, “if it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen”. As these apps begin to synchronize with one another and wearable tech advances we close the gap between reality and fiction. I have not asked for fear of the answer but how many people would have a USB charging port installed in their hip if it were possible?
Power output recording, heads up displays, electronic groupsets, radar view, global positioning satellites, electronic clothing, adjustable optics, battery management systems, automatic shift assistance, pedal assistance, automatic data upload. This sounds like the options list for a supercar but these are all available on the cycling gadget market right now!
As the technological era aggressively probes cyclings every orifice for areas of improvement, I find myself stepping back and taking the time to consider what advances do we need and what information our body is already giving us better than any technology can. A quote from one of my favorite movies comes to mind, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” (answers in the comments please). We all want that new tech item gleaming at us from the pages of our glossy magazine, but which are acceptable solutions for a real problem and which are just designed to rob your hard earned cash and replace your soul with what is essentially just numbers?
For years even the pro riders used perceived effort as a way to judge how much was left in the tank. Today every Sunday ride is peppered with power meters clogging the airways as billions of numbers translate our efforts into data that mostly goes unread. I don’t want to sound like a purist or a technophobe or even worse a hypocrite. As I personally partake in many of these technological traps and sometimes enjoy doing so, I think. We as cyclists just need to be careful to direct the market correctly by avoiding spending on useless inventions and making sure that cycling is the focus, not showboating numbers on a message-board. Skateboarding is also a market that has been attacked by tech in the past. Attempts to replace the wooden ply boards with a multitude of different materials were met with suspicion. The skaters focussed on what was important with their purchases, the feel of connecting with the road through as basic a product as wood to allow the most refined form of their sport and has so far resisted tech for the better.
Let’s try to keep our Oakleys focussed on what is important before we lose our way and become one with the Borg.