When I got my first mountain bike I was told I needed two things to be a real cyclist. Clip less pedals and a cycling computer to track my rides. Without those two there was no way I was ever going to be serious about riding a bike. Well, guess what? I’m on flats, I don’t track my rides; I’m still riding and I don’t take it all too seriously. I just like riding my bike every chance I get, riding for fun, to escape. Tracking every little detail, was in no way “getting away”. It was trapping me instead, making me feel miserable.
It all started with a phone tracker. We were just starting out on this mountain biking thing. Tracking progress was good, we could see how our rides were getting longer in distance and faster times. It was a simple time; ride, record, talk about it with riding buddies. However, phones have terrible battery life and ok GPS signal. Plus, phone always goes in the back pack. So there was no way of looking at stats live while riding. And no, a phone holder on a mountain bike trail is something I won’t do.
Upgrade and improve, that’s what we need to be happy right?
Upgrades “needed” to be made, purchases “needed” to be made. A real grown up GPS cycling computer HAD to be purchased to “improve” my status from casual to serious cyclist. So I did just that, and started tracking my rides and seeing real time data. It was cool and way too much information. I started obsessively tracking every single ride, and I do mean every ride. Trip to the grocery store? Tracked. Daily 3 mile commute to work? Tracked both ways. Lap around the park to check a small repair? Tracked and uploaded. That was not healthy, but I justified it by saying: “it’s how I know how many miles have passed since its last tune up”.
That quickly devolved into a slew of gadgets I really had no need for, because people told me I “needed” them to be a real cyclist. So even though I was just (and still am) and amateur weekend warrior, I had a heart monitor, a premium mount and other pretentious unneeded crap. I had to get my money’s worth out of every single gadget, and out I went. It was no longer good enough to just go outside and ride. No, I had to have a set purpose of distance, climb, descent, calories and energy. It started to be less about the ride and more about the numbers. Little by little, I started chipping away at the joy of riding and replacing it with the tedium of a second job.
I became obsessed and addicted tracking my rides data
Sharing on social media came about and that led to an even more obsessive me. I HAD to have good numbers, and they had to be better than last rides numbers. Longer climbs, faster descents, better speeds, epic long rides all done for mere bragging rights and likes. Likes that 5 minutes later wouldn’t matter any more. My attitude changed, no longer a happy rider, just mad, grumpy. No progress, too slow, mad. Too long a break, mad.
I clearly remember the day I knew I had lost it. We had finished a ride down one of my favorite trails. It’s a long hard climb, followed by a gnarly tech descent; a good ride that tests you and gets you tired. However it does come at around 17 km, it’s one of those rides that feels longer than it really is. I just wouldn’t have it, I HAD to have good sharable bragging numbers. So, pissed off I rode laps around the parking lot until I had the right data. I still don’t know how my girlfriend kept her cool and didn’t just dump me then and there for being extra pretentious and crappy. I had committed a dark act, I swore I would never do, I had padded the numbers.
Letting go slowly of toxic behaviors
So how did I stop this toxic behavior? Well, I lost my GPS about four months after that, coincidentally on that same trail. I was beyond mad, not because I had lost a $200 dollar gadget, because my ride was not tracked. I didn’t learn my lesson, and immediately ordered its replacement. Living in Mexico sometimes getting things here can be either extremely expensive or take a long time to arrive. My new GPS took a good couple of months to arrive and it was weird, but liberating not to be tracking my rides during that time.
Second GPS arrives and again I’m tracking rides and back to being angry all the time riding. Same grumpy Victor more concerned about the data and looking good enough on social media that I no longer enjoy my rides. Three months into my new GPS, I slid on mud and crashed, GPS’s screen broke. Finished the ride, uploaded the data and never shared it. Too embarrassed to share. Furious, I sent an email to the maker. It has warranty, replace it! Reply comes back on Monday, stock email saying there’s no replacement but I can get one 50% off and pay shipping for both units. I put my broken GPS into a drawer and figured I’d ship it later. It never went back.
I don’t remember those days all that fondly. Constantly being mad at my riding, not enjoying my rides. No matter what I did it never seemed enough. It was time to take out the stressor, stop obsessing over data and numbers and letting go. Back to a simpler style of riding, not tracking just enjoying.
It feels good to remove stress and enjoy what you love
First ride without the tracker I felt at peace, no stress. I didn’t care how far, how fast, or how many calories were burned. I started choosing my rides based on trails I liked and how they flowed from one to the next. It’s been over two years since I tracked a ride; I’ve enjoyed every one of them. I know that if I end a ride with a smile, then it was a good one.
I’m not saying you should quit tracking rides and get rid of your GPS or quit Strava. Nah, if you enjoy using it, and it gives you value, keep it. I quit the GPS tracker. Something valuable that would help me, instead became a source of stress and anger. A lot of times we’re not conscious of stuff that gets too deep under our skin stressing us out; and then we have no idea why something we like, we no longer enjoy.
Take a step back and look, look at what you are doing and eliminate that thing that keeps you from enjoying what you love. Look out for those stressors they may seem super important, and that you NEED them. More often than not, you are better off without them.