Cycling, it’s a big and important part of my life. From my first hand-me-down tricycle to the commuter/touring bike I’ve assembled myself and the vintage bike I’ve saved from the rust demon and oblivion, there have always been bicycles in my life. It’s the riding that went through several changes over the years.
While at elementary school, bicycles were a way of having fun on the way to school and home. We rode up and down concrete stairs untill the fork got damaged again. On our way to school we sometimes had 4 guys on one bike. One on the saddle (obviously), one on the rear carrier, one on the handlebars and one on the top tube. My bicycle usually didn’t last longer than a school year. Up to a point where my parents wouldn’t by me a new bike anymore but gave me old, second/third/fourth hand bikes. But I didn’t care. We didn’t ride for achievements, goals or personal bests. We had fun, that was all that mattered.
Then I went on to a secondary education. Longer distance, new friends but still all by bicycle. We liked it and even took the long way to school or home if we felt like it (as we often did). We discovered the fun of riding, exploring new routes, going places so to speak. After a while we went out on saturday rides, on our city bikes. No gears, a simple coaster brake, heavy bikes and not a clue as to how far or how fast we went. None of us even thought about a bicycle computer (somekind of mechanical odometer existed, but we didn’t bother) and smartphones were still science fiction. (yes, I’m that old!) The fun was real though, and I think it was about that time the cycling bug really got to me.
At 15 I had my first summer job and I spend my first ever wages on a new bicycle. An orange Peugeot PH10 road bike, with dropbars, toe-clips and small “racing” tyres. I even bought a bicycle commuter to see how far my rides would take me. The rides got bigger, I started wearing (itchy, wool) cycling bibs and jerseys and later on joined a club. But I’ve always preferred solo rides or going out with one or two mates. The rides were more relaxed and gave me an opportunity to meet up with different kind of cyclist. That’s how I came in contact with bike travellers (or bike hikers). And somehow I convinced my brother and a friend of mine to go on a bicycle holiday to England eventhough our bikes weren’t quite right for it. I still got the feeling I enjoyed it more than they did. 😉
After that first bicycle holiday I got rid of the Peugeot road bike and got me a hybrid bike. A heavy, sturdy Blacky 602 with 26 inch wheels and fat tyres. That bike really could take me anywhere I’d like to go. Did mtb tours, road tours and cycling holidays on it. Even rode my first sportive on that bike. It was awesome. But I wanted to know more of my rides, see where I’ve been, what route did I take… Something my bicycle computer couldn’t provide.
Enter the smart-phone!
It must have been around 2006 when I got hold of my first smartphone. Never really thought I needed it before, but internet, e-mail etc… became a bigger part of my life. And on that Nokia E71 was an app called Sports-tracker. It registered your route, speed, average speed etc.. I liked it, could even combine photo’s with my rides online. It was a nice extension to my cycling hobby. By that time my Blacky hybrid was replaced by a M5 Streetlegal recumbent bike, after that a Batavus Old Dutch city bike that was soon followed by a (second hand) Gazelle Alu-lite Impulse mtb. And no matter what kind of bike I had between my legs, freedom was important. So commuting became touring, often riding more than the normal 10 km to work in the mornings. Even getting up at 3 am to go for a 70 km ride before work and the occasional saturday morning tour. The Gazelle wasn’t quite the right size for me and my commute changed to a minimum of 30 km, so once again on the look out for a new bike, I’v decided to by a Surly Disc-Trucker frame and build it up myself. A multi-purpose bike for commute, (long haul) touring, off-road, whatever.
Through Twitter I came in contact with some Strava riders and explored that community. Joined up and replaced the Sports-Tracker app with the Strava app. (I had a android phone by then). It was nice, interacting with other cyclist online, kudo’s, pb’s, segments, challenges… But it changed the way I experienced cycling. My commute became a race, trying to beat my own pb, get better results on a segment, etc… I even thought about buying a lighter road-bike. That wasn’t cycling the way I did for years, the fun had turned into achievement obsession. I didn’t really notice that until in 2014 some physical problems came up that kept me off the bike more and more and I wasn’t able to go out for “real rides”.
In september 2015 I’ve got some fractures in my foot combined with tendonitis. I kept me off the bike for months. And now while my physical condition and mojo are (very) slowly returning I had a good look at my rides that are registered online. I realised that I’m not a “Strava cyclist”, for me it took the fun out of cycling. So now I’ve returned to Sports-Tracker, just to see my rides and photo’s to remember the fun I had/have out there. For me, no more pb’s, kom’s, segments, etc… Even if it’s not on Strava, as long as you are out there and ride!
I’m gonna be that guy again that hops on his bike for a bit of fun, who rides to explore, who takes extra breakes to enjoy / relax / snaps a memory, has a meatball sandwich in his handlebar bag instead of super-food and wears whatever is covering my ass at the time of a ride. 😉
Whatever kind of cyclist you are, remember that the most important thing about the ride is the ride itself. Enjoying it is the biggest achievement. No app can measure that!
Ride safe and have fun!