• Patrick Gabrion

Computers be damned

What parts of our lives aren't tethered, in some way, to computers and the services they provide? Not much, I dare say. Everything, from checking weather conditions to purchasing clothing items to performing our jobs, finds us tapping our keyboards for what seems like endless hours every day. Yes, it is the way of doing business and more — like it or not.


Our recent spring snowstorm here in Maine reminded me of what it was like before the arrival of this electronic gadgetry. In losing our internet link for two days — hence, the late delivery of my previous blog entry — we were completely disconnected from the outside world. Like the storm itself, it was a rare and unfamiliar happening, but there was a kind of going-back-in-time feeling that brought a calm stillness to our household.


Tethered to technology.

The loss of all that computerization also pushed forward an idea I've been toying with for the last couple of years. But first a little background.


Years ago, I had a conversation with a fellow cyclist named Herb, while bumping into him at the supermarket. We exchanged small talk on riding, and I remember asking him about his mileage for the season. His said, "I don't keep track anymore." At the time, his reply seemed rather odd to me because I knew he was one of the area's most avid bike riders.


Like many fanatical pedal pushers, I equipped all my road bikes with a computer almost from the get-go, even on my first true genuine speedster, the Schwinn Circuit, which is 32 years old. Two of the computer models I have — made by CatEye — are pretty basic, recording time ridden, average and maximum speed, and trip distance. Simple and sweet, never any trouble.


The computer on my Trek Domane made by Bontrager is more complex and, truth be told, can be a pain in the butt from time to time. Along with the usual features, it also calculates calories burned on a ride, heart rate, cadence, and air temperature, etc. What gets me in a twist is when you have to change the battery, because that means reprogramming the computer — which takes a degree in rocket science to pull off. (Attention Bontrager: Your instruction booklet isn't very helpful.)


Another thing I don't like about this wireless computer is that when riding in temperatures in the 20s and 30s — which I often do — it fails to perform. And, if the magnet or sensor that help supply readings on the computer and which are attached to the bike frame become misaligned, just forget it.


Which takes us back to Herb and his comment. It's got me thinking — and was rekindled by the rude April snowstorm — do we, as run-of-the-mill cyclists, really need all these numbers? Are they of any real benefit? And I haven't even mentioned stuff like power meters or programs like Strava, which map your route while you are cycling.


Maybe it's time to just get back to plain old riding. Like it was when I cruised home from school on gravel roads growing up in Ithaca, Michigan. No computers, no logbooks. Just going for a ride and pedaling for pedaling's sake. Mind you, it will be a hard habit to break, as I've been keeping track of all those endless numbers since 2001.


And my idea? I'm seriously thinking of exiting the world of bicycle computers after the completion of my 2021 Maine-to-Michigan "Reunion Tour." Wish me luck!

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