Bike racing is a sport of numbers.
Watts produced, oxygen sucked, skinfold numbers (I only have the one gut, personally), time to the break, distance to the finish, grade of the next climb. You can spend an entire ride glued to a four-inch screen measuring how high you pissed up the toilet wall compared to last week, then hook it up to Strava and compare tidelines with the pros. You can be weighed and measured by whatever computerized Gradgrind you choose, safe in the knowledge that when it finds you wanting, it’ll be almost as dispassionate. And then, if you like, it’ll tell all your friends.
The lack of ready access to a huge wad of cash prevents me joining in – by the time you’ve hooked up a Garmin to a Powertap or whatever, you’re in for more money than I’d spend on a bike, being as I am something of an ebay Prince. Jealousy of the better-heeled and coveting Another Man’s Wheels are sometime sins which I’ll freely admit to, but here – nah. I just don’t get it.
I raced this weekend, first after a break. A Garmin might have told me that it was fifteen degrees and dry, but it would have missed the cotton tailed clouds that bunny-hopped off the peak of the mountain into a blue, blue sky. It would have missed too, the gravel on the corners that spoke of washouts recently passed, of winter roads that we rode on and through, of what a lucky day this was.
It would though, have told me my heart rate was somewhere near the end when the bloke who no-one had seen before tried to go on the last part of a ramping climb, but I knew that anyway. It would have missed how I got onto his wheel though – just enough to not have let him go.
Maybe they’re thinking of something that would have told me before I cramped, five miles from home, but I don’t know what you’d do with that because when there’s five of you out front you just do until you really, really, can’t, and the computer don’t know that.
I lay on my back in the verge, trying not to kick myself in the back of the head as my hamstring threatened to snap, then repeated the performance a mile down the road. Groups rolled past, friends laughed. I rolled home, didn’t DNF. Sore as hell the day after.
Find me a computer that’ll tell you the real story of your ride.