I'd like to take what I've learned about myself and my relationship with the two wheels and transform that back into the rider I've wanted to be. Therefore, when people talk goals, they often say things, like, "I want to climb 700,000ft. this year" or "I want to enter and podium 7 races" or other athletic endeavors. I've tried that, and unfortunately, have all resulted in nil. My riding goals for 2014 are designed to get back to the roots of riding - to disengage from chasing what a "good" rider is (in the eyes who only view bike riding as an athletic endeavor) and to develop a sense of peace with my bikes. In other words, to fuckin' chill out about riding.
What I've learned about Strava is that it has the potential to change your ride, even if you don't want it to. When you engage into this technology, you've introduced a third party into what was once just an activity with you and your bicycle: the ride is now you, your bike, and your device. While I can see the positive aspects of measuring devices for elite racers, Strava has potentially turned every regular rider into obsessive freaks.
Now, I've argued that we are becoming closer and closer to science fiction depictions of cyborgs with our devices - whereas something as simple as a hearing aid already shows how our dependency on computers is apparent. However, there are some instances where technology is not required. And, for many of us "regular" riders - Strava is really not required.
I found that my rides became more focused on the device than on the ride itself. Instead of coming home from a ride, foam rolling, stretching, eating, drinking and showering with a restful afternoon, I was occupied with uploading my data to a website - anxiously waiting to see whether my climbs/descends were 1 second faster to earn my that precious PR; or better yet, a Top Ten or KOM.
So, the ultimate question for myself when looking at Strava with a critical eye: Is this what bike riding has become?
Is bike riding just about segments, measurements, speed, time and mathematics? Or have we completely lost the very essence of what drew us to it to begin with? Is riding just about athletics and exercise? For some, maybe. For me, no.
For me, non-BMX riding (MTB, CX, etc.) has always been my way to connect to that magical part of the world I can only touch on a knobby tire bicycle. To travel, at my designated speed without the shackles of technological devices: with the only goal in mind is to ride. By removing the constraints of a measuring technology, I no longer am placing myself before scrutiny. The freedom of riding is mine again; not my device's.
2013 was a gigantic game changer for me when it came to rediscovering my love for BMX freestyle. As I stated earlier, I have been trying to find myself in riding for 2 decades, and nothing ever panned out. Yes, I've had fun with motorcycles and MTB's and CX - but no type of riding makes me feel more as myself than BMX.
My love for BMX comes from the absolute freedom from any type of constraints. With BMX, you can ride alone or with a mob. Empty parking lots and gigantic skateparks contain equal possibilities for the most open minded riders. There is such a lack of rules and restrictions on styles and fashion, the ones who detract more from the current trends get the most praise. All are equals; membership to this group is not based on your abilities, but based on you, as a human. Even the best riders with a negative attitudes get shunned - which is unlike other cycling niches where it takes a congressional hearing to push out an asshole.
BMX freestyle was born out of the disdain for conformity of racing. Possibly, this is why I never could get fully into racing - even in MTB and CX formats. In reflecting, I believe that after two decades, the BMX attitude as always been inherent in me, which is why the pull of it is so strong. Possibly, the "BMX State of Mind" is what has made me repulse competitive endeavors, yet learned to overcome things and succeed through creativity. My disdain for authority and partisanship all stems from this attitude I adopted early on, in my teens, while riding a 20" bike.
This year, I want to explore more possibilities on my BMX bike. In one short year, I've already become a better rider than I was when I was a teenager, in more ways than just the technical aspect of riding. I am once again, home.
Riding both MTB's and BMX has given me the opportunity to see the stark differences between the two: from attitudes to approaches to riding. But the most clear and distinct aspect of the two is economics.
While there are many reasons why BMX products are so much cheaper than MTB products, but I am amazed how far BMX riders will take their bikes and components into the destruction zone, while MTB'ers will gladly exhaust $2000 on a new drivetrain to save 243 grams.
While I fully believe in buying high-quality, American-made BMX parts (when possible) from the get-go as to avoid part failure later on, I don't believe in over-consumption. I am entirely guilty of this and plan to put an end to it in 2014 - only purchasing things I actually truly need or would give me an absolute advantage/experience.
Yup. Fixed gears are fun. Don't hate.
We all will need to change our perception and goals of riding eventually, when our bodies won't allow us to push. I have chosen to adopt this early, and grow within bicycle riding and age with it, gracefully.