Limiting My Reliance Upon Tech for a Safer Future

OnThePedals September2017
By Jason Giacchino

Having grown up in the Terminator films generation, I occasionally give thought to a time when technology may take over the world, when Skynet will become self-aware, when Linda Hamilton’s hairdo will become socially acceptable. And while I’m guilty as the next person as getting my digital indulgence on (after all, you wouldn’t be reading this if either one of us were anti-tech), I do tend not to rely upon technology in all of my endeavors.

Specifically, I’m not big on GPSing routes while mountain biking. Perhaps it’s my own little rebellion against the inevitable. Or more likely, maybe I tend to stick to pretty well-marked trails. Either way, I’ve yet to break out the smartphone on a two-wheeled excursion. This is especially impressive given the fact that I’ve discovered and have been exploring two new (to me) expansive mountain bike trail networks this past summer.

I suppose a good argument could be made that leaving the ol satellite receiver in the hydration pack is a vote of confidence, a sign of respect to the mountain bikers who’ve come before us. By and large, trail builders “get it”. I’ve lost count of the number of times throughout the years I’ve started off down a ribbon of unknown singletrack in the certainty that whoever made the trail had the presence of mind to not abandon it three miles into the thicket. Or take its rider off a cliff.

We live in a time where it’s not uncommon to pass fellow riders out on the trails strapped to the gills with technology: Devices to monitor biologic activity, apps to notify friends via social media as to your exact whereabouts, apps to compare your speeds at a given location to those of other riders who’ve been there before you so that you can race individuals you’ve never met. And truthfully, if that’s what gets some of these people to get out onto the trails on a mountain bike, then more power to them.

As for me, though, I like to use my time out on the trails as a sort of disconnect from the electron-dependent society of which we are all a part. In fact, I don’t even ride with music because I’m not too keen on disrupting the serenity of nature with my beats blasting out of a speaker and wearing headphones convinces me there’s a bear right behind me without fail.

I tend rarely to ride at night. Not because it doesn’t seem like a riot but because I have a really hard time convincing my riding buddies to join me. It’s never seemed like one of those things to go and do on one’s own to me.

I hardly ever wear a GoPro when I ride. Not because I don’t appreciate watching PoV footage on Youtube after a solid ride but because I find that whenever I’m wearing one 1) I can barely focus on the trail because I’m too concerned with whether I’ve got the camera positioned correctly to film more than just the ground below or sky above and 2) It’s never a proud moment to discover you tend to talk to yourself while riding. Especially with language that would make the video collected Rated R.

I tend not to spend hours in internet forums arguing bike technology. Does this mean I’m a fan of everything the industry throws at us? Of course not - rather, I may have my own particular favorite set-ups that work for me. Trying to convince others that my way is the only way is as ludicrous as telling someone else what underwear they need to buy. Bikes are highly subjective, just like people. And trails.

I steer clear of e-bikes and e-assist. Not that these concepts don’t have their merit, I personally already have half a dozen machines in my barn (from tractors to mowers to ATVs) with batteries going dead on me even as we speak. Mountain biking is one of few arenas of my recreational spectrum where I don’t have to worry about discharged batteries and trickle chargers.

So there you have it, my contribution for resisting the creation of Cyberdyne Systems as it pertains to mountain biking. No, actually, I take that back. While I tend to not rely upon GPS while riding, I am certainly guilty of using it to find the riding destination in question.

Case in point: Only two days ago during a pre-dawn two-hour drive to reach an IMBA Epic trail center located smack dab in the middle of a 3,000-acre plot of State Forest. About 45-minutes outside the park the fog started thickening to the point of making the road signs unreadable. A couple of missed turns later and there were only two options: boot up the ol iPhone and let the magic of earth-orbiting satellites do their thing or try to find a gas station with the hopes of a squeaky map rack to greet me near the door.

The choice was an easy one. But just to be on the safe side, should you encounter any jacked up former-politicians with bad accents walking around naked after an isolated lightning storm, run.

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