• Stravation – the need to feed on ride data.

    Exposure Lights Big Night Out 2012

    Exposure Lights Big Night Out 2012

    On Saturday evening I rode the Exposure Lights Big Night Out marathon at Ruthin.

    I’d been away for the previous two days at a wedding, arrived home late, and had literally thrown my bike kit into the car before heading to work on the morning of the event. So, when I arrived at Ruthin after work, with less than half an hour to go before the event started, things were a little hectic to say the least.

    I discovered that I didn’t have any spare batteries for my lights, my camera was still at home, and that the mice in my shed had eaten the bite valve on my Camelbak bladder. I also realised that my backpack was too big given that I wasn’t even carrying a coat, and I’d forgotten to have any tea.

    After some rushing around trying to get organised I finally made it to the start line, only to find that I hadn’t even remembered my GPS unit.

    Heading out into the dark with no data

    Heading out into the dark with no data feed!

    Now, to most people, forgetting your GPS unit may seem like a triviality. Like forgetting your spare emergency woolly hat perhaps. But to anyone who has discovered the phenomenon that is Strava, it’s a serious error to make. How can you keep track of the ride distance, figure out comparitive times and rankings on specific trail segments, or know whether you’ve really suffered during the ride?

    It seemed I was about to find out: enforced Stravation – the removal of my cycle data feed.

    As it turned out, forgetting the GPS was a stroke of unintended genius; my mate Cliff was riding with 15 stitches in his knee after a crash the week before and was planning a relaxed ride, so I forgot all about Strava segments and competing, and opted for a leisurely ride round with him instead.

    Taking it easy meant that I could attack all the climbs and wait at the top of each for Cliff to catch up. It meant that I could look around and enjoy the views. At one point I even sat down in the spongy heather atop one of the Clwydian hills (I’m not sure which – it was dark), and watched riders’ lights twinkling across the hillsides, the stars twinkling above, and the orange lights of the towns and villages twinkling below. It was delightful – peaceful and silent except for the occasional yelp from a rider as he discovered another wheel-sucking boggy section on the trail.

    What happens when you're suffering from Stravation - pure unadulterated joy!

    What happens when you’re suffering from Stravation – pure unadulterated joy!

    The downhill sections didn’t need to be rushed either. I kicked back and followed riders down some trails, and just let go and flowed fast along others, enjoying the variety of terrain and taking time to focus on technique.

    Crossing the line.

    Crossing the line.

    The route was excellent, a mix of long, drawn out climbs, and steep and grassy or narrow and winding descents. It was marked well with reflective signs, and dotted regularly with marshals, happily shouting encouragement despite being stood out in the dark and cold all evening. A hot cup of tea and a piece of Bara Brith at the feed station was a lovely treat, and gave opportunity for some banter with the other riders. Everyone just enjoying being out in the dark. The ride ended with a fast, whooshy tunnel ride, through overhanging trees alongside a dark stream, and Cliff and I crossed the finish line grinning like Cheshire Cats.

    All in all, it was a great ride, and no worse for the lack of a GPS. I don’t miss the ride data: I have plenty of fond ride memories instead.

    (Note: if you insist on looking for ride data there’s no better tool than Strava – there’s a good review here from The Babble Out. There are other software options available to track your ride and gather other kinds of data – checkout BikeMunk for more info.)

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