by Oliver Evans

A couple of my friends summiting a mountain on one of many Garminless rides. I definitely got the KOM. Photo: Oliver Evans

Honestly, I’m not sure if not using Strava is based on my lack of a Garmin or if my lack of willingness to replace my Garmin is because of Strava.

I only downloaded Strava in January of 2017. Since I don’t use a power meter or heart rate monitor, the only action I would take with my Garmin files was to upload them to Strava. We’ve all heard the old, “if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.”

For a while, I had it in my head that if I went for a ride, I needed a computer with me and at the end of the ride I needed to upload to Strava for others to see. The ride being on Strava was proof that I had in fact ridden. This mentality made me feel as though if I rode, I had to ride fast. I’d feel discouraged when my teammates or other riders would have higher ride totals at the end of each month. It made me unnecessarily competitive and took away from the enjoyment of just riding for the sake of riding.

The effect wasn’t too negative in terms of training, and often it was helpful in encouraging me to get out and ride. However, there was a bit of a negative effect on me with regard to competitiveness and during an already negative season, I didn’t need the extra negativity.

In the first stage of the Tour of the Gila this year, my Garmin died. I spent the rest of the race uploading my team mate’s files so that I had proof of each stage. I did the same thing for a couple of weeks of riding in California afterward. I wasn’t as motivated to ride if I didn’t have a file to upload at the end and having no file made rides feel meaningless.

After Redlands in May, I took some time off and got sick. I would go out for the occasional ride over the following two weeks with no Garmin, generally in a Hawaiian shirt and bib shorts. The rides would be very slow and often involved several hours of laying in parks listening to music or chatting with friends in the sun. After several months of very serious riding, I finally felt free. I felt unbound by the need to prove myself on the internet. I could ride slowly and guilt free.

I traded some bike parts for a friend’s old Garmin before leaving for North Carolina later that month. My first time using the Garmin it failed and so I went back to uploading teammate’s files. Eventually, I realized I didn’t need to care so much about whether people saw my rides or not.

I suffered a couple of crashes shortly thereafter and accepted that it would be awhile before I could do any sort of ‘impressive ride’. I decided I didn’t need to fix my Garmin. I wouldn’t be needing one for a while.

Riding with a Garmin and uploading my files would make each ride feel like a training ride. If I could see that I was riding slowly, I wanted to speed up. If I could see my elapsed time, I’d become conscious of how much time I’d spend not moving. While recovering from my physical injuries and the mental effect my short but difficult season had on me, the last thing I needed to feel was any sort of pressure to train.

I left my Garmin and jersey in my suitcase after North Carolina – they’re still there today. The riding I’m doing now is for fun. It’s not for anyone else. It’s not to be compared to. I don’t care about segments or average speed or duration. I like getting lost in the ride – not just geographically, but in terms of time as well. Without a computer, I can get lost in a ride for hours.

Strava isn’t bad, that’s not what I’m saying. For now, I like riding more without out it. I’m sure I’ll use it again some day, probably when Phil Gaimon takes some of my KOMs.

Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria.

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