Rolling News. Tuesday, July 2, 2013.
In today’s overly-interconnected, highly-digital society, cycling has followed suit. Perhaps even leads the way. Unfortunately like all electronic-based activities, as goes the power, so goes the participation.
After a series of storms battered the electric grid of this large, mid-west city leaving many without power for weeks, cycling has all but disappeared. “The first few days were okay, and we kept riding as usual. But then my Garmin ran out of juice.” said 28 year old J.C. “I just… didn’t know what to do.”
Without electricity, the devices so common in today’s cycling world started to die. Phones and media devices were the first to go, followed by GPS units. Power meters became useless. And without computers, many cyclists were left without the ability to plan riding routes online, leaving them riding around their neighborhood for fears of getting lost.
“What are we supposed to do, wander around aimlessly?” said Sheryl, a local endurance rider. “We could end up anywhere, or nowhere. If we do a long ride and need water, how are we going to find a gas station without a working phone?” When asked if she would be willing to use a paper map, she replied, “Do you mean an e-reader?” We attempted to explain by stating that she could purchase a Thomas Guide, to which she said, “Who’s Thomas? Is he a local rider?”
Some found that their high-end, electronically-controlled shifting bikes were reduced to very expensive single-speed bikes as their derailleur-controlled batteries wore down. Others say their bikes just “didn’t feel right” without the tech. “No music, no speed indication, no idea how far you’re going. No cadence. Come on, who rides without knowing their cadence?” said Joe, who says he started riding last month. “You need the tech. Otherwise, you’re just, you know… pedaling.”
Those wearing heart rate monitors who continued to ride agreed that these devices continued to work as inaccurately as they did prior to losing power.
Many complained about the inability to share rides. “No Strava,” said Jackie, a criterium racer. “No sharing on Facebook. No MyTracks, no kudos, no bragging. No QOM. What’s the point?”
A few who continue to ride expressed a very different sentiment. “We’re free!” shouted Dorthy. A local rider of the roads and trails for the past 15 years, she’s has been very happy with the effects the blackout has had on local riding culture. “No more people racing for segments. No more listening to their iPods and watching their peak power output on their Garmins. Those of us who are left just… ride. I couldn’t be happier.”
Only time will tell what lasting effects this blackout will have on the cycling community, and if it will ever recover.