I was out for a ride the other day, taking advantage of a brief break in the stormy weather to get in some quality time on the trails. The sun was out, and the dirt was more tacky than sloppy – ideal conditions to shake off the cabin fever. As I was cresting the top of a climb, I saw a rider sitting on his bike, peering intently at the screen of his smartphone.
“How's it going?” I asked.
“Good. Just figuring out where I am,” he replied, not even bothering to glance up.
“Do you want any trail suggestions?”
“Nah, I've got Trailforks. I'm fine.”
Huh. Shut down, and feeling a little miffed, I pedaled onwards, finishing up my ride with a lap on one of my favorite trails, one that I would have gladly directed the phone-gazing rider to. That's what confused me the most – why would someone choose to get directions from their phone when a living and breathing human, a local who's intimately familiar with the trails, is standing right in front of them? Have we become so reliant on technology that we no longer trust our fellow riders?
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a rant against Trailforks
(and I'm not just saying that because it was created by Pinkbike). It truly is an incredibly useful tool, and it's especially helpful when you're in an unfamiliar area – having detailed maps a few swipes away makes it that much harder to get hopelessly lost, and the ability to check trail conditions and view suggested loops makes it even more beneficial. But just because you have a wealth of information at your fingertips doesn't mean that you should shun all human interaction and blindly follow the electronic device in your pocket.
|Just because you have a wealth of information at your fingertips doesn't mean that you should shun all human interaction and blindly follow the electronic device in your pocket. |
As technology becomes more pervasive, it's becoming easier and easier to isolate ourselves, to get sucked into that electric glow. How often do you find yourself endlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, staring blankly at a tiny screen for no reason other than to keep from thinking about other aspects of life? I know I'm guilty of it, habitually grabbing my phone as a way to pass the time in an airport or on a shuttle bus, zoning out into a mindless daze. But when those habits start spilling out onto the trail, it's time to take a long hard look at our digital dependence.
Part of the appeal of mountain biking is that it's a way to get outdoors, into nature, and away from the information overload that we're exposed to every day. Finding those moments of flow, when all worries and cares drop away and riding feels effortless – that's what it's all about, and the ringing of a phone or the 'ping' of an incoming text are distractions that can make it even harder to achieve this state.
It seems ridiculously simple, something that shouldn't even need to be mentioned, but the next time you're out on a ride, put your phone away and don't look at it until you return to the trailhead. Get rid of the digital leash, and pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on being present, in the moment, rather than feeding the part of your brain that's telling you to check your email, sneak a look at Facebook, and snap a selfie. If you're riding in a new area, smile, talk to the other riders you see on the trail, and stop by the local bike shop rather than solely relying on digital resources to plan a ride – you're much more likely to find the real goods, and you might even make some new friends along the way.