Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Dear Frank: Social media

Dear Frank Social Media
Frank Strack
11 Aug 2015

Cycling is a personal experience, says Frank Strack, so there are times when you should resist the urge to ‘share’

Dear Frank

I’ve noticed more and more cyclists are posting their riding exploits to social media. Is this acceptable behaviour?

Ed, by email

Dear Ed

I went riding today, alone. It was warm, sunny. I had no plan other than to ride – no intervals, no hill repeats, no restrictions. Just a ride to reacquaint myself with the bicycle, to feel my sensations and see where the road and my mind would take me. 

I’ve been off the bike for a week, after suffering a failure of judgement and going on a hiking trip for a few days with a friend. Why two Cyclists would elect to go for a walk in the mountains without bikes and instead carrying heavy packs is beyond explanation. 

It was good to be on the bike, just myself and my thoughts. I find that solo rides provide a centring effect that I have trouble finding elsewhere in life. Being alone within the urban landscape where my life plays out seems almost like stealing something.

I have a relationship with my shadow when I ride alone on sunny days like today. I watch it to read my technique. I look at my position, I watch the fluidity of my stroke, I look at my shoulders. My shoulders are one of the things that I love to watch most – I gauge whether they are still enough when I’m riding hard. When I am thin, like I am at this time of year, they look sharp. 

Not all rides are like this, where I find insulation from the buzz of everyday life. Some days I’m so exhausted from work that I have nothing left to give once I swing my leg over the top tube. On those days, I’m happy simply to turn the pedals over. Other days, the chaos at work feeds the fire of ambition and I explore a new cavern of the Pain Cave.

When I ride with others, I am dependent on those around me and they are on me. I interact with them, I enjoy their stories and share some of my own. I take pulls on the front, I drift to the back. I might take a dig or two, just to play around, or sprint just to prove how horrible I am in a sprint. 

In a race the co-dependency shifts away from the social towards tactics. But still, the experience is largely internally focused – each of us is in a bubble of our own, floating alongside one another with the edges of our bubbles occasionally intersecting like some kind of living, 3D Venn diagram.

All this is to say that cycling is fundamentally an individual experience. We ride because we have to ride. There is something within us that drives this impulse – no external fire burns to force us to choose this life. We may well ride with others and they may inspire us to achieve more, but the drive to ride a bicycle comes from within. 

There is a positive aspect to posting rides on social media. Strava allows you to analyse historical rides and training patterns in a way that previously would have required the services of a coach and detailed training logs. It also allows friends to share in the experience of riding bikes in amazing places in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. 

This sport is principally about an individual’s own experience – nothing else. The over-sharing of rides on social media distorts this principle into a vaguely narcissistic declaration of one’s achievements on the bike. It rips it from the sanctity of our personal experience and flings it into an anonymous world of reactive Kudos, Likes, Retweets and Reblogs. 

Obviously the greatest crime here is the posting of 10km or 15km rides on Strava with a footnote that says something like, ‘Short ride before work.’ Which is the Facebook equivalent of saying, ‘That was a good sandwich.’ 

In other words, no one gives a shit.

Frank Strack is the creator, and curator, of The Rules. For futher illumination see velominati.com and find a copy of his book The Rules in all good bookshops. You can email your questions for Frank to cyclist@dennis.co.uk

Read more about: