Data//Less

“I became angry that I was riding the computer rather than the bike, and I pulled it off its mount and stuck it in my pocket and I have not ridden with a visible computer since”—Robot, from red kite prayer

Today, I stopped riding with visible data. I took my odometer off my stem, shelving it in the storage unit where I keep my bikes; my heart rate monitor’s wrist receiver, my phone, which runs Strava, a cycling app, tire levers, spare tube, allen wrenches, and keys zipped up in my back pocket.

And it was weird, disquieting in its silence because as I looked down at my stem like I do many times during a ride, there was just a hole.

Just nothing in place of direction. No validation in divining numbers, measuring speed against heart rate, asking for permission: can I go faster? Is this a speed I can maintain? This is way too fast—I’ll burn all my matches if I keep this up, particularly since my small stature provides little advantage on the Netherlands’ flat landschap—I have to slow down.

Thus speaks direction.

Every time I looked down at that computer and/or turned my wrist to validate a decision, whether guided by lack of faith in ability— an inability to trust in my fitness—or a belief that numbers encapsulate the essence of a ride and therefore, when complied, constitute who I am as a cyclist, I let data dictate my ride instead of letting go and just riding.

But it’s hard, especially in the present where information is constantly being pulled from screens in pursuit of life optimization. Placing a hand inside a jacket, pants pocket, or purse and finding the absence of our phone no doubt sends the shudders of panic racing through most of us, like we forgot something, a part of us. Yet, what we’ve left behind may be the very humanity we locate in the devices we think we can’t do without.

What would we do without our phones to guide us, keep us company?

We’d just be; in direct connection with our surroundings.

So from now on, I’m going back to the basics: riding on feel, unencumbered, only giving room to data after I’m out of the saddle (because, I admit, at this point I’m not ready to completely let go). I’m shutting out the greater part of the noise so I can be in the moment, not reflexively checking my devices for guidance: I want to ride the bike, not the computer(s).

Maybe one day I’ll ride completely data-less. Maybe I’ll find a harmony where I can still feel connected to the activity with data.

But no matter what data arrangements are reached, ik zal gewoon doortrappen (I’ll keep pedaling).