I’m unfortunately at home saying my farewells to my 94 year old grandmother this week. In doing so I’ve been making a lot of trips from my parent’s house in Plymouth, MA to see my grandmother about a 20 mile drive away. The other night while driving back with my sister she asked me a pretty good question.
Most of the roads we were driving were the roads that I would train on for bike racing during high school and college breaks for hours on end. Her question was how I found my way around with no smartphones or even GPS devices at that point. Fair question indeed. So this got me to thinking about some of my early moments in the cycling world that are still my very best moments in the sport. We drove on one particular road that I can remember vividly from the bicycle, but couldn’t tell you the last time I actually drove it in a car.
Southeastern Massachusetts, believe it or not, is home to some rather great road riding. There are so many well paved roads that crisscross the rural areas with very little vehicle traffic. And of course there are a lot of great seaside roads showing the beauty of why people enjoy this area of the country so much in the summer months.
So how did I find my way back then without the help of a smartphone or GPS? It was actually quite simple: I went out and rode my bike as much as I could whenever I could. I explored roads, sometimes got lost, but always made my way back home each time and if I got stuck I used a pay phone. YES, a freaking pay phone! The only technology I had on me was a bike computer that gave me speed, average speed, time and total distance. Exploring is how I found my favorite routes and that was something that no map would be able to tell me.
Now I know that there are apps launching soon that will provide routes for safe cycling and there are of course the likes of Mapmyride and Strava already growing their audience. I’m actually a big fan of Strava and I was an early adopter of the Garmin GPS fitness watches almost 8 years ago. But, what I have to say is that I encourage you to go out and leave the GPS map off and instead just go out and explore around your community for new roads or trails to ride. This may sound unsafe to some, but if you have experience riding, you already know what roads would be bike safe or not. I’m a fan of exploring and also leaving some of the technology behind. While you’re at it for your explorer ride, leave the earbud out of your ear and just listen to you, your bike and your surroundings. You may just re-inspire yourself to ride that much more.