Despite having legs that lacked any energy at all and a stomach that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to either eat or reject everything, I spent Sunday afternoon in a pretty contented state on the sofa. If you follow my twitter feed (it’s just over there to the right), you will of course already know the reason for this but if you are one of the handful of people I have not yet found the time to gloat to, I can explain. I’m very pleased with the time I got in my time trial on Sunday. Sure I came in 45th place but what you must remember is that every single rider who finished faster than me was riding a proper time trial bike and had a disk rear wheel and a pointy helmet*. I, in contrast, had just my normal road bike with some clip-on TT bars. And an ERC skinsuit. Oh alright, and some lycra shoe covers that I bought for $25 as I was registering. Where was I? Oh yes, without a shadow of doubt, everyone who finished ahead of me probably had better equipment. So basically, in my head, I won.

*This is completely untrue. I have no way of knowing what equipment everyone was using.

However, not only did I win* but it was the fastest speed I’ve done in a time trial over any distance. I’m sure you can see now why I spent Sunday afternoon on the sofa mainly looking back at the results page to see whether my time hadn’t somehow improved since the last time I looked. Alas, it seemed to never change so I uploaded my ride’s gps data to STRAVA, where commuters go to race.

*In my head. I even came 77th on age-standardised times.

If you don’t know about STRAVA, you’ve been blissfully ignorant and so I take only a little pleasure in bursting your bubble. Strava (sorry I can’t handle the all caps any more) is the Facebook of cycling. I have to admit, it’s actually quite a nice idea that takes advantage of the increasing popularity of GPS cycling computers. You can upload your rides to Strava and your friends who are also Strava members can see where you’ve been much more easily than other sites such as Garmin connect. It also has the feature that you can mark two points on a map, call it a segment and then anyone who rides between these two points can compare how fast they rode against everyone else who has ever ridden between those two points. This is pretty handy, as I’m sure every town has certain stretches of road where people go to set a benchmark that they can compare themselves against later. An example in Perth is Canning Mills Road. I chose this section completely at random and not at all because I am ranked fifth (not bad for a chubby guy, eh?)

Here's that climb.

and here's the leaderboard. See how I'm too casual to even bother with a heart rate monitor?

So far this all seems like a pretty reasonable idea, doesn’t it? We may deny it but we’re all a bit competitive and it’s always nice to see how you are going. However, we should not forget that competition is the father of stupidity and people are obviously going to do very silly things in order to feel they have won something. Take this segment for example:

Yes, it’s a bridge over a train line. It’s U-shaped so in true Perth naming fashion, it is known as the Horseshoe Bridge. You ride over it to get into town. It’s not a sprint point, it’s not a challenge. It’s a 200m stretch of road between two sets of traffic lights. I cannot think of a single reason why anyone would want to compare their speed over this bridge to anyone else’s. Of course, I have ridden over this bridge many times so even though I have no desire to be on a ranked list of people who have crossed this bridge, I am. For all I know, there may be people who look at this segment and say: “Look at that Bruce Rollerson. He thinks he’s so great but he’s only ranked 29th on the Horseshoe Bridge”. And one of those people might be Blog o’ Rollo’s very own Uncle Jason. He’s ranked third.

I might get up early on Sunday and try to beat him.

But not only can Strava be pointless, it can also become dangerous. Commuting to work is bad enough with the number of people who will sit on your wheel and then sprint past you at the lights for an imaginary win or others who feel there is no inappropriate place to overtake on the cycle path. Strava can only compound this reckless cycling by encouraging everyone to be going for a personal best all the time. Take, for example, the stretch between the Causeway and the Narrows Bridge. It’s a mix of shared use paths, bicycle-only paths, crossings and road. It goes through barbecue and picnic areas where there are often children (and sometimes drunks) who will cross the path without looking. The sort of people who get the top time on sections like this are not winners at all. In fact, I encourage everyone to undermine them by cheating. I say find all the stupid sections and do them in your car with the gps turned on. And make sure you beat the top speed by a lot, not a little. That way the guy who is now in second place knows you’ve cheated him but there’s nothing he can do about it. I’ve cheated on climbs by saying my weight is 120kg so when it calculates power, it says I’m generating some ridiculous wattage. In fact, I think the guy who is in second place on the Horseshoe Bridge has done the same thing – look at the power he’s churning out over that bridge. I’m even thinking of learning how to edit a gps file so I can speed things up. If you want to join in the fun, you can use this code to get three months of premium membership: SubaruMJC2012. At least it was still working a few days ago.

On the other hand, if you want a true comparison of how good you are without the suspicion of drafting someone else or bowling over a few pedestrians on the way, you could always enter a time trial. Did I mention I did one last Sunday? In my 40th year, I averaged 40kph over 40km and later in the day the temperature got to 40C but I was already on the sofa for that part.


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