I have started to ride my bike everywhere and love it. Gets me “to and from” faster and a great way to commute (as long as you look out for cars and pedestrians – more on the latter on another post). I was telling a friend about it and he asked me how long my ride was. I had no idea but I knew it was not terribly long.
So I decided to download an app that records my performance including distance, time, etc. It is quite impressive but I have not bothered tinkering with it as I did not really want to quantify this part of my life. Registering through one of the social media apps, I quickly found myself linked to plenty of friends who use this fitness app. I could see their profiles, performance metrics, locations, everything. Technology can be truly amazing.
The next morning, I went on my first quantified ride. I got fairly organised, went outside, pressed “Record Activity” and was about to take off when I realised that I forgot something. A good 5 minutes later, I started pedalling and it was a glorious, albeit chilly morning, perfect for riding. When I got to work, embarked on my routine of locking up the bike, taking all my gear off and then I remembered to “Stop Recording” and save my activity. My ride was a little bit over 4 kilometres and it took me over 30 minutes to complete. Mind you, I probably rode for less than half that time, with all my fluffing around.
Within 60 seconds, my phone started pinging with all these notifications from app friends, giving me kudos for my ride. I was not expecting this but more to the point, I was very embarrassed about it. My quantified ride was, in my opinion, woeful. We are talking about 6 minutes per kilometre!
Yes, I know the bulk of this time had to do with how long it took me to press “Record” and “Stop” but surely my app friends didn’t know that. For all I know they were probably thinking I was a terrible rider, totally unfit and just not good enough. Part of me was mortified. Maybe it was an ego thing but I felt compelled to reach out to each of them and explain why it had taken me so long to cover such a short distance. I did not do this of course.
During the day, I kept on thinking about it and I even told the story to one of my colleagues. I wanted to gauge whether I was being ridiculous or had a justifiable reason to worry. He laughed, I don’t know if with me or at me.
For the rest of the afternoon, I planned my ride home. How I would organise myself, when I would press “Record” and how “Stop” would be the first thing I would do the second I got home. I had to beat that time.
That evening, I got on my bike and gunned it home. I pedalled faster and with the benefit of less traffic and pedestrians around, it was a much quicker ride home. I quickly pressed “Stop” and saved my results. Similar distance, a bit over 18 minutes. A tremendous improvement, not necessarily on my riding but on preparation.
Ping, ping, ping, ping. Kudos all around. I was relieved. This was more like it. I was back!
As I jumped in the shower, I thought about this. I did not really enjoy this ride as much. It was great because it was fast but it felt like a complete chore. I failed to notice anything during my ride. It was now just a task.
What for? It wasn’t that I cared about those little pings representing kudos, it was that I cared about what my app friends would now think of me. “Phew, he is not that crap after all.”
Was my ego really that big? Or was it the combination of quantifying myself and seeking external validation that sealed the deal? I mean, before this app, I did not even know this was something I had to care about, let alone think about. How much of our lives do we miss out on because of this?
I still have the app on my phone (I forgot to cancel my free trial and now I am subscribed for a year). Occasionally, I will record my rides, often I forget or choose not to. I have learned to be slower at pressing “Record” and faster at pressing “Stop“. I still get kudos but have turned off the accompanying pings.
Have I told you how much I love riding my bike?