I’ve always liked gadgets. My mother laughs at me as she thinks I have a gadget for everything. This isn’t quite true, but I do like new toys, especially ones that then generate pretty pictures. Most people would then think of a camera, but I’m actually talking about my Garmin. I’ve had it for a while now. We have had a fairly good relationship – it beeps and wobbles every km and tells me that I really am running/cycling that slowly and then I can plug it into my computer and see all sorts of other graphs and so on. It’s fun. It feels like it validates my training when I can see the places I have gone, or look at my elevation profile and decide that actually yes, that really was an unpleasant hill and so the fact that my heart rate has spiked and my speed has troughed is perfectly OK.
Anyway, I recently discovered a new function on my Garmin. Now, I should point out that this isn’t actually a new function. It has always been there, I just didn’t know about it – and that is courses. In the comfort of your home you can plot a route, check the elevation and distance and then send it to your device and then bingo, you can navigate for miles and miles without needing to consult a pesky map. I should point out at this point that I do actually really rather like maps, and in some ways the fact that I hardly ever use one now does actually upset me. Even though my car has an inbuilt sat nav system I still have a road atlas and an A to Z in the car. Haven’t ever opened either of them but I like the fact they are there. I can also read maps, proper maps too – OS ones and everything so I could do all this the ‘traditional’ way. It’s just that I would need to stuff about 6 OS maps in my pocket for a long ride (where you need to go is ALWAYS on the gap between two maps, that is the rule in life) and that isn’t entirely practical.
I digress. My lovely friends Zoe and Gareth with whom I had so many exciting adventures in Malaysia have set off on a super exciting adventure of their own to cycle from Lands End to John O Groats. I asked if I could join them for a bit of it but time resulted in my only being able to do part of one leg. We decided I would drive 2/3 of the way along their route and then trace it back until I found them and then cycle with them back to my car. Simples. Gareth shared his route with me on Garmin, I reversed it and sent it to my watch. So far, so simple. As I wanted to spend as much time cycling with them as possible as I figured that would be more fun than ploughing along on my own I decided to try and make a slightly shorter route through the first bit so that I could meet them more quickly. I did that and sent that to my watch too. Simples.
Except it never is that simple is it? Firstly I had managed to route myself onto a dual carriageway flyover which obviously I didn’t much fancy cycling along. At that point I was quite calm and just followed my little dot and tried to keep it as close to the line as possible (my garmin is very unfancy and does not have maps in it, I follow a grain of sand along a line). This was working fairly well, I was going in roughly the right direction and I was keeping my grain of sand fairly near my line, but then I hit the middle of Coventry and my Garmin got very confused by all the buildings and so the screen went blank. This wasn’t overly helpful it has to be said. At this point I decided to ditch my clearly hopeless route and try and get myself onto Gareth’s which I did, just about manage to do with only a small amount of cycling along a very big and very not supposed to enormous road. Once I got onto G’s route things improved rather (until a brain malfunction rather than a route malfunction took me off to Leamington Spa – a lovely diversion but not entirely necessary!).
Where I was supposed to ride:
Where I actually rode:
Despite my inability to use my gadgets correctly, and the frustration caused by the screen black outs I did eventually manage to locate Zoe and Gareth and join them on the return journey. I was mildly relieved that as we returned through coventry again G’s much more sophisticated device also got confused and found it hard to find the way. Fortunately with a combination of his GPS, my Garmin and googlemaps on my phone we managed to find out way again. It was a lovely day riding and I felt very happy that I had been able to have a small part in their LeJoG adventure. It has certainly made me start to think about whether that is something that I could do one day…
Inspired by the relative success of the courses function I decided to take my cycling around home further afield and plotted some good routes. The first went well until my Garmin ran out of juice (fortunately I knew where I was) the second was a total disaster as the route just stopped about 5km in and I couldn’t get it back. This just meant that my friend Charlie and I did a freestyle ride, making a decision at every junction with a vague map in my head. It was fun, it was also quite long!
So, do I like the ‘courses’ function? Yes I do. Will I always make sure I have some sort of a back up for if I don’t know the area. Yes I will!