Over a Beer: If a Ride Isn’t Documented, Does it Still Have Value?

Photo: Sergio Barboni
Capturing the ride. Photo: Sergio Barboni

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

Where does the value of a mountain bike ride come from? Exactly what is it that gives the time that we spend out in the woods, pushing on pedals, value in our lives?

I’ve written a few articles on the topic, but as I was finishing up a ride recently, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: I hadn’t taken a single photo on my ride, and as a result it somehow felt like I didn’t really get a ride in.

Largely, this feeling was probably due to my burning desire to constantly share my adventures on social media, particularly my Instagram account, or perhaps a burden of feeling required to do so. But I don’t think I’m alone in this desire. As I continue to mindlessly scroll my Facebook feed day after day and year after year (don’t get me started on how much time that’s consumed seemingly without me knowing), I’ve noticed that many people live their lives as if, if they don’t post their most recent life changes or updates to Facebook–whether it be as trivial as a set of pushups in the morning–then, it didn’t officially happen. As if, doing those push ups had no value unless they posted on Facebook so that their two thousand “friends” knew how badass they were for doing said pushups.

Snow pack is pathetic but the riding is still rad! #mtb season just keeps on giving!

A photo posted by Greg Heil (@mtbgreg) on

Where then does this feeling of value from sharing our lives on social media derive from? It seems to me that it’s from a sense of digital affirmation. We like getting likes. Seeing the positive comments pop up triggers a jolt of feel-good juice in our brains.

Teton Gravity Research recently satirized this phenomenon with the thoroughly-entertaining article, “Bro Questions Self-Worth After Not Getting GoPro Footage,” capturing the absurdity perfectly.

Even if we passively record an activity, like with a GPS unit, and upload it to Strava once we get home, our experience on the mountain bike has still been recorded. Your fellow Strava followers give you Kudos for your ride, you can check out your own loop on the map… and you can feel good about yourself and what you’ve just accomplished.

I love geeking out over my ride maps after the fact. Bonus points: pissing off the Stravaholes because I included all the chairlift rides.

Part of me wants to hate on this type of digital affirmation for doing something that is, most likely, inherently affirming on its own… but I guess I wouldn’t know, because I log my ride every. Single. Time. I always record it in some way shape or form. Even if it’s just typing a line in a spreadsheet the next day, or clicking the “yes I rode here” button on Singletracks, my ride has been recorded, categorized, and analyzed.

That same part of me thinks that I should try an experiment by doing a ride without any photos (that actually happens quite a bit), but also without any Strava, without any GPS, and without even recording it in a spreadsheet afterward.

But then I think to myself, “what exactly is wrong with reflecting on my ride after the fact, and even sharing it with the world on social media?” I’ve found that I love going through my ride data and heatmaps the evening after a long ride, the day after, or weeks and years after that. And as I remember the fun I had out in the woods on my bike, those emotions and warm fuzzies come flooding back all over again.

So could I go out in the woods and have a great ride without recording any sort of memory from it? Sure. Would it still have value? Of course.

But is there something inherently wrong with posting my GPS track to Strava or uploading a photo to Instagram after the fact, as long as I can enjoy the moment even if I forget to capture it? No, and if anything, it helps the joy of the ride to go on and on!

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