« All blog posts

To Garmin or not to Garmin?

20 December 2013

GPS taking over?

As some of you know, I have joined the Strauss CTC summer tours in France since 2009 and have noticed an interesting trend. On my first tour in June 2009, I don’t recall anyone with a Garmin (or similar GPS device). By 2012, four of us volunteered to help Pat and Mike produce suitable gpx files for the increasing number wanting to have the route in that format, rather than as turn-by-turn directions on paper. Not instead of maps, please note.

This summer in the Auvergne, I guess that a third or more were using a GPS device. To put this trend into proper perspective, bear in mind that the average age of Strauss tourists is certainly well into the 60s. So the recent attraction to these devices has little to do with age, but a lot to do with mindset. Being wedded to the past is a well-documented feature of corporate failure.

Status quo bias

Behavioural psychologists call it the status quo bias. I have recently discovered (in Google, where else?) that there is a simple 30 second test to see whether we have fallen victim to this common failing. I dare you to follow this link and test yourself! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reversal_test.

Why do I mention this? Because the Strauss evidence, anecdotal though it may be, seems to suggest that we cyclists are perhaps not as prone to the status quo disorder as is the general population. Writing for a cycling website, could I come to any other conclusion?

You may have noticed (if you read your October/November of the CTC magazine Cycle as closely as I did) that CTC’s technical expert, Chris Juden, will be reviewing Garmin’s latest offering – Garmin Edge Touring – in the next issue of our bi-monthly magazine.

Having bought a Touring myself a few weeks ago, I phoned him to compare notes. The jury is still out, but if it does what it claims – and that would be a first for Garmin – this new incarnation might just be what many tourists are looking for. On the other hand, a cautionary note: the Touring I bought a couple of weeks ago proved to be faulty and was returned for a replacement, which arrived today. First impressions are not entirely convincing, but I have written direct to Garmin support and will be testing the device over the next few weeks.

How do touring cyclists differ from racers?

I found this amusing explanation (which I have taken the liberty to edit) in the FAQ section of Sheffield’s CTC website.

Question: What is this ‘chain gang’ you keep referring to?

Answer: Riders in a chain gang ride as fast and as close to each other as they can. The one at the front has to work the hardest because of wind resistance, so when he (or she!) can tolerate the pain no longer, with a flick of the elbow, he invites the next rider to take over and drops to the back for a breather. It is a very effective way of achieving an impressive average speed. However it requires massive concentration and discipline. After a while, riders in a chain gang lose the power of speech and their eyeballs bulge. They become acutely conscious of who is not taking their turn at the front and resentment begins to smoulder. When the injustice of it is too much to bear, they wait until this unfortunate is at the back of the group, and then they try to “drop” him by suddenly accelerating. And once a gap is created, it’s goodbye and good riddance. By keeping close to the back wheel of the rider in front, you can save a lot of energy, but eventually and inevitably wheels will make contact and everyone ends up on the floor with ‘road rash’ which they show off in the café at the end of the ride. But that’s not what we tourists do. We ride in a group and talk to each other, usually about what we are going to eat next time we stop.