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More tech good: less tech good too!
25 September 2015

I cranked out the fifth fastest time over the Virtually On Track Onepu challenge last week.

The same day, on a slippery wet course, Teunis Schoneveld set the fastest time to date.

In various segments of the ride I managed to be well outside the top 20.

I know all this thanks to Strava, which also happily showed me a map of my route and told me how many metres I climbed, what my average speed was and a whole heap of other things.

It also told a whole bunch of other people, most of whom I’ve never met in real life.

So, even though I didn’t see anyone else while I was there, in many ways it is very similar to the same ride as part of a group or during an event.

If I’d taken a Go-Pro camera and loaded up the footage, the ability to share it would have been even greater.

 If Teunis had filmed his lap I would be able to visualise how fast I have to go to set fastest time and, as we all know, visualising being able to do something makes it much more likely you will achieve it.

Well, maybe.

In my case it would probably include some un-visualised crashes as well.

Nonetheless, using Strava has given me a pretty cheap (free download) supplement and a richer ride experience.

I can also use it to make my own mark on the world with my trail plotted as part of the “where it’s hot, where it’s not” global heatmap – and I’m even contributing to building better maps with riders’ and runners’ actual course plots being used to correct roads drawn using older datasets.

It’s the sort of powerful recreation technology and sharing that Virtually On Track was set up to promote.

But we’re not about saying all technology makes the outdoor experience better, and in some cases it can make the experience a whole lot worse.

Recent rescues of people who are lost in bush shows that Global Position Satellite (GPS) functions on cellphones simply aren’t good enough to rely on as tools for backcountry navigation.

And they don’t work very well as an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) either.

Yet some people expect the cellphone will do both things and get them out a sticky situation if need be.

More alarmingly, research shows that having that sort of expectation allows people to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take – sometimes fatally.

Even in some of our Virtually On Track gems we have places, the backcountry of the Opotiki and Motu Gem for example, that require proper preparation and skills to ensure your safety.

By all means take the Android, snap pics, shoot video, Strava against your mates; but do the basics as well and pack it alongside the first aid kit, a waterproof jacket and some thermals.

Finally, tell a mate where you are going then share the adventure with them when you get back.

This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

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