Back in the day is a phrase I find myself increasingly using.
Back in the day, I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was 18. Back in the day, the internet made funny noises when it connected. Back in the day, I had to use a bike computer to measure how fast I was going.
Now, I just attach my iPhone to my handlebars and start pedalling.
I’m a “smartphone enhanced cyclist” and I’m sure they’ll be people reading this thinking “me too!”
Whether it’s competing via Strava, discovering a better route to work through BikeHub or repairing your bike using Bike Doctor.
Back in the day, 2009, August 16th, to be exact, my girlfriend at the time was visiting me from France. By this point I’d convinced her of the joys of cycling. She suggested cycling from London to Brighton for my birthday.
We set off with a rough plan:
Our excitement matched that of a young explorer, eager to discover the world. I swear I could already smell the sea breeze in the first mile.
As the pedals kept turning, our camaraderie was soon failing us, as was my memory of the route.
After a particularly tough hill, we settled down on a patch of grass next to an A road. Munching through our meagre supplies, we needed help.
Who should we ask? Everyone around was shielded inside their car and travelling at speed. Even if they did stop, I doubt they would know a great cycle route to Brighton.
It was time for the smartphone to come to the rescue.
I found a great route inside the Everytrail app. The route avoided the busiest roads and made it clear that we were about half way there.
Armed with our new found knowledge, we found our strength once more and we set off. The rest of the route was pleasant, and my iPhone made it easy to see where we were going.
While the smartphone can’t pedal for you when you reach a tough hill, or after you’ve had a big pub meal and you don’t feel like moving, for us, it made the difference between turning around or continuing on.
Does it kill some of the old romance of cycling and getting lost?
Perhaps, however, I’m sure Christopher Columbus wouldn’t have turned down an iPhone.
We reached Brighton tired, but filled with that fleeting feeling of achievement. Having travelled the distance, under our own steam, made us feel like we’d done something useful with our day. The fact that I remember that day so well, is a testament to the the humble bicycle and indeed the smartphone that played its role.
The Carphone Warehouse is currently running a campaign looking for inspirational ways people use their smartphones. You can enter on their website or hear about how a smartphone is helping a marathon runner who is blind.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.