Keeping Toll as You Roll?
Having recently installed a new operating system on my mobile phone, I've discovered - only after being told of it by a friend - that it comes with this nifty built-in app which automatically tracks my daily walking milage. So I opened it up and had a glance at my stats. What I learned surprised me: Apparently, I've been walking an average of 7.5 miles a day over the past several days. And since the app can only track milage while the phone is on your person and I keep mine either in my coat or bag, that includes outdoor activity only. Had it also counted footsteps taken indoors, the figure would have been higher. All that considered, I am fairly impressed by the milage. Granted, I am traveling over Thanksgiving weekend and don't have a bike with me, so walking is how I've been getting around. Still we're talking about casual, purpose-driven urban pedestrianism here, not hiking. To rack up 7.5 miles a day on foot in this manner is more than I would have guessed.
This makes me rather curious about my cycling milage. Over the years I have never managed to keep track of it. Most of the serious cyclists I know seem to at the very least have an annual milage figure ready to report should anyone ask, but I honestly have no idea what mine is. Whenever this question is posed to me, I rack my brain - rewinding the year month-by-month and doing some quick math before throwing out a conservative figure. But no sooner does the number escape my lips than I already begin to second guess myself. Isn't that estimate for November a bit optimistic? Oh wait, but I forgot that 300K in May!
And what about utility miles? There are cyclists who count them, and there are those who don't think of them as "cycling" of the sort worth keeping track of at all. But just how often do I make that 2 mile round trip to the nearest shop that I never give a second thought to, not to mention the 14 mile round trips into town? And what of the endless toodling close to home with my camera round my neck? A mile here, two miles there, a kilometer around the farm yard to test the angle of my lights... Individually the trips seem too insignificant to consider. But each rotation of the wheels counts, and it all adds up. If you take the time to add it up, that is.
Ah but that part is easier said than done! While apps can automatically track walking by recognising the distinct bounce of human footsteps, the same degree of automated intelligence is not available (as far as I know) for tracking the roll of a bicycle's wheels. And while there is no shortage of cycling apps, it is up to their user to activate them, and to indicate start/stop times of two wheeled trips - resulting in lapses, omissions and incorrect readings.
I do envy those cyclists who keep journals, charts. The cyclists who diligently move their computer from one bike to another to make sure every single trip is recorded with scientific precision, then download data from those trips as soon as they are done. And sometimes, when the mood strikes me, I picture myself among them, tracking, analysing, keeping toll ...then later, poring over a little hardbound notebook - its corners worn from age and use, its yellowed pages dense with numbers, abbreviations, remarks - as I review my cycling stats from years past, nostalgic smile on my face and caramel-coloured drink in my hand (cut glass tumbler, fireplace, a tasteful apres-ride merino turtleneck, the works...).
Alas, I doubt it will ever happen. Our best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour. And for whatever reason, I am just not the type of cyclist who tracks her milage. If you ask me I will estimate. But judging by my walking estimates, I will probably be off.
"But you ride so much, what a shame not to know!" some have said to me. And, shaking my head at myself, I readily agree. Although there is also something perversely satisfying in that very not knowing. A feeling of having a degree of freedom from it perhaps.