Next week I’m heading off for a break in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales for a week’s mountain biking with a good friend of mine. It’ll be nice to ‘get away from it all and recharge the batteries’ – or will it? Have we become so reliant on technology now that thinking about just where you’ll recharge your batteries is a thought constantly at the back of your mind?

We’ll be taking along an array of technology – laptop loaded with route planning software, navigation GPS and training GPS for starters. I’m not a gadget fan; in fact my definition of a gadget is something that does something that isn’t actually useful. Just like with a lot of internet technology I don’t like the veneer of ‘look at what this can do’ – I want it to deliver results. So I’d classify all the above bits of kit as tools – they genuinely add pleasure to a trip.

  1. Laptop loaded with Tracklogs software.
    Route planning can be fun, but planning a whole week’s off road cycle routes can take a lot of time. This best of breed software (which would be better if it didn’t crash on an irregular basis) helps you seek out good routes, keeping an eye on Naismith’s calculation to ensure your carefully planned route to the Back Sheep Brewery over 30 miles of mixed terrain isn’t going to take longer than a day just to get there!
  2. Navigation GPS.
    OK, I have a love hate relationship with my Garmin eTrex. I hate it: it was designed by people who don’t use it. The menus are in the wrong place, the interface is random, the screen is hard to read (why pick yellow as a background colour for maps – white would give the best contrast – what were they thinking?!!!) etc. Like a lot of web design interfaces, nobody has thought about the user – and given the chance I’d replace it with a better designed product at the drop of a hat. But I love what it does for me: instead of having to stop at every junction, get out a map, check it, put it away and then head off again you can just keep an eye on this tool and keep on going.
  3. Training GPS.
    This is everything the Garmin eTrex isn’t: it was designed by somebody who uses it – with a passion. Which is bizarre given that the Edge is also produced by Garmin! Useful as a backup and for storing the actual ride for future reference and – most importantly – keeping an eye on your vital stats: heart rate, cadence etc. Gimmick? Gadget? Well, no actually – when going for endurance this tool is great to help you keep within your limits and help keep you riding all day long!

So, all this technology CAN help add to the enjoyment of ‘getting away from it all’, but I’ll be taking along paper maps… just in case.