Even now, as I type, as you read, my Garmin Virtual Partner™ is out there crushing climbs and breaking hearts. S/he never stops, does not bonk, doesn’t flat, couldn’t care less if fellow riders are tired and need a wheel to hang on. Like Robocop or the Terminator, my Garmin Virtual Partner™ takes no shit and gives no fucks.
I don’t recall the first time my entry-level Garmin unit played its sad, digital song and alerted me to my inadequacy as a cyclist. Like you, I had always suspected I wasn’t good enough, but that moment of confirmation really hit home. I’m sure it would have stuck with me longer if it hadn’t been followed by the same, on repeat, for years on end, a constant, quirky reminder that I suck.
Sometimes my Garmin Virtual Partner™ finishes a full hour or more before I do. And then I think, “If you were worth a shit, you’d mow the lawn now, so I don’t have to do it when I get home, shattered and useless from trying to keep up with these common mortals I’m with now.”
I wonder, too, if my Garmin Virtual Partner™ isn’t also the Garmin Virtual Partner™ of other pathetic pedaleurs (made up word). Like, does my GVP finish ruining my self esteem and then promptly head back out onto the digital road to break someone else’s heart? Is my GVP crushing me on East Coast time, and then doling out an ego beating to someone just getting out of bed in Singapore?
The Garmin Virtual Partner™ offers us a real red pill/blue pill moment on the bike, a reckoning with the truth. Sure, I could shut of the GVP through some arcane machinations, such is the configurability of the early Garmin unit, but that would mean I’d reached into Morpheus’ palm and taken the blue pill, the story of my weakness coming to an end rather than opting for the red and a dystopian future where I get to learn Kung Fu and battle space aliens.
I think you and I both know that I am not the One. You probably always knew, but were too nice to say. My Garmin Virtual Partner™ stepped in and broke the bad news, and for that I am grateful. Where I grew up, you are cautioned not to get above your raisin. I was definitely trying to get there, what with all the pedaling and suffering and trying real hard. I was trying to be one of those rouleurs, a hard man of the leotards and tap shoes, if you will. My Garmin Virtual Partner™ put me back on track. “Save yourself for the keyboard,” s/he said. “The bike, for you, is just a folly, a bit of sweaty whimsy.”
Of course, my tiny Garmin unit does not speak, does not croak out digitized speech approximations, but I hear it. Oh, I hear it. Sometimes I wonder if my Garmin Virtual Partner™ isn’t really just a part of me, my “better angel” or “superego,” and if I keep chasing, if one day I can bend myself against the bars, straining against gravity’s cruel embrace, I can get free of this Matrix I’m living in, the one where I’m a schlub, but my kids love me and the lawn still needs to be mowed.
I’m so glad someone wrote this. Thank you.
I owe you a beer for this article. This is yet one more widget that not only we don’t need, but which makes our lives miserable. Slave to a friggin’ virtual rider. At least it isn’t a virtual partner saying “you came too soon and I didn’t”
“At least it isn’t a virtual partner saying “you came too soon and I didn’t” – I think this wins the internet for today!!! LOL!!!
I like my Wahoo, but don’t fret too much about what it’s telling me. I just ride to have fun and occasionally I’ll get in decent enough shape to hold my own with the fast bunch, but I’m not too concerned with that. I just like to be outside, getting a mental health break!
Khal, that’s some bright side thinking right there.
Virtual partner = Tamagotchi
Garmin Tamagotchi, you take care of it for 8 months, riding with it, cleaning its virtual chain.
Then a software update kills it.
Poor Tamagotchi, killed by the evil Garmin Software Interns.
“…straining against gravity’s cruel embrace…” Yup. I too would be quite happy to buy a beer for you if we were ever to meet. In the meantime, I’ll go ahead on my own. Thanks for all your writing through the years.
Great piece! Virtual partners are by definition more virtuous than we are, so we’re doomed from the start. But virtue is not everything. We have sloth and envy, too. Not to mention greed.