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.