Sunday, May 4, 2014

Team Bike Challenge: transportation requirement

Buried in the FAQ of the Team Bike Challenge is the following restriction on trips. There's nothing else in the rules I can find.

What trips count for the competition

The competition is for promoting the use of the bicycle for everyday transportation. As such, the rules state that rides must have a different start and end point, thus training rides where you ride in a loop starting and ending in the same place do not count and stationary bike miles do not count. Bike rides to a store, restaurant, friend's house, or any destination do count.

So how do I interpret this? Basically any ride where a destination has value count. So, would any reasonable person make the same trip by means other than a bicycle or walking or mode which offered no explicit training benefit? If the answer is "yes", then the trip replaces a potential car trip, and it is a transportation trip.

Yesterday Cara and I rode to the top of Mount Diablo from Walnut Creek, then returned to Walnut Creek. I did the ride because I have a race there in a week, and I wanted to preview the climb. Training ride, right?

Well, every time you get on your bike it's "training". It induces specific stress which induces specific adaptations in response. The body doesn't know "why" the activity was undertaken. It's just historical experience that if the body does certain activities, those activities may be important for the continuation of the genome, and so adaptations to those activities are also beneficial.

In this case, we observed the traffic on the Summit Road was particularly heavy. A lot of drivers were out to admire the view from the summit. We also admired the view from the summit. Cara purchased an ice cream from the summit store. This represented commerce, which could be interpreted as a primary utilitarian purpose for the ride, but I view the exchange of currency for a physical good to be a relatively minor detail, almost a red herring. The real value was being present on the summit, which is a spectacular place (less spectacular for the cars, but that is what it is). If we hadn't ridden our bikes, we could have attained a comparable (but much diminished) value by driving there. The fact I personally would never have done so is irrelevant. The trip still replaced a car trip.

Another ride: I went out with co-workers for a lunch ride on Friday. We rode through Los Altos Hills. I ended the ride at the cafeteria, having started from my office a short walk away. I purchased soup there.

First, I did not end this ride where I started: I went to the cafeteria to purchase lunch. But additionally, I rode through the Los Altos Hills. While there, I looked at the houses and thought "would I like to purchase a house here?" The answer was clear: "no, this is suburbia, a broken model which breeds car addiction, congestion, overconsumption of energy and water resources, and squanders precious land." The fact I toured the area to look at the housing prospects was a primary utilitarian purpose. Had I not ridden, I would have had to drive to attain the same value. This trip therefore replaced a car trip, not even considering the fact it was my path to the cafeteria. Plenty of people at work drive to lunch in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or even beyond. I chose to not drive to lunch, instead riding to the cafeteria. So on two grounds, this was a utilitarian ride.

The fact is the vast majority of rides have utility beyond the physical activity itself. That's what makes cycling so great. The standard of utility presented in the FAQ is a stationary trainer. That's an easy standard to meet. Next week is the race up Mount Diablo. Once again I will admire the view from the summit. Once again I will take advantage of the wonderful aspect of cycling that it provides transportation to wonderful places. Once again, this activity will count toward the Team Bike Challenge.

But maybe not every outdoor ride. Yesterday was the Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos, a classic race, one of the best spectator events in local cycling. Would this count? Well, there I'm not so sure, since riders completed lap after lap on the relatively short loop. But I leave that analysis to people who actually raced there.

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