If I tell you that I don’t know my Strava from my Stravinsky, please don’t think poorly of me: I’m doing the best I can.

When not potting in his shed, STEVE SHAPIRO can be found in his natural habitat, penning award-winning poems or pondering the wisdom of the Chosen Gear. This edition of SockTales appeared in July/August 2018.

What brings me to this declaration of ignorance is my perceived reflection of the unmitigated pleasure given to increasing numbers of my younger (they’re all younger) MTB friends who have switched on to the companionship offered by the astonishing technimabob rather than the acclaimed score of The Firebird. I must confess, as with Strava, I am not a Firebird fundi. Both phenomena are a little bit too highbrow for me, but I must own that the app ignorance is more relevant.

My long-standing compadres have left me behind in many areas of riding joy: their email boasting is whipping around cyberspace with virile enthusiasm; so much so that poor old Stravinsky (if he ever had a shout) is slipping further and further to the outer edges of a valued worthiness. His case, is maybe, just for the average, elder and diminishing ranks of hommes de esprit, although reference to the great Russian composer is almost certain to be found on the more current manifestations of the Mickey Mouse telephone, he is unlikely to have his own app.

Giving further rein to my ignorance I have to tell you that my MM ‘phone was bought for R90 at Clicks and, as far as I can make out, it’s only app is a torch – but I don’t know how to turn that on.

However, my friends are starry-eyed Strava fundamentalists and, even in my ignorance, I enjoy the privilege of being able to listen, without the least bit of understanding, to their exuberant devotion, or to read their email records and recollections in the growing language of the new cycling genre.

When a chum drops in to help me further deplete my precious whisky stock, it is worth the perceived loss to hear him mime with hand and body movements, their latest bold attack on a known and once fearful descent of gnarly trails. You can almost see the bike as it is thrown around my garden deck threatening the survival of the beverage beaker, and the sound track matches the described single track. If I know the route being described I am utterly astonished by the near disaster, near mythological velocity as narrated by these cyber warriors. On the trail and in the tale, there is no question of stopping, even pausing to enjoy the landscape: you’ve just got to put foot to become the champion of the world…
or just of your smaller tribal world.

They glow.

Glowing is good but isn’t there something else about the rewards of our collective passion. I am not suggesting slowing down: you don’t ride a mountain bike, up or down, to slow down, but what about stopping occasionally, leaning the beast against a tree and looking down at aworld of colour and texture, or water trickling down a rock face, making milky stipples and striations on a muddy and mossy little pool beside the trail. “No app required” – although I’m thinking of suggesting one to the pioneers of the app industry.
Riding itself is symphonic and, because apparently this is his turf, let’s name the beast Stravinsky. Brag points, kudos and badges will be apportioned on the basis of how many times and for how long you pause to smell the proverbial roses.

Hell, how would you feel to be acclaimed for the longest ever descent of the Boomslang trail in Tokai?

In fairness to the action freaks within my circle, I am obliged to attribute degrees of poetic sensitivity to all of them; they wouldn’t be my friends otherwise, and maybe my reservations are not unrelated to the very real possibility of me being much passed my use-by date. Say, one day, recently, I was minding my own business when the contents of my heroic resolve, along with my declining skill and focus, slipped off the bottom of the charts and I became as useless as an unrefrigerated bottle of last week’s milk.

Ten years ago I would have gone Strava and said to hell with poetry. Perhaps my weakness in this regard is just a matter of adaptation: I know myself well enough to disregard any thoughts of creeping sanity… survival maybe.

“Strava Premium features include suffer scores, power meter data, filtered leader boards, the ability to set goals, and see live where the athlete stands in relation, to King or Queen of the mountain on a single segment.”


But here I am listening to their articulate albeit incomprehensible expression, of sensitivity and enthusiasm. I can share both because most of the time I almost know what they are talking about – okay, the music rather than the words. I’ve ridden too many hard and fast miles not to get caught up in it.

And every now-and-then they’ll even ride with me: telling each other they’re doing recovery rides but for me it’s very real. And afterwards we reminisce: lie a bit and exaggerate. And they drink my whisky.

Being on a bicycle is its own poetry and no matter how fixed you are on technology and technique, you will, out of the otherwise focused corner of an eye, be acquiring some sort of insight into the miracle of nature, the ineffable mystery of creation.

If you write about it or want to talk about it – I’m your man!