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Life Lessons from the Trails #12: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

My e-mountain bike has made it easier for me to get to and from a lot of places that are physically demanding. It helps that I have the skills to tackle those trails though.

The wonders of technology, if you think about it, are pretty amazing. For those of us that are perhaps a bit older, watching the transformation of the world of innovation marching forward has been amazing. I mean, the first computer I ever used had a memory capacity of 1 kilobyte and needed a cassette tape to record information.

In the mountain biking world, advancements in technology in my lifetime alone has led to progression in so many areas. Gears, brakes, suspension, design, frame materials and so much more. And nowhere is that progression more evident than on the modern day e-mountain bike, an invention that continues to develop in leaps and bounds.

E-mountain bikes have become a great way for people to get out and enjoy riding on the trails. In the busyness of the modern age it can be a challenge for a lot of people to build up and maintain a fitness level that makes riding an analogue (non-powered) mountain bike safe and enjoyable. And if you're able to make an investment in a reasonably well specified dual suspension e-mountain bike, you can find yourself with a machine capable of taking you to places that you'd only dreamed about riding.

And that is potentially a problem.

Kerry's new e-mountain bike. Even though she's been riding for several years we still took her first ride out on it fairly easy so she could get use to its increased power and different handling traits.

I recently happened to be having a random conversation with Marcus, the manager of 99 Bikes at Burleigh, while picking up Kerry's new e-mountain bike. He told me of a potential customer who had taken the same model e-mountain bike that Kerry's new bike is for a test ride and was so impressed by it that he was strongly considering purchasing one. He was new to mountain biking though and before he committed himself to a significant purchase, he wanted to know how the Merida eOne Sixty 700 compared to other e-mountain bikes.

It was during the testing of another e-mountain bike that the potential customer changed his mind. But not because he decided that another bike would be a better purchase. While trying out an alternate e-mountain bike out on the trails, the potential customer ended up breaking his arm. And in that moment, he decided that riding a mountain bike out on the trails was far too dangerous and not for him.

Because as awesome as e-mountain bikes are to help you get out onto the trails, they also expose you to a raft of dangers on a mountain bike that you probably wouldn't have been exposed to on an analogue mountain bike. And the reason is simply because you probably wouldn't have been able to ride those trails without acquiring the skills and fitness to get to said dangers in the first place.

With great power comes great responsibility. Alison is still learning how to handle her e-mountain bike out on the trails but sometimes having more power can increase your chances of a mishap occuring.

In most mountain bike parks, in general the easier trails are closer to the entrance of a mountain bike park. It allows for riders who haven't had a chance to build up their technical skills and riding fitness to access trails that are within their capabilities. Over time, as the confidence, fitness levels, skills and experience of riders improve, they're able to explore the wider trail network, which generally become more challenging as they move further away from the trailhead.

The challenge that the introduction of innovation and technology is the ability of people to attempt things that they are potentially not ready for. An e-mountain bike allows riders to bypass the fitness, and through the experience gained from riding, a base level of skills that would normally be accumulated before attempting trails that are further away from the starting trail head. They give riders the ability to reach more technically difficult trails without building a foundation of off-road riding experience. They also allow riders to reach speeds on the trails that they generally wouldn't be able to reach under their own power.

The combination of these factors means that an e-mountain bike opens up the trails for a lot of people that might not have considered mountain biking previously, but it also has the potential to expose them to significantly greater dangers, situations that have the potential to cause one significant harm. Even more skilled riders can initially be tripped up by the different riding experience e-mountain bike technology introduces. I for one would actually crash more going up hill on an e-mountain bike when I first started riding one - simply because I was going up hill and around corners much faster than trails were designed for.

Slack is our electronic communications medium of choice at my adult job. But whenever I use it, I'm always very mindful of how my messages could be interpreted before I hit send. Others not so much - which is a personal pet peeve.

In life off the trails, while situations tend not to be as physically precarious, the simplification of how to do things through technology can lead to skills and knowledge gaps that have negative impacts in other ways. One of the greatest examples of this I see in business, as an example, is the introduction of communications technologies that have led to a lot of people in business typing messages to each other rather than interacting face to face, or even over the phone.

While on the surface, online applications would seem to be a very efficient and effective way to talk to each other, a lot of communications between people is through non-verbal. Tone that is heard through one's voice, gestures and eye movement, body movements closer to or away from a person are part of the way we as humans have learned to communicate with each other. In the absence of those aspects of human interaction, particularly through electronic media, it is easy to misinterpret the message that someone is attempting to deliver. Additionally, not being face to face or even hearing a person's voice can often lead to unrestrained communications in a debate or discussion, with messages being interpreted (often rightly so).

I'm sure many of us in this day and age have witnessed "keyboard warriors" at their finest, along with the consequences of the interactions that occur to relationships and business culture as a whole. But this doesn't make technology bad, because at the end of the day technology just is. It's in how it is used that makes all the difference as to whether or not technology has a positive or a negative effect. And this is where having the right knowledge, skills and experience can make all of the difference.

Jemma had never ridden off-road before when she purchased her first e-bike. Rather than venturing out on her own, she first did a session to understand what she and her e-bike are capable of. Jemma was smart. Be like Jemma.

On the trails, understanding the risks of mountain biking and having a base level of off-road riding skills will help a rider not only stay while riding an e-mountain biking. It will also help one understand what is actually possible on an e-mountain bike, ultimately helping them to become a better rider.

In the case of electronic communications, having the knowledge and understanding of how we as people best communicate is a key skill to making the most of this medium. Understanding when electronic communications are fine to use, knowing when an exchange should shift to a verbal or face to face interaction is paramount to maintaining healthy working and even personal relationships.

Technology is awesome in what it enables us to do. But its use should always be balanced with an understanding of the potential consequences of what could go wrong. By learning about what you don't know and addressing that gap in knowledge and skills, you'll be able to make the most of the benefits that any technology introduces. Ignore those risks at your own peril.

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