October 20th, 2011

Is cycling pulling you away from your computer?

If so, have you considered cycling in cyber space? The dude there in the middle, in blue: he's my bicycling avatar. I haven't yet bothered to choose him a more tasteful jersey, though that option exists. In the darkness of my front room each evening, I have been exploring virtual reality models of islands, designed purely for sports riding pleasure. I can leave the virtual road, ride through virtual buildings, race artificial intelligence competitors, ride on the right to pretend I'm in Europe, ride on the left to pretend I'm still at home (if I need to pretend), all safe in the knowledge that these virtual roads, have no virtual cars. The worst that can happen, is crashing into the stencils of trees marking the extent of the model, and realizing I'm inside some kind of Truman Show. As well as riding VR mode, I have been watching footage shot from the front of a car driving over the Alps, that reels toward me at a rate proportionate to the effort I put in. The resistance in the roller is calculated by the nano-second, to fool me into thinking a person of my weight, is actually riding over whatever I'm seeing on my screen, be that filmed or derived from a VR model.

I'm also one of 46,000 registered tacx users, all paying an annual license fee (that's almost as hefty as a real-world license to race), to have real time races in these virtual worlds. If you're reeling, I'm reeling more. I'm the bunny who has unwittingly stepped into this bizarre virtual world of hard-core race training, without the prospect of injury.

The timing couldn't be more ironic. The day before my tacx system arrived, I had undertaken a straw poll of people following @BehoovingMoving on twitter. I asked people to say in one tweet, what cycling means to them personally. More than half said cycling stimulates their senses, by putting them back in touch with their environment. Cycling, to my twitter followers, is an antidote to all the time they spend at their computers, following @BehoovingMoving on twitter for instance, or reading my attempts to make sense of the wide world of cycling, and now, a virtual world of cycling as well.

But I'm seeing more than just stimulation for my heart and my hamstrings, coming from this. A decade ago, architects were talking of practicing their art in virtual worlds, or at least using cyber space to test some ideas. Do let me know if you are adept at building VR terrains. It would be nice to build a cycle-space city, then use the tacx system to ride it.

I've gone commercial!

As soon as I figure out how to upload a gif to my sidebar, I'll be advertising for Brompton. And as soon as all my readers (566 yesterday, can you believe it!) click on their banner, to let Brompton know traffic is coming to them via me, well then I'll be sitting in their boardroom (or them in mine) holding out for a cool million per year, to endorse their fine product in perpetuity. Not that I don't endorse their bikes now. Hell, I own one, that has survived baggage handling in Naples. Plus their bike made my list of 5 bikes of importancce to architects, way back when the thought of being a highly paid pro Brompton blogger was merely twinkle, somewhere in my subconscious.