This is rather unusual for me. Regulars would be familiar with my anti-tech stance, but here I found myself having a rather good day out with it.
Ok, so I think it has its place - there are rather nifty solutions on the app market for guidance on unmarked trails, but sometimes it can become too intrusive. After all, we are riding to escape all the screen tripe aren't we?
Today, I am off on a mid-week pedal in the Surrey Hills. This place is littered with great riding, if you know where to find it. Until now that is - I have been drooling over an annotated map courtesy of Pinkbike's Trailforks app - the place is littered with colour coded lines, complete with trail names. This is ideal for someone like myself who isn't that familiar with the area.
Some of the trail names I know, and pretty quickly I have an itinerary of what I hope to hit that day.
On leaving the carpark I am presented with an issue: no network coverage. Fortunately I have an rough idea which direction to point the bike, so start to climb into the hills. Eventually I gain a few bars of signal and am able to locate myself on the map. Back in the game.
Most of the time the locating pin works, but there were a few times where it didn't update and needed several refreshes. On occasions it would locate you in a absurd place miles away. But common sense would suggest this wasn't correct and a few refreshes and we were away again.
A couple of trails looked like they connect up nicely, the second of which was proving to be a slog. After the first few corners, something tells me I am riding it backwards! If you select a specific trail on map, it tells you the direction and gradient. Lesson learned.
Not all the trails are listed on the app, just the more officially established ones. On that subject, I came across a note about the creation of unofficial trails from the land owners - a little worrying, considering the recent closures on neighbouring Winterfold Hill. Please people, leave it to the official volunteer group to do the sculpting.
I am sure you could have a great day riding without such an app here - there are always other riders about to share tips and session trails with (even on a sodden day like the one I chose) - but I really found Trailforks an excellent resource for locating the trails I wanted to ride, and managed to cram a lot of them in before sundown.
Am I a convert to trail tech? No, not completely, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely either, as today proved it does have its place. Just like with many things, it is healthy, so long as it is used in moderation.