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Digital Subscriptions > Singletrack > 126 > The Quiet Revolution

The Quiet Revolution

A safety and navigation essential for longdistance riding? Or another bleeping digital crutch for those who shouldn’t be in the wilderness in the first place? Rich Rothwell looks at the dramatic influence that GPS units have had on our sport.

The morning was getting hotter. I’d set off before dawn from the coast to gain as much height as possible before the Greek sun became too vicious. My legs were scratched from the sharp grasses and thorns that carpeted the dry scree slopes. I was playing my favourite holiday game. Visit a Greek island and find the highest points on the map (Greece seems to specialise in steep, rocky mountains that rear improbably out of the sparkling blue sea). Keep assaulting the peak until I find a way up through the mazes of crumbling olive groves, scree slopes, and in this case, scrubby plants and ancient gnarled trees.

This was Crete and I was trying to reach the summit of Spathi (2,148m). From my experience of living and working on the Greek mainland, I knew that accurate maps were hard to come by, and incredibly accurate OS mapping is not a universal luxury. So I’d set off armed with my wits.

The vegetation was grabbing my bike and my legs. the slope was getting precariously steep. Dragging the bike upwards was becoming increasingly unnerving. the sun was beating down hard now. Sweat crept into and stung the scratches on my ankles. Loose stones skittled down the slope as my feet sunk into the dry, unstable ground. I was falling into the Incident Pit and I knew it. Pressing on was painstakingly slow and, now in a gully, my sense of direction was lost. Looking back down, well, it didn’t look very appealing; the valley floor was 1,000m below and I felt that I could throw a stone down to it.

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About Singletrack

Editorial: There Is No Right Or Wrong. Choose a bike, any bike, and enjoy it. International Adventure: Panning For Trail Gold In Arizona. Huw Oliver finds gold in the ghost towns of Arizona. Classic Ride: Don’t Mynd If I Do. Tom Hutton rides the Long Mynd in search of forgotten corners and new trails. Behind the Scenes: Colour Wheels. Sim Mainey finds out how the next bike fashions are decided. UK Adventure: Cornish Fasties Barney Marsh goes to the edge of the UK and finds a world of overlooked trails. UK Adventure: How To Lose Friends And Alienate People. Sanny reduces the nicest man in mountain biking to rude words. Hope’s Helping Hand. Chipps checks out a bit of innovative thinking from Hope Technology. Bike Test: Overlooked Awesome. Daz Hall checks out three smaller wheeled, shorter travel bikes that you probably should be riding, from Bird, Cotic and Santa Cruz. Column: Jason steps out of his comfort zone. Pete’s Pros: Rock[et] Science Manon Carpenter may not be racing much, but Pete Scullion finds she’s still aiming high. A Day In The Life: Fort William Saskia Dugon goes behind the scenes at this noisiest of World Cup races. MTB Culture: The Quiet Revolution Rich Rothwell argues that GPS technology has opened up a whole new world of mountain biking joy. Last Word Hannah gets to ride somewhere she thought might only be a far-flung fantasy.