Cycling ABQ Wandrer-Style

Bicycling is a world-wide hobby that for some is a means of getting to work, grocery store, pretty much anywhere, and for some a hobby that involves quite a few days coming across the bike in the garage and thinking “I should really get on that bike one of these days.”

Maybe you got your bike out on this 62 degree February Sunday, whether to work, grocery story, or a bit of the Bosque Path. It was a good day for it. Truth is, there are no bad bike days. There are no bad bike rides. Arguable “truths” perhaps, but let’s start with these statements as solid gold facts as we dive a bit into, well, this:

The map above depicts in blue all the Alburquerque area roads/paths your humble blogger has ridden since March 2017, when I went from the old-timey bike computer with the magnet on the front wheel to one with GPS capability. Actually the map and the blue extend beyond the area shown above, but you get the idea. I don’t bring this up to brag or lord it over any of you folks who come across that bike every once in a while. It’s just what I and a few other bike riders do, a few here in town and others world-wide.

That’s a lot of streets/paths in blue, but if you squint you can make out many, many roads I haven’t ridden. And I know for a fact both what percentage of roads I haven’t ridden since March 2017 (62.43%) and that I am not currently holder of the “record,” if such existed, for highest percentage of ABQ roads ridden. I also know that such a record does indeed exist (well, sorta) and the username of that current record holder. I keep writing “current” because I plan, often, to usurp ASAP the record holder’s position

Here’s a website called Wandrer (Yes, there’s an e missing). Maybe the better term for it is “app,” but I am too old to really understand modern usage of the term “app.” So let’s call it a website. This website takes bike rides uploaded to Strava and automatically (which means I have no idea how) locates and adds up the miles of new roads/paths you haven’t ridden with that GPS-capable bike computer (or smart watch, whatever).

Full disclosure, I think Wandrer costs money, but the amount is very small ($30 a year, but is there a free version..I don’t remember) and the website/app is run by a very small organization with (as the “About Wandrer” page explains): “Wandrer started out of Concrete Jungle , an Atlanta non-profit that picks fruit from around the city and donates it to local homeless shelters and food banks.” I actually just learned this fact about Wandrer myself, and I was already cool with giving them $30 a year, but now I’m far more cool with it.

So why pay $30 a year (on top of a Strava subscription) to have some folks in Atlanta tell you where you’ve been, and haven’t been, and put that into stats that, for instance, tell me that I covered .0935% of Albuquerque in a ride I took this past Thursday morning? Yeah, the stats really do go to the fourth decimal point. Of a percentage.

In terms of answering this “Why” question, at this point, I’m guessing some/most folks who made it this far into the blog post might understand why somebody would pay $30 a year for Wandrer. Still, I’m guessing there are a few who made this far (and thanks for reading!) who are saying “Uh…no, I do not understand for the life of me why somebody would to know this stuff, even if it were free, and aren’t many of those roads in blue in the map above dangerous to ride on?”

Both of these reactions are perfectably understandable, and I’ll be brief with the answer to the “why” question. Hmm…now I’m finding it hard to be brief in answering this question. Instead let’s go to the Wandrer folks themselves on the About page of their website/app.

“Wandrer is meant to encourage you to take a small action against going where you’d normally go. There are many places out there worth seeing for their own sake. To find new parks, to see how your neighbors live, to eat at new restaurants, and to be some place new and unfamiliar in your own city.”

Yeah, that will do nicely. Thank you, Wandrer people.

Taking one of the points above, “…see how your neighbors live,” I’d say that’s the #1 reason for me. Me and my riding buddy John, with whom I’ve done many of the rather wackier examples of blue depicted in the map above, have such a heightened understanding of so many nooks and crannies scattered through this amazing town of ours. So varied and yet so Albuquerque. Yes, some of those nooks and crannies include dogs (especially in my South Valley), and a few of those nooks and crannie include housing architecture that truly curls one’s aesthetic hair.

But you learn and see so much about neighbors biking by at about 7 miles per hour. If you drove by people’s houses, especially homes at the end of certain West Side cul-de-sacs, at 7 mph this might be problematic. But the bike has magic properties. People just wave, say hello. Somebody just yesterday living on a short sidestreet along 2nd SW south of Rio Bravo (one of the more dog-intensive rides one can take in our fair city/county), got my attention as I rode up and then back down their dead-end street at 7 mph to tell me that the next road down 2nd went all the way to the River.

Like pretty much all the best things learned in life, what you learn riding bikes at 7 mph through streets of all types is that people are generally nice. And most of the dogs are nice once you get to know, or race past, them enough.

Having explained Wandrer a bit, there will be more about it and other technical aspects of such leisurely/obsessive riding, but what I’d like to focus on instead in future posts are the neighborhoods and people. And the flora, fauna, and geography in-between. Along the way, maybe something of interest to you will be passed along as I go about usurping my way to become Albuquerque Wandrer King at 7 mph.

Because there are no bad bike rides.

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