The Essence of it all
The true essence of self-supported riding is something that we all think we understand, that is until we fall into the sea of ambiguity surrounding that core value of ‘doing things for yourself’. The Transcontinental Race has grappled with this for years and has clarified it as far as it can here - https://www.transcontinental.cc/outside-assistance. The test is to ask whether help you are offered would be available if the race/ride wasn’t taking place. Sure, the bike shop you found would still be there as would the filling station at which you bought a bag of long life croissants. The offer of a CO2 cartridge or inner tube from a fellow rider or dotwatcher wouldn’t exist if you weren’t part of an organised event.
So what to do when a dotwatcher offers you a madeleine or a bottle of iced water on a long alpine climb? You take the bottle and next year when you repeat the event you don’t resupply before the climb because there might be someone offering water on the climb. By the following year you could be counting on it. Turning down help is counter intuitive, people love to help and depending on local culture it can be seen as plain rude to say ‘no thanks’.
Taking a more serious example, ask whether a dotwatcher would be on the route with a bike if the event wasn’t taking place. Would that rider still lend you their bike if you were a genuine stranger? In the course of many remote mechanicals I have never been offered a bike by a complete stranger. If it were to be ok in the course of an event then I suspect it might figure in my planning. Personally I might ditch the bag of spare cleats, rotor bolts, bungee cord, gaffer tape, zip tyres and a hundred other bits and bobs that I’ve carried up scores of mountains ‘just in case’. My default action in the event of a mechanical might be to find a dotwatcher rather than a bike shop.
The Racing Collective strives for integrity in all its actions, often taking its lead from the high bar set by the late Mike Hall, and Anna Haslock, at the Transcontinental Race. It’s tricky maintaining this ethos whilst resisting the urge to write a rule book that contains a rule for every conceivable scenario. We’re not going to have that rule book though because we credit you with a shared understanding of that ethos. Occasionally in the heat and tight focus of an event you might lose sight of those shared values and that’s where we’ll step in, but at the end of the day we all share those same ideals.
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