Ridin’ vs the Hummerscalades

September 30, 2006

So, I rode my road bike today. It was a good thing, as good a thing as it always is. I pedalled around and did some hills and did some sprints and did some more hills and hyperventilated and gasped and wheezed and was kinda cold, but I totally fricken’ loved it.

And as I rode, I looked around at all the ginormous people in their ginormous trucks and marveled how mopey and sullen they all seemed. Just sittin’ there. Sit all day at work, sit all evening at home, sit all weekend in a truck. Lots of times they get mad when you zing-zing-zing by them, and they roar up to you and glare and say stuff, and shake their heads like I’m a criminal cause I ran a redlight so I wouldnt have to jokey for position on the road, or breath toxicity for a block or two. Meh. I guess no one likes to pay over 60k for some Hummerscalade, and pour $100 a week in dead dinosaurs into it, and then have some lycra clad dude on a bicycle fly by while they are stuck in traffic, going nowhere, time ticking away, life seeping outta them like sand into the expired part of the hourglass, dying one grain at a time like we all are. Seems like a bit of a waste. I mean, it’d all be cool with me – your life – if they didnt look so grumpy all the time. Its wack to be that way.


Gratuitous Suffering?

September 22, 2006

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From the Rapha people, love ’em or hate ’em. Not a bad essay. But let’s remember that its supposed to be fun…

“Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it’s absolutely cleansing. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain… Once, someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding for so long. ..Pleasure?.. I said. ..I don’t understand the question… I didn’t do it for pleasure, I did it for pain.” LANCE ARMSTRONG, WINNER  TOUR DE FRANCE 1999 – 2005

From Rouleur:

The history of cycle racing abounds with stories of endurance, will power and sheer courage on an epic scale. The capacity of bike riders to drive themselves relentlessly day after day through the pain barrier and way beyond makes them a breed apart. They redefine heroism in sport. The suffering is gratuitous, the mileage they cover Herculean, and both make a crucible in which a unique character is forged: an apparently cheerful indifference to the pain inflicted by bike and road, suffused with the transcendent desire to conquer both.

The greatest battle is not physical but psychological. The demons telling us to give up when we push ourselves to the limit can never be silenced for good. They must always be answered by the quiet the steady dignity that simply refuses to give in. Call no man brave, say the Spanish, say only that on a particular day he showed himself brave. Such strength of character radiates from every bike rider who has shown the requisite courage not to yield, has won his dignity, day after day.

The true test of any rider..s mettle is the road. How much punishment can you take on a bike? You will only find out after you hear the voice in your head saying no, no you’ve had it, any more of this battering and you’re going to weaken fatally, and yet, for some reason best left to God and guesswork, carrying on anyway. Every time that happens, into a savage headwind… on the sharp knocks of the Chilterns… the will-sapping hauls of the continental monsters, the experience is part of a continuum, the repeated battle against surrender.

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No crowds cheer us lesser mortals up the big climbs, but the mountains are open and mountains are rarely if ever finished with you. No matter how often you climb them, you never beat them: each time you start at the bottom, from scratch. Reputation will not take you up a climb. The physical battle has always to be repeated. Through every repeat, mental strength accumulates.

The Tourmalet, lassoed by mist, 2000m up in the Circle of Death, where Apo Lazaridès climbed off one day to wait for the others for fear of Pyrenean bears. The dreaded Mont Ventoux, Domain of the Angels. Col du Galibier, the Giant of the Alps, the ..premier cru.. to the ..vin ordinaire.. or the rest. That’s where you can follow the Tour, into the thin air, up the relentless hairpins, your tyres hissing across the chalked tarmac catalogue of Tour riders who made the same journey.

Suffering is one thing; knowing how to suffer is quite another. You look at the dizzying peaks and say to yourself: What? Up there? Mad notion… and the experience of the hardest most exhilarating cycling you can ever accomplish is on you. The great gauntlet on two wheels, the triumph of inner resolve over disbelief.

For the mountains are the extreme case, where you really find out about yourself, in the scary realms of physical and mental exertion to the limit. Remote altitudes of geography, unplumbed depths in your spirit. Even local folklore recognises the weird forces at work on the cyclist chancing his fate against horrible gradients. Up here, they say, is where the black-hearted ogres of bad luck hang out: the Witch with Green Teeth and Hammerman, quick to pounce on any slippage in your resolve. Bogeymen personifying the mysterious factors which can freeze your nerve with the lonely prospect of failure.

That’s why we speak of heroism in cycling: it’s elemental.

This is the ultimate proving time. The spells of mind-numbing dysfunction when your head fills with disconnected trivia and only the wheels, still responding to the pedal stroke, like the cogwheels in your brain..s clock, seem to have any logic about them. Mechanically you mutter: if the road goes on, so can I. As Brian Robinson, first Briton to finish the Tour de France (1955) said to himself: I looked at the other guys and thought, they’re the same as me – if they can do it, I can. Good reasoning because there’s no ducking the argument. It’s simple: I can’t go on. I must go on. I will go on.

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And through the bleak period when your wandering mind gets obsessed with the idea that you..re finished .. oh, it happens – you persist and you are learning the core lesson of cycling, just as every true rider learnt it: on this road, in this duress, you live in the moment with all your force, in the intensity, the fullness of the moment. Do you know a better definition of exhilaration?

Riding up the Col de la Core one blistering hot afternoon (First Category, Pyrenees) I was passed by a string of Française des Jeux riders. As their last man went by, dangling off the back, he gave me a wave, ‘Courage. We all suffer. Keep going.’

But if something hurts so much, how can it be enjoyable? At the point where physical stress begins to take you beyond what you imagine to be endurable, you enter new territory of understanding, an expanded psychological landscape. The camaraderie of the hard road is as much in sharing that insight as in the laughs you have, riding in good company. The bike is the perfect vehicle to take you down those secret corridors of illumination. The pleasure comes when you grasp just what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn..t stop when the bike stops, when you reach the top of the col or peel off at the end of the ride, so tired you can hardly think or stand straight. That’s where the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge.

Behind glory lies the misery of training, the slog of getting through bad days, the torment of going at less than your best and the absolute conviction that giving up is never an option. Herein lies the heroism of this beautiful sport the inner revelation that makes the cyclist impervious to ordinary weakness because every ride he has ever made exposes him to that defeatist voice; he has known it, faced it and conquered the fear of it, again and again and again.


Nincompoop.

September 12, 2006

Oh yeah – I forgot. So I was out riding and just having a swell time. And to get from my place in the ‘Hood, to Kensington, it works best to just grab the bike path from Eau Claire area.

So that’s what I did. And on the way back I guess I blew by some ‘Dude’ a little too closely, cause I get to this red light just inside DT, and suddenly there’s this irate guy yelling at me, he was like a kinda surly construction worker from Jersey or something. Really.

‘You tryin’ to kill me?’
‘Huh?’ I take my earbuds out, ‘Sorry, what’s wrong?’
‘You tryin’ to kill me? You almost ran me over’
‘Uh, no, sorry, i didnt see you’
‘You almost ran me over. you tryin’ to kill me?’
‘Sorry, man, I dont remember being that close to you’
‘You almost ran me over’
‘Yeah, er, you said that. Hey, im sorry, ok, dude, really, I didnt mean to scare you. ok?’
‘No, it aint ok. You almost ‘ranned’ me over. You tryin’ kill me?’
‘No. Uh, no. Look, if I wanted to run you over, I would’ve run you over. Ok? Really. Let it go.’
‘I outta deck ya’
‘What? you outta – what?’
‘Deck ya. Knock ya on ya ass’
‘ok, great, yeah.’

and then the light turns green
and i start to pedal along,
and he starts to pedal along
and I turn to him and go:

‘you’re a nincompoop’
I just thought it would be funny to say to the car, just because the whole thing seemed pretty ridiculous.

and as I ride away, he furiously tries to stay even with me, and I look over at him one more time, as he is just cranking along, all mad and psycho looking and I go, just for good measure:

‘nincompoop’

and all the lights on 3rd Street were green so I cranked away and left the nincompoop in the past. He was like Joey on Friends.

later on I felt bad for calling him a nincompoop. But then I couldn’t stop laughing about it.

Nincompoop. What a sweet word. I dont even know where it came from. It just popped in my head. Its my new favorite word.


Sneakin’ to go Ridin’

September 8, 2006

Harhar! Today I snuck outta work early. Yep. First time. A couple people went, “hey, you leavin’?” And I just went, ‘yeah’. I just booked myself an appointment. I figure if people can take 15 minutes to smoke, 4-5 times a day, then I hope its ok to duck out a little premature once a month or so – as long as all the work is done.

The best part of all this was, well, actually there were 3 best parts:

1) Sneakin’ outta work to have fun. I love doin’ this. And I’m gonna do it more often.
2) I found this super-cool Merino Wool jersey that I really liked on EBAY, if you can believe it. I’d never used the thing. But this jersey was only $40! Instead of $120. So I figured it out and now I spend all my time looking at, like, Gi Joes from the 50’s. Anyway, I wore my new jersey today and felt fast.
3) I went out for a little walk cause i wasnt feelin’ like goin’ out. And my legs had that soreness. i love that soreness. It means that something good’s goin’ on down there. So I walked around. oh yeah – I brought the 2 Coronas out of my fridge and drank them.

Uh. That’s all, Blog. I’m goin to bed. See ya tomorrow.