As a roadie newbie, I often wonder what the hell I’ve gotten into. Cycling is painful. It can get lonely out there. This is to say nothing of the injury risk factor. Yet, for the life of me, I can’t stop doing it. Holy shit, why can’t I stop? Stopping would certainly please a few people around the house (my wife, for one). But nothing doing. I just keep heading out there like the demented hamster on a wheel that I have become.
George Hincapie once said that, “To be a professional cyclist is to embrace a life of loneliness.” I can relate in my own amateur way. I have put in my share of forgettable hours in the saddle – riding solo in fierce headwinds, along deserted roads into the wilderness, through villages long forgotten by both time and people, my main motivation being putting kilometres in my legs.
These days, I’m lucky enough to be cycling around the south of France in a place I’ve dubbed Col Heaven – also known as the Aude department, which boasts no less than 138 mountain passes, most found on remote, narrow roads that can barely accommodate a single car.
So, it never takes long until I get to places like this:
So I ride, in large part, for those moments of beauty you experience on the bike, moments that are magnified tenfold by the hard work you’ve had to put in to get there.
Cyclists will wax lyrical about the anguish they suffered on their last ride. Some will talk about going so hard they “tasted blood.” Others believe in the Man with the Hammer. Cyclists may also boast about their Strava suffer score, which allows followers to marvel at your ability to flirt with the physical effects of pushing your body to the limit, including dizziness, tunnel-vision, disorientation and severe fatigue. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to experience any of the above on the bike?
This all underscores the base reality of road cycling. Which is that it revolves around pain (pardon the bad pun). Which further means I’ve joined a world-wide club of masochists. Awesome.
Greg LeMond is often quoted for having said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” Which is very true. And one of the main ways to go faster is to ride as much as possible, every day if you can pull it off. And let’s not forget interval training, such as the type based on the excruciating modèle Gimenez, which all serious cyclists over here in l’Hexagon seem to be into (including many in my adopted club CVC Carcassonne that I’ve joined until my inexorable return to Ottawa this spring when I’ll return the Tekné family fold).
This eventually gives way to euphoric rides, during which you find yourself suddenly endowed with special leg powers that permit you to glide over steep grades that, not long ago, could crush your desire to ride a bike. I’ve come to realize that that’s why I ride. For that moment. I suspect that’s why anyone who isn’t commuting rides a bike.