Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Emptiness of Those Lives...

Over the weekend I read The Rider by Tim Krabbé.

This is not a review of the book, but I will summarise it as a stream of consciousness account of what goes through a middle aged cyclist's mind as he takes part in an amateur bicycle race in southern France in 1978. I did not know very much about The Rider before reading it, which is probably why I was caught off guard by its apparently famous opening:

"Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

After reading these lines, I shut the book and put it away. Needing something to do, I immediately busied myself with making tea. Was I annoyed? offended? angry? and by whom or what - the writer himself or by the feeling he managed to communicate so successfully?

I review the scene in my mind's eye. So here are the racers, getting ready. And here are some spectators who came to support them. I imagine that one is a school teacher, another an emergency room doctor, another a firefighter, another a war veteran, and so on and so forth. And then I replay it: "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

In the course of my own life, I've been fortunate enough to live and work in the midst of various "important" people - researchers dedicated to finding treatments for diseases, rescue workers in war-torn countries, politicians who have the power to effect change with a single signature, and fine artists whose work is exhibited in the worlds' greatest museums. Not once have I heard any of them refer to others' lives as empty. If anything, they often question their own choices and complain that their work is not as fulfilling in reality as they had imagined it would be. I've also known serious athletes, who, while passionate about their sport, were not consumed by it to the exclusion of all else. But I do know roadcyclists whose thoughts reflect that famous sentence in The Rider. In fact I've met quite a few.

Amateur bicycle racers and racing aspirants have a reputation for arrogance, for "taking themselves too seriously" and truly believing that cycling is the most important and fulfilling thing in the world. For some time now this has fascinated me. Is it posturing? Are those drawn to roadcyling seeking to construct a life narrative of hardship and heroism in the absence of true hardship in their lives (poverty, illness, war, rape, ethnic persecution)? or, in some cases to distract from that hardship? Or is it the other way around - that something about cycling (what? a chemical it releases?) has such a powerful effect on the body and mind that it eclipses all else and turns perfectly sane people into crazed Ahabs on two wheels? 

My curiosity about this is mingled with fear, and ultimately that is probably what made me put down The Rider after the opening passage. Sometimes, when I spend too much time on my roadbike I can feel myself lose perspective in a way I've never lost it before. Not in terms of arrogance per se - for someone with my abilities there is nothing to be arrogant about. But, I don't know, it's as if I can sense the existence of another dimension that I am not sure I want to cross into. Some cyclists I know, they are already there and they are "different." The narrator of The Rider (which I've since read to completion) is certainly there, and he describes that state in devastating detail. 

54 comments:

  1. Wow. The notion that something physiological about road cycling engenders self-importance and narcissism.

    Maybe that road cycling is solitary and potentially competitive tends to attract solitary and competitive people or something, but even on the pro circuit there are a few humble, decent people: Leipheimer comes to mind.

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  2. The direct experience of that "other dimension" is what hooked me into cycling and, by extension, all endurance sports, plus Spinning, cave diving, and more, 30 years ago! I have dedicated my life to helping others have that experience and make that connection. That said, yes, there are lots of self-absorbed, self-important cyclists who are not nearly as "all that" as they think they are.

    I did greatly enjoy Krabbé's book, though. I guess I took the offending sentence as hyperbole, or tongue-in-cheekness! My favorite quote from the book:

    "The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature's payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. 'Good for you.' Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately."

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    1. I liked the book very much and will probably read it again soon just for the experience. And of course the author used that line as a hyperbole of sorts, and probably also to shock the reader into the narrator's perspective. Everything in The Rider seems intentional and is certainly very effective.

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  3. I have experienced this same feeling in other amatuer athletic pursuits, and seen it in my friends. And yet the professional and seriously high level athletes I know don't show signs of it. For me it is uncomfortable because 'I'm not like that'. Some of my friends are a little jock-ish in their sporting exploits, so their exclusive, separate reality view seems to fit them. But it is disturbing to see it in myself because I really didn't think I had it in me, it does 't comfortably fit with my sense of self.

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    1. What in my experience makes roadcyclists stand apart from other athletes I've known, is that there is a bigger tendency to intellectualise and aestheticise. If I ask a typical hockey playing acquaintance, "Hey, why do you play hockey?" He will grin and sort of shrug and say "Oh you know... It's hockey, I love it." And he leaves it at that. He does not write or visit philosophical blogs about hockey. Kind of hard to explain. Can you imagine, for instance, a version of Rapha existing for any other sport?..

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    2. Gonna make use of this reply btn feature, be forewarned.

      Modern road riding is filled with navel gazing. There isn't enough hitting in it to justify shutting up, as in hockey.

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    3. Skiing: Alpine, XC and Telemark. Mountain Climbing: Rock, Ice and Alpine. Plenty of sports wax philosophic and poetic about their activity: Running especially.
      Best jab at cyclists self-involvement? Triplets of Bellville.

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    4. Perhaps this "tendency to intellectualise and aestheteicise" is generated particularly in a sport that allows comparative leisure for reflection and philosophizing. As with Velouria's hockey example, or another intense team sport like basketball, the "action" and down times are very fast-paced and focused on the immediate move. There really isn't opportunity to glide and contemplate. The ebb and flow of the experience itself is very different from (to use Phil Miller's examples) cycling, skiing, mountain climbing, and running. Just a thought.

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    5. I was also thinking about skiers and climbers while reading this post. Perhaps Patagonia is the version of Rapha that exists for these sports...

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  4. Interesting take on the book. I've recently read it for the first time as well. Being one that has already gone down the rabbit's hole, so to speak; you can really appreciate the depth.

    i wrote about it here: http://offthefrontftw.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/dissecting-the-rider/

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    1. I read your review shortly after I ordered the book; great post!

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    2. @MJZ "Krabbé is to race literature what Poe was to crime literature"... great stuff, now you've whetted my appetite.

      @Velouria. Great post, and thanks for including links to other cycling blogs. You've expanded my cycling universe exponentially.

      By the way, I'm inclined to think that there are some disciplines, activities, professions which encourage single-mindedness. I think athletes who aren't tend to be an exception. The same goes for musicians, actors (even many academics!!), artists, even development workers or anything that espouses a passionate cause... Less likely to happen in the field of accountancy, dentistry etc...though I have met one passionate dentist in my time!

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  5. "Some cyclist I know, they are already there and they are "different."

    I think the feeling of being different spans so many things. Im in the corporate IT outsourcing business, where the ability to mix with and express oneself at 'c' level is a necessity. When I and my colleagues go to parties with 'normal' people we all express the feeling that we 'project', stick out.

    We are heavily trained in psychology, body language, motivational drivers, communication skills that are far more subtle than well trained customers are able to read; in short one is constantly reading people and its nigh on impossible to switch off. Even reading blogs is an analytical exercise..

    Cycling and walking on my own are my get out cards. Sometimes us nice to be doing rather than observing

    Even

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    1. Socialising with IT people is indeed interesting. When they talk to each other, it's as if they've developed their own language.

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  6. To read a book that illustrates Katherine's point, try "Tomorrow we ride" by Jean Bobet.

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  7. Wow. I'm reading a book right now about a touring cyclist that says these type of lines all the time in his account of crossing the country. He was a firefighter. I've yet to figure out a tactful way to review this book without hurting his feelings. Arrogance, yes, it's all there on every page. I want to put this book down yet it's appealing in an uncomfortable way. I suspect the author of my current book can't express himself in any other way besides through cycling. Could this be the same with road cycling? Are they intelligent people that can't deal with personal feelings or issues, but can crank out miles to the best of their ability, anyone else be damned?

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    1. What is interesting to me, is why he was unable to derive those same types of feelings of importance from firefighting? Saving lives, being a hero, it could be a power trip. So why is cycling more effective? Are the sensations more frequent, more immediate? I also know a couple of surgeons who race, and for them racing is the more meaningful aspect of their lives - so much so that they would love to quit medicine and ride full time.

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    2. Hmm... arrogant surgeons...can't say I know any. It is interesting that surgery and road cycling seem to attract the same sorts of driven personalities.

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    3. @anonymous ^ speaks the truth:

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    4. I think it is about doing something for yourself or for your small team and not having to care about everyone else.
      Surgery, firefighting etc on the other hand is much more about doing something for someone else, you don't really do it for your own sake. Sure it is sort of nice to help others and make them happy (and not so nice to get sued or reported if they are unsatisfied). But compared to beating the competition, going faster than you have ever done before, beating someone who always used to beat you etc it's not very fulfilling. Doesn't mean one has to be an ass just because one is a roadcyclist, runner, kayaker or similar but I don't really think the sense of fulfillment from helping strangers is that great, especially not when it is a question of more or less routine work. It might be more useful to a persons surroundings but that doesn't translate into a sense of fulfillment.

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    5. I don't know about firefighters, etc., but surgery residencies are very competitive and similar to road racing in that you work hard to perfect your craft, get more procedures under your belt. Not everyone who begins a surgery residency makes it to the end. Some programs are actually structured that way. It's not all about helping others. It's more about achieving something extraordinary for yourself, perfecting yourself, being better than everyone else. That is probably why some people (not all) who choose the field, might not have the best bedside manner. They might seem arrogant or come off as an a-hole. I would predict that more surgeons are attracted to road racing than say cylco-cross.

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  8. Sounds like you hated the book. I'm pretty sure I would hate it.

    I've been on the other side; for me it wasn't about arrogance, though I'm sure it was perceived as such. It was/is more like this is mine and stop complaining about your trivial crap. Just ride yer bike.

    It's an entirely different dimension, but if you lose something by going there you could always gain it back or not, doesn't really matter. From this side it might look scary, but with a long enough life you'll look back on it like that was no big deal.

    Already some of the comments read arrogance as a bad thing. Well, it's a competition and that's what drives the race - pure ego. The ability to turn it off is what's lacking for some. People are a lot better at it now than they use to be, though.

    Ugh, there I go again with perspective. Must watch that.

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    1. No no, I liked the book. Very much. Certainly one of my favourite books in recent memory even. I do not want to write certain things about it here that might be spoilers for those who know nothing about it. For those who have not read it yet, I suggest reading it without reading reviews first.

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    2. Arrogance... It is a basic human trait and all of us have it to some extent, cloaking it in various socially acceptable ways.

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    3. Damn, just read the offthefront review.

      If you're strong in your beliefs the arrogant tag follows you around. In a PC cooperative 2012 it's more and more important to pretend you're being inclusive. That, to me, drives successful people stuck in bureaucracies and systems they no longer believe in to hit the road.

      Looks like the goog threw some coin at blogger - the reply button works in their own browser.

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  9. I have spent most of my life as a professional orchestral musician, and the opening comment of the book is one I understand. It is also a conceit that the person in the midst of that feeling can't see.

    You get done with a Mahler symphony (I'm a trombonist), and you think "those people will never know what that feels like" to be in the middle of a 90 piece orchestra with all those years of training leading to all that sound, and you think "how can they live without that?"

    Now I'm an ex-orchestral musician and a teacher and administrator of a music school, and try to help these students have some perspective on the world. I suspect that this feeling can and does exist in a large number of "top of the world" experiences, but there is more than one way to get there, and we should not feel sorry for those who get there by another path, or superior because of the path we chose.

    I was unaware I felt this strongly until I started writing. Sorry for the length.

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  10. An interesting book/short-story you might try reading - but probably won't - is A Quantum of Solace, by Ian Fleming. Like all of the Bond books it bears absolutely no resemblance to the movie of the same name - in this case though the difference couldn't be more stark. In the novelette there is no action at all. Bond attends a dinner party at an embassy and is bored, and afterwards, to be polite has a nightcap with the ambassador who tells him a bit of the backstory of the crushingly suburban types he had been bored by at the table. Nothing spectacular, but very human and over the course of the conversation Bond realizes the lives around him are not dull or empty, and when he gets up to leaves gives the ambassador a very sincere thanks for the diner, and the little homily afterwards, and goes off a wiser and more humble man. It is a great story. Fleming was a far better short story writer than he was a novelist, and this was, I think, his best. Very much in the vein of Somerset Maugham.

    Just a thought - and an nterestin counterpoint to th type of attitude you Found in The Rider. To be sure, roadies do have a way of taking themselves far to seriously and melodramtically, but then they hardly hold the patent on self-importance.

    Roff Smith

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  11. As always, very insightful commentary, Velouria.

    While I love, love cycling, I've never been tempted to race, mostly because of the same air of arrogance around bike racers that you caught from this book. Are all cyclists arrogant? Oh, please. Of course not. But there is a tendency toward insular superiority. I see it often in hardcore bike commuters too (and myself), much as I love them. That perceived barrier, which I'll admit may be a projection on my part, is what kept me away from exercise in general and cycling specifically for so long.

    Thanks for this great reminder to be thankful for what we are and what's possible with our own bodies without having to resort to pity or high-handedness.

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  12. Remember Steve McQueen's line in the film Le Mans when he's talking about racing ?
    "When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting".

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  13. Yoga School DropoutFebruary 1, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Anyone who explores the world of yoga a little deeper will find similar attitudes to the narrator of The Rider. It is taken as a given that those who practice and teach yoga are more evolved and more enlightened, more ALIVE, than those who don't.

    Yes, theoretically it's not a competitive sport, but in reality...

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  14. I've experienced the arrogance of some roadies, but is usually combined with an aloof demeanour, not evangelism, so it is not a problem.

    They are certainly preferable to those bores who go on and on about their jobs or children while failing to realise that nobody is very interested.

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  15. "ordinary f**king people, I hate 'em" (youtube). Can't help but think of Repo Man and the Repo Code.

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  16. Many retired pros have short unhappy lives. It's never the same once you hang it up. Probably true in a lot of sports, definitely so in cycling.

    Or, Eddy Merckx's famous quip when queried about his own successful transition to a good post-competitive life: "Compared to cycling, life is easy."

    Cycling dispenses massive doses of endorphins that keep coming hour after hour. Of course it will have odd effects. It is much like being in trance state. Racers do perform feats impromptu that they can hardly explain to themselves and cannot explain to you. Yes, it's different. Not better, just real different.

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  17. A ride partner once told me he thought bike racers were some of the most unhappy people he had met because they push themselves harder and endure more stress to win, instead of just enjoying the act of cycling. I worked with a former female racer who said she quit because of the stress. It ruined the experience for her. On the other hand, I imagine racers get addicted to competing and the racer I knew was an achiever - in everything. I imagine some thrive on it. I hate to admit it but when I see a pumped racer on an expensive bike, wearing expensive cycling sunglasses, I do have to look. It's kind of impressive for someone to be in that shape and have that ability. I admire what they've attained but I wouldn't want to do it myself.

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  18. Bicycle road racing is hard, hard, hard. And bike racers all have some character flaw. Why else push so hard and make those sacrifices? Anybody who has ever raced a bicycle on the road will relive it with this book. He describes it beautifully.

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  19. I prefer the Walt Whitman approach to cycling... coasting is always nice.

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  20. I haven't had this experience on a bike but I have running, although it's been years. I won't ever be an elite runner but it has been a big part of my life in past, something the rest of world had to accommodate or adjust to. I'd like to be in that happy place again. I suppose I thought people who didn't run were missing something and I felt a bit sorry for them. It's an arrogant stance because I've been on the receiving end. Before I got married, at times I could tell I was the subject of pity. I don't have kids so I must be unfulfilled. I would imagine that road biking, like running, can allow one to enter a mentally cleansing zone where one focuses totally on the sensation of moving through space and experiencing the power of one's body. I miss that.

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  21. Thank you for the truly thought-provoking post! I’ve read The Rider twice (love it!), and I too had a powerful reaction to the paragraph you quoted. But in my case it was very different. I read those words about empty non-cyclist lives, smiled to myself, and thought: wow, this is the book for me! It’s not that I honestly believe a cyclist’s experience is more important than the work of a doctor, counselor, artist, etc. No one in their right mind would. But I will happily admit that there are moments when I’m zipping down a beautiful street on my road-bike, slicing through the air with the wind at my back, and I think: OMG, cycling is the BEST, most awesome thing EVER!!! NOTHING beats it, nothing in the whole wide world!! I sometimes feel the same thing watching the Tour de France on TV. That feeling lasts for a couple seconds, then reality hits and all those doctors, artists, and diplomats you mention enter my mind too, and everything falls back into its proper balance.

    What Tim Krabbe does though, is create a unique character who doesn’t let reality force him back down to earth. He’s not particularly nice and is definitely not politically correct! But that’s precisely what makes him so intriguing. He’s a bit like Indiana Jones or Dirty Harry, an anti-hero we can’t get enough of. He’s the pure, single-minded-to-a-fault cyclist many of us secretly wish we could be for a day, just for the fun of it (after which we’ll magically turn back into out nice selves once again). Fiction allows us to get to know these characters up-close and live life with them for a few hours.

    Looking at it from another angle, I too have been fortunate to meet many great artists, musicians, doctors, and leaders in my life, and considering all the extremely difficult (and sometimes truly evil) things they battle on a daily basis, I don’t think they’d begrudge a humble cyclist a little harmless arrogance. After all, cycling is so inherently good. Sometimes it takes a little arrogance to have the courage to express one’s passion in life.

    At the end of your post you say you’re a bit afraid to cross into the dimension of road bike riding that Tim Krabbe describes. Well, I say fear not, Velouria. Go for it! You write a truly awesome blog and have earned it! The world’s problems will still be there when you get back. Immersing oneself in an awesome, best-thing-in-the-entire-world bike ride is a healthy thing now and then.

    Thanks again for the great post!

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  22. Where I cycle, I have seen people with this arrogance, have even dipped a toe into it myself now and then (although I'm certainly not a racer), and have spent some time pondering where it comes from.

    Part of it, I think, is the need to feel justified in how we spend our lives. If someone spends as much time doing something as racers do cycling, their lives become so focused on it that they see it as being of more importance in the world than it actually is. This, combined with the addictive nature of sports, I think contributes to the feeling that others are missing out. It can happen with anything that we choose to spend most of our time on. It's like we lose sight of the forest because we get so involved looking at the stunning designs in the bark of a single tree. Reading this post for me was a good reminder to look up every now at all the other trees! :)

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  23. There is also something terribly French about taking such an "absolute" philosophical stance. It's not simple arrogance (and not really "hype" which I associate with the need to "sell" your message: a very American trait) but also a challenge, throwing down the gauntlet to debate. Remember this is a country where philosophers can be pop-culture celebrities.

    I think a French author would write in a much more polemical way than an English-language author on the same topic. A Japanese author would be different again, much less confrontational. Different languages don't just have different words but different modes of thinking, different kinds of things that make sense. The things Almodovar can get away with in his Spanish psycho-melodramas would be laughable if written by an American.

    But then also the 70s, they're a world away in attitude to today.

    All of which has piqued my interest to read the book! b

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    1. It did not occur to me to think of this as a French attitude. The author/narrator is actually Dutch (the race takes place in France, but the participants are international), and the book was translated into English from Dutch.

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    2. D'oh! Strike all my jingoistic generalisations then! :D b

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  24. Thanks to everyone for recommending other books here, will have to take a look at some of these. Someone on twitter has also suggested that Bill Strickland's 10 Points might be a nice post-Krabbe read.

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  25. Our culture does not have anything like ecstatic dance. We don't have festa or bacchanal. We ignore Pan and Magic.

    Huge tracts of our psyche lie fallow.

    Granted many racerboys are !@#$. Many guests behave badly at the feast. They only know they are hungry. They should be indulged.

    You can cross over whenever you like V. And come back as well. What you have seen in a glass, darkly, is real

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  26. really interesting post. and amazing comments. - i did not read the book but an certainly intrigued by everybody's perception here. - the 'emptiness' quote i agree one probably can read in context. - a dutch guy writing the book in the late seventies; a time when the punk rock movement was spreading over europe. punk was not only a musical rebellion - it was also a physical one - and it was a rebellion of the ego against the rather soft flowing 60s counter culture that very much had become the home knit, all understanding identity of the young. shaved heads, combat boots, and disrespect (or extremely sharp provocative irony) was the new currency of the cool.
    still: this heightened attention in anticipation and then letting yourself fall into a form of being where there is only one thing left that matters... - it is a universal sensation. - sports, yoga, orchestra performance... - i probably know it in the most strongest form when being in the recording studio with my band a long, long time ago.
    i think whether we feel a 'connectedness' with all and everybody in moments like these, or whether we fall into a heightened perception of ourselves and feel as some kind of superhuman is due to many factors, many of which are cultural (meaning also: many of which are open for us to chose). - when my race bike takes me over the hills for hours and hours and when i am worn out , i feel as if every bird that accompanied me, as if every field i flew by is recorded in my trembling body.
    so, to come back to the fear lovely lady lovely bike mentioned... - do i share it? no. not at all. - it is amazing to let yourself fall into sensations of all kind. - and if you do not accompany these adventure trips with cocaine or other stuff, you will most certainly always come back safe and sound as your good old self.
    ego maniac through excessive road biking? - naaaa. not if you did not want to excercise this part of your being anyway

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  27. Reading this post and the comments above (which I completely agree with) makes me think of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Jn0FF1KwL4I

    ; )

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  28. I had heard about this book for a long time before finally reading it a few years ago and I loved it. I thought Crabbe's narrative was excellent - I think I was actually tired when he finally finished the race! I didn't take the "empty lives" comment to seriously but as someone caught up in what they love and I got the impression that it might have been said with a twinkle in the authors eye, he certainly showed humor elsewhere in the book. I am not a cycle racer and never will be but it was still an enjoyable read.

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  29. I don't share the notion (perceived or real) of being arrogent when road riding,but I kind of feel something Iget a hint of understanding from what you quoted....when I'm riding (road or especially trail),there seem to be nothing else in the universe at that moment,as if there's a kind of one-ness and peace about myself to everything else,I like that feeling.

    Think I'll find a copy of this book,thanks my friend,I'd never heard of it :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  30. Velouria,

    Would you consider creating a running list of your very best posts? (A pastry chef and blogger named Shuna Lydon does that. She calls them "definitive posts.") If you did this, new visitors to your site could read through your top-ten list to get oriented, and longtime readers could revisit, with pleasure, posts that you consider particularly useful or compelling. If by chance you compile one such list, I hope you'll put THIS post of yours on there, along with the comments. (No need to include this comment of mine. It's not on the topic of The Rider.)

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    1. How would you define the best posts? It seems like you're talking about the "philosophical" ones (for lack of a better word), whereas some would probably argue that the more practical ones (about women choosing their first transport bike, etc) are really the best/definitive posts. One problem with this blog is that the topics are so fragmented. I really do not know which are the definitive or representative or "best" posts.

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    2. Good point. I suppose every reader of Lovely Bicycle could compile a different list of favorites, so perhaps an "official" list wouldn't be worthwhile on your blog. (For what it's worth, I think Shuna Lydon, in compiling her "definitive posts," just chooses the posts that she's most proud of, for whatever reason and on whatever topic. Most of those posts also drew a lot of comments.)

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  31. Thank you very much for this post. Many years ago I saw a Dutch movie 'The Vanishing' and it turned out to be one of the most powerful films I've ever seen. After reading this post I discovered the movie was based on Tim Krabbé's novel.

    I immediately got 'The Rider' and was pleasantly surprised that the protagonist is a very sane European out to win a bike race (as opposed to exorcising some personal demons). As for the emptiness of other people's lives, I imagine competitive sportsmen have to concentrate quite closely, and their world (temporarily) shrinks. I'd guess when a surgeon changes into scrubs, she has a somewhat different mental state than she does at a weekend dinner party.

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  32. Yes, I think it is very important not to develop a marked secular/self promoting stance on any issue. Road cycling included. Evil seems to take advantage of any scene where selfishness can be cultured.

    Keep it real out there and think good to those around.

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  33. I've read the Rider about 3 times now and I think it perfectly embodies what it is like to have dedicated yourself to something and be so single minded about it that for a certain level of time nothing else matters. As this is about bike racing, then unlike long distance brevets or sportives etc, you are there to beat the others, but either way, in both forms of cycling I think that there needs to be a certain level of single mindness. After all, the fact that I can do a 100 miles does not solve world hunger or do much else of benefit to society, but it does give me a sense of worth in a society where true physical effort and endevour is rarer and rarer. And after all the effort of getting fit enough to do 100 miles and the time and sweat of doing it, why not give yourself a pat on the back. The trick is just not to sound arrogant when a friend says they did 20 miles today in 3 hours and ask you how long it would take you!

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