Sunday, June 2, 2013

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Vertical Mile Road
Listening to cyclists' stories about their first long or difficult rides, I often hear things like "Afterward, I wanted to throw my bike away" or "The next day, I couldn't even look at my bike."

It always struck me as interesting how the feelings of pain and exhaustion caused by riding can become associated with the bike itself. In a sense, it is easier to think of the bike, a concrete object, as the source of our discomfort than it is of a deficiency in fitness or endurance on our part. We look at the bike and remember how we felt during that hard ride. It's not so much that we literally blame the bicycle, as that the bike becomes a signifier of the pain and exhaustion we experienced. That feeling of wanting to throw it out, or not wanting to look at it, is a way of dealing with frustration over our own limitations. And of course this is in addition to the possibility that the bike itself is at least partly to blame - be it through saddle discomfort, harshness of ride, inappropriate gearing, or bad positioning.

If only mildly, I have had my share of all this. I've overdone it before, to the point of fatigue at the mere sight of a bike that only time away from it could cure.

But I am thinking of this now, because more recently I've experienced something of the opposite. Still feeling battered and drained after an especially tough ride, the morning after I walked past the bike and thought about how much I loved it, and about how much I loved cycling. It was an unexpected reaction, having tumbled out of bed feeling as if a train had run over me. After a day of passion and heartbreak, it feels good to still love it all, and to want to ride again tomorrow. 

27 comments:

  1. Even though Saturday's event ended for me with heat exhaustion and extremely painful muscle cramping, I find myself tonight staring at Google maps planning my next ride.
    400k anyone?

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    1. Can't wait for Velouria's report of "Saturday's event" and the rest of the DROVES diaries! I am also looking forward to the carbon bike reviews she has hinted at. No pressure or anything :D

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    2. I've been riding too much, which leaves me too tired to write about it all in a timely manner; gotta stop that.

      Anyway: Parlee Z5 write-up coming up this week I hope; Trek Domane next week. Saturday's event report is forthcoming, it's still sinking in.

      Curious who Anon 1:05AM is!

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    3. Anon 1:05AM - The emerald green vintage Raleigh that was leap-frogging you most of the morning. RUSA #235

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  2. It's called masochism - in a nice way of course :)

    Schaublin.

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  3. We call it "Type 2" fun here. "Type 1" fun is actual fun -- you have fun when you're doing it. Type 2 fun is where, while you're doing it, you're thinking, this is the most stupid idea I ever had, why am I out here, my butt hurts, how far away is the next controle, etc. But then, afterwards, you forget all that, and you think you had fun. Type 2 fun.

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  4. Thanks for this post.

    I love my bikes.

    Even after bad days in the saddle or nasty crashes I always feel a pang of something like sympathy for my bike for having gone through it too. That doesn't mean I don't have some bad feelings or insensitive things to say to it sometimes but the bikes are my only friends who are always ready to go, any day, any weather...

    The bike that broke in half under me when I was 13 that caused me to lay on the couch covered in stitches and Iodine for 3 days one summer? I still feel sorry for the poor thing and think it died a noble death.

    I love my bikes.

    Spindizzy

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  5. I find it very interesting that anyone would want to "throw their bike away." I've never heard of this! I couldn't ever conceive of this suggestion, personally. Time away from the bike, yes, but toss the sucker out? It seems to me a mature view would be storing the bike way for a time, perhaps to recover. I wonder if age factors in here, say younger riders versus older riders who've overdone it?

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  6. On two occasions over the years I have seen people stop in the middle of a hill, get off and yell curses at their bike and in one case, pick the bike up and throw it into the trees off the road.

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  7. There have been a few rides where I felt like doing the "bike toss" as well. Generally this happened due to an ill-fitting saddle, a too long/too short stem, shorts with poorly-designed padding that bunched up causing a nasty boil, tires too narrow and too hard causing exhausting vibrations reaching my body. After many retrofits I reached what seems about as good as it gets, and I can ride long and pretty hard, be tired, but still smiling at the end. As Jan Heine says, "All I want to experience physically on the bike is pedaling. The bike itself should disappear under me."

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    1. I have a bike where all I experience is pedaling; it really is wonderful. Of course when I am wrecked after a long or hard ride, there is nothing to blame but me : )

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  8. "Bike dear, it's not you, it's me!"
    As bad as I've ever felt on a ride, I've never felt like blaming the bike. But Sunday was a hard one... I've finished around 45 brevets or so, in several different countries, and that was my first ever DNF.
    But it sounds like you ended up with a positive experience in the end, and it also seemed like you could have finished feeling good if you had enough lighting to give you more confidence on the descents. So congratulations are certainly in order. :)

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  9. I have twice, in the middle of double centuries, been sure that I was done with cycling, and that it was all just a big mistake on my part.
    I think coming out the other side and riding again is a life lesson. Nothing lasts forever. Tomorrow is another day, and evrything looks better in the morning sunlight.

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  10. That picture, wow!!! Did you take that? It should be on a book cover. I would have no problem loving my bike "tomorrow" if it looked like that and if I got to ride through that kind of scenery!

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    1. Thanks. I take all the pictures here, unless otherwise stated. This one was taken in Vermont the weekend before last, at the top of a very steep dirt road. Just as I finished climbing it, the sun came out. It was beautiful.

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  11. Adventure lovers often experience what you have discovered. Mountain climbers have written of this complex relationship between love, freedom and pain. Steve House in particular is quite good, and Jennifer Lowe's bittersweet book, Forget Me Not, is a classic.

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    1. As a former climber, I agree completely.

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  12. I don't know of those stories of cyclists wanting to toss their bikes after a hard ride, though I know of many who thought they'd be commuters via bicycles and eventually would abandon them and never look back or say goodbye (are these the same folks who would get a pet only to give it away or abandon it?). cyclists come in many varieties but, usually, the competitive or more adventuresome got some 'high' out of the ride despite the difficulty and strange breed that they are, couldn't wait to do it again, or at least do some light pedaling the following day.

    anyway, i read this blog simply b/c i love bicycles and even when not riding them, i'm looking at them. when working properly, they are wonderful machines with a history... funny, as a painter, i constantly 'toss' my work, abandon it, destroy it, so i guess i take out my 'issues' my own way (hmm, i wonder if professional riders might do the same with their bikes?)....but i love my bike and it loves me back! those hard rides only make us stronger ;)

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  13. Yo Velouria, why were your last two postings removed?

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    1. They weren't, I only changed the dates (which should not affect any links to those posts).

      Anyway, find them here:
      DROVES I
      DROVES II

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  14. I've always felt grateful to it for getting me home.

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  15. Sometimes, as you say, it's not so much our own limitations. Sometimes the bike is simply not the right tool for the task at hand, despite what we want to believe.

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  16. I felt that I wanted to throw my saddle away after a longish ride! Never the bike. When the nose bolt finally gave in last year, I breathed a sigh of relief.

    Mark

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  17. Which type of love are you referring to? ;)

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