In Japanese, “Santoku” means “Three Virtues”. Exactly which three virtues it is referring to is unclear, but I am fascinated by the idea of a single word with such a rich, if ambiguous, meaning. I have several kitchen knives that goes by this name, and within the scope of knives the three virtues are generally accepted to mean fish, meat, and vegetables. But if I know anything about Japanese culture, then two things are certain: that the three virtues in question depend on the application, and that I know absolutely nothing about Japanese culture.
In Cycling, we also have three virtues. These are the Mind, the Body, and the Machine.
The mind is the heart of the organism. It is what drives the body towards fitness and strength. It is what drives us to find the limits of our will, our body, and the machine as a cohesive unit. It is our conduit into The V; just as the body, it must be trained and disciplined. Without the mind, the body lays at rest and the machine leans gathering dust against the wall. It is, however, susceptible to doubt. Doubt is an insipid thing that creeps through our veins and burroughs in at that little point at the base of our skull where it meets the neck. It tickles at our nerves and whispers in our ear to undermine the strength of the body.
The body is the engine of the organism. Through the disciplined practice of training and learning to ignore the natural impulse to yield to both pain and common sense, it becomes strong. We break our muscles down so they rebuild themselves again, a bit more robustly. Over time, it becomes a tool. An instrument of intimidation. A weapon even. The body serves at the pleasure of the mind; a strong mind can draw unexpected performances from the body. A strong body can bolster the morale and encourage the mind to draw more from it, but it can only exhibit an influence; the body is never in control of the mind.
Who hasn’t laughed at the redneck wearing a “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people” t-shirt? While I commend the author’s ability to assign responsibility, guns definitely make the job a lot easier. It is the same with the bicycle; the bike is not what makes a rider fast, but a good one makes it a lot easier. The bicycle is almost a sentient being, we often show more affection and concern for the state of the machine than that of our own bodies. But the machine also exerts a huge amount of influence over the the entire system; a bicycle in perfect working order serves to inspire the Mind to find the limits of the body. A failing machine – or even a creaking pedal or squeaking chain – will send the mind into a descending feedback loop of morale which ends, most often, in a Millarcopter.
To achieve our potential as Cyclists, we must respect our Santoku: the mind, the body, and the machine. Vive la Vie Velominatus.