Solitude

Solitude

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The task spreads out before me like molasses poured onto a tabletop, indulging in its viscous immensity. Its growing breadth makes it a kind of enigma, the sort distinguished by an elusive end and therefor an intangible beginning. It occurs to me, at this moment, that the difference between those who achieve and those who stagnate is not measured by their greatness, but by their courage to begin. There is a boldness in embarking on that to which the end is unknown, to trust in your ability to navigate a path along which the way can be felt more than it can be seen.

In life, our path is fractured by the paths of those in our social and professional proximity. In training, we are simply a product of our discipline and will. In a world full of change and flux, training stands out as a beautifully simple thing. Time in the saddle goes in one end, and progress comes out the other. The magnitude of the change we see as a result is directly proportional to our commitment to a goal; there is nowhere to to seek answers to our failures but inside ourselves.

The most sacred act in Cycling is, for me, the day-long solo training ride, especially in Winter. On these days of 200 or more kilometers, I rise with the sun still lingering behind the Cascades to the East. There is a chill in the air even inside the house as I shake off sleep and prepare for a ride book-ended by the twin fires of sunrise and sunset. I wait patiently for the streets to be lit well enough to allow my safe passage; perhaps I’ll have another espresso while I wait for the sun to laze above the horizon.

Setting out, my heart will be heavy with dread knowing the ribbon of kilometers, hills and climbs that lies ahead. In Winter, the effect is heightened by the gray clouds in the sky and the knowledge that rain and possibly snow will accompany me. Before I even begin, my mind casts ahead to the warm shower and hearty meal which will greet me at the end of this long day. Yet, the only way to arrive is by loading the pedals at the outset and getting to the business of turning them endlessly until I return to the house.

My usual long training route consists of chaining together my daily training loops. While familiarity with the route serves to comfort me, the conclusion of each loop carries me by my home – each time I find myself tempted to escape into the warm confines where my family, a shower, and a meal awaits. Yet, with each passing of the house, my resolve is energized, I continue. I continue with only the thoughts in my head, my discipline, and the cold and wet to keep me company. When I finally return home, my spirits fill with a sense of accomplishment.

These rides help me find form, certainly, but they serve a more fundamental purpose that echoes in my personal and professional life. They serve to remind that a large task is an aggregate of smaller, more simple tasks and that we need only the courage to begin. Just as a long ride is accomplished by the simple act of turning the pedals, we achieve our goals in life by starting today to incrementally move towards them.

I am reminded through the solitude of the ride that simply beginning is the most critical element to finishing; fail to do that, and you will never have the opportunity to finish. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // The Rides

  1. @Nate

    Yep 404 and a 404 in the Faema photo as well

  2. @Souleur

    @frank

    @Souleur, @VeloVita

    Nothing against the group ride for sure; those can have such a great dynamic, whether its a Casually Deliberate ride with friends or a lung-busting hammerfest (also possibly with friends), there can be deep enjoyment from them.

    But the solo day-long slog is another animal altogether.

    Speaking of which, one of my major grievances with group rides is the fact that no one seems to be able to keep a lid on The V and just ride as planned and agreed beforehand. Rides are always billed as easy, or no-drop etc, and then sure enough, as soon as the road goes uphill someone will go to the front and put the hammer down. For people who ride in groups enough, we all know this happens and we all adjust our expectations accordingly, and we learn to love it.

    But I think its very discouraging for people how are trying to get into the sport, or who for whatever reason expect the ride to be as agreed. I think as good Cycling Ambassadors, we could do well to get better about sticking to the agreement on a ride. But it takes all of us, and we all need to hold each other accountable to stick with it.

    yeah, i agree. When buddy calls up for a ride/or texts, i will ask what the pace is and he sometimes will reply ‘spirited’

    that translates nicely into your ‘repeated hammerfest’, racing for signs, or mailbox’s, & smashing hills flat

    Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some town line sprints, but the Cash Del group ride-turned-race is just a challenge to Training Properly and welcoming in noobs.

  3. @unversio

    @frank Try going cold a little longer and you might not get a little too warm so soon. Either way we each choose our own comfort level. I have the sense that you aim to dress very precisely* and I choose to dress very basically*. Under dressed.

    Fair enough, but you’re still a nutter, as defined by me – another nutter. So after you carry the one and divide be V, it all winds up being about neutral.

  4. @Nathan I agree with this – I have  three pairs of the Giro Zeros and love them.

  5. I ride alone. I can dig into my inner self far deeper when I’m 100 or 200k from home and there’s only one way to get back. We live accosted by a barrage of media, sound, people, etc. When I ride, the phone is off, merely there for an emergency, and I engulf myself in being one with my world. I have never understood why one would wear headphones for music or an earpiece to talk. Riding time is time away from the world. If your rides are such that you need music for stimulation, well, I find that sad.

  6. I do really like solo ride, especially when I’m on holiday, when you don’t know the route very well and because of that I feel a slight sense of uneasiness. I feel that especially when I am in the Dolomites mountains. Those solo ride are made in a class of their own, unique.

  7. My usual long training route consists of chaining together my daily training loops.

    This method of crafting a long route is foreign to me. I know many people simply do long rides by linking their shorter routes, but don’t you ride those routes enough? Part of my love of the long ride is the exploration. If I’m going out for 200k, that means I can ride a loop that goes 100k from home. Isn’t that part of the beauty of cycling? The level of commitment is admittedly higher, in that you have to get home, and the only way home is to crank out that 100k, or whatever distance it may be.

    Being in the flatlands of southeast Michigan, wherever I ride is essentially the same. Some areas are a bit lumpier, but otherwise it’s trees and farms. Thus, I make every route a loop and try to get out onto new roads on occasion. When I head back to mountainous country, then the routes change because the long climbs place more constraints on where you ride.

    A vast number of people out here ride the exact same three or four routes over and over again. I always find that baffling. How do all of you go about deciding your routes? Geography plays a huge role obviously, perhaps that’s why you do a meta-route for your long rides Frank?

  8. @Collin

    For me it really depends on how I’m feeling that day, and how I feel about forcing myself into the inevitable “death march” home depending on how hard/long the ride was. The really *good* routes here that take me a ways from home all seem to involve at least 4-5 hours on the bike, so you need to have the time free during the day to put that much time into the ride.

    On days where I’m not feeling 100%, I’m more likely to string together a route from my shorter rides, that way I’m never more than 20-30 mins away from home when I feel “done”. This is especially true in winter when I’m wet or cold and just want to strip off the soaked kit and warm up.

    I also get into the rut of riding the same routes often because living in a city, they just happen to be the best routes I’ve found for cycling in the immediate area, and they fit in well if I’m strapped for time and don’t have 5 hours for a ride that day.

  9. @asyax

    Erik – for my birthday this year I treated myself to a 120K, 2000m solo – best present ever!

    Funny you should mention that, tomorrow’s the birthday & as luck would have it Strava have put a challenge together with BMC to cover at least 128km (79mi) in a single ride over the weekend. Looks like Saturday morning will involve a solo recon of the Adelaide Cogal route as a birthday present to myself.

  10. @Nate Thanx! I’ll need one of these eventually.

  11. @frank

    @Souleur, @VeloVita

    Nothing against the group ride for sure; those can have such a great dynamic, whether its a Casually Deliberate ride with friends or a lung-busting hammerfest (also possibly with friends), there can be deep enjoyment from them.

    But the solo day-long slog is another animal altogether.

    Speaking of which, one of my major grievances with group rides is the fact that no one seems to be able to keep a lid on The V and just ride as planned and agreed beforehand. Rides are always billed as easy, or no-drop etc, and then sure enough, as soon as the road goes uphill someone will go to the front and put the hammer down. For people who ride in groups enough, we all know this happens and we all adjust our expectations accordingly, and we learn to love it.

    But I think its very discouraging for people how are trying to get into the sport, or who for whatever reason expect the ride to be as agreed. I think as good Cycling Ambassadors, we could do well to get better about sticking to the agreement on a ride. But it takes all of us, and we all need to hold each other accountable to stick with it.

    This shits me like you wouldn’t believe, we have a Wednesday morning group ride that meets at 6 at the bottom of one of the more popular climbs just outside Adelaide & then is supposed to be a 20-25 minute spin (most of our pr’s are in the mid to low teens) up the hill that’s designed to welcome newer riders to riding within groups.

    Unfortunately, without fail in the last few weeks, there’s a bunch of riders who’ll join up with us & then attack from the gun…which just means they need to wait around longer at the top. Stoopid 

  12. This 

    not this.

  13. @Collin I have something of the same approach. I’m not banging out 200K rides yet, but if I decide to go for 80-100K I usually map out a loop of some sort through the countryside around me, ideally covering at least one section I’ve never been on before (or at least not in that direction). The exploration makes it so much better than just doing 5 loops of the same section that I did on Tuesday morning before breakfast.

  14. @Pedale.Forchetta

    I do really like solo ride, especially when I’m on holiday, when you don’t know the route very well and because of that I feel a slight sense of uneasiness.

    Sounds like every time I ride a mountain bike.

  15. @G’rilla

    @Pedale.Forchetta

    I do really like solo ride, especially when I’m on holiday, when you don’t know the route very well and because of that I feel a slight sense of uneasiness.

    Sounds like every time I ride a mountain bike.

    While I assume you’re referring to the slight sense of uneasiness, I’m confused as to how that relates specifically to the mountain bike? But maybe we’re getting into potato-potahtoe territory here.

  16. ‘Sisu’ as my Finnish better half would say.

  17. @unversio

    This

    not this.

    How about this:

  18. Solitude = Sitting on the turbo watching a virtual climb of Mont Ventoux with no sound track for 30 minutes at a pitiful pace in the little dog and absolutely fucking loving it!

    First time on the bike since the ankle op (I am not allowed in to the real world till Feb) with flat pedals and wearing this!

    I got dressed in my V jersey just for the joy of it and trying to remember what it was like!

  19. Very serendipitous this as I was only yesterday wondering if there were a thread on this topic – great minds …

    Have been unable to make my usual 6am hit out with mates due to finally accepting I have three children and a wife … so have found myself riding solo, later in the day. And I love it.

    Aside from anything, I enjoy the confused, envious from some, bemused looks from others thinking ” lucky fucker I wish I was riding my bike ” or ” why the fuck is that loser not at work ” or ” fuck he’s hot ” ….. Its a rare chance to dream, isn’t it, and exist without interuption for a moment outside the humdrum, the pedestrian, the miserable

    Cannot wait to set off alone today.Rare, privileged vibes.

  20. Damn, this just serves to cast my mind back to what I was doing a year to the day, today, in 2011 – my first ever HC climb in Southern Spain up to Ronda – one of the most glorious things I have ever done

    If I compare it to the rides across the Pairofknees in June, with all their grandeur and history and HCness, I have to say, my memories of that long ponderous climb, now confirmed by Strava as being shit slow, still remains my happiest day on a bike – the first day I ever felt La Volupte too

    I was alone that day, unlike all the big rides since, but I remember thinking, the V-people are with me

    Thanks everyone

  21. @smithers

    could you not get cleats for that fine cycling aircast boot?

     

  22. @Dr C

    or maybe @ Deakus, who was actually wearing it – doh!!!

  23. @Dr C

    @smithers

    could you not get cleats for that fine cycling aircast boot?

    I wish!  3 more weeks to go…but got on the turbo again today so just happy to be doing some riding!

  24. @frank

    @freddy

    Yes, the solitude of the long solo ride. Strangely, a different kind of solitude can be experienced with a faithful riding partner. My brother and I are almost equally matched in form. On long rides, we share the wind, silently trading places when it feels right. A day of hard riding-few word are spoken. Solitude.

    With the right training partner, for sure. Also, when you’re deep in the cave, you can find solitude even in a group – like several of us experienced on the Seattle Summer Cogal.

    That said, though, there is something about truly being solo that sets those rides apart. Sharing the wind, trading places, those are all impossibilities when solo. The work needs to be done just by you and no one else.

    Thanks for the inpiration. My riding partner wasn’t around this weekend so I set out (a little late) to Belfountain for a 125 km solo ride. The sun set about half way back to Guelph so I was dependent on a tunnel of light from my Leyzne to see the road. Solitude.

  25. @mcsqueak

    @Nathan @actor1 – great, thanks for the suggestions, I’ll check them out!

    I do think the Castelli aero race glove looks good, but I wish they made one that didn’t go so high up on the wrist.

    I have a set of the Castelli aero race gloves, the Garmin Cervelo version, and they are fantastic, I even ride them on cool mornings because they are just so comfortable. I highly recommend them and the only time I have ever wanted to take them off was when I was doing hill repeats on an insufferably hot day, and in saying that, I didn’t end up taking them off. I used to suffer from what I call “claustrophobic hands’  and normal gloves just weren’t cutting it. So if you suffer from the same ailment, these are the only way to go I think.

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