Ultimate Indulgence: The Simplicity of Pain

Ultimate Indulgence: The Simplicity of Pain

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It’s a good question, this: who in their right mind would willfully hurt themselves doing something they “enjoy”? I’m guessing psychologists have a word for this type of behavior, and I’m not afraid to assume it’s not a flattering one. Indeed, we are all of us completely nuts.

When I’m not filing TPS Reports, it’s my job to help businesses not make technical problems any worse than they already are; occasionally I even help solve one or two. On the good days, I might sit behind my computer and do some actual “work”.  On the bad days, I try to remember what I actually did despite being busy from the moment I set foot in the office, if not before that.  No matter which of these shapes my days take, I come home feeling ready for a ride.

I generally look forward to that part of the day; to changing into my cycling kit, mulling over which cycling-specific eye wear to use and which lenses, before heading down to the basement where the bikes sleep. I like to spend a few minutes cooing over the stable while I pretend not to have already decided to take out Bike Number One; then I make my final selection and ready it for the road.

Being too fat to climb means that I am prone to snakebite punctures caused by my fat ass bouncing the back tire on the rim, so by necessity, I check my tire pressure before every ride (I’ve never had a flat on a Continental GP4000, by the way).  I check my quick releases.  If I didn’t clean and oil my chain after the last ride, I’ll clean and oil it.  I’ll make sure everything is shifting properly.  I’ll check the brakes, hang my helmet from the stem as stipulated in Rule #76, and roll my steed out into the garage where she’ll wait for me while I fill my water bottles and slip into the white ladies.

All the while, work will be knocking around in the back of my mind; be it the annoying things that happened during the day, the items I didn’t get around to, or whatever it is that will transpire tomorrow.  As I roll out onto the street, I’ll be preoccupied by little things as I settle into the rhythm of the ride.  Things like trying not to get hit by the idiot in a car who seems to be texting his buddies that he Hearts Huckabees.  Or I’ll question the decision-making process that encouraged the girl waiting at the bus stop to buy pantaloons that are three sizes too small.  Despite these worthwhile distractions, work will be knocking around in the back of my mind.

Climbing – or more precisely, the pain induced by climbing – is my favorite escape. When I’m on form, I’m encouraged by how good it feels to climb at tempo. Let me digress for a moment to point out that what a Velominatus defines as “feels good” diverges a bit from the traditional definition; by “good”, I mean to indicate that there is a tension in the legs – they hurt but feel strong – and the lungs ache as more air is taken from them than can possibly be pumped back into them, but they don’t feel like they are turning inside-out. “Feeling Good” is the only the beginning.

Then comes picking up a spade, cramming it into a mountainous heap of Rule #5, and turning it over on yourself. There is a strange freedom in the sensation you get as the pain rises through your body; it starts in the legs, and then in the lungs.  Together they swell and grow into each other as the pain consumes every bit of consciousness and affects the vision – colors become simultaneously more vibrant and desaturated.  The mind takes on a singular focus to keep the legs turning, blood pumping, and oxygen flowing; any thought not directly associated with keeping up the effort is pushed out.  A cyclist’s pain is a singular, focused peacefulness. From a Buddhist perspective, there might be something of the shadow of Enlightenment to it, that singular Oneness of Focus. Except that pain bit. I’m not a Buddhist, but I think they might not really be into that side of things.

It’s only during those moments – when I’m suffering like sweet baby Jesus on the cross – that my work doesn’t occupy at least some portion of my mind; the singular indulgence of pain clears everything away, and when I climb off the bike – destroyed – and after I’ve finished my post-ride beer (you need carbs after a ride, you know), everything seems just a little bit clearer.  By clearing away the noise, it makes all the problems in life seem a little less insurmountable.

// General // The Rules

  1. @Brett

    Like you even have a seat! It’s all post there, let me assure you…

    Small seatpost? I’d also like to submit the screen name Good CaGeofelphant. It’s easier to say. Think it over, Seatpost.

  2. @Souleur
    I don’t often ride in that kind of heat, but when I lived in North Carolina, it was a common thing. I’ve never bonked like that in my life – exactly what you say, the lights go out and you can’t do much more than roll by in the smallest gear you have. Nothing worse than having to shift out of the 58×11 and into the 56×12.

    velomahottie remark of ‘the good legs’.

    Ah, the Velomihottie “leg” remark. A reason to live. Naturally you pointed her towards the site and corrected her to say “guns”?

    The more you post here, the more I’m convinces you’re bat shit crazy. I love it.

    My brother has the capacity to suffer like no one else I know. He’ll ride nothing but the couch for months while I diligently go out and Train Properly and then we’ll go for a ride and he’ll just hang in there no problem.

    His “tell”, however, is that right before a bonk, he’ll start to feel really great. So he’ll choose that moment to attack or go to the front and HAMMER. And then he’ll blow. Every time.

  3. So he’ll choose that moment to attack or go to the front and HAMMER. And then he’ll blow. Every time.

    My kinda guy.

  4. @Frank.

    My colleague at the office is just like that. There’s nothing to him, just skin and sinew and very little bone. He’ll spend months injured or just idle, then come and sit on my wheel whilst I fruitlessly attempt to break him. He’ll camp there, not even breathing hard, perfectly pale, until I’ve propped up the headwind long enough to burnout before popping on the front and attempting a rideoff. Come to think of it, he doesn’t really eat during a ride either, or sweat.


  5. @Frank: absolutely, you know I did, but do you accept hotties w/calf tat’s and fixies? I didn’t see a Rule on that, but be it far from me to mix Campagnolo w/a fixie crowd. That is a hybrid I want no part of.

    Sweet…58×11 going all the way down to your 56×12. Makes my 39×23 feel like a triple compact billy goat mtn gear, but I am a very average climber in my cat.

    Sounds like to me you have that white brothers 2x-rear hub for that kind of gear spacing. If I were you, I would pull a Bartali and change it by hand too??

  6. @Joe
    Next time you guys end up in the john together, check to make sure this “guy” isn’t peeing motor oil.


    but do you accept hotties w/calf tat’s and fixies?

    Calf tat’s get a definite yes. Fixies only if it’s not their only ride and so long as they are not riding said fixie in skinny jeans.

    If I were you, I would pull a Bartali and change it by hand too??

    Well, I do use a dérailleur, but I don’t have any shifters. I just have the cables stick out over the handlebars and I yank them with my teeth to shift.

  7. now thats Rule #5…a yank w/the teeth for a shift

  8. Three pints of awesome:


  9. @Steampunk
    It is scientifically impossible to decide on a favorite between the three of those guys. What a bunch of awesome dudes.

    Andy is like, “Jens just likes to ride in the win because he likes the pain.”
    Jens on the coffee, and then Stuey on the music. “You are not winning this one, mate. Your music sucks.”

  10. Jens is fucking hilarious. He’s a like a little kid full of energy. It’s clear that he just loves bike riding and life. What a great example to us all!

    Furthermore, I came up with some new Jens-isms.

    Jens Voigt pedals so hard at the bottom of climbs that he coasts all the way to the top. The only reason he looks like he’s suffering and pedaling slowly at the top of climbs is because he forgot he was in his 53-11 and decided to keep pedaling in it.

    Sometimes he even climbs while clenching the brakes so hard that the brakepads melt, because he doesn’t need to slow down on the descent, and because if he didn’t, he’d drop the whole peloton.

  11. So, I want to get something off my chest. It’s been bugging me since the end of the TdF, and probably a lot longer. I can’t help it. I like Cavendish. Yes, he has been a pratt in the past. Yes, at the excitement of a sprint finish he has said and done some stoopid things. But for christ’s sake, he’s a youngster, a wee whippersnapper, but the boy can sprint. I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me… and I look forward to the healthy debate from those who really don’t think CavenCanDish, not to mention those who think he’s a CavenDouche… but I would like to think we are entering the era of CaveNiceDay.

    Last year, he was an arriviste… all brash, all swagger, all cock in hand, cock on head arrogance. Somesay – not me – that he deserved it… but to me, he didn’t win the green jersey, and his missplaced sense of self worth was a tad premature. It really irritated me when he bought his Audi R8 sportscar… he said he’d buy one when he won the Green Jersey… and he bought one anyway as he thought his disqualification was ridiculous. OF COURSE IT WAS RIDICULOUS. They’re French. Dick. And how could he think any machine could be more beautiful than a bike. Even if built by germans. Cock. HE. SHOULD. NOT. HAVE. BOUGHT. THAT. CAR. If only not to tempt the fates. And lets not talk about his new girlfriend vs. the old. (although lets face it… if we could, we would).

    But then this year: the struggles to get fit; the tooth infection; the incredibly misjudged victory celebration on the Tour of California (even if he was going back to the roots of the ‘v’sign.. the archers at Agincourt… “you haven’t captured us and cut off our bow fingers… so we’ll flaunt them at you, you french bastards” type thing – still stooopid); the first few stages of the TdF where he was nowhere; the stage where he forgot to turn the corner; the stage where he sat up and let everyone go past him…..

    BUT, then what happened? appalled at himself; reminded of none other than Rule #5 itself from Maestro Petacci himself; he dug deep, took a gun check, and discovered that he was packing the full nine-yards: WIN; WIN; WIN; WIN; WIN (I paraphrase). If this was golf, he’d be playing the trick shot where he uses the back of the putter to lob the ball over his shoulder to sink it. Look: I really care; I really can’t help crying like a girl (and – as my wife reminds me – he’s a really good looking girl… those eyelashes, those eyes, those cheekbones… thank fuck he has a massive head compared to the rest of his body, and looks a bit like a hunchback off the bike); LOOK: I only win because I have the best lead out train; Oh wait, once Renshaw gets (ridiculously) DQ’d because Garmin are blatantly muscling in on the HTC Lead-out train, I can win in a straight sprint with or without the tattered remnants of my team; I can stick with it over a Category 3 climb to outsprint everyone else to… errrr… 2nd, given the small climbing guy had finished already up the road in a great solo breakaway. But then Bordeaux.. and then the Champs Elysees (spelling not so good after a 2003 Pomerol)… again! But most importantly, he is SOOOOOO much faster than anyone else…. after cycling the same 200km odd that everyone else has ridden. And that’s what gets me. Lets not forget (unless I’m misreading the data) that the fastest Etape rider finished this year’s stage 30 minutes behind the slowest pro… and here, I’m guessing the slowest pro is a) the Grupetto… or b) Cav or c) the same thing. But he still trashed the best of us. On the flat, noone else on this planet is close. He sucks it up, he spits it out, and he keeps coming back. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he speaks his mind.

    I’m not too ashamed to say: I love Cav. I think he is a breath of fresh air to this sport. I love his vulnerability. I love his strength. I love his power. I love his aggression. I love his youth and naivety. And I love the fact he wants to win at all costs. And yes, I have grown to love his attitude, and can respect his will to win; his right to say whatever the fuck he wants when he’s kicked the other 6 billion people on this rock’s arses; and I love the fact he’s british (this last bit is unapolagetically jingoistic… sorry… oops, I really did mean unapolagetically, so didn’t mean that)

    For next year’s VSP TdF: Put me down for Cav for the Green Jersey, and to win every sprint stage that you offer. I think he’s the real thing, and we should cut him some slack. I don’t think he dopes; I think he’s exciting to watch, and he gives it full gas. We should celebrate his freakish genes, his guns of Navarone, and his ability to dish the hurt to the rest of the Alpha Males in the pack.

    Come on… how can I be wrong?

  12. @Omar
    How about “Jens Voigt called Chuck Norris a pussy and lived” ?

  13. @Good Geofelephant
    Nice. ++1.

  14. @roadslave
    Wow. I’m partly digusted and partly in agreement.

    OK. There was some good racing. I even stopped hating Contador. But here’s the thing about Cavendouche: The fuck has to learn some humility. Christ, he’s young, but so is Le Petite Frere Grimpeur. That dude is a class act. Telling people to stop booing Contador? However you feel about Chaingate (really? Are fucking calling it that?), his reaction at the press conf was A+ sportsmanship, in the face of almost certain defeat, no less. It’s easy to be a good sport when you’re winning; to be one when you’re losing? Other ballgame altogether.

    Cav fucking spat on Haussler when he was the cause of a devastating crash. Not cool. He fucked up constantly in the first bit of the Tour. But, yes – you’re right. To come back from that hole he was in to win, win, win, win? That was top-notch Rule #5. Swallow the pride, and step up. Well done, my son.

    I like the brash thing. I fucking LOVED Cipo. He was an Arrogant Fuck, First Class. But in a class act way. Always respecting the right rules, always respecting the history and culture and etiquette of the sport. Humble when appropriate, dressing like fucking Caesar when appropriate.

    Cav is a sprinter like none other; his speed is unequalled, he can win with or without a train. Bravo. But he needs to grow up, and he needs to show the sport and, more importantly, his colleagues the respect the deserve.

    He was disqualified from that sprint last year. Yup. He deviated from his line, like he did at the Tour de Suisse. The officials relegated him before Hushovd even protested. He broke the sacred rules of sprinting. To call that, as he did, “the worst sporting judgement in history” is way the fuck off. He needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize that taking responsibility for your mistakes is not only professional, responsible, it is the most liberating thing you can do in the face of failure.

    Next time he takes out a bunch of guys in a bunch Sprint and causes them immeasurable losses in terms of injury possibly forcing them to miss the Tour, he should post a video on YouTube and apologize. If he does that, I’ll be a lot closer to liking him.

  15. @frank
    Yup, I second that. As I struggled my way up and down some vicious steep hills in a howling wind this afternoon, feeling more than a little too fat to climb and completely rooted (Antipodean for “fucked”) from a savage week in the office until 2am every night, I found my mind wandering from its usual focus on stroke and pain and reflecting instead on roadslave’s post. Have I been too hard on Cavendouche? Is it just “tall poppy syndrome” (as we call it down here – i.e. the enthusiasm for cutting the great and good down to our own minute size)? Have we allowed his (reasonably regular) misdemeanours to overshadow his achievements?

    And then I thought – no, fuck it, the kid needs to grow up and stop dishing up these petulant, self-centred, Gen-Y wanker displays, and instead take a leaf or two out of a couple of books further up the road (at least when the road points up) – the books belonging to the Grimplet and Paella Balls. They’re the same age (a year or two either way seems bugger all from where I sit on the age scale). And yet they both constantly outdistance him by orders of magnitude when it comes to showing the type of maturity, calmness under fire and all-round class which distinguish the merely very good sportsmen from the sporting icons. Not that Grimpy or Brety are icons. Yet. But they’re a shitload closer than the spoilt little “All About Me” man from Manx. Sure, he’s preternaturely fast, with or without his train. Sure he pulled himself back from a shitty start to the race. Sure, he can Rule #5 it sufficiently over the bumps to pull off some stunning wins. All good stuff. But that’s training and genetics. To become the type of icon his extraordinary speed deserves, he needs to learn to be a man. And I hope he does. I really do. Whe he’s not being a prat he comes across as a rather nice chap. But he’s not even on the podium in the race to be a grown up yet. And there ain’t no train to get him there.

  16. @Steampunk
    Great video. Those guys look excellent for a rest day in the Tour. I’d be in bed.

    And I loves my chainsaw. What an invention. I’d rather cut my own arm off than use an axe or bow-saw to deal with trees. A chainsaw with a sharp chain. so money.

    But really I need to sneak in some lame guesses for the race tomorrow. I can’t believe the winner won’t be a TdF rider. Who is todays equivalent of Bettini? Who has massive form from the Tour but did squat while he was in the tour? I don’t know, I’ve got nothing as usual. So I’m going for Mr Weight of a Nation because I need him to win something big.
    1. Ryder H
    2. J-Rod
    3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov
    4. Jurgen Van de Walle
    5. Nicolas Roche

  17. @Steampunk

    The best video. I wish Jens was my dad.

  18. Hey all, good stuff here, the rest day video was perfect.

    My relationship with pain is inversely related to how fit I am. If I am fat and out of shape then most things on a bike are painful. If, on the other hand, I have 5% body fat and am doing 5-700K a week and am peaking then nothing was ever painful and the longer and harder just became a new and different experience.

    Ok I have not had that experience in a long time but that is how I remember it. On those days where it all came together it was magical and not that it was easy but it was never painful.

    Those are the memories that I cherish and feel lucky to have had them.

    P.S. Frank I hate to bring this up but are you sure I own the green jersey…? You should check because I think there has been a mistake… (oh shit I am such a fat looser now).

  19. @Geof,
    Paella Balls is what I’m going to call all my Spaniard friends from now on.

  20. @all,
    Speaking of pain, I narrowly avoided a whole lot of pain on my group ride this morning by pulling one of these (watch the black guy):

    We were in a paceline going 27 or 28mph, and some fuckwit (#2 Rider) slammed his brakes and I swerved left to avoid the wheel of #3 who also swerved left. Somehow I managed to think “Oh this is going to suck” as soon as I saw things unfolding in that split second. Nearly got tagged by oncoming traffic and narrowly avoided a concrete wall and a bigass pile of sand. I don’t know how, but I made it back to the #3 rider’s wheel within 2 or 3 seconds of the event. Needless to say, #3 (a very experienced rider and someone I consider a friend) gave the guy an earful and a half.

    And the asshole that caused it all when he was rotating back from the front had the nerve to tell me “Good job avoiding that accident” instead of simply apologizing. I didn’t say anything to him because the only thing I was thinking was “I oughta punch your fuckin’ teeth out.”

  21. @Steampunk
    Coming a bit late to the “Three Pints of Awesome” party, as YouTube is blocked at work. But it was worth the wait. Thanks for posting it. (Was just asked to explain what I was cackling at in the study. “Oh, Honey, this fantastic clip of this big German hardman clown, this dry laconic hardman Aussie and this funny little wafer from Luxembourg.” I don’t think I put it very well…)

  22. @frank, @geof

    I hear you both. I’m as surprised as you to have written the article in the first place. Yes, Grimpette (A) is a classy guy, and told us not to boo Bertie on the podium…. and then he finished second in paris (i.e. didn’t win), and EVERYONE missed the point about Contador’s apology…. it wasn’t about him disrespecting ASchleck, it was about him disrespecting the Maillot Jaune (who gives a shit who’s in it?)— he is a v classy guy, but not a winner. Yes, Contador has won the Tour three times in a row, has kind eyes (my wife’s point of view), took the shit Armstrong threw his way last year and still won, but THEN HE PULLED THAT STUNT THIS YEAR. the tit. And I agree with both of you on Cav – he does need to grow up. that stunt last year with Thor was at best marginal (the course narrowed, he held his line… look at the heli footage) at worst too agressive (he knew the road was narrowing, and used it to his advantage to close Thor out). Stage two this year was stupid when he took the turn like David Coulthard used to take a turn in an F1 car (i.e. “David, what happened?”…”Well, the car was set up great, the team did a great job, we had good straight line speed, I was in the lead, and then the corner came up…. and I forgot to steer”). I acknowledge all of that.

    But, did he not grow up when he looked down that desolate, lonely path that being a loser is and say “that path is not for me”, turned it around, and cried his eyes out on the podium. Since that day, I’ve heard him do nothing except praise those around him… his team, Petacci, etc…. even when he’s basically done it himself (also, including, a brilliant stage where he used Thor as his lead out man)…. I think these are early days, but I think he HAS grown up. I think – when history writes up 2010 – that this year will make him… not as a sprinter, but as a human being. I hope I’m right, and that your opinions prove, with the test of time, to be misplaced. Look forward to continuing this. BTW, love “tall poppy syndrome”!

  23. @roadslave
    Time will tell. But I hope you’re right. It would be a shame for the fastest man on two wheels to be anything but an icon. (BTW, my point about Bertie being classy was obviously not a refererence to Chaingate itself, but it does include the way he did what he could to address it quicksmart.)

  24. @roadslave
    Cav’s by far the best sprinter going around, and is well on the way to being the best ever. He will never hold a place in people’s hearts the way Cippo does because he is repeatedly and demonstrably a fuckwit.

    Getting off his bike to punch a fan who booed him, spitting on Haussler after bringing him down, the two fingered salute… They all point to him being a dude you can admire for being a very fast bike rider, and that is all.

    His and Renshaw’s relegations and disqualifications have come from the Commissaires without any protests from competitors. They’ve been ousted for doing shit that you just can’t do while travelling at 65km/hr wearing nothing but bike kit with forty-odd other blokes lined up behind you doing the same thing.

    To claim that it was Garmin’s fault that Renshaw got done is a bit rich. I’d love to get the measurements of Renshaw’s deviation at Farrar after he headbutted Dean compared to Dean’s. From memory, Dean deviated at most a foot, then copped three headbutts and didn’t deviate any further. He could have done, but didn’t – you’d naturally lean in when someone was headbutting you wouldn’t you? Once Renshaw stops the headbutting, he looks over his left shoulder, sees Farrar coming (to another inevitable second place) and turns to the left. He only stops when Farrar, who by now has been ridden right onto the barriers, pushes him away (one broken hand holding the bike, one pushing a mad Australian off of him). It had to have been five or six feet that he deviated. It was super dangerous.

    “It was Garmin’s fault” was just more bullshit Columbia “in the bunker” propaganda (anyone else reminded of their histrionics after Hincrappie missed the yellow by five seconds, and Cav won the sprint to the line for 9th or whatever, having been lead out for the previous few km? “Garmin chased it and cost us the jersey. Lance kept the gap down and cost his mate George the jersey…” Harden up and tell your boys not to pull for Cav in the final few km, and tell George he should have ridden for the line, not waved his arms at his fellow break boys… you whining cunts)

    Sorry. Digression. Cav’s a great sprinter and a class A fuck knuckle. He’ll be a sprinter for a decade or so, and a cocksucker for his whole life. You’d love to meet Cippo in a bar (inevitably sipping cocktails on an Italian beach, beating off millions of adoring fans) but would you want to meet Cav?

  25. @roadslave
    Here’s hoping you’re right, but alas I fear that Geof and Hawkeye have a point for now. It’s all too easy to be gracious when you’re winning; when you’re losing, it’s another story altogether.


    You’d love to meet Cippo in a bar (inevitably sipping cocktails on an Italian beach, beating off millions of adoring fans) but would you want to meet Cav?

    John would pass out. And he’s big and heavy, so while I’d want to meet Cipo, I’d want to do it either before Johnny Boy met him, or sufficiently later to ensure he was already moved somewhere where he could recover in safety.

    A friend of a friend went to a dinner thing Cav attended. I guess he’s just like a 15 year old kid with ADD, just bouncing off the wall and acts like a total spaz. Totally used to being the limelight, a fucking tool. He’s got a long road ahead of him in terms of becoming a champion. It will be interesting to watch him over the coming years; something to offset the boredom of watching him win every bunch sprint will be to see if he departs the toolshed.

    Fast little fucker, though. No denying.

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