The Shadow

The Ah-Ha Ride

The Ah-Ha Ride

by / / 40 posts

I’m not sure where this ride falls on the graph of fitness but down towards the bottom, somewhere.

There can be a point in every rider’s season where each ride ends the same. FFS, I suck. The unabridged volume of self-loathing is reviewed, cogent chapters reread, aloud, in the bathroom. I’m Too Fat To Climb is a chapter I like to quote, chapter and verse.

Luckily stubbornness, the right amount of dumb and experience keep me from throwing my steed in a dumpster. None of us do walk away from our bikes because we have all gone through this, maybe every year. You keep going out, doing the rides, coming home to pull that damn book off the shelf. What happened? Life got in the way again.

We remember being good cyclists. We used to dance up those hills, a slow dance maybe but we danced. The bike and human were one, united in the pleasure and pain of covering vast amounts of ground. But now it’s just sweating, head down graceless riding, listening to friends disappear up the road as they merrily chat away.

Then without warning on a subsequent ride, it happens. Is it cooler? Do I have a tailwind? Did I double down on my espresso? What is going on here? This is the Ah-Ha ride; one of the best rides of the year. Bike would, if it could, be saying, where the hell have you been? There may be no fitness or grace going on yet but there they are, out there on the horizon. And they are getting a little closer. All I want is that signal from the body that improvement is possible. These pointless rides are not pointless. That psychic burden can float away; that idiot book can stay on the shelf. I am a cyclist.

// La Vie Velominatus

  1. This is timely for me. “FFS, I suck” has been my motto all year, for reasons I don’t need to go into. But just now, just before reading this, I did an actual, structured interval workout, the first in I don’t know how long. It felt really good. It will have been the first of many such rides this fall and winter, I hereby swear and affirm. I seriously intend to suck less next year. And I intend to enjoy the trip there.

  2. This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuN7kOW7iwo

  3. @the Engine

    This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuN7kOW7iwo

    Sweet jesus, I do hope I’m not subliminally channeling Alan Partridge now. He is in there, I do my best to keep him buried with the other voices in my head.

  4. @PeakInTwoYears

    This is timely for me. “FFS, I suck” has been my motto all year, for reasons I don’t need to go into. But just now, just before reading this, I did an actual, structured interval workout, the first in I don’t know how long. It felt really good. It will have been the first of many such rides this fall and winter, I hereby swear and affirm. I seriously intend to suck less next year. And I intend to enjoy the trip there.

    I hear ya. Once I know things may be moving in the positive direction then the trips to the pain cave are a lot more fun. Slogging for slogging’s sake, not so much.

  5. Nice one Gianni.

    “Then without warning on a subsequent ride, it happens. Is it cooler? Do I have a tailwind? Did I double down on my espresso? What is going on here? This is the Ah-Ha ride; one of the best rides of the year.”

    This! After suffering through weeks of blah, no improvement then BOOM! its a great feeling and always seems to come without warning.

  6. I usually have an Ah-Ha ride or two in the spring, typically related to dropping heavy fluttering winter kit as the weather warms. One year’s felt especially good until it became clear that the way out had been wind-aided.

  7. Oh, Merckx. It’s been so long since I felt consistently good on the bike. The last really good ride that I did, I wrote a one-sentence entry in the journal: “Today, I felt like a cyclist.”

  8. Oh boy, definitely been in this situation. Like, right now! My hours in the saddle have dropped drastically of late, but it’s okay, I just have other stuff going on.

    I’m in my fall “soul surfing” mode though – just trying to enjoy being out in the fresh air on the bike. Trying to not allow lack of form to bother me. Soccer twice a week, 1.5 hours of daily commuting, some cross rides and road rides when I can fit them in. I know I’m off form, but damn, riding a bike is still fun.

    VLVV

  9. This is one of the advantages of coming to serious cycling later in life.

    While I’ve always been a commuting or recreational cyclist I really only started proper road cycling in my late 30s,racing in my 40s and dedicated training in the last couple of years. Living on my own 80% of the time has helped.

    Consequently I find myself on a happy curve of continuing improvement, so far. I know at some point the curves will cross or I will lose form and suffer. Perhaps that will be version of the Ah-Ha ride.

  10. This is so so so true, Gianni.

    On every long ride, I can set my watch by it: starting at the 150km mark, I’ll hate myself, my bike, and everything about it. 20km will go by. I’ll love myself, my bike, and everything about it. a headwind will appear, {lather, rinse, repeat}.

  11. Very familiar with that “FFS, I suck” moment. It was about 2 years ago when I’d decided I would pick up cycling again after a 9 year hiatus. After I graduated HS, through college, and a few years into my current career, I got back into it. Got the ’87 Cannondale R700 up and worth being seen in public again. Good lord, did those first few months suck. Lots of, “I used to actually enjoy this?!”

    Fast-forward to current times: A ’11 Madone 5.2 is now my faithful steed…and I’ve never been stronger. I love this thing called cycling…and it’s pretty bad-ass, too.

  12. @antihero

    This is so so so true, Gianni.

    On every long ride, I can set my watch by it: starting at the 150km mark, I’ll hate myself, my bike, and everything about it. 20km will go by. I’ll love myself, my bike, and everything about it. a headwind will appear, {lather, rinse, repeat}.

    There’s a great quote: “no matter how you feel, be it good or bad, it won’t last.” Reference to follow.

  13. I am certainly not at the aha stage at the moment. Due to the nature of my job I have to have almost 3 months off the bike during late summer/early AUTUMN, therefore winter is my time for riding as much possible! Ready for the spring, maybe by next march I might be at the aha stage, but for now mostly at the ffs I suck.

  14. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who encounters this phenomenon!

    I often find after a poor spell that my Ah-Ha Ride frequently coincides with a Nine Ride. I have to say, there is nothing more thrilling than flying along a road, exercising my Magnificent Stroke and just wishing there was one more sprocket on my cassette.

    We all know the bad rides will happen, but in a way, they make the Good Rides all the sweeter for it!

    (As for me, I am currently off the bike with injury, so I’m gonna be FFS-ing all over the shop when I climb back on!)

    VLVV.

  15. @Lazarus Thrift

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who encounters this phenomenon!

    I often find after a poor spell that my Ah-Ha Ride frequently coincides with a Nine Ride. I have to say, there is nothing more thrilling than flying along a road, exercising my Magnificent Stroke and just wishing there was one more sprocket on my cassette.

    We all know the bad rides will happen, but in a way, they make the Good Rides all the sweeter for it!

    (As for me, I am currently off the bike with injury, so I’m gonna be FFS-ing all over the shop when I climb back on!)

    VLVV.

    I am always wishing for one more sprocket, but I suspect at the opposite side from you.

  16. All I have to do is remember my buddies who are dead, and those who are disabled and cant ride, no matter what, and an “I suck” ride suddenly transforms into the best ride I’ve ever had.

  17. @Dave

    I usually have an Ah-Ha ride or two in the spring, typically related to dropping heavy fluttering winter kit as the weather warms. One year’s felt especially good until it became clear that the way out had been wind-aided.

    How many times have I been fooled by the tailwind? Enough to always suspect it if I’m going well.

    And layers of kit make you slow, period. Is it bad aerodynamics or constriction of movement? Discuss.

  18. @ChrisO

    This is one of the advantages of coming to serious cycling later in life.

    While I’ve always been a commuting or recreational cyclist I really only started proper road cycling in my late 30s,racing in my 40s and dedicated training in the last couple of years. Living on my own 80% of the time has helped.

    Consequently I find myself on a happy curve of continuing improvement, so far. I know at some point the curves will cross or I will lose form and suffer. Perhaps that will be version of the Ah-Ha ride.

    You need to collide with a camel or two, break something, get too heavy, develop a good drinking habit, then you might be in line for a proper ah-ha ride.

  19. @the-farmer

    I am certainly not at the aha stage at the moment. Due to the nature of my job I have to have almost 3 months off the bike during late summer/early AUTUMN, therefore winter is my time for riding as much possible! Ready for the spring, maybe by next march I might be at the aha stage, but for now mostly at the ffs I suck.

    That is a Hardman schedule, peaking in early spring, long rides in the shiet winter weather. It sounds like you would be ready for the Keepers Tour.

  20. Ha ha I had an ah-ha ride recently when everything was just wrong and my bike was making this horrendous squeaky noise. Nearly threw it over a hedge. But then I reminded myself of Rule #5 and got on with it. Cycled London to Paris a couple of weeks later :-)

  21. You would think so, but that is slap bang in the middle of another busy period, hey ho. Someones got to feed the world, by the way it ain’t me, who needs daffodils, potato chips or whisky after all.

  22. @Gianni Hmmm. From greatest to least molasses effect, and noting that it varies, my guess is aerodynamics, core heat rejection, weight, freedom of motion, and time wasted adjusting layers. By “core heat rejection” I mean that many people, sometimes me, overdress on winter rides and end up running a bit hot and lugging around sweat drenched kit.

    Worked the first rest stop at Gran Fondo Hincapie this morning. It started out 50 degrees and went to 70, which should have been arm and/or leg warmers soon stuffed into the jersey. With all the rest stops it’s not like their pockets had much else. But no! Riders were told they could drop gear at the first stop. We ran out of bags in 10 minutes and had to buy more twice at a nearby grocery. Never seen so many overdressed riders.

  23. The nice part of the “ah-ha” ride is that it gives you that boost to push even harder.

  24. Having spent my 54th birthday on a 114km ride last Sunday and realising there were a few ah-ha moments, let me tell all you youngsters it does still happen, just less frequently (like other physical & pleasurable activities that are best left to my imagination).

    I am reminded of a ride last year, Marlow Red kite ride if you are bothered, when I noticed a well-old geezer and his missus at the start. She had that well-worn look of someone who had seen her hubby off many a time at some stupid time in the morning on a ride, but there were still those gentle, subtle touches that showed she still cared and was quietly proud of him. Having struggled around the Century and threw myself on the ground with aching knees I slowly gained consciousness. Arriving about 45 mins after me was the old git, to be met by his frail wife (?) with a coat and cup of tea. It was only later, when I checked the results on-line and tried to convince myself that I hadn’t done too bad that I noticed they were also tagged by age. A certain over-80 male, (well the only one) had got round in just over 7 hours. He was, and still is, my hero. If I can be still doing that in at least 26 years time I’ll be so full of ah-ha it will frighten passers-by.

    So, as we head into what passes as winter here on old London town, and I cuss the weather on my pathetically short commute to work I will have my ah-ha moments as I recall the well-hard geezer who could get off his boney arse on a damp September morning and really lay down the Vs. Just hope he got nut-deep in her that night as warm down. (or is it just me who thinks about pensioner sex?)

  25. @markb Careful who you call youngster around here!

  26. @markb

    It WAS just you.

    Now the rest of us have reluctantly – and without warning – joined in.

  27. Talk about an ah-ha ride… though not exactly as meant by it here but my eyes were opened. Bunches of folks from town have been digging the state CX racing this fall so I slapped a rigid fork and some skinny tires on my old hard tail mtn bike and went racing. What a friggen blast! CX is hard core red line racing. I’ve had plenty of fun w/XC racing but you do get some moments of recovery. Not in CX. I’d have figured that whole business of jumping off and back on your bike after running with it was kinda strange. And it is. But still, it’s a hoot. Fun scene. Yee hah. Cheers all.

  28. @ChrisO

    This is one of the advantages of coming to serious cycling later in life.

    While I’ve always been a commuting or recreational cyclist I really only started proper road cycling in my late 30s,racing in my 40s and dedicated training in the last couple of years. Living on my own 80% of the time has helped.

    Consequently I find myself on a happy curve of continuing improvement, so far. I know at some point the curves will cross or I will lose form and suffer. Perhaps that will be version of the Ah-Ha ride.

    I’m with ya on this one… start late and happy curve of improvement. And thank lucky stars for the good health that comes with it.

  29. @markb

    Just hope he got nut-deep in her that night as warm down. (or is it just me who thinks about pensioner sex?)

    Awwwww jeeeze, pensioner sex. I guess I should be proud that this has taken a dark turn on my watch. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say right now.

  30. @ChrisO

    @markb

    It WAS just you.

    Now the rest of us have reluctantly – and without warning – joined in.

    Thanks for the laugh that almost made the previous shock worthwhile.

  31. I’m waiting patiently for the a-ha ride to arrive. Due to some smashed fingers, dark evenings, and the fact I don’t have my new bike yet I’ve been spending some time on the turbo and seem to be getting progressively slower over 10 miles.

    I’m going to put it down to variability in the resistance, but that wont wash for long…

  32. Yesterday was an Ah-ha ride for me. Fall is well entrenched here in SE WI and only a few stubborn trees still bear leaves. The night are getting colder and the mornings and evenings darker. After work rides are almost impossible unless I get out a wee bit early.

    Friday was a day off and the forecast good. I set out and it clouded over only to return to sun and mid 50s. Great ride of 120 kms and I tried some new roads. Saturday I had to work and it was upper 60s but windy. No loss. Sunday was supposed to be cooler but not so windy – it turned out top be the goldilocks day. The wind was negligible, the sun out and warm at times, the roads clean and dry and traffic light to non-existent. I was looking at 100kms but as ride time approached I thought sod it, I’m doing 160. It was great. My legs felt good, the bike was silent, my food/drink consumption just right. It was a joy and one of those rides that gives extra satisfaction because it’s one whose memory will be cherished over the winter. It was a reminder of why we ride our bikes. It was likely the last great ride of the season (hopefully not) but everything after this will not compare. No matter, it was sublime. Ah-ha indeed.

  33. @the-farmer

    @Lazarus Thrift

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who encounters this phenomenon!

    I often find after a poor spell that my Ah-Ha Ride frequently coincides with a Nine Ride. I have to say, there is nothing more thrilling than flying along a road, exercising my Magnificent Stroke and just wishing there was one more sprocket on my cassette.

    We all know the bad rides will happen, but in a way, they make the Good Rides all the sweeter for it!

    (As for me, I am currently off the bike with injury, so I’m gonna be FFS-ing all over the shop when I climb back on!)

    VLVV.

    I am always wishing for one more sprocket, but I suspect at the opposite side from you.

    Yes. Always wishing.

    @gianni Spot On. Especially remembering being a good cyclist. I think about that all too often. In months and years past feeling like I could fly (slowly), but now everything is struggle. My mantra is- Tomorrow I will be stronger.

  34. @Gianni

    @the-farmer

    I am certainly not at the aha stage at the moment. Due to the nature of my job I have to have almost 3 months off the bike during late summer/early AUTUMN, therefore winter is my time for riding as much possible! Ready for the spring, maybe by next march I might be at the aha stage, but for now mostly at the ffs I suck.

    That is a Hardman schedule, peaking in early spring, long rides in the shiet winter weather. It sounds like you would be ready for the Keepers Tour.

    I would be ready for the Keepers Tour, just unable to get myself and my bike over there….

  35. I have said this in other threads, scattershot, and had not registered til right now but….
    -recovering fatguy

    -still kinda fat even now

    -started riding with just general ‘bike people about town’ but with a fixed-gear… got skinnier fast.

    -it became (as other ppl stopped showing up) me getting shown how much i sucked by other fixie bros. so i Rule V’d it to keep up and somehow the ‘hard core’ of the taco truck ride (i realize this sounds p. lame) is now a ride no one wants to go on, and we don’t eat tacos and just hurt each other. weird, right?

    -recently I have been not sucking on those rides and even besting those ‘social ride’ friends without especially trying hard

    -but god damn when i set out on a “try to be a Velominatus and ride hills” ride i get my card pulled (by myself! 196/201 riders? really Strava? Strava: “Really, dude, you suck”)

    I am waiting for the day when it all comes together, but I am not stressed about sucking. Sucking means there is a way forward, and i am not Training Properly at *all* so I am inspired to do so by this group, so thank you all, i guess!

  36. sorry, this was meant to have said:

    -have had that ‘ah ha’ moment in a different group

    -totally not having it now that i try to be like you lot.

    sorry for not being clear

  37. I can’t see it but someone must have pointed out that that seat needs to be half an inch higher.

  38. @Ccos

    @antihero

    This is so so so true, Gianni.

    On every long ride, I can set my watch by it: starting at the 150km mark, I’ll hate myself, my bike, and everything about it. 20km will go by. I’ll love myself, my bike, and everything about it. a headwind will appear, {lather, rinse, repeat}.

    There’s a great quote: “no matter how you feel, be it good or bad, it won’t last.” Reference to follow.

    True wisdom that

  39. Some days I wonder if I am even worthy of putting a chamois on. Invariably, I do and as the pedals turn, the lazy fat ass transforms into a graceful bird. There is magic in those two wheels, you just have to sweat it out of them.

  40. @Ron

    Oh boy, definitely been in this situation. Like, right now! My hours in the saddle have dropped drastically of late, but it’s okay, I just have other stuff going on.

    I’m in my fall “soul surfing” mode though – just trying to enjoy being out in the fresh air on the bike. Trying to not allow lack of form to bother me. Soccer twice a week, 1.5 hours of daily commuting, some cross rides and road rides when I can fit them in. I know I’m off form, but damn, riding a bike is still fun.

    VLVV

    I am having a similar time with the bike these days. I rode way more than I expected this summer – 5 AM training rides twice during the weekdays and at least one long ride every weekend. But the summer is slow in my line of work…and so I’m busier now and it’s dark at 5 AM and I’m out of town more, so the rides are less frequent and I always feel like shit when I do get to ride. Although, even still, hills that would hurt me in May are still nothing now.

    I think part of it is there’s fewer other cyclists out there to push against/with, and the cold winds and long nights and that general wistful feeling of fall diminishes our feeling of accomplishment during the “high season.”

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