Into The Tunnel

Into The Tunnel

by / / 96 posts

It requires a combination of factors to intersect. You need to have already spent loads of time on a bicycle. Enough so that you have an inherent sense of this odd thing with two wheels; you can make it go quickly or slowly, you can steer it around a corner with ease, you know how the introduction of a layer of moisture between the tires and the tarmac might affect the way it does these things.

There can’t be too clear a boundary between the bicycle and your body; those lines are best when blurred a bit. Hands to bars, feet to pedals, badonkadonk to saddle – these are contact points but they extend into the body to form a cohesive unit of rider and machine.

You need to know the difference between being out of shape, overweight, under-fed or hydrated, or simply being tired; these things have different implications and you must know how to manage them. You need to have met the Man with the Hammer enough times that you can feel him standing alongside you some time before his hammer hits. You need to know which actions bring him near, and you need to know which actions may stave him off.

These are all things that must be learned through many years spent in the saddle and cannot be gleaned from a book; this is a path you must walk yourself.

It also needs to be a long day out on the bike. Long enough that you’re tired with some distance yet to go; past the halfway point in the ride, but not so close to the end that you distract yourself with thoughts of finishing. There can only be the moment, nothing more. The legs need to be heavy from hours of effort but still strong. The pressure in the chest firm as the rhythm of your breathing is contant but not overly labored. The heart has to be pumping hard but not on its limit.

You have to be on the right kind of road to support a sustained, constant effort. Not too twisty, not too undulating. Not too scenic as scenery tends to be a distraction. Perhaps it is misty, humid. The air through which you ride wraps around you like a blanket.

You don’t have to be particularly strong that day, or fast, or in particularly good shape; you just need the right amounts of the right elements. As the legs start to go round, they draw you into a kind of hypnosis. The sight of the front wheel guiding you in the bottom of your periphery adds to the effect. Slowly, your senses turn inward, like falling asleep except that with every turn of the pedals, your focus grows more intense. You see everything and you see nothing. You see the road and you see obstacles, but acknowledgement of these things is reserved for critical items only. Only those things that require attention will be given it; the rest is reserved for turning the pedals.

The blanket you wrapped yourself in gets pulled up over your head, over your ears, nearly to your eyes. Darkness is everywhere except directly in front of you, the tunnel guiding you along. You hear nothing but the whirring of your tires, perhaps the changing of gear. The Man with the Hammer wanders close; you feel him. But La Volupte has graced you as well and she distracts him to stave off his hammer for a bit longer.

His killer blow will come, but not yet.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Technique

  1. @urbanwhitetrash

    @scaler911

    That didn’t come out right. this parts mine: In the fucking gutter full of gravel. Off pave. On purpose. The most fucking cool move of the entire 6 hours of the ride.

    And refers to @G’rilla

    I was off the front in the Phantom Aerobars, I was aware that my legs were turning, that there were others behind me, although at that point all I could think about was the sensation of the first beer washing over my tongue when WHOOOOSH @G’rilla comes flying past me in the gravel ditch at 38km/h with @snowgeek in hot pursuit(or should we say hirsute). I damn near put a racing stripe in my chamois, came back to earth real quick there. Fucking awesome move by G’rilla.

    @Frank & @Scaler911 that point along the ridge where you went into the tunnel, I don’t think you were the only ones, I was behind you two and for a while my body was not mine, my legs were not mine, my bike was not mine, I was so transfixed on scaler’s rear wheel that my mental image was this one dimensional imprint of scaler. I’m not sure it was the tunnel or the sound of his carbon wheels that hypnotized me, either way the tunnel is a cool experience.

    Frank and I were about 50M behind you guys, talking about how horrible it would be to have to ride the 30K back to his house, uphill. How we couldn’t stop and have beer and food if we absolutely had to make that trip, when G’rilla hits the gravel, and flies past your group. Then Frank, without any warning, starts stomping his pedals into submission and rides away from me. I watched for a second or two steeling myself for one last attempt at “glory” and Frank just sat, maybe 10M off your rear wheel. I was sooooo glad I wasn’t going to ramp it up one more time. I probably would have ridden into the gravel as well, but on accident.

  2. @Gianni

    Haleakala!

  3. @scaler911

    @frank

    @scaler911

    @VeloAU

    So v true – i often wonder if the legs we not linked ot the head if they would just go on spinning for ever ….its the hammer in your mind that causes most of the grief haha! …but every so often, the legs really do….die…..

    Oh. And die they did. Not so sure my left hamstring is still connected to my ass.

    Its funny how that works. You do really learn to shut the legs off. You know when you’re indulging in the exhaustion you’re feeling. I did that in the last 10-15k of the ride…I was done and wanted to be done. But then G’rilla and a few others went up the road on the way up to the brewery and I let them go. Then decided to chase.

    The legs were back. Out of the saddle, sprinting, the gap was coming down like crazy. 10 meters to go and I’ve got them; I’ll fly by like they’re standing still and take the honors. Then, nothing. Cramp. Full-on, agonizing cramp. 10m from glory and there was no discussion, no pushing, no fighting, no Rule #5. Just, cramp and two sets of perfectly good legs, unable to turn.

    In the fucking gutter full of gravel. Off pave. On purpose. The most fucking cool move of the entire 6 hours of the ride.

    I  coasted the rest of the way.

    Keepers Tour: 9 days of that kind of shit happening as a matter of course.

    @Dr C

    I shall no doubt be spending some considerable time ducking and diving the hammer, praying La Volupte graces me with her affections when things start to unravel
    Beautiful

    Kinda makes you feel like a Jedi, diving around trying to avoid his hammer. Spoiler alert: he always wins.

  4. @Cyclops

    Nice article, @Frank.  It has me thinking about this season in general and Memorial Day weekend specifically.  I decided to upgrade at the end of last season and diligently trained over the course of the winter only to be met with a series of DNF’s and “Off the backs” as I was rudely awakened by the “next level”.  After three races I decided to go “freestyle” and just ride for the sake of riding which brings us to Memorial Day weekend which was rain, rain, and more rain.  But it was the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a while.  Things were going on exactly as you relate in your article.  After a Friday spent in a warm drizzle I realized that I was having fun and looked forward to Saturday’s ride whatever the weather would bring.  Saturday brought hours of climbing as well as the rain and a decision to add on one more climb brought the mist  you spoke of.  I was tired and wet and cold and yet it didn’t bother me.  I could only see the wheel of my mate – the only other guy in town that joins me while all the other mortals are lemminging their way to a triple bypass – disappearing in the mist ahead and then I realized that I could push on the pedal a little harder.  I “zoned out” to the rhythm of my climbing pace conscience of nothing other than the fact that it was getting faster, not slower, and that the lost wheel was coming back into view and barely noticed that the mist had turned into rain again. Hard rain.  Then as we turned for home in the downpour I realized that though thoroughly soaked the cold has passed the point were it is not cold anymore but just a slight stinging of the skin that urged me to up the pace even faster.  And we all know that when I go fast I am happy.  I took great satisfaction in knowing that the passing motorist probably thought we were nuts – except for the guy in Outback with the rack on top.  I was very satisfied to be Rule #9ing it and my satisfaction had infected my mate and he is starting to see the light that turns duty and dedication into a joy that transcends understanding.  All this is to say that after a time of reflection about why I ride and getting back to riding for the enjoyment rather that the “results” things have turned around and that I’m going off the front now instead off the back.

    Sounds like a soul-searcher. Awesome that you’re back to being off the front where you belong. Numbers and structured training have their place, but nothing beats just riding your bike and loving it. If you love the work, half the battle is done.

    @bretto’s been having a fit that I’m riding with a Garmin, but the fact is, it kills the fun if I pay attention to it when I’m riding. Studying the data afterwards can be interesting and revealing, but there is nothing that will provide you more accurate feedback about what you can and can’t do like the sensations coming from your body. Ignore the numbers, ride on feel. Study the numbers later to see where you can improve, work on it, and go back to riding on feel.

    @ErikdR

    @moondance I agree completely: the day I stumbled upon this site was a very good day, regardless of the fact that it has played havoc on my productivity at work.

    Like you, I’ve been a long-time lurker and am, as of today, a first-time poster. I’m the same age as you, and although I was very interested in cycling and a fairly active (mostly touring) cyclist in the 80s and 90s, at some point, life got in the way, as they say… This website is helping me in a big way to find my way back – and between all the laughs about the way people are janking each others’ chains, I find myself oddly moved, at times, by the genuine warmth and appreciation for the sport in this place. (OK: they’ll probably have my guts for garters after that one – but here goes…)

    By the way: beautiful write-up, Frank. Petje af.

    Welcome to the fold as well. Cheers for the kind words.

  5. @Souleur

    @cyclops: thats golden man, i appreciate every word of it
    @Fronk: it amazes me how you pull out the little things, and make them so relevant to our passion
    I suppose I have been here, perhaps infrequently in hours at a time, but it roules out to the crux of souleurs problem in the saddle.  The long long rides, and rest.  In my passion I apply loads of V every ride.  In theory, this works, in reality, not having rest days sucks and yeilds a rider who sucks more hind tit than a cheap date in vegas.  Anyway, as I slide, let me say, having set rest days this year has brought me into exactly what your discussing, knowing when to go, knowing when to spin, knowing when to recover, knowing when to blow it, and then finding these moments when your in that zone….absolutely precious.  And yes, as you slide into those long efforts, it really helps.
    Mine this morning was running through the round about into town, up over the ramp over the interstate and a nice long stretch into town as i ride to work, i had a 15k warm up and was spinning nicely, put the head down for a hard effort, on a flat stretch of road outran my 53×12…looked down and was spinning 60+km/h…then the breathing got heavy.  It was a short glide, not the hours you mention, but i submit, we an find ourselves in that tunnel for short efforts too.
    nonehtless, being a purist, i hate resting.  I feel like a pussy when i do and loathe ‘easy’ rides, that is until the next ride and now in a sequence of rest days and rides where i have literally seen my averages up over 4-5k/hr, that is worthy.  So, I am accepting the holist approach to applying The V appropriately.
    will be looking to go in to the tunnel, hoping the man with the hammer will circle like a helicopter overhead leaving me alone

    Rest is huge; I envy you that you can manage to get as little rest that it becomes a problem – I never manage to get through a week without forced rest. But man, after a few hard days, a day or two off the bike and – BAM! – super strong the next day. Awesome.

    Spinning out the 53×12, that’s the same state we were in. You can do it on a short ride, but it not the same tunnel effect; that’s more a zone out. The Tunnel is the kind of thing where it might even take you a day to realize what happened during that part of the ride. Its just gone, as someone else said.

    @Gianni

    Nice one Frank. I don’t know how you come up with something so thoughtful from a hard ride. It makes me dumb which is good or I might not be doing it. So dumb I’ve been see trying to literally hammer on my broken speedplay pedal with a rock when it really didn’t need that kind of treatment. I lose the ability to do basic math after 30km, I am zinjanthropus man, a shaved down sasquatch on a bike, able only to shift gears or get out of the saddle, pick one.

    Also, I am the only person who knows where the lead photo was taken. You were in the four hour tunnel there.

    Brain was off majorly. I didn’t realize this had happened until 36 hours later or so. Brain was so off that after we got to the stop sign at the end of the road, everyone there was saying it was a good pull and I was quite honestly thinking, “What pull? What are you talking about?”

  6. I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the man with the hammer on 10th of June during the Wiggle Dragon Ride, managing to just about keep him at arms length, thanks not to la Volupte but largely to bananas and caffeine gels.

    Heights in metres.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

  7. @frank

    Brain was off majorly. I didn’t realize this had happened until 36 hours later or so. Brain was so off that after we got to the stop sign at the end of the road, everyone there was saying it was a good pull and I was quite honestly thinking, “What pull? What are you talking about?”

    Huffing gasoline fumes straight from the pump directly after that effort might have had something to do with it…

  8. @snowgeek

    @frank

    Brain was off majorly. I didn’t realize this had happened until 36 hours later or so. Brain was so off that after we got to the stop sign at the end of the road, everyone there was saying it was a good pull and I was quite honestly thinking, “What pull? What are you talking about?”

    Huffing gasoline fumes straight from the pump directly after that effort might have had something to do with it…

    Funny. I totally forgot about that ’till just now. Not sure wether that’s a good or bad sign.

  9. @scaler911

    @snowgeek

    @frank

    Brain was off majorly. I didn’t realize this had happened until 36 hours later or so. Brain was so off that after we got to the stop sign at the end of the road, everyone there was saying it was a good pull and I was quite honestly thinking, “What pull? What are you talking about?”

    Huffing gasoline fumes straight from the pump directly after that effort might have had something to do with it…

    Funny. I totally forgot about that ’till just now. Not sure wether that’s a good or bad sign.

    Dopers

  10. This is Jens. Jens just climbed out of The Tunnel. Which he dug for the rest of us. Using only his nose.

  11. @Mark1

    I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the man with the hammer on 10th of June during the Wiggle Dragon Ride, managing to just about keep him at arms length, thanks not to la Volupte but largely to bananas and caffeine gels.

    Heights in metres.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

    Looks like a terrible peak right there near the 180km mark. Ouch.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

  12. A Love-Hate relationship: cleaning the drive-train on No.1. But now the Record chain is shiny and resin free. Removed the cassette with a Campy C10 chain whip and will bring the lock ring back to just under 50Nm. But not until every sprocket (and spacer) has been polished with a clean t-shirt. Then a Motorex chain massage. I love this socket.

    .

  13. @Mark1

    I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the man with the hammer on 10th of June during the Wiggle Dragon Ride, managing to just about keep him at arms length, thanks not to la Volupte but largely to bananas and caffeine gels.

    Heights in metres.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

    Oath! That was a day in the saddle. 3300 meters of up in Wales? Fuck me, I hope you retired to the darkest, dankest, best pub in Wales for your fluid recovery. The man mit hammer hates that.

  14. @scaler911

    That didn’t come out right. this parts mine: In the fucking gutter full of gravel. Off pave. On purpose. The most fucking cool move of the entire 6 hours of the ride.

    And refers to @G’rilla

    Ha ha! It always gives me a thrill to take it into the gravel.

    At 1km from the finish I tried to take a shortcut and t-bone @snowgeek but I got stopped by a pedestrian on the path and had to settle for bronze.

  15. @Rigid

    Nice one. I stragely have never cracked on Hatepe, it’s the fast false flat on the other side that runs into Taupo that fucken gets me. I always manage my pace ahead of Hatepe cos I know it’s there, and the handbrake comes off going down the other side. 

    Interestingly, after racing on Saturday, I finished the race and soft pedaled back to the car, feeling fine and getting some blood flowing through my legs again, could have raced another lap. THOUGHT I was fine till I hopped off the bike, felt really light headed and unsteady  on my feet, and needed food straight away –  interesting. it was then that the exertion whacked me in the face. 

  16. Rode the bike 40km into work with backpack, laptop, clothing etc. A bit of a hilly route.

    Nothing like carrying 20 or so pounds in a backpack to remind you why we try to lose weight. Climbing, descending, going over bumps…I felt every little bump in the road and my back and ass were aching by the time I got to the office.

    No tunnel for me today, holy Merckx.

  17. @minion

    Interestingly, after racing on Saturday, I finished the race and soft pedaled back to the car, feeling fine and getting some blood flowing through my legs again, could have raced another lap. THOUGHT I was fine till I hopped off the bike, felt really light headed and unsteady  on my feet, and needed food straight away –  interesting. it was then that the exertion whacked me in the face.

    The body is so weird and that lag is striking sometimes. On some short grinders, I’ll stay in a monster gear and just blast over it, because the effort is so short that your body can’t figure out that you just overcooked it before the effort is over. By the time you’re over it and on the flat or descent, your body catches up and goes, “Holy fuck what was that?” and you can recover again.

  18. @frank

    Nothing I dislike more than wearing my timbuk2 bag while actually cycling to work (sort of ironic, since they’re supposed to be for that). I just hate having the extra weight on my back, damn annoying. I try and take everything I need ahead of time…

  19. @frank

    @minion

    Interestingly, after racing on Saturday, I finished the race and soft pedaled back to the car, feeling fine and getting some blood flowing through my legs again, could have raced another lap. THOUGHT I was fine till I hopped off the bike, felt really light headed and unsteady  on my feet, and needed food straight away –  interesting. it was then that the exertion whacked me in the face.

    The body is so weird and that lag is striking sometimes. On some short grinders, I’ll stay in a monster gear and just blast over it, because the effort is so short that your body can’t figure out that you just overcooked it before the effort is over. By the time you’re over it and on the flat or descent, your body catches up and goes, “Holy fuck what was that?” and you can recover again.

    The nice thing was my back didn’t want to straighten and my hands were a bit sore – not in a bad way, but in a way that indicated I was comfortable while on the bike and fucked off it. 

    One other time it happened was on the track, my coach ran over and grabbed me after I’d done a warm down lap and I had no fucking idea what he was doing. Turned out after I stopped I couldn’t even unclick from  my (admittedly tight) pedals. Weak like a little kitten. 

     

     

  20. @frank

    @Mark1

    I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the man with the hammer on 10th of June during the Wiggle Dragon Ride, managing to just about keep him at arms length, thanks not to la Volupte but largely to bananas and caffeine gels.

    Heights in metres.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

    Looks like a terrible peak right there near the 180km mark. Ouch.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

    The last two were terrible in equal measures, both being after 150kms. The first has an approach that doesn’t bear thinking about with the ‘real’ ascent becoming all too visible only after having having spent seemingly interminable kms grinding uphill. The second has a false summit, reinforced by carpark and ice cream/burger van, about 1 mile from the top!

  21. @Gianni

    @Mark1

    I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the man with the hammer on 10th of June during the Wiggle Dragon Ride, managing to just about keep him at arms length, thanks not to la Volupte but largely to bananas and caffeine gels.

    Heights in metres.

    BTW @Frank, you’re going to get yourself killed riding on the wrong side of the road.

    Oath! That was a day in the saddle. 3300 meters of up in Wales? Fuck me, I hope you retired to the darkest, dankest, best pub in Wales for your fluid recovery. The man mit hammer hates that.

    @Gianni Fortunately a friend of mine, recently returned from Belgium, had furnished me with some of the finest Malted Recovery Beverage available, several samples of Rochefort 6, 8 and 10. He was, I hope, very pissed off.

  22. A little late to the party as I have been away from the computer for a few days. I find that so many of the articles on this site put into words feelings or states of mind that I have only caught the slightest glimpse of so far in my very short cycling career. However, I believe that one of the factors that has contributed to cycling becoming such an obsession for me so quickly is the incredible pull that these feelings and states of mind exert. I know how much I look forward to experiencing for myself what it is to meet the Man with the Hammer and to know La Velupté. This article has now given me another sensation to add to that list. Thanks for another beautifully written and inspirational piece.

  23. A short time lurker here. I love this site and it’s members and their experiences. It’s all so true.

    Sadly I am neither eloquent or deep enough of thought to be able to put  some things into words as well as many of the Velominati but here’s my take on yesterday’s ride.

    I was close to meeting the Man with the Hammer yesterday. I’d had a great ride out with a mate and we’d covered some good roads but as I left him at his home I thought its only 15 miles to go, 15 easy, flat miles. Sadly the V tanks only had vapours left as I sloshed them around trying to find something to help push my weary self into the gusting head wind along the rule straight Fosse Way. That’s  when suddenly it all went quiet. All I could see was the Tarmac a few feet in front, all I could feel was the sweat dripping off my nose onto the bars. Above me the Man with the Hammer spat into each his hands one by one firming his grip, but he would not have his fun just yet. I think I was in what has been described here as the tunnel, I can’t re-call much of that last 15 miles, I can’t even remember putting my bike away.

    It’s not a euphoric feeling, there is no real pleasure but the pain is different somehow when you are there, in the tunnel.

    Keep up the great work lads of the Velominati, you inspire me every day.

    Cheers, Jon

  24. @BeaconJon

    Sadly I am neither eloquent or deep enough of thought to be able to put  some things into words as well as many of the Velominati…

    …Above me the Man with the Hammer spat into each his hands one by one firming his grip, but he would not have his fun just yet…

    Seems eloquent enough to me. Good first/second post.

  25. Frank, as I read that, I was reminded of your First Battle with the Volcano.  Surely that took you into the tunnel.

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