The Graceful Touch of La Volupté

I get to certain parts of my training when I begin to crave his blows, especially in winter. Winter is the time of year when training is a time for reflection and spending hours on the bike. Thoughts of hill repeats and intervals don’t creep into even the dampest corners of my mind as I kit up and set out upon the road, just me and my bicycle, the rhythm, and the weather.

The rides are long, the intensity low and the lack of tactical objective is both liberating and concerning. I cherish the simplicity of this sort of riding; the weather is cold if not bad – but usually it is cold and bad. Just being on the bike means you’re training harder than most everyone else, which feels empowering. But there is a complacency that is unnerving; I’m unsettled by the question of whether I still know how to hurt myself. But this is not the time of year for me to push so hard on the climbs that I can answer that question for myself, so I begin to yearn for his hammer’s cruel blow, so I can prove that suffering is still where I thrive.

She arrives with the same abruptness that he does. La Volupté, yin to The Man with the Hammer’s yang, comes uninvited but welcome. Her visits are swift encounters, an angelic push to make the hill a bit shorter or the wind a bit less fierce. Before you realize she was there, she is gone.

But yesterday, she clung closely to me, pushing me along for the duration of my ride. The fluidity in my stroke felt other worldly, the lines I took into corners were as perfect as the gear I chose to exit them. The cadence always seemed in harmony with the terrain. I felt blissful joy at being on my bicycle.

Then the rain began to fall, lashing at me and chilling me to the bone. The sound of the rain rapping on my helmet was motivation; the sound of the spray from my tires onto my downtube was confirmation of my speed. I felt her next to me, acting as my personal conduit to The V. I pushed harder, I rode faster. But still I felt only the fluidity of the pedals spinning beneath me and the steady breath in my lungs. I was outside myself, an observer. Whatever was happening on the bicycle was going to happen with or without me.

The Man with the Hammer and La Volupté; bonded together as Pain and Grace. Pain is easy to recognize, easy to process, and easy to conquer. Grace, on the other hand, is elusive and easily mistaken. I have not felt so good on a bicycle for as long as I can recall, possibly ever. I work hard to be the best rider I can be, and the sport repays me in equal measure of what I put in. That is the beauty of it, the harmonious symmetry of dedication to a craft.

Yesterday, it was different. I was paid something forward, and I will not forget it. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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60 Replies to “The Graceful Touch of La Volupté”

  1. @RobSandy


    Nothing wrong with a budget build. Or alloy frameset. I ride fairly regularly with a guy who rides a CAAD 10. Lots of bang for the buck. In the hands of mere mortals, probably just as stiff and responsive as a carbon frame. But the ride is probably a little more harsh (but tamed with a carbon fork); I know @Oli would disagree, but I think a carbon seat post can do a lot to make the ride more compliant on an alloy frame. With the F75, you’ve got yourself a great bike (especially with upgraded wheels). Yeah, you don’t know what you’re missing versus a comparable carbon bike, but you’re probably not missing as much as you might think you are. Just ride it like you stole it!

    I’m fortunate in that my wife works in the bike biz so I was able to buy a bare frameset and build up the bike exactly the way I wanted it, with the parts I wanted, and everything sized right (except for the original 3T stem but that wasn’t my fault … at least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it). Plus I didn’t have to deal with the added expense of upgrading wheels as I could just get the wheels I wanted.


    I ride it like a lunatic, any chance I get. I think I’d do that with any bike I had. I’m not the fastest up the hills but once I’m on the flat I can get my head down and ride people off my wheel. Damnit I want to go for a ride!


    It’s December, we like to see people with that attitude on our rides go up the road and hopefully disappear for good. Suggest you buy a book on training and actually read it.

  2. @frank


    So funny. Those are still my favorites. I loved the last chunk of the Whidbey Island Cogal, alone, on empty, just turning the pedals over and cursing every hill I came across (which were plentiful).

    Those death rides usually ended in going over the Erskine Bridge – a big ass structure over the river Clyde. It was about a mile from one side to the other and angled just enough to the west where the prevailing wind came from to make it seem like Everest. The last two miles were all westwards. To be young and stupid . . .

  3. @frank



    Another pic … mostly just to incite the fashion police. The kit is 90s era. Jersey is a club/team one of my friends created after breaking away from the club/team I founded after I quit the club/team (long story). Java Shack is our favorite local coffee shop (eventually became the title sponsor of the team I founded after my original sponsor pulled out) and where club rides started and ended. Still a local epicenter for rides and cyclists. The red shorts are from a local club/team in Lucca, Italy that we discovered when we were on vacation.

    I’ll take that as as compliment.

  4. @Chipomarc



    It’s December, we like to see people with that attitude on our rides go up the road and hopefully disappear for good. Suggest you buy a book on training and actually read it.

    Jeez, who pissed in your cornflakes?

  5. Had the ‘visit’ on Saturdays club ride;a long stint on the front on a long up and down drag and a chase to catch a lone ‘break’ with a short sharp up hill finish all seemed to have a ghostly hand helping me along.

    Maybe the new narrower Deda bars helped,plus the Zondas which had to be used in place of the usual winter wheels but there definitely felt like an outside influence giving me a helping hand.

    Best ride out I’ve had in ages.

    Oh and bib shorts with no warmers in mid-December;global warming has arrived in the Fens.

  6. My water bottle froze on my Sunday morning group ride! So did my face, hands, and feet!! Just being out there was awesome, even with the pain of frostbite coming on!

  7. @PT

    Some nice Velominati references by Msr Inrng in this review of Marc Madiots’ book might get everyone into a happier state of mind.

    Thanks for the link. Sounds like a fascinating read. I always liked les freres Madiot – even if they did beat Kelly in P-R. Marc was also part of that glorious swashbuckling Renault team in the 1984 Tour – 9 stage wins, the overall win, team win, and TT stage. Lemond, Fignon, Jules, Barteau, M. Madiot, Y. Madiot, Poisson, Simon, Didier and Mentheour.

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