La Vie Velominatus: Survive On V

Kelly, V-Bank drained as always. Photo: Cor Vos

It’s a beautiful, yet cruel sport, this. It punishes you for being lazy, for being unfit, but it also punishes you when you are at the top of your game. And as for Europe, well it’s sending out all kinds of mixed messages when it comes to cycling. Everyone rides, and a good number of them do it while smoking. If it’s good enough for them…

…It’s not good enough for me. I returned from Keepers Tour with a little smoking habit, one that has been an on again/off again affair over the years; mostly off I must say, but every now and then I like to partake in a puff (usually if someone else is smoking¬†close by, and I’m drunk). With my bike stuck in Lille and me wandering around for a week or so after the trip ended, boredom set in and smoking seemed to help relieve it, five minutes at a stinking, coughing time.

As always, the inanity of the whole procedure quickly became apparent, and after returning to New Zealand with three weeks of no riding the ol’ airbags were in need of a good clean out. The usual dread of the first ride back was there, but so were the reserves of V. Luckily it was a solo ride, as the amount of hacking and spitting would’ve put even the most grizzled of sailors off. The bike acted like a chimney sweep for my lungs.

It was a great ride. Short, yes; slow, for sure; flat, you betcha. But it was a ride, and I survived. On V. It’s become my new motto. When you think your fitness is non-existent, when you make excuses not to ride or shy away from harder routes, just remember that you’ve got The V in reserve, deep down, even if dormant. It’s always in you. It will see you through those dark days and rise to the top when needed most. Shit, it’s inscribed right there on the leg of your bibs. Look down, drink it in, breathe it in if there’s room amongst the carcinogens, and use it.

No excuses. Survive on V.

Vive la vie Velominatus.

Related Posts

66 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: Survive On V”

  1. “No excuses. Survive on V.”

    A similar phrase that goes through my brain, especially when someone wants to talk the entire ride:

    “Less jive, more V.”

  2. Well said Brett… Many a day have I felt poorly or just didn’t think I had the stones to ride. With the wind in my face, a little sweat, a little burn & the V comes alive! Some days more than others, but I’m on my bike and everything changes for the better.
    Vive. la vie Velominatus

  3. Aye, ’tis the smoke that poured from the craggy cobbles lining the slopes of Mt. Velomis that remind us of the fire within each of us.

    Long Live The V.

  4. Chapeau Brett! I’ve never regretted going for a ride, and often regretted not going. When in doubt, don the V-kit, Apply Rule #5 and get on with it.

    On a side note: I’m known to partake of a fine cigar from time to time. Takes longer than a cigarette, but no inhaling and I’ve not developed the jones for them (full disclosure: I was a full on smoker in my youth, then a cold turkey non-smoker for a long time). I’m sure it’s having some affect on my form, but a man’s gotta have a few vices. VLVV

  5. Nice one, brett! Glad you’ve swept the lungs out!

    Ha, whenever I actually think I’m in the bin, haven’t been riding enough, the bibs feel like a girdle, etc. I usually pull off a great ride. I think I have good overall fitness from years of sports & a bit of a rest does my legs just fine. Yeah, not gonna win sprints and stuff, but I can put in lots of kms at good pace just fine. Last year I was off the bike for eight weeks straight. Returned and had a great summer of riding.

    One of the highest compliments I’ve received regarding cycling was from a pal when out riding last year. “Man, no matter how bad of shape you’re in or how long you’ve been off the bike, you’re always able to grind out a good performance.” I think about that for motivation all the time, whether on or off the bike. I’ve never been the fastest, strongest, biggest, etc., so always relied on the V to get the most out of myself in all sports.

    On another note, the local club I’ve been debating joining for a year is doing more haggling over the small stuff than riding. It’s driving me bonkers. Looks like this is the year I finally get myself into the V-kit!

  6. Interesting timing with this article @brett. Here are a couple articles about the Warrior Games at the US Air Force Academy this week, the Hand Cycling event was yesterday. These young men & women are displaying some heavy V. Pedaling a bike with your hands because you have no legs…or have no use of them? That is the shit.

    Hand Cycling Photo gallery here:

    There but for the grace of God go I.

  7. Ahhh smoking, it never leaves you….especially once merry on the Amber fluid, once sober I find it the most disgusting, vile odour (thankfully)…. Very easy to slip back in to old habits, but what are you gonna do, one cant be expected to give up the drink as well, surely! Go the V

  8. Well put Brett.

    Having the V is something we all possess. It’s being able to pull it out as/when required is the key to ones ability to rise above the average Joe or, at the very least, get off your arse and out on the road.

    My father, who was a head trainer/conditioner in the 80’s for a few “cough” Pro Rugby League teams, always spoke of whether this or that bloke had a big “ticker” (read – possessed the V) or not. This allowed him to then help that player to either be on the field, or spend the season on the sideline. He knew that these blokes had the potential, otherwise they wouldn’t have made it to that level. It was being able to get that bloke to realise the V within that was required to continue to the next level.

    I just did my first race of the season last week. I ride with the club secretary on occasion, who when signing on, told me he’d put me up a couple of grades to “see how you go”. After being shat out the back of the bunch on the last lap like the proverbial turd, my first thought wasn’t “these blokes are too good for me”. Rather, “I’m gonna have to HTFU and dig out the V”.

  9. Well said, Brett.

    Saw a thing on Jesse Owens last night where they gave this quote, which seems apropos here:

    “I always loved running – it was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”

  10. Does this mean we don’t get to take “smoking breaks” on next years KT?

  11. @Marko

    Does this mean we don’t get to take “smoking breaks” on next years KT?

    I would think breaks from smoking were essential. Looks exhausting: burning one

  12. Whilst the lads make fun of a shit habit isn’t it about our habits both big and small and the V is the antidote? There is no bad ride only ones that for reasons not always known stand out because of their beauty/route, or that feeling of ” this was the best ride”.

  13. Ok Brett, everyone else is saying good job, but you know you’ve been a bad boy smoking behind the bike sheds and you need to be punished. When I get back to Welli with some serious French Alp’s in my legs we are going to do a V peaks ride.. Better start on a course of the speed juice..

  14. @eightzero

    Aye, ’tis the smoke that poured from the craggy cobbles lining the slopes of Mt. Velomis that remind us of the fire within each of us.

    Long Live The V.

    Quoted because it is fucking poetic.

  15. Don’t get me wrong, my “A-Merckx” above was not to condone the smoking; rather it was to emphasize the V-related sentiment of the article.

    I smoked regularly in college while I was a pretty hard-core mountain biker, but I was young and indestructible (read, “stupid”), so I didn’t think it really affected me much. After numerous attempts, I was finally able to quit cold-turkey years ago (one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life), and haven’t had one since. Contributing to that success, I think, is (quite honestly), my lack of a social night-life. If I frequented bars around others who smoked, especially in the early years just after I quit, I’m not sure if I would have been able to stick with it. Hell, even now I have the odd mild craving now and then.

    Nowadays, I’m paying the price for my time as a smoker. I was asthmatic as a young kid but had outgrown it. The smoking brought it back, and while I have it under control medically, it has never really left me. I have to carry a rescue inhaler on every ride, just in case.

    You really can’t understate it: nicotine and smoking are insidious–nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet. The long term effects fuck up every part of your body. Brett talks about “sweeping out” your lungs, but in reality, the damage caused by those cigarettes stays with you for decades after you quit.

  16. Was a terrible smoker for years (of all sorts of things but mostly tobacco), finally getting sick of hearing myself say I would give up I stopped with the help of a witch doctor three years ago. Never touched one since then, not even a drag when pissed up with smoker mates.

    Having started road riding a little over six months ago after playing in the mud since childhood I could never imagine riding a regular 160k with the 40-a-day habit I used to have.

    Smoking, now, scares the shit out of me, from what I have done in past and what it would probably do if I were to start again.

    Worshipping at the alter of Merckx keeps me off them for now and I would imagine will do forever, I know if I even had a puff on one I would be back on them in time, back to my old ways.

    It also means I can run a Campagnolo Gruppo, It’s fucking poetic.

  17. Good one Bretto, I’m glad you’re off the sticks. I’ll do my intervals for next year, because this fact isn’t going to slow you down any.

    @The Oracle
    Its interesting, the stink of smoking. Back when I was in college, the smoking at the bars kept me from going to them, because you’d reek so bad afterwards, and your clothes stank and would make you want to puke in the morning. I pretty much stopped going to bars altogether, except when my band would play at one.

    Seattle is a really healthy town, and the first place I’ve lived that has smoking in bars outlawed. Boy is that ever nice, you can just go have a pint and leave without smelling like an ashtray. Now, when I go to a town that allows smoking in bars or when I go to Europe, it blows my mind how many people still smoke; I bet a week goes by in Seattle without me seeing a solitary smoker. When I smell smoke, I look around to see what the smell is. Its very strange.

    I used to smoke when out drinking in college from time to time, but I can tell you I’m fucking glad I never picked it up as a habit. Sounds absolutely awful to get off of those things, and they’ll kill you and all that.

    Holy smokes. Thats a lot of smoking, that’s one obsessive personality you’ve got; explains a lot about why you fit in well over here. Glad to hear you’re off those things.

  18. Lighten up ladies. Smoking is cool!

    Seriously, let’s not turn @brett’s paean to the V into a bunch ninnywanking about smokers, smelling like ashtrays, boo hoo hoo. Rule V, fercrissakes.

  19. @The Oracle
    I agree. Smoking has long term effects on a person. I quite for real about 2.5 years ago. I went through periods were I could put away a pack of non filtereds a day. Keep in mind I had my first smoke when I was 11. It was easy for a kid in NYC to get a pack.
    It makes it harder to get fit an stay fit. Don’t do it Brett.

  20. @sgt
    As a former smoker at the point where I finally no longer have the urge to light up when I see an old photo of Steve McQueen or James Dean, I will say that photo is one of, if not my favourite cycling photo of all time. Could anything possibly be more Casually Deliberate?

  21. @frank
    Funny how things change. During the 90’s, it seemed as if cigarettes were a required part of the Seattle grunge aesthetic. Or, at least, that was my perception.

    Wisconsin went smoke-free a few years ago, I’d gotten so used to not going into bars to avoid the smoke, that I still feel awkward bellying-up!

    While laying back smoking a stogie in impeccable kit exudes the essence of casual delberateness, I’d say quitting smoking requires shit-tons of V.

  22. @niksch

    Interesting timing with this article @brett. Here are a couple articles about the Warrior Games at the US Air Force Academy this week, the Hand Cycling event was yesterday. These young men & women are displaying some heavy V. Pedaling a bike with your hands because you have no legs…or have no use of them? That is the shit.

    Hand Cycling Photo gallery here:

    There but for the grace of God go I.

    I participated in the Marine Corps Trials in Feb. That’s the USMC’s selection camp for the Warrior Games. They are overall defending champs and take competition seriously, so they invited us Canadians down, along with the UK’s Royal Marines, the Dutch, French, Germans, Columbians, and Aussies. Just to give them some friendly competition. I have an article in the Guest Article wait list – I want to do a bit more revision with a bit of Gianni’s help. Until then, here is a youtube of some footage of the road race…

  23. I find it very easy to quit, so when I do have a little bit of time on them I know I will say “that’s enough” and just cold turkey it. But I do fear what my lungs are like after a lot of ‘other’ substances passed into them during my 20s and 30s. Having been a rider concurrently must help a bit, although if I’m going to get cancer I’m pretty sure it’ll be the lungs.

    @rigid @frank, that just makes me want to keep drinking more beer than both of you and smoking just to humble you some more!

  24. @frank

    It is! If I want to smoke, I smoke… if I want to stop, I stop. I will smoke again I’m sure, but I’ll never be ‘a smoker’.

  25. @brett
    I’ve known others who have said that. You are in the definite minority. For the rest of us, once the nicotine gets its hooks in, it is almost impossible to stop.

  26. @brett


    Does this mean we don’t get to take “smoking breaks” on next years KT?

    Well not if this comes into place…

    WTFH? Why would I go there then? For the art? The hookers? The really cool Dutch folk? Hmmmmmm……….

  27. I found out about living on V alone a few weeks ago… My first (imperial) Century of the year was attempted after three weeks of no riding. It was pretty grueling, but I did eventually finish the course. (Okay, I lied. My partner and I ended up shaving an 8km loop off the course and still finished after the course had closed.)

    Two weeks later, after two weeks of riding, I rode my second Century of the year and finished the entire course long before they closed it. It’s good to have it back…

  28. I smoke a lot. But only when I’m on fire, which fortunately isn’t that often.

  29. @brett


    It is! If I want to smoke, I smoke… if I want to stop, I stop. I will smoke again I’m sure, but I’ll never be ‘a smoker’.

    i’m the same way. I’ve gone back and forth with the smoking, i found the bike keeps it away. I cannot do both, and lucky for me, my body chooses cycling. good piece, nice to know i’m not the only one.

  30. @Jonny
    Whenever we hit a particularly steep climb on Keepers Tour – like the Koppenberg – @William would say, “Keep the powder dry until you get to the base of the steep bit. Then light that shit up, you fooking koont.”


  31. @frank well I’m voting for the ’87 tour footage on the other thread well & truly cancelling out that attempt at comedy.

    Watching Hampsten on that climb to Luz Ardiden was like watching silk on a bike he was that smooth.

  32. @brett

    It is! If I want to smoke, I smoke… if I want to stop, I stop. I will smoke again I’m sure, but I’ll never be ‘a smoker’.

    Self delusion wears a pretty dress don’t she? What horseshit. You’ll be the fittest guy on the cancer ward, that’s for sure.

  33. @minion

    Cunego Sagan descent How rad does it look at the bottom when they get into the village?

    Can he go? Yes he fucking well can! That’s some way to go about taking over the leader’s jersey in any race.

  34. @minion also they’re some pretty significant sized hills Millions & Billions got over to take the stage win, if he can learn to do that on a larger/more consistent scale he’ll be some sort of stage race rider in years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.