Solo Artist

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Solo on Haleakala. Photo: Elizabeth Keller

I walk away from social gatherings with an acute sense of accomplishment whenever I haven’t offended anyone and when my friends all stayed awake. I view myself as a bottle of wine that keeps getting better with age, but I’m slowly coming to grips with the notion that I am actually a bottle that may be corked. The great irony of life is that as we become more comfortable with who we are, we become more annoying to be around.

Fortunately, I enjoy being alone. I haven’t always felt that way, but my natural charm means I have had to cultivate a taste for it. That isn’t to say I don’t like being around others – quite the opposite – but being alone allows me the opportunity to reconnect with who I am. This is especially true when riding my bicycle. Riding alone, there is nothing to do but focus on the sensations of the ride: the wind in my face, the smells in the air, the sound of my tires as we hum along together, rider and bicycle.

Doing a long ride alone is an exercise of discipline. The little voices in your head may start quietly, but they build to crescendo inside your skull after a few hours of solitary suffering. The doors and patios on the cafés at the roadside start looking larger and more welcoming with every kilometer that passes under your tires. A point comes, on these long rides, at which Rule #5 becomes a matter of continuing on with the task; a determination to finish what you have begun.

We learn fundamental things about ourselves when we are alone in the Pain Cave, after we’ve dropped the flashlight and watched helplessly as it rolled off the shelf and into the void. Questions come knocking, and they won’t go away until you’ve dealt with them. This is when we grow, when we build confidence in the face of doubt.

We are lucky to find ourselves at crossroads where every direction leads to more suffering, where the direction we choose is irrelevant. The choice is simply to suffer or to go home. In a world where we have made a science of luxury, we Cyclists choose to suffer.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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138 Replies to “Solo Artist”

  1. @Barracuda

    @frank

    You havnt been stalking me with some secret spy drone have you?

    Reading the intro it was way too close to the truth, Im an introvert by nature and tend to put on a brave front in the company of others, to get through! The bike is an excellent way of releasing the “inner you” !

    Excellent, stop it, i like it !

    I’m not an introvert, but I am naturally stupid and that lends itself to offense. Dinner with great friends last night (Keeper Jim and crew) and I was wicked stoked that I never cursed in front of their 4-year-old. That’s a low bar, but I psyched to clear it.

  2. @wiscot

    Question for the community. Do any of you take a break over winter? Nothing major or extended, just a week or so off the bike – be it outdoors/trainer/whatever?

    I took a month off after Heck of the North. Partly due to the 1/4 cup of slurry I had in my chammy from the roads, and partly because I know I had over-trained.

    I am back and feeling great; lost some of the punch and the lungs complain a bit, but aside from that feel much fresher and more like my old self.

  3. @Gianni

    @wiscot

    Rouler has a great article on Dan Martin. He takes a month off the bike and thinks other pros could stand to get off their bikes more.

    I found it perplexing riding out here in Hawaii where one can ride year round. I bet everyone needs to lay off and build up. And if you have hit your goals for the year, absolutely a few week to a month is a good thing, as long as it’s not a pumpkin pie a day routine. Obviously, I’m not saying loose too much fitness, do another sport, like hunting and killing moose with a knife, wearing moccasins and not too much else. I’m talking old school here!

    I wish we could give Keepers the +1 badge.

  4. @wiscot

    Question for the community. Do any of you take a break over winter? Nothing major or extended, just a week or so off the bike – be it outdoors/trainer/whatever?

    I got in a good few kms this year and have hit my target for the year. I’m willing to do more because I love going out on the bike, but live in SE Wisconsin, the weather is turning pretty crappy and motivation to exercise, be it bike or gym, is hard to find. I’m not sure if it’s a mental or a physical break I need (maybe both) to restore some hunger to suffer – and every ride around here at this time of year entails some degree of suffering.

    Of course, the biggest block to taking a break is the massive guilt at not going out on the bike.

    Any input/thoughts/experience appreciated.

    Some cyclist do plan a break from the bike each year with the idea that they return with a higher sense of normalcy. 2009 I rode happily up to Dec 31. 2010 Thursday Jan 28 could not be resisted and I went for the return ride. I did feel like Superman and kept trying to tone the ride down. I felt like Superman working out a 24 average. Then I smacked head long into a car. The Pinarello Montello and myself were a mess. I felt like Superman just before trying to push a car out of the way.

  5. @le chuck

    @DCR Thanks Man. May head out there next year sometime. You guys still have any of that blue crystal? It’s great for bike riding.

    Haha yes the candy lady sells it year round from what I understand. I am almost positive that show is all we are known for these days.

  6. @xyxax

    @DCR

    where in NM are you? My parents are in Santa Fe; will be there for Xmas.

    I am in the Albuquerque area. About 45min south of Santa Fe.

  7. @le chuck

    I’m 29, 30 in January. I ride alone b/c finding ppl to ride with is a pain in the ass. Nonetheless, I promised myself I’m going to try harder to make more cycling friends. Also because I don’t really like talking.. listening is much easier.. and more productive.

    It takes a good amount of activation energy to form a good group – or to find an existing group. Now that I think about it, in the last 3-months I’ve probably done about 95% of my training alone. I’m now stronger and feeling absolutely great about my form and endurance (Tour de Tucson is this weekend).

    I guess I only ever feel lonely when I start to approach the 65-70km zone. Sometimes it’s nice to suffer with others. When I saw a photo of myself answering a phone call from my girlfriend during a local Giro, I decided that there must be cure for this odd, new emotion surfacing in my somewhat isolated early professional life (e.g. loneliness).

    Simply replace the cassette of Bike #2 with an 11-23 and leave in place your pre-existing Flemish Crank (53-39). (Strack et al). On the next ride, as you approach the said 65-70km zone, you would have already forgotten what loneliness is. Loneliness will be firmly replaced by a much more productive emotion – Fear. Fear that your legs are melting.

    A-Merckx

    WTF is up with that front brake cable? Are gloves Rule #21 or Goldilocks? I’m so confused.

  8. Group rides and training are not generally compatible, unless they are specific training groups such as a chaingang paceline. I used to meet up with a few guys for interval sessions once a week, and that was good because I hate them (the intervals, not the guys) but the fact that there is a group doing them makes me turn up and do them, all of them.

    This is the first year where I’ve done a lot of training with someone else, now that I have a cycling flatmate, and it generally works out pretty well. Based on this I suggest the essentials are:

    • similar standard of fitness, speed and endurance – if my recovery ride leaves you gasping then we aren’t going to be road-buddies for very long
    • similar goals – training for Paris-Brest-Paris is not going to be the same as reaching a peak for the local crit series
    • compatible schedules or timing preference – are you early morning people or evening riders
    • adherence to agreed but probably unspoken rules of conversation… or silence – being within audible distancedoes not create a void which must constantly be filled, but there is also a time and place for idle chatter, family updates and bike gossip.

    If any one of those is not in synch then you’re better off on you’re own.

  9. I’ve been pissing people off for decades, and can’t see any reason to change… it weeds out the weak and I’ve got a good group of friends because of it, not despite it.

    The solo ride is a wonderful thing, something I need to do more of as every ‘easy’ ride I go on with the likes of @Denti, @rigid, @Kah and now @piwaka always seem to turn into smashfests and hunting and killing any poor bastard who happens to be riding along minding their own business, on their own solo gig.

  10. @frank

    I was wicked stoked that I never cursed in front of their 4-year-old. That’s a low bar, but I psyched to clear it.

    Disappointing.

  11. @KW

    Anyone can go into the Pain Cave while riding with a group. It’s going in when no one else is around that will really make the difference.

    @Rom

    Great article @frank but if you’re going to adopt the SI units of the modern world you might as well spell them correctly. That’d be kilometres then. Of coarse you can measure them with a meter, a kilometre meter.

    If you’re going to criticize @frank’s spelling, you might want to proofread a little better.

    Apologies to all. Just pointing out “kilometres” is more Euro.

  12. Long solo rides are the best possible way of paring any problems you might have down to the bone.  300k worth of hearing only tires on tarmac and speaking not at all has a way of draining the mind of clutter.

    It’s a gift from The Man With The Hammer: cleansing as compensation for suffering.

  13. @wiscot Living in N Minnesota means taking a break from the road during the worst of winter. I usually take a month off to rest the body, and then 10 weeks of core and strength training in the gym before easing into base building by mid-January…lots of hours on the trainer. According to Joe Friel, this helps balance right-left strength. Afterwards I alternate left-right hand when drinking beer…also very important for training.

  14. Very nice, Frank! I see more solo V rides in the near future, as the temperature drops, the light gets shorter, and the roads more littered with damp leaves.

    I get that voice in my head after only a few days without a long solo ride. How do I get back out to that country road? Can I ride that far? Do I want to ride that far? Is this the right bike for that ride? And after I pull it off and roll back to my house I have a laugh for doubting I could do it. A nice sense of accomplishment, for sure.

    And damn, that is spot as – as you know more and more who you are, what you want, and what you value, this polarizes you from connecting with most others. The only good news for me is that I continue to make pretty darn close friends even as I get older, the type you talk to for 5 minutes at a party and realize they’re an awesome person and you feel comfortable around them, could ask for a favor, and can trust their word. I feared that was something only of one’s youth.

  15. My riding partner for a recent trip to Majorca broke his wrist 2 weeks before. Since he failed Rule #5 I went alone.  The solitude in the mountains early in the mountains was wonderful.

  16. @Rom

    @KW

    Anyone can go into the Pain Cave while riding with a group. It’s going in when no one else is around that will really make the difference.

    @Rom

    Great article @frank but if you’re going to adopt the SI units of the modern world you might as well spell them correctly. That’d be kilometres then. Of coarse you can measure them with a meter, a kilometre meter.

    If you’re going to criticize @frank’s spelling, you might want to proofread a little better.

    Apologies to all. Just pointing out “kilometres” is more Euro.

    I just couldn’t let the irony slide. All in good fun, I assure you.

    Granted, I’m ‘Merican, but I’ve never understood the meter/metre, theater/theatre kind of thing. I tend to be fairly phonetic. I happen to have a first name that starts with a K that is more generally spelled with a Ch. I always like to tell people that my name in phonetically correct. Ch shouldn’t make a “k” sound, that’s what the damn K is for!

  17. @Barracuda Following surgery on my hand as a result of a crash and with a cast, I had to use trainers for about 8 weeks. Kind of got past the hate of indoors and saw how it really is a good supplement. If I can not be outside then I go inside. Never take a week off as I feel like I go backwards physically and mentally. I do use power meter for indoors just help with focus. Works for me. ROAD,SPIN,rollers,trainer. mix it up.

  18. I love riding with my mates, be it a LSD ride, or a hammerfest. But most of the time, I ride alone. It’s a way of shutting off the brain from all the input of day to day life, taking in the views, pushing myself hard (or not). Simplicity of just turing the pedals over is a great way to push my “reset” button.

  19. I find seeing the scenery around me a lot more beautiful when its not some guys butt infront (sic) of me

    This is precisely why one must ride with hard women.

  20. @Robs Muir

    I find seeing the scenery around me a lot more beautiful when its not some guys butt infront (sic) of me

    This is precisely why one must ride with hard women.

    Mm. Yes.

  21. I have been off the bike for two weeks now – due to life and work.  With some pretty bad weather coming in this weekend and a road trip coming up, it will be three weeks.  I am definetly itching to get back on it, but this break has done wonders for the little pain and aches on the back, knees etc.  I did start doing a tittle lifting and incorporated some running (yeah….I know).  I am actually hoping it snows this winter, so I can go snow shoeing.

  22. I’ve found myself increasingly riding alone and shirking the weekend group rides. Probably just the result of dealing with the same folks on the same loop through the Spring and Summer months and needing a break, but there’s something about the solitude of a solo ride in crappy winter weather.

    You learn more about yourself and Le Metier in those lonely tempo base rides than you ever do on the Saturday morning hammerfest, imo. Takes a lot more stones to stay out for that extra hour than it ever does to close down that one attack for the town limit “finish.” Makes the latter during the summer seem easy by comparison.

  23. @Rom

    @KW

    Anyone can go into the Pain Cave while riding with a group. It’s going in when no one else is around that will really make the difference.

    @Rom

    Great article @frank but if you’re going to adopt the SI units of the modern world you might as well spell them correctly. That’d be kilometres then. Of coarse you can measure them with a meter, a kilometre meter.

    If you’re going to criticize @frank’s spelling, you might want to proofread a little better.

    Apologies to all. Just pointing out “kilometres” is more Euro.

    No, its more English. Since when do the English consider themselves Europeans?

  24. @Ron@brett

    Less friends, but better friends. The kind you’d move heaven and earth for if they needed it, and the kind you don’t need to see all the time, and when you hook up again, its like nothing ever changed.

    @KW

    I always like to tell people that my name in phonetically correct. Ch shouldn’t make a “k” sound, that’s what the damn K is for!

    Why go around diluting the value of letters by combining others to make the same sound!

    @gordon

    @Barracuda Following surgery on my hand as a result of a crash and with a cast, I had to use trainers for about 8 weeks. Kind of got past the hate of indoors and saw how it really is a good supplement. If I can not be outside then I go inside. Never take a week off as I feel like I go backwards physically and mentally. I do use power meter for indoors just help with focus. Works for me. ROAD,SPIN,rollers,trainer. mix it up.

    I’m planning on upgrading my indoor gear for that reason. It really helps the stroke and its the perfect environment for intervals.

    I’ll probably just use it on nice sunny winter days though, no way am I giving up my Rule #9 winter rides!

  25. Geographic isolation means I ride alone or with the VMH, both of which I enjoy. Being a sub-clinical (I think) depressive type, I often find myself on solo rides working hard enough to replace negative ideation with the constant awareness of physical discomfort–and then reaping the emotional rewards of the resultant neuro-chemical cocktail.

    I do miss the days of regular weekend club rides with the same group of folks who work well together. One of my best days was the Seattle to Portland (325km) 25 years ago. Seven or so of us got a late start and hammered in a disciplined paceline all day long. Like group meditation.

  26. @brett

    @frank

    I was wicked stoked that I never cursed in front of their 4-year-old. That’s a low bar, but I psyched to clear it.

    Disappointing.

    What!!?? My little dude learned the word “fuck” from Frank.

  27. @frank

    @KW

    I always like to tell people that my name in phonetically correct. Ch shouldn’t make a “k” sound, that’s what the damn K is for!

    Why go around diluting the value of letters by combining others to make the same sound!

     

    kos itd all endup az txt spk uddrwys

  28. @pistard 

    Blast! Caught red-handed! Those crappy Giro-brand gloves have since worn out.. low-quality stuff. I got a couple sets of black leather gloves to replace them. As for the cables, would somebody please give me some instructions on how to clean up that mess? Regarding the phone call. This is unacceptable and I have not since repeated such indiscretion. Have a good one my friend.

    – chuck

  29. @PeakInTwoYears

    @Robs Muir

    I find seeing the scenery around me a lot more beautiful when its not some guys butt infront (sic) of me

    This is precisely why one must ride with hard women.

    Mm. Yes.

    My VMH loves to wear thin white Lycra, so my bunch rules are:

    women can ride behind her except for K the gay woman,

    men can’t ride behind her except S the gay man.

    So far it’s not working at all.

  30. @ChrisO

    Group rides and training are not generally compatible..

    I agree with you ChrisO, and lets face it you are muchos superior to moi, but being the opposite where I group ride with guys in the top 10 open class, and they slay me several times a week, my riding is getting stronger chasing while they are the ones having to wait. It has taken me from average joe to reasonably handy in only a few months.

    On the topic of Han Solo, just this morning I did a pre-work 65k loop that usually do with the group. Didn’t write any records, as usually chasing like it’s a race. Solo you are riding based on how fast you can go, what your legs and lungs can take. It was a bit of a revelation, and I am happy with the result. It was a beautiful morning also…

  31. @Rom

    @PeakInTwoYears

    @Robs Muir

    I find seeing the scenery around me a lot more beautiful when its not some guys butt infront (sic) of me

    This is precisely why one must ride with hard women.

    Mm. Yes.

    My VMH loves to wear thin white Lycra, so my bunch rules are:

    women can ride behind her except for K the gay woman,

    men can’t ride behind her except S the gay man.

    So far it’s not working at all.

    Enforcing rules is never simple (especially when they’re your rules and no one else’s).  My advice: let her and K work it out between themselves. Don’t ask me why I’m confident in saying this, because it’s a long damn story, and I guarantee it’s not the one you’re supposing.

  32. Love love love being alone! I can sit alone in a cab of a machine for hours on end, with the radio off listening to the sounds of it working quite happily. Dont get me wrong I love a big party as much as the next man but am quite happy with suffering in a pit of loneliness when out on the bike, groups are either too fast or slow for me. I’ll try and be sociable on the 21st for the rest of you boys.

    PS I’ve just been to Flanders to a combine harvester factory, ok it wasn’t cycling but its the first time I’ve been anywhere connected with the noble art and farming, 2 thumbs up! It looked a bit grey there as well, would have been good Rule #9 weather on the cobbles in Brugge!

  33. @frank

    @Rom

    @KW

    Anyone can go into the Pain Cave while riding with a group. It’s going in when no one else is around that will really make the difference.

    @Rom

    Great article @frank but if you’re going to adopt the SI units of the modern world you might as well spell them correctly. That’d be kilometres then. Of coarse you can measure them with a meter, a kilometre meter.

    If you’re going to criticize @frank’s spelling, you might want to proofread a little better.

    Apologies to all. Just pointing out “kilometres” is more Euro.

    No, its more English. Since when do the English consider themselves Europeans?

    I thought it originated with the French, with a metre defined as twice the length of a Zefal HP pump.

    (stupid iPhone BTW)

  34. On the subject of breaks from riding – I just got back from six + weeks at sea and am afraid to get on my bike for fear of the breathless weak box of kittens I will be on the first incline.  I’ll let you know how it goes after this weekend.

  35. @Rom

    @PeakInTwoYears

    @Robs Muir

    I find seeing the scenery around me a lot more beautiful when its not some guys butt infront (sic) of me

    This is precisely why one must ride with hard women.

    Mm. Yes.

    My VMH loves to wear thin white Lycra, so my bunch rules are:

    women can ride behind her except for K the gay woman,

    men can’t ride behind her except S the gay man.

    So far it’s not working at all.

    I recommend the following: stop her wearing white fucking lycra.

  36. @Beers

    @ChrisO

    Group rides and training are not generally compatible..

    I agree with you ChrisO, and lets face it you are muchos superior to moi, but being the opposite where I group ride with guys in the top 10 open class, and they slay me several times a week, my riding is getting stronger chasing while they are the ones having to wait. It has taken me from average joe to reasonably handy in only a few months.

    On the topic of Han Solo, just this morning I did a pre-work 65k loop that usually do with the group. Didn’t write any records, as usually chasing like it’s a race. Solo you are riding based on how fast you can go, what your legs and lungs can take. It was a bit of a revelation, and I am happy with the result. It was a beautiful morning also…

    Agreed as well. Riding with a group can elevate your riding. But really, that’s what racing is for. If you are disinclined to race, then the group ride is the next best thing.

    The Pros pretty much train alone, for the reasons described. Testosterone (the hormone, not the doping) is a dangerous thing if you’re doing your programme. Some dickhead always wants to kill it, and men are unable to let that happen, for the most part.

    Training is all about discipline. Break down and build up. It means you are on a schedule and no one else is on that schedule.

    In the end, this is everything you need to know:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3NmV994BDE

    And then there is…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhUt_bl6J4o

  37. @Rom

    @frank

    @Rom

    @KW

    Anyone can go into the Pain Cave while riding with a group. It’s going in when no one else is around that will really make the difference.

    @Rom

    Great article @frank but if you’re going to adopt the SI units of the modern world you might as well spell them correctly. That’d be kilometres then. Of coarse you can measure them with a meter, a kilometre meter.

    If you’re going to criticize @frank’s spelling, you might want to proofread a little better.

    Apologies to all. Just pointing out “kilometres” is more Euro.

    No, its more English. Since when do the English consider themselves Europeans?

    I thought it originated with the French, with a metre defined as twice the length of a Zefal HP pump.

    (stupid iPhone BTW)

    Nice play, but if it had started with Zee Frahnche, then it would have been un kilomètre.

  38. @frank Having spent some time looking this afternoon I am pretty sure Mr Lucas has scourced the Innerwebs of the correct version.

  39. @eightace

    Frank you are an INTJ Myers-Briggs personality like me and Lance.

    I think Wiggo is and a lot of other driven individuals but we don’t do well with others.

    http://www.personalitypage.com/INTJ.html

    Funny, I thought Lance was a DICK personality.

    I assumed you were full of shit, btw, but after reading, I am amazed at how close it is. I disagreed with a few items, but then got to this:

    Unless their Feeling side is developed, they may have problems giving other people the level of intimacy that is needed. Unless their Sensing side is developed, they may have a tendency to ignore details which are necessary for implementing their ideas.

    I have developed both those sides and assuming I’m right in thinking that (as an INTJ is prone to assume), then the whole thing is scarily spot-on.

    I’m off to go over-drink now, on account of all that stress.

  40. @frank

    @KW

    I always like to tell people that my name in phonetically correct. Ch shouldn’t make a “k” sound, that’s what the damn K is for!

    Why go around diluting the value of letters by combining others to make the same sound!

    Well said, Phranch

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