La Vie Velominatus: The Joyride

There are very few experiences as incredible as riding a bike; the wind in your face, the sensation of generating speed under your own power, the balance of forces that almost magically hold the bike suspended upright. It is the closest we humans will ever come to feeling the miracle of flight; it is the closest we can come to knowing what it must be like to be a bird.

Cycling is my passion, my greatest hobby, my obsession. From a young age, I have been taking it seriously, slowly growing my dependence and interest in life behind bars. It was during the summer when I was eight or so years old that I first set a legitimate training goal, and took to the bicycle as my primary means of summer training. It isn’t a unique story, how the bicycle intervened into a skier’s life and somehow took over, but the point is that I hardly recall a time in my life that the bicycle didn’t hold some enormous meaning for me.

Before I became a Cyclist as a pre-teen, I learned to ride a bike on the dirt trails behind my parent’s house. With this acquired skill, my range of travel increased dramatically. I could suddenly meet my friends who lived far enough away that I couldn’t walk there. I could ride to and from school, I could ride to the lake and swim with my friends. The bicycle was simple, carefree. It was freedom.

This is the great paradox of La Vie Velominatus: the more serious and passionate we become, the farther we are from that juvenile pleasure and freedom afforded by the bike. As Velominati, each ride serves a purpose, whether that purpose is to follow a training plan, feed the Good Wolf, or to spend some quality time with ourselves as introverts.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I whimsically decided to jump on our bikes for a midnight ride around the neighborhood. No helmets, no lights, no plan; just two people riding around, choosing the route on a whim, talking about life, love, and laughing. It was perhaps the first time in more than thirty years that I felt the raw childhood whimsy of riding a bike for its own sake. It was one of my favorite rides, ever.

Cycling is indeed my passion, my hobby, my obsession; I am eternally grateful for the gift it has given me throughout my life. But somehow, I’ve lost the original connection I had to the bike from before I became a Cyclist. I am resolved to rebuild that and continue to indulge in the joyride.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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54 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: The Joyride”

  1. @frank Just curious, any chance did that midnight joyride around the neighborhood on the bike follow an earlier nice dinner and a good bottle of red wine? I might have done that once or twice or… cheers

  2. Occasionally I feel burnt out from making every ride count. At these times, it can be a struggle to put my leg over the top tube and clip in to my Looks. When I think about it my lips contort to bare my canine teeth, (I can only assume this results from the Bad Wolf) and I emit a low groan. The body rebels against tempo, intervals, climbing repeats or whatever the program calls for and the mind allows this.

     

    It is clear what needs to be done: I need to take a step back and enjoy the bike again. A joy ride that reminds me of how I fell in love with riding a bike in the first place. As a kid, I would get home from school and hop on my bike. There was often no purpose other than tooling around the neighborhood on those two wheels. I would lose myself in the journey and clear my mind of all else. The freedom, the simplicity, the innocence of a kid riding his bike was a joy.

    Later, while attending grad school while working full time I would get stuck on stats, math, accounting, or some other such problem. I needed bike therapy fast. I would kit up, and mount my trusty steed: A white Bottecchia Chromor with a chrome fork, world champion decals (for the bike brand not me), a Sachs Bro Set (Sachs is now par of SRAM). I would clip in and go about the business of clearing my head. With riding time limited during that time of my life, I was only able to take a few hours away  from my other responsibilities. At some point during those few hours, a light bulb would always go on and whatever subject that had me flummoxed was immediately clear.

    The recuperative powers of a leisurely bike ride are amazing. A few hours on my Pinarello at a leisurely pace and I cannot wait to get back to the training. The mental break that an occasional joy ride can provide reminds me why I love cycling so much.

  3. Hear, hear. Very well put. Petje af, Frank. (And nice with the ‘life behind bars’ pun)

    As much as I enjoy (watching) bike racing, I’ll always be a tourer – and a trundler – at heart. I have many fond memories of hours spent in the saddle without particular purpose, training goal or even destination – just pootling about for the sheer joy of it.

  4. Last year, my commuter, a heavy-ass Trek hybrid, was stolen. I was upset, but not heartbroken had it been my road bike.

    I wound up replacing it with a single speed CX bike with a rack on the back, and it has been a hoot! It’s the bike I go riding with my family on, or just running errands after work. Serious enough that I want to push, but with the knowledge that, given its limitations, I don’t have to be Mr. Serious Roadie.

    It reminds me of the Schwinn Sting-Ray I had as a kid–also a single speed. And it has been a joy.

  5. @Charles Barilleaux

    Very recently acquired a Surly Straggler (in mint green of course) for general commuting, off road riding, bikepacking, etc. It definitely doesn’t roll like the roadie, but it is an absolute blast to ride. Top that off with the fact that my office has a prox-access bike lockup in the basement garage and I can ride it to work and proceed stress-free through my day. About the bike no stress, anyway

    In a nod to Rule #8, the saddle and bar tape are black, and the fenders are chrome to match the derailleurs and other misc hardware. She is a thing of beauty.

  6. For a pure joyride just how large a saddlebag are we allowed to have on the bike?

  7. @frank

    “Last weekend, my girlfriend and I whimsically decided to jump on our bikes for a midnight ride around the neighborhood. No helmets, no lights, no plan; just two people riding around, choosing the route on a whim, talking about life, love, and laughing. It was perhaps the first time in more than thirty years that I felt the raw childhood whimsy of riding a bike for its own sake. It was one of my favorite rides, ever.”

    That statement seems to me to be the essence of Rule #6. Freeing the mind…..

  8. @Randy C

    @frank Just curious, any chance did that midnight joyride around the neighborhood on the bike follow an earlier nice dinner and a good bottle of red wine? I might have done that once or twice or… cheers

    Sounds like the cycling equivalent of skinny dipping…

  9. @KogaLover

    Hi K L – and thanks! Been absolutely drowning in work (and since I am ‘my own boss’, I have to harvest when the sun shines, so to speak). I must have Delgado’ed at least two VSP events in the process, too (*Sigh*). Busy times.

    Anyway, the waters seem to have calmed a bit now, and the late summer weather here in DK has been spectacular so far. I foresee a long bike ride in my near future (looking at Sunday in particular; forecast is good.)

     

  10. Since the VMH got her Liv it’s been really nice to go out with her and just ride with no thought of sprints,Strave sections etc.Only thing is now she’s got one of those mini Lezyne gps things she’s now keeping an eye on her average speed and such,don’t know for how much longer they’ll be gentle rides,,,,

    On the commuter note I’m partway re-building my old Trek hybrid in to a light tourer hack thing(it’s being called Trek the mongrel!);only original bits left are the frame,rear v-brakes and rear wheel .I’m as excited about building this as I have been about any other of the stable and I may have one to do for the VMH some time.

    Here’s a rubbish pic of it so far;mis-matched wheels,old carbon fork,old 105 kit etc;plenty of ‘cruising’ will be done on this hopefully.

    Oh and yes panniers! Will be doing the weekly ‘big’ shop with this now the car’s gone.

  11. Beautiful piece and as always, timely, as I’ve been spending lots more time on my commuter bike again (I’m going to have to post a picture of it as Frank has done with his).

    Also, timely as I’m now in the void between the end of the racing season and the start of the winter training plan proper. One of my main aims with this 2 month break from any sort of structured training was to enjoy it – rediscover that feeling of just riding and not worrying about the results. I’m pretty sure my form has stayed more or less where it was, actually.

    I think (again referring to the article) the reason why the bicycle intervened into this rock climber’s life and took over is that I find enjoyment in virtually every facet of riding; I like commuting by bike, I like racing, I like time trialling, I like hard tempo rides, I like steady endurance rides in any weather, I like winter training with the club at the track and I like suffering on the turbo. Just about the only thing about training I don’t like is weights but I’m pretty sure doing an hour a week up to Christmas will make me a stronger cyclist come next race season.

  12. My weekend morning rides to the bagel store with my two boys, 10 and 7, are the best moments I spend on the bike. There isn’t even a close 2nd.

     

    -Ted

  13. For shame Frank….

     

    The fact that it is a commuter does not give you the liberty to post a pic with the chain in the small ring.

  14. @Fred

    For shame Frank….

    The fact that it is a commuter does not give you the liberty to post a pic with the chain in the small ring.

    I totally noticed that and almost retook the photo but was at work already etc excuse blah more excuses etc.

    But I will say this:

    • SRAM crankset.
    • Campa Chain.
    • Campa 10spd Cassette.
    • Shimano 10spd derailleur.
    • Shimano 9spd Bar-End shifters.

    Unholy as fuck, but works like a dream.

  15. FNG here… Is the “Life Behind Bars” new? If so, I sense a tee shirt/bumper sticker

  16. I got a mountain bike for the first time last year. First rode it in a New England early winter rainstorm and hit every bump and puddle I could and laughed like a kid the whole time. Those are the best rides sometimes.

  17. I’ve just built up a ‘grocery bike’ – steel frame, porteur bars, 3 speed SA hub with bar end shifter, dyno front hub,  CX file tread tyres and centre pull brakes, big hammer dimpled alu mudguards, square taper DuraAce chainset with flat pedals.  Weighs about 15 kgs.  Its absolutely perfect for riding to the shop or the climbing wall – comfortable, no worries with lights or water, a bit of gearing if needed, rides silently with the straight chain line and 1/8 chain… Just the gentle ‘tick tick tick’ of the SA hub.  Sweet!

  18. I have an arrangement with a friend who rides a little. We ride together on the understanding that it is a hard ride for her, a recovery one for me. With that understanding, we’re good. On Labor Day we did 50kms in Milwaukee. (I’d done 170 kms the day before). Average speed was 20 kmh. It was lovely. Lots of time to look around, and enjoy the pleasure of the ride knowing that time, distance and speed were immaterial.

    BTW, that’s a sequoia Frank’s bike is leaning against.

  19. @wiscot

    Sequoia?  It’s a broadleaf by the looks of the twig.  Every tree starts as a seedling but that don’t look like one o’ these to me……

  20. Can’t make out the leaves but more like a Snake Bark Maple or a Maple of some sort.

  21. I can clearly remember allowing myself to be dropped on a club ride after a week of max effort training sessions. We were about 30k in, on a sun drenched rolling country road and in a moment of clarity, I sat up, had a good look around and soaked in the serenity. The pain stopped and the joy  of rolling through the landscape took over. A great moment. I still like to kick my ass on the bike most of the time but always leave room for the pleasure ride.

    On a completely different note, I rode with my daughter for the first time yesterday. She’s 12 years old and only just now learned to ride. I know. She had a crash trying to learn when she was 5 or so, split her chin open and totally lost her Mojo. I didn’t feel the need to pressure her. I don’t think it helped her having a bike mad father. I let her come back in her own time. So when she asked to take her brother’s bike out a couple of months ago I was secretly glowing. Yesterday she smiled the whole way around a tricky little 10k circuit. There sure is nothing like it. Unfettered joy.

  22. @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    Sequoia? It’s a broadleaf by the looks of the twig. Every tree starts as a seedling but that don’t look like one o’ these to me……

    Ahhh . . . my attempt at humor fails again! I was trying to gently point out the rather large size of Frohnk’s frame and massive seatpost by suggesting the bike made a sequoia look puny.

    I’ll get me coat . . .

  23. @MangoDave

    @MrBirchum

    FNG here… Is the “Life Behind Bars” new? If so, I sense a tee shirt/bumper sticker

    Life Behind Bars Light Steel T-Shirt Front

    It’s already been done.

    Just to be pedantic, but shouldn’t the bars be viewed from the opposite side?

  24. @wiscot

    @MangoDave

    @MrBirchum

    FNG here… Is the “Life Behind Bars” new? If so, I sense a tee shirt/bumper sticker

    Life Behind Bars Light Steel T-Shirt Front

    It’s already been done.

    Just to be pedantic, but shouldn’t the bars be viewed from the opposite side?

    I suppose they would be in the correct orientation while wearing the shirt.

  25. @MangoDave

    @wiscot

    @MangoDave

    @MrBirchum

    FNG here… Is the “Life Behind Bars” new? If so, I sense a tee shirt/bumper sticker

    Life Behind Bars Light Steel T-Shirt Front

    It’s already been done.

    Just to be pedantic, but shouldn’t the bars be viewed from the opposite side?

    I suppose they would be in the correct orientation while wearing the shirt.

    Good point! But why is there only one cable coming from the left shifter and two from the right? Are they running an old-school braze-on front derailleur? I think we should be told.

  26. @wiscot

    @MangoDave

    @wiscot

    @MangoDave

    @MrBirchum

    FNG here… Is the “Life Behind Bars” new? If so, I sense a tee shirt/bumper sticker

     

    It’s already been done.

    Just to be pedantic, but shouldn’t the bars be viewed from the opposite side?

    I suppose they would be in the correct orientation while wearing the shirt.

    Good point! But why is there only one cable coming from the left shifter and two from the right? Are they running an old-school braze-on front derailleur? I think we should be told.

    I can’t explain that, so I’ll go with your braze-on front idea.  If I were to design a shirt like this, I wouldn’t do such a shoddy job with the details.

    BTW, I understood your sequoia humor.

  27. @wiscot

    I have an arrangement with a friend who rides a little. We ride together on the understanding that it is a hard ride for her, a recovery one for me. With that understanding, we’re good. On Labor Day we did 50kms in Milwaukee. (I’d done 170 kms the day before). Average speed was 20 kmh. It was lovely. Lots of time to look around, and enjoy the pleasure of the ride knowing that time, distance and speed were immaterial.

    Such a beautiful thing. I don’t have enough of these rides, obviously!

    BTW, that’s a sequoia Frank’s bike is leaning against.

    Brilliant!

     

  28. @fenlander

    Since the VMH got her Liv it’s been really nice to go out with her and just ride with no thought of sprints,Strave sections etc.Only thing is now she’s got one of those mini Lezyne gps things she’s now keeping an eye on her average speed and such,don’t know for how much longer they’ll be gentle rides,,,,

    On the commuter note I’m partway re-building my old Trek hybrid in to a light tourer hack thing(it’s being called Trek the mongrel!);only original bits left are the frame,rear v-brakes and rear wheel .I’m as excited about building this as I have been about any other of the stable and I may have one to do for the VMH some time.

    Here’s a rubbish pic of it so far;mis-matched wheels,old carbon fork,old 105 kit etc;plenty of ‘cruising’ will be done on this hopefully.

    Oh and yes panniers! Will be doing the weekly ‘big’ shop with this now the car’s gone.

    Hopefully you’ll fix the saddle angle.

    I’ve actually bought some longer cables for the mustache monster and will wrap the bars in cloth tape – any day now. Super fun builds, these little worker bikes.

  29. @Haldy

    @frank

    “Last weekend, my girlfriend and I whimsically decided to jump on our bikes for a midnight ride around the neighborhood. No helmets, no lights, no plan; just two people riding around, choosing the route on a whim, talking about life, love, and laughing. It was perhaps the first time in more than thirty years that I felt the raw childhood whimsy of riding a bike for its own sake. It was one of my favorite rides, ever.”

    That statement seems to me to be the essence of Rule #6. Freeing the mind…..

    Absolutely, great call. Sometimes a ride like that reminds you what it feels like to be truly free.

  30. @Owen

    @Charles Barilleaux

    Very recently acquired a Surly Straggler (in mint green of course) for general commuting, off road riding, bikepacking, etc. It definitely doesn’t roll like the roadie, but it is an absolute blast to ride. Top that off with the fact that my office has a prox-access bike lockup in the basement garage and I can ride it to work and proceed stress-free through my day. About the bike no stress, anyway

    In a nod to Rule #8, the saddle and bar tape are black, and the fenders are chrome to match the derailleurs and other misc hardware. She is a thing of beauty.

    That post is useless without a photo.

  31. @RobSandy

    Beautiful piece and as always, timely, as I’ve been spending lots more time on my commuter bike again (I’m going to have to post a picture of it as Frank has done with his).

    Also, timely as I’m now in the void between the end of the racing season and the start of the winter training plan proper. One of my main aims with this 2 month break from any sort of structured training was to enjoy it – rediscover that feeling of just riding and not worrying about the results. I’m pretty sure my form has stayed more or less where it was, actually.

    Two words: Cyclocross.

     

  32. @frank

    @RobSandy

    Beautiful piece and as always, timely, as I’ve been spending lots more time on my commuter bike again (I’m going to have to post a picture of it as Frank has done with his).

    Also, timely as I’m now in the void between the end of the racing season and the start of the winter training plan proper. One of my main aims with this 2 month break from any sort of structured training was to enjoy it – rediscover that feeling of just riding and not worrying about the results. I’m pretty sure my form has stayed more or less where it was, actually.

    Two words: Cyclocross.

    not you as well! So many people tell me I should race Cross. I think I’d love it but having thought about it a lot I’m not sure I could cope with giving up a whole afternoon for 1hours racing, and also the mud.

    so I’ll stick to summer racing/winter training. Not ruling out track racing next year though…

  33. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    Ahhh – Bollocks – Maybe I should change my tag to @Sheldon.

    You have every reason to have lost your sense of humor; standby, news is coming my friend…

    That will stop the Bad Wolf being fed.  I have renewed hopes for the Sussex Cogal……….

  34. @frank

    @fenlander

    Since the VMH got her Liv it’s been really nice to go out with her and just ride with no thought of sprints,Strave sections etc.Only thing is now she’s got one of those mini Lezyne gps things she’s now keeping an eye on her average speed and such,don’t know for how much longer they’ll be gentle rides,,,,

    On the commuter note I’m partway re-building my old Trek hybrid in to a light tourer hack thing(it’s being called Trek the mongrel!);only original bits left are the frame,rear v-brakes and rear wheel .I’m as excited about building this as I have been about any other of the stable and I may have one to do for the VMH some time.

    Here’s a rubbish pic of it so far;mis-matched wheels,old carbon fork,old 105 kit etc;plenty of ‘cruising’ will be done on this hopefully.

    Oh and yes panniers! Will be doing the weekly ‘big’ shop with this now the car’s gone.

    Hopefully you’ll fix the saddle angle.

    I’ve actually bought some longer cables for the mustache monster and will wrap the bars in cloth tape – any day now. Super fun builds, these little worker bikes.

    Saddle will be replaced as it’s not the most comfortable for my arse(new Fabric for the Planet X XLS commuter of doom and the Charge spoon from that will go on the Trek).

    First ‘ride’ today which was a poodle in the city so all ok-ish(front mech needs a fettle);plus a better Tortec rack fitted so looks a bit tidier at the back.

    If the touring thing kicks off next year a better set of wheels may be sourced.

  35. @frank

    @Owen

    @Charles Barilleaux

    Very recently acquired a Surly Straggler (in mint green of course) for general commuting, off road riding, bikepacking, etc. It definitely doesn’t roll like the roadie, but it is an absolute blast to ride. Top that off with the fact that my office has a prox-access bike lockup in the basement garage and I can ride it to work and proceed stress-free through my day. About the bike no stress, anyway

    In a nod to Rule #8, the saddle and bar tape are black, and the fenders are chrome to match the derailleurs and other misc hardware. She is a thing of beauty.

    That post is useless without a photo.

    Fair enough. Ask and you shall receive. Forgive the poor lighting, as it is a rainy day in Seattle and I’m out the door early. On a related note: does Rule #9 apply to commutes?

  36. On another related note: to my eternal shame I note that I wrote “derailleurs” above when I meant to write “discs. Several repeats up Pine the wrong way in penance.

  37. On the subject of joyrides, took my brother-in-law and niece for a trundle around the park on Sunday. It was a ride with no aim at all; we just rode to one end of the park, stopped, turned around and came back; and was on a totally mismatched set of bikes.

    My niece borrowed my wife’s Bianchi, my bro-in-law was on his Genesis mtb and I rode my new track bike. It was slooooow, and the paths were busy but the weather was glorious and it was a total joy to be out.

    Long live the bike.

  38. @RobSandy

    I can relate. Sometimes I’ll go for a casual spin around the park with my daughters: old Gazelle oma fiets, Raleigh Superb and me on my Marinoni SSCX which I use as a commuter and once a year racer (Paris to Ancaster). Like you said…total joy.

  39. A weird thing happened this summer. My brother and I were training for a gran fondo (the Blue Mountain Centurion,160kms). I was putting on over 400kms per week in preparation.

    Then three things happened simultaneously that changed everything: he crashed on a thing they call a MTB and broke his shoulder, the VMH reminded me that we have a family wedding on the same day as the race and then we went on vacation for 4 weeks with no bikes.

    When I finally got back on the bike I took a different approach: Just ride for the joy of it. It also helped that I happened to be reading a book by Thomas Sterner called, The Practicing Mind. Sterner emphasizes process over end goals and staying in the present while doing an activity. It really works. I enjoyed the rides more and actually posted some pretty good average speeds as well.

  40. Thanks for the reminder of the true reason we ride, @frank.  I hit 39mph on a downhill the other day, and after thinking “ohmygodi’mgonnadie,” my second thought was “Wheeeeeeeeee!”

  41. @freddy

     

    When I finally got back on the bike I took a different approach: Just ride for the joy of it. It also helped that I happened to be reading a book by Thomas Sterner called, The Practicing Mind. Sterner emphasizes process over end goals and staying in the present while doing an activity. It really works. I enjoyed the rides more and actually posted some pretty good average speeds as well.

    You went and ruined the whole vibe by mentioning the ‘average speed’ word

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