On Rule #9: Love the Work
Fitness. The rhythm, the feeling of precision in our movement, the sensations of The Ride. The temptation of knowing we might in some way control our suffering even as we push harder in spite of the searing pain in our legs and lungs. The notion that through suffering, we might learn something rudimentary about ourselves – that we might find a kind of salvation.
Cycling, like Art, is based on the elementary notion that through focussed study, we might better understand ourselves. But to describe Cycling as a an Art does it an injustice. An artist, they say, suffers because they must. A Cyclist, I suggest, suffers because we choose to.
This element of choice, what psychologists refer to as the locus of control, is part of what allows us to feel pleasure through suffering. Through this choice unfolds an avenue of personal discovery by which we uncover the very nature of ourselves. Like Michelangelo wielding his hammer to chip away fragments of stone that obscure a great sculpture, we turn our pedals to chip away at our form, eventually revealing our true selves as a manifestation of hard work, determination, and dedication to our craft.
Having chosen this path, we quickly find that riding a bicycle on warm, dry roads through sunny boulevards is the realm of the recreational cyclist. As winter approaches, the days get shorter and the weather worse. Form tempts us to greater things, but leaves us quickly despite our best intentions. Its taste lingers long upon the tongue and urges us to gain more. Even as life gets in the way, we cannot afford many days away from our craft before we find ourselves struggling to reclaim lost fitness.
To find form in the first place, and to maintain it in the second, is a simple matter of riding your bicycle a lot. This simple task asks of us, however, a year-round commitment to throwing our leg over a toptube in heat, cold, wind, rain, or sleet, lest we spend months fighting to reclaim last year’s lost condition.
But with riding in bad weather is revealed a hidden secret. It is in the rain and the cold, when all the seductive elements of riding a bicycle have vanished, that we are truly able to ensconce ourselves in the elemental qualities of riding a bicycle. Good weather and beautiful scenery, after all, are distractions from the work. Without them, we have only those elements that we ourselves bring to The Ride: the rhythm, harmony between rider and machine, our suffering, and our thoughts. As the rain pours down and all but the most devoted stay indoors, we pull on extra clothing and submit into the deluge.
We are the Few, we are the Committed. We are those who understand that riding in bad weather means you’re a badass, period.