The Paradox of Maturity

The Portet d'Aspet

Although we find our way to the bicycle by different path, we all share the fact that at some point, this simple and elegant machine captured our imaginations. It became something more than simply a means to travel about, get exercise, or compete – it became something central to our lives.

Somehow and by different means, La Volupte seduced each of us. We became hypnotized by the rhythm of the cyclist’s life, by the movement of the machine. There might have been a moment where the machine which once hardly obeyed our commands suddenly surrendered to our every desire; we only needed to push upon the pedals a bit harder in order to coax more speed from the machine.

Then we made a fundamental discovery: the pleasure to be found from pushing ourselves beyond our limits. The simplicity found in the singular focus when all ancillary thought is shut down as we steel our mind against the strain of the effort. In truth, the pleasure comes less from the suffering but from the knowledge that we overcame the impulse to relent. We join a minority who, in a small way, triumph over our very nature.

With this discovery comes a kind of Stockholm Syndrome as we fall in love with everything bicycle-related – from the beauty of the machine itself to every bit of history and culture that surrounds it. We have transformed into a Velominatus.

As we mature as cyclists, we turn our focus towards improvement of the Craft: we crave a more Magnificent Stroke, to become stronger, to go Steady Up with More Speed. As the hardships of our sport become a constant companion, their novelty is diminished. The novelty of pushing ourselves fades; it becomes a routine component of our Work to become better cyclists.

Throughout, the cycle gains momentum. Every year, we become faster, stronger, harder. We might even forget why we love the sport as we lose ourselves in our quest for improvement. Thresholds, speeds, distances, wattage, elevation; these metrics replace the beautiful simplicity of La Vie Velominatus, which is fundamentally about the love of the bike and cycling at large.

But every cycle has its peaks and valleys and with each Summer spent narrowing the two-month gap to finding peak form, those of us who know how to train properly will fill our Winters building our base condition with longer, low intensity rides which throw us back to those basic sensations that drew us into the sport originally: the smell of the air, the sound of our tires as they flirt with the pavement or earth, the rhythmic breathing, the freedom of riding a bicycle.

Each Fall, as the skies grey and the rain begins to fall, I’m struck by my sudden rediscovery of the original reasons I love cycling. With my season’s goals many months away, the micromanagement of my condition and performance gives way once more to the pleasure of the ride. If I feel strong (which rarely happens during this time of year) and the desire to push myself shows itself, I may do it. If not, I don’t. It doesn’t matter at that time of year – just spending time on the machine is more than enough to pay dividends when the days grow longer and the sun returns to the sky. Rain, shine, cold, warm – I hardly notice the difference as I am once more reminded of the reasons why I love to ride my bike.

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160 Replies to “The Paradox of Maturity”

  1. That’s right, Steamer is in Cuba smoking Diplomaticos (which are much better than that virginia slim looking supersonic hanging out of Gianni’s mug) and mainlining Mojitos. If Fidel didn’t have such a stranglehold on the interwebs down there he’d know he won.

    I think the dried liquid on frank’s shoulder is lava from the volcano itself.

  2. You know after a few beers and sitting cogitating on this whole volcano thing I am reminded of a certain racer that finished the 6th and final stage of a race on an island in another sea. The Spanish speaking news paper printed a photo of the joyous winner crossing the finish line arms raised. The only problem was the photo was from the waist up – no bike in sight. When he got home all the proud young racers team mates told him the photo was a fake and he never won anything…he was just sitting in a chair when they staged the photo.

    I am wondering if we have been played? Think about it, the build up, the tweets and then images that seem to good to be true? I mean there is no bike, there is no VMH, there is frank doing an impression of Tyler Hamilton on top of Mt. Washington and what the fuck is Gianni doing???

    This may be the biggest hoax since Pharmstrongs escapades, I want proof – real pictures, videos, eye witnesses. Now!

  3. @Rob

    I am waiting to see the video. If recorded well, it should be “epic”.

    I went on a little jaunt yesterday, and while climbing a 200 meter hill I was certainly contemplating Frank’s hardman feat.

  4. @frank

    Good work mate, hills are not a friend to us fellows over 6 foot two. You represented. I am thinking it was Eros Poli-esque yes? My “how fit am i really” 5km, 8% climb is embarrassing now!

  5. Great photo frank.

    xyxax :
    Wow, Frank, that image is an inspiration.particularly if those stains on your shoulder are due to Rule V-related brain melt dripping from your ears.

    precisley put

  6. Well done, Frank! I can’t imagine climbing anything for a steady 4+ hours. That’s gotta feel like both brake calipers snug against the rims. I still wanna try it, though. You are a Hardman.

  7. frank, awesome climb… echo all posts above. You look positively GREY in the photo above… surefire symptoms of someone who, whilst adhering to the principle of Rule #5, has set out categorically to prove Rule #10.

    Well done, sir… an inspiration to us all. In the time taken to run a typical marathon time you cycled uphill the entire time.

  8. @Marko et al.
    Fidel called me and passed on the tweet reports personally. Very kind of him, under the circumstances. 4:27 seemed about right, given the distance, the climb, the altitude, the insanely long seatpost, and my just bashing a bunch of keys together to guess at the time. The formula is quite intricate, really. I’d much prefer a V-jersey icon to my tainted yellow. Clenbuterol is tasty, though. Nothing seasons steak quite like it.

    Nothing like sitting on the beach surrounded by fat and drunk Canadians and Russians to make you want to put down the mojito and get on the bike. “Nothing like” and “actually doing something about it,” however, are two very different things. After Marko’s Sensei piece from a week ago, big respect also needs to go out to Gianni, who clearly has a DS style all his own.

    Lots of teams seemed to be training around Varadero. Cuban or from some other Latin American country? Of course, the roads around the touristy parts were terrific””and the only decent roads on the island…

  9. A little over a year ago. Great stuff, love the article, Frank!

    My goal for 2012 is to just have fun with cycling. I need to focus on a lot of other things in my life off the bike (wedding the VMH, finishing my degree) so I want riding to just be fun & a release/relief from the other stuff. Plus, if I focus for a few months on my work, I’ll be finished and still have plenty of time to snap myself into form for cyclocross in the fall.

    I’m going to do my best to ride as often as time permits, but to just ride and not worry about distance, speed, etc.

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