The Paradox of Maturity
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.