Remembering Cycling

The stories you tell yourself and others about cycling

Where could you? Where should you? Where do you have no choice?

You need to start being fast. As you master the necessary technique, you have to remember to make it pay off; don’t forget that in the beginning (when you are practicing) you aren’t reaping the benefits (you are limiting the losses [which will only become a kind of benefit over time.])

You need to start saving more (true) but also looking for places to spend what you save (don’t spend it but ask yourself “where could I [where should I,]”) like when you creep (or sneak really [steal in a way]) into a really big gear and you’re already going fast without having done anything to get there.

Where are the small obstacles (that get smaller as the speeds increase [that will provide ever larger gains]) given their position in relation to what helped build your speed (descent, tailwind, match, etc.)?

It might be worth it to spend your energy holding that giant gear over a small rise or into a gust of wind (probably always with a pedaling technique that waits [except when it is now or never (and it rarely is)] but, all the while, not fighting back against anything that isn’t worth the tax.

You have to limit the damage, between 40 and 60 kph (that’s where it matters [unless you’re on a mountain, and you aren’t] in terms of average speed ; ) forget about 20 to 30.

The technique of sitting back to get to speed and the ability to sit back after a match are the same. By combining proper pedaling with the decision of where one could build speed with a match (as opposed to waiting patiently for external forces to diminish) and the choice of where to use that match (as opposed to profiting strictly from the external “help,”) you won’t have to work to get up to speed (especially not in the tailwind [or on a descent.])

 

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Plan, ride, accumulate, recollect, repeat

Cycling is a sequential activity. Like a story, there is inherently a beginning and an end to every bike ride. Everything within the ride, like everything about the route, has an order, but this order is not strictly related to time. In addition to the chronology, bicycles follow a linear path, so a bike ride is also a spatial sequence of the cyclist in the world. This sequencing of positions in space furnishes an ordered experience of the physical world that can be reviewed subsequently by means of recollection just as well as through a retracing of points in time. This means that, on a bike ride, distance and duration are synonymous, just like route and narrative. The former are facticities whereas the latter are results of decision making.

The finality of each ride guarantees the cyclist individual units of experience to analyze. Freedom in relation to the facts of a bike ride begins as soon as events from the ride becomes something to be included (or not) in a subsequent narrative (or in a future ride). After a ride, the cyclist becomes a writer. Stories, like bike rides, happen in a chronological order, but narratives can be reordered in a way that emphasizes (or omits) particular aspects of the story, similarly to the way that routes can be organized so as to repeat a certain physical feature while avoiding another. Once they are represented in a narrative, the events of the bike ride (story) unfold in a way that puts obstacles such as the wind, a climb, a turn, etc. in a meaningful position in relation to the other obstacles.

Participating in a bike ride is the development of the autobiographical story you will eventually have the choice of recounting to yourself and others. Before a ride, there is only design; after a ride, there is no more story to experience. This cycle of route (the planned ride) replaced by events (the actual ride) and story (the chronological sequence of events in the story-world) replaced by narrative (the organized representation of events in the story) is fundamental in the subsequent analysis and eventual replication or reinvention of a bike ride. The only thing left once a ride has been completed is the chronology of what happened, but this chronology must be presented. This is where freedom to improve in relation to one’s past becomes the primary tool of the bicycle rider (writer). After a ride, the cyclist is left with nothing but narrative choice, beginning with the order of presentation, and the most obvious question: will the story be recounted in chronological order from beginning to end or will it be reordered so as to explain some other aspect of what happened?

In defense of a better pedaling action

Action, in its unique way of equalizing everyone, is physical; it is movement through space and everything that comes along with the repositioning of lived bodies in the world. A bicycle is a means of transport, but what moves a bicycle through space if not a lived body? The inherent contradiction of cycling is that the motion of the lived body is always and necessarily pedaling. This means that when cycling, one finds oneself performing an action that is not directly related to the body’s movement through the world. At first glance, pedaling is repetitive and unchanging, however a better pedaling action will undoubtedly lead to a more intentional movement through the world.

                The initial problem to address in pedaling is fear. Typical pedaling techniques are developed out of fear of the resistance on the pedals or the duration of the unchanging sensations in the legs. Traditionally, this fear motivates the cyclist to maintain motion in order to avoid particularly unwanted sensations associated with meeting the demands of a given situation. However, this kind of preventative pedaling is unsustainable. A cyclist cannot attempt to “arrive” at a point in the pedaling action where difficulty has been overcome. The problem with such a conception of pedaling, as a means of avoiding undesirable sensations in the legs, is that it ignores dynamics. When in motion, a cyclist’s situation is never permanent, since of course, the environment is static and the cyclist never is. Cycling presupposes the action of moving through space, and since movement is defined “in relation to”, riding a bicycle is inherently a change of environment. If there were actually a permanent aspect of pedaling characterized by the absence of difficulty, it would have to exist in an unchanging environment. Permanence could only be conceived on a cycle that remained stationary. The only stable aspects of sustained movement involve the start and the end; the movement itself is dynamic action. Maintaining this movement over time requires a better pedaling action that dynamically reacts to demands and sensations that traditional techniques mean to avoid as a matter of principle.

                An action aimed at sustaining movement presupposes another action. The motion of one pedal precedes the motion of another, until the cyclist arrives at the destination. A better pedaling action must take into account this permanent cycling of strokes. The theory of such a technique must be conceptualized around the infinite replacing of predecessors. The only unchanging aspect of pedaling a bicycle is the fact that every pedal is followed by another pedal. A better pedaling action must be developed, not only as a recognition of the unescapable reality of putting effort into something that will inevitably and immediately be replaced, but also as a dynamic goal capable of being adopted by reactionary successors who refuse to follow a static model or traditional principle developed out of fear. A better pedaling action does not perpetuate fear of succession. The next pedal stroke is a given, with or without commitment to a certain plan. A better pedaling action is the belief that the current stroke will be replaced, and since the particular demands for its replacement are ever-changing and never-knowable, one always risks defining the next pedal too soon and preventing it from responding dynamically to the present. Difficulty is not indicative of permanence; instead, it is full of information about how to develop the next pedal stroke in a way that is more capable of dealing with the current situation.

Consistency in pedaling, like consistency in difficulty, is an illusion created out of fear. A theory that defends a principle is necessarily fearful of the unknown, and any technique that is modelled after its predecessors is incapable of sustaining action. If each pedal were simply a copy of the one before, perceived difficulty would always be a sign of what is to come; the cyclist would have to fear the future. But if every pedal is a response instead of a reproduction, the next stroke is an opportunity to cope with difficulties that were unsustainable with the previous pedal stroke. A better pedaling action accepts and does not fear persistent difficulty because it can change in response to it. There is another pedal, different from the last and modeled after the current demands. Replace the static conception of what is necessary with a better pedaling action.

My Old Gloves

Don’t listen to me. You can’t trust me. I’m fast, so I lie. All the greats lied. Of course, those that say they didn’t are still lying today. That’s a big part of being fast. Other people can’t trust you. You’ll leave them in the dust. They can’t be allowed to catch up to where you truthfully are because if you’re honestly fast you’re always ahead of their questioning. That’s where I’m gonna be by the end of this race, having to deal with their questions. How are you so fast? Will you share your secrets? We want to know your story better.

            I wasn’t there at the finish last week for good reason, and the week before doesn’t need rehashing at this point. Sometimes, it’s like what can you do? Besides, technically today’s race lines up better with my training. I should feel good today. You almost can’t expect to win races like last week. I just couldn’t have won, but I’m going to win today. I’m going to win today. I am going to win today.

            That’s the kind of confidence I’m supposed to have. Don’t forget to be confident. I keep telling myself. I try telling myself what I know without too much interrogation. Too many questions. Am I bicycle racing? Is that a question? Am I asking myself because I’m scared, and my fear is manifesting itself as doubt? I keep telling myself to be confident. Don’t ask what you can’t answer. Make that a habit. What would I have to be doubtful about? Of course I’m bicycle racing. What kind of a question is that anyway? That’s the part that’s not doubtful. That’s something that I know.

            There are races all the time. There was a race Friday just like Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If there are rarely races on Friday, there are never races on Monday. There is no reason to expect that I would ride badly on Monday. Of that I am confident.

            Here, Monday afternoon, that’s where everyone else is. I’m here too. Opportunity is here. I want to win. To be first. I’m confident. Of course, Saturday made me more confident. Of course, Sunday was supposed to have been an easy day without the imminent stress of Monday. Sometimes the only thing you can do is keep going. Sunday is never a day of rest when there is something you want. Goals don’t take a break. They don’t care if you’re not racing today. Goals are still there for tomorrow.

            Now, the anxiety is starting to make itself known in my legs. They are twitching. They twitch again. I can taste the nervousness in the air, and I know that it’s all coming from me. I’m the only rider here weak enough to be nervous on the starting line. Doubt. There are races all the time.

            Then, it starts. The hypothesizing always starts before the race even begins. But I have a race to win. The biggest efforts of my day are still ahead, so I better not spend too much energy imagining what’s going to happen. It’s not enough to imagine. You still have to realize your imagination. Anyone can dream, even losers. I dream all the time. Once, in a dream, I had already won this race. Now, waiting to start the race and it’s already getting harder not to doubt what I’m doing. My thoughts are all over the place. What I am saying. Do I still want to win or what?

            I don’t feel recovered after yesterday. Sunday was supposed to be my rest day. Thinking back now, I should have done all of the races of the weekend, including Sunday. I probably prepared badly leading up to this by sitting out yesterday. I know the other riders that weren’t there yesterday, and I’m not threatened by them. Is anyone threatened by me? Do I want them to be? Maybe it’s better to go unnoticed. There’s probably more glory in the come-from-nowhere-win. That guy wasn’t even there yesterday!

I’m full of contradictions. Wait. Go.

            I thought everything was perfect. I was confident. Maybe that has been my problem this whole weekend. I have been overly confident. Not now. I am definitely not confident anymore. I can’t confidently say that I even care if I win. I’m numb to desire. I have drained myself. I have wanted this for too long. Now, I’m just curious to find out what happened in the race we still haven’t started yet.

            I didn’t feel good Friday night. Now I see that I gave it too much too soon without really engaging in what was happening right in front of me. Anyways, I didn’t feel good. Sometimes you don’t feel good. What can you do? A poor performance can make you doubt your strengths. Do I really want to win races? What about Saturday? And what about Monday? There are races all the time. It’s ok not to feel good every day.

A race every day this weekend, including the rare occasion of Monday.

Of course, I only did three of the four races.

            After Friday, I knew where I was. Not feeling well has a way of making you take better care of yourself. I took it upon myself to make a higher priority out of being smart on Saturday and on Monday too. Forget Friday.

            I was there for Saturday. You could say I was made for Saturday. Like we were made for each other. Saturday reminds me of how I imagined Monday. I come in first, no big deal. Am I coming into form at just the right time? I don’t dare say it, but I sure like to think it secretly to myself. Am I remembering Saturday or imagining Monday?

            Saturday gave me confidence, but I’m starting to fear that my confidence was unmerited. No one was there Saturday. I didn’t beat anybody. I’m afraid. That thought scares me. I feel like I have had the ideal mental preparation for a Monday such as this, but I can’t trust that feeling. I can’t trust anything anymore. I can’t trust myself. I want to be fast, so I lie. I don’t tell anyone that. You know you can leave things out. That’s a way of lying to others.

            It was foolish to think that I could ever have recovered on Sunday if I really wanted to win today, the way I’m riding. It’s not likely that I have it today either. Sometimes you don’t have it. You know today wouldn’t be the first time. Most Mondays I feel great. That’s how it’s been in the past. Today, I don’t know.

            Sometimes I don’t even feel like a cyclist. You tell people that you ride a bike but you don’t tell them you’re a cyclist. If I’m not then who is? But I’m not. So who is? I lie; remember? This whole image thing is a bunch of bologna. That’s all that cycling is, an image thing. I look fast. Or don’t I? Lying is part of being successful. Fabricating stories. Making it up as you go along. All the greats did it. The ones that are alive still do. Maybe I should start telling people that I’m a cyclist. What a bunch of fucking bullshit.

            It’s still Monday. I can remember telling myself I was made for Monday, a true Monday child. I remember thinking that it’s a shame there aren’t more races on Mondays because I would probably do well in them. I usually feel so good on Mondays. Afterall, I was born on a Monday afternoon in a hospital probably overlooking a race course similar to the one today. Like I said, I was made for Monday. And all race courses look the same after a while. You learn the nuances until you discover that they don’t matter. It’s all the same race. In fact, it’s all the same moment. You trying to keep going. You trying to convince yourself to stop. You reminding yourself not to listen to your own arguments; you’re a liar, and everything is simultaneous.

            Everything according to the plan. Whose plan? I’m fast so I make the plan, even if it’s a lie. The pre-race preparation consisted of doing easy laps around the race course. How will I take that left there? I looked for and found (or did I decide) on the most important sections. I am ready

            So, I went to the start-line since the race was beginning soon. I don’t like the start of races. There I am, just like that. Poof. All of the sudden. Never close enough to the front. Always worried about my awful position and lack of foresight. That always really bothers me even though it never really matters.

I get to the front when I want to.

            I’m going to win today. Today is mine. It is my day for my winning. Monday was born for me. Monday is tailor-made for me. It fits me like a glove. But not like these gloves I have now. They are miserable to wear. I have them here as a built-in excuse because they’re what I’ll think about when things get tough. When my legs are blowing up, I won’t think about the pain. I’ll think about how uncomfortable these gloves are. I know because I’ve spent a lot of time out of breath barely cranking out the effort thinking of nothing but how terrible this particular pair of gloves is. And how expensive they were, too. Why did I buy them anyway? Maybe they’ll be good. Stupid. That was a failed experiment. No, Monday and me are like my old gloves. The ones I had before I got these damn things. Now, those were awesome gloves. I never thought about them at all.

            I shouldn’t complain though. I used to spend all of my thinking power hating the perpetual slipping of my glasses down my sweaty nose. Now, it’s the glove on my hand as I reach to push them up that I’m focused on. Attention is funny like that, being that it can only be focused on one thing at a time. I suppose anything is better than focusing on the pain. I can remember feeling the pain. I’m not confident that I really know the pain, at least not well enough. They say one is never sufficiently accustomed to how much it hurts. But I can remember it. And I know that my memory is not sufficient to remind me how it’s going to feel. It’s going to be worse than I think.

            I don’t know. Maybe, I am blowing things out of proportion. I am too focused on tiny details. You study the nuance until you learn we’re making it up anyway. The details don’t matter. Unless you want them to. This is always the problem. Like how I like to blow the pain out of proportion. Pain is a constant. It is there, and since we don’t have adequate equipment to measure it, it’s best to think of it as the same. It’s more manageable like that. That’s a good way to lie to yourself. You can always make a constant out of a variable, if you’re fast.

If you’re fast you can lie, especially to yourself.

            There’s really no way to transcribe your thoughts anyway. I know if I am lying to myself. But I don’t remember if I did or not. The negative thoughts are like the positive ones; they never really existed anyway. Not until you write them, or say them. Not until you do something. Not until you make them into something other than thoughts. Thinking a kind of action.

            I have to stop all of this thinking. I know that’s impossible. Attention is funny like that. It’s always focused on something, on one thing in particular. Don’t think about stopping. You’ll only feed it. I should stop before the race starts. I should stop before this gets out of hand and I start to hurt my chances.

            Thinking is a problem and a solution. If someone attacks and someone else pulls through, that’s the kind of thing that causes the pack to string out. If you’re not at the front, you’re not in the race. That’s no lie. If I’m at the front and I pull through as the riders in front of me start to die, a few of us could form a gap. It happens. But cooperation is never the instinct. If you’re in a breakaway, you’re fast and you could lie. Or maybe you’re not fast and you lied to get here. You’re well on your way, and we’re all skeptical of each other. I would pull through slowly at first, but after a while, cohesiveness has a way of growing on everyone. Rhythm. Rotating. Smoothly. Yes. We fall into the whole. I know the hard sections. Before the race started. Every time through the headwind, a glance to the side. The gap is growing.

            Today, I just can’t stop thinking. My attention is everywhere but not on everything. And me, I am not. Here. Monday. Now. Nope. No one. Not me. And not you either. I don’t trust anyone. What if they’re fast? I remember not to think and almost try to stop. But why? These aren’t bad thoughts. Are they? I know better than to stop thinking at a time like this. The effort alone is enough to kill a man. No, I won’t stop absurdly telling myself yes.

            They can’t catch us now. There is no possible outcome except for a sprint finish between the five of us. Who can I trust to mess up? Who’s the slowest most trustworthy rider here? I want to make a constant out of him. I’m feeling confident. Is it me? Can I trust this feeling? Fuck, I have a race to race. Start to finish.

            First through the last corner will win the race. You lead from the front. If you’re not at the front, you’re not in the race. All I have to do is wait behind. Those last couple of riders will go too early. I get to the front when I want to. Definitely before that last corner. I decided that before the race started. Every time through the headwind, I am looking for the last corner. Of course, no matter how many laps you do, it’s not the last corner until the end of the race.

Five, Four, three laps to go.

            They ring a bell to signify the end. One lap to go, I know this. Why am I reminding myself now? It’s like I just barely even started imagining the whole thing. A breakaway will never happen. I have to get to the end to even hear that bell. And if I’m not at the front, who cares? I’m so far from the front here on the starting line it’s like I’m not even in the race.

            Five, Four, three, two, one. I count down. I am confident that’s how they do it. I would never tell anyone any of this. I shouldn’t even talk like this to myself. I’m going to stop. I didn’t say that.

            It’s beginning. The start is impossible. I tell myself what I know. The start is the whole race, but it won’t matter by the end. How do you start something? You forget that the beginning was inevitable. We’ll begin, and I’ll forget. It always happens like that. A whistle. That’s how they start bicycle races. They blow a whistle. They don’t shoot a gun.

            Guns start other things. Should I go? Go! Before the others hopefully. I am getting ready to race. I am drafting; it’s an entry in my riding journal. It could take more pages to write about a win or a loss. I wonder what will happen as if it already did. I wonder if I won. I go all out like the outcome isn’t predetermined. I wonder if it was enough. The last corner, the sprint finish, me and Monday. My old gloves.

           

Become a better cyclist while road tripping

I recently went on a road trip. This is a great time to practice cycling conceptualization and visualization. This is how you can relate certain aspects of car trips to what happens on a bicycle.

First, there is the speed limit. This is similar to a sustainable tempo on the bike. It’s 75mph almost everywhere but not quite. All of the opportunity to increase the average speed, within sustainable effort, is at the times when the speed limit changes. As the signs come up for 65, 55, 35, it is important not to slow down too fast. Remember to drive the posted speed. This seems obvious; the difficulty with actually doing this is focusing on every speed limit change throughout an entire road trip. It is a lot like a road race. Imagine another car driving 75mph next to you but not holding that speed right up to the reduced speed limit sign and not getting back up to speed as soon as it goes up. Over the course of several hours (and several small towns with reduced speed limits,) the other car would fall back. It might happen slowly at first, and the gap might occasionally fall as the other car fails to slow for reduced speeds. However, after hours of driving, the gap will become insurmountable by small speeding infractions. It will eventually require all-out speeding by the other car to close the gap.

Another place for gains while driving are obstacles. Similarly to riding, hitting a turn well can save a significant amount of time. It is hard to focus on cutting turns sharply and precisely for several hours. This comes especially into effect when going through a town at slow speeds. The tendency will be to lose focus and not make the same priority out of handling at reduced speeds. But this is when the most differentiation can occur. Remember that driving is a time trial. This means that a lot of the battle is mental, or at least intrapersonal.

Lastly, by combining the different goals of increasing velocity (going as fast as the speed limit permits) and decreasing the distance of the course (taking the shortest line through turns,) there become certain key points on the course where the most significant gains can be made. Just like in a race, you can push the limits, but doing so requires precision. To say it bluntly: speed. Obviously, there are parameters to how much to exceed the speed limit, but if and when it happens, it must be through a turn with an inside line. Be sure to drop back down to a sustainable (and legal) speed after the key point. Part of the difficulty is ignoring the temptation to keep pushing the speed everywhere. Gains will come from pushing it hard only in the places where it will pay off the most.

The extra focus and calculated injection of speed will lead to a higher average speed than just speeding the whole time (maybe getting a speeding ticket) and not capitalizing on the most important situations during the drive. If nothing else, you will have practiced concentrating, and that in-itself can pay off. Maybe, it would help to write the word “focus” on your steering wheel.

 

In regards to what happened in a race…

1. There is no objective account.
2. There is no privileged account.
3. There is no consistent account.

The race unfolded and is not completed, but recounting the race is never done. No one rider or spectator from the race has the account of what happened. In fact, there is no single account that is inherently more valuable, accurate, precise, etc. than any other. And most importantly, the account is not established and recounted. It is always in the process of being made. What seemed like a final version of what happened might seem inadequate the next day. The situation will not seem the same as you continue the tell and retell the story. The narrative structure of the account of what happened changes as new critiques and evaluations begin to manifest themselves in more pivotal ways within the story. That one climb, or that one stretch, seem more important than they did. That one attack changes into the deciding moment. That was where the race was won, or lost. Maybe, that was where the race could have (or should have) been won. There is a lot to learn about a course in the narrative of what happened. What segments were relevant every lap? How were you dividing up the laps during the race? That too will change as you revisit the remembered scene. What may have seemed like a course without anything to exploit to your advantage, may have in fact had something that was perfectly in your favor but was not obvious in the race. Sometimes, it takes telling the story of what happened to learn more about what could have happened. A race remembered takes on an endless number characteristics that are limited during the initial experience of being in the race. At the time, meters tick by constantly. When remembering, meters are not actually ticking by at all. It is this all important distinction between the act of participating and the act of remembering that allows for the qualitative analysis necessary to come away from a race with a more valuable understanding of what happened.

The way I’ll have to tell this one

Sometimes the way you tell a ride is determined by the ride itself. There are the obvious embellishments that we all include in our stories of exciting or rare rides. Exaggerating adds to the recreation of some of the original sense of the ride. But some rides are decided in a more predetermined fashion. I was riding a time trial and in my head had the ballpark number of 18 minutes in mind. The number was not particularly thought out nor was I overly dependent on attaining that finish time specifically. Nevertheless, as I approached the final leg of the TT, I saw 16 minutes on the watch and suddenly I was doing insane calculations. Can I still make it in 18? Was that not a realistic number? I meant within 18 minutes right? No, I mean like under 19, as in 18 something. The sensations in my legs and the final push took over my attention and I was lost until I came up to the crest of the final climb. The course finishes on a false flat after this convex part. As I hit the false flat and dug hard, I focused on each pedal stroke and looked as far ahead as possible for the finish line. I glance down and see 18 slipping away, and I know there is nothing I can do to accelerate. I finished in 19 minutes and 8 seconds, and I knew that I would have to remember that ride as a failure no matter what my average speed ended up being.

Bad Rides

How do you narrate bad rides? Do you even tell yourself or others about them? There are several possible approaches to the phenomenon of the bad ride. First, there is the ignore approach. The real problem with ignoring is that one cannot unintentionally ignore something. A narratee can only be said to know of what is told, therefore the real audience determines what is not told by discerning between what could have been told and what was actually told, between their own knowledge of possibilities/choices and the textual effect that constitutes the narratee. This sounds complicated, but think of how you might narrate an embarrassing mistake that yopu made in a race. You are likely to remember it in a way that limits the narratee’s understanding of the degree of the embarrassment. Simply put you are going to play it down. Or you are going to make light of it with humor. This brings us to the second possibility when approaching bad rides: absurdity. By highlighting the absurd nature of cycling (or of drivers, or of legs, or of life) a cyclist can move beyond the negative to the inexplicable. This is different than neutral; bad rides in this sense do not fall into the paradigm positive and negative. They are simply a matter of fact. But this too can be problematic for an athlete because of the determinism that such an idea might breed. A cyclist has to go into rides and races prepared to overcome predetermined difficulties. If failure becomes simply a fact of life, an athlete no longer has the possibility of improving because nothing can be overcome. Lastly, a cyclist can allow bad rides to shake her at her core, testing the fragility of her resolve and providing the opportunity to quit. This is obviously the riskiest stance to take vis-a-vis a bad ride because the potential loss is enornous. You may never ride a bicycle again. But as one would expect the benefit of taking such a risk are equally huge. It’s part of training for the difficulty of cycling. When asking yourself questions that get down to the heart of what was “bad” about the ride, you won’t remember things in an objective way. This is when it pays off to understand the narratology behind remembering. Rather than ignoring the storytelling tactics confront them. The cyclist is the author. She should know what choices she is making when telling the story of her past. The question that I think scares people most about this approach is that it is hard to arrive at the question “do I even like riding a bicycle.” The term “like” is not ideal for describing an activity characterized by overcoming personal difficulty and a whole lot of failing/losing. How many people lost the Tour de France this year? The problem is that cycling is more complicated than yes and no. This is the reason cyclists must be prepared for bad rides. If a cyclist depends on always wanting to ride or “having fun”, she will not be prepared for the hardships of training and the disappointment of racing. She’ll end up burning out or managing an excuse factory. She’ll just be another person in the field for the winner to have beat. Cycling is beautiful because it is difficult. The next time that you have a bad ride, remember the beauty of overcoming and the grace of a smooth peddling action that seems effortless.

The Other in Cycling

The subject here is the other, the being who is not oneself. In a bicycle race, the other cyclists are obviously not oneself. However, in the context of the race the concept of individual might need to expand itself. Larger, synthetic individuals might be acknowledged in the story of a bicycle race. Individual textual actants such as the pack, the breakaway, the team, the “threats”, the move, etc. are only the other when you are not in them. If you are in the pack, the breakaway is the other. But if you are in no man’s land trying to bridge the gap, every other cyclist in the race might be the other. There would be no team; there would be no combining or grouping of others with oneself. That is until someone bridges to you. In such a case, one must effectively manage the dual conceptualization of self, constantly balancing the use of “I” and “we”. So, as you remember how long the other cyclist pulled before she asked you to pull through, you other her. But the telling of what happened has another effect on the conceptualization of the other. The act of narrating is necessarily at the extradiegetic level. The act of telling is one step removed from the action it recounts. The event is on the first plane (diegetic) but telling is also an event. Therefore, remembering is on the second plane (extradiegetic) because memory is not the event remembered. This means that, even with what seems like instantaneous thoughts, telling oneself what is happening distinguishes the experiencing-self from the narrating-self. This again is the difference between acting and evaluating. If you are narrating a race you are not racing. And telling yourself that you are “in a race” is a form of narration. I am not saying that a cyclist shouldn’t think when she is in a race. What I am suggesting here is rather that she should make an effort to think in training in such a way that encourages a more valuable thought process when racing. This would include but is not limited to aspects such as the events one tells oneself, who one distinguishes as the other in varying contexts, and how much of a race to spend narrating instead of racing. This last point is especially important because an informed tactically sound cyclist spends a calculated amount of time during meticulously chosen moments in a race to tell herself the story of what happened up to now. Being aware of what is happening is really just the result of valuably creating and interpreting a story. Cultivating this skill, along with knowing how and when to use it, is a sure way to develop a savvy cyclist.