Category: Writing about cycling

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Sweden Grey

Lost in a watercolor smear between hilltops and sky until every shard was just a tighter spiral of repetition to a grey singularity. Windblow enough to not be able to hear what’s said, but the cadence and tonal shape is enough, the absence of reference points and yet we’re still here.

New England Journal

Then we time trial home on a guttural roar tailwind. Threes, twos and fours trying to keep one another in sight, trying to find a gear that you don’t need to shift out of because your rigor mortis hands have trouble doing it, trying to negotiate the betrayals and the surprises of how you feel. Trying to have an April ride.

Winning the Tour de France

I never get tired of watching the crux stages of the 1989 Tour. The L’Alpe d’Huez climb where LeMond falters while wearing Yellow, the final day in the Alps when Fignon extends his lead. And then the time trial final stage. LeMond in his goofy to our eyes Oakley sunglasses and swaying on Scott aero bars, Fignon low in the drops orienting beams of intensity through prism spectacles. Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées bricks, roaring crowds. Edge of my seat, lean forward, stand while LeMond himself crumples to the ground in elation. Yes! He makes up nearly a minute over 25k, beats Fignon and wins the Tour by eight seconds.

Us fans of pro bike racing—I’ve been and am—we celebrate the history, the landscapes, the spectacle, the drama of the competitions, strategy, and micro tactics within the race. We celebrate the teams of a team sport. We celebrate the riders. I’d be deflated to learn that LeMond cheated to achieve his ’89 victory. The disappointment would be over the fact that it was something other than what I thought it was, so what I think it is must be meaningful and important. The truth of it is essential to its power to inspire and elevate, and for the simple pleasure it gives to spectate. We look for sport to be true. Or, more accurately, we look for sport truly to match what we believe about it such that, under that description that we hold inside, we feel the surge of celebration, identification, admiration, and motivation.

Grant Petersen’s Just Ride

I imagined that I would hate this book and roll my eyes at pages of dogmatic anti-dogmatism that Petersen is infamous for. At the very least, I thought I’d react more or less the way I do to everything on the Rivendell website: their stuff and the justificatory storytelling behind it is harmless even while overly shrill and defensively self-assured, the bikes are great looking but excessive in the wrong respects—i.e., they’re pretty but don’t do anything that plenty of other bicycles do without the annoyance of 650b wheels and pointless heft over cost ratio—and Petersen himself, to the extent that his personality comes through, seems like he’d be irritating to hang out with.

I was completely wrong. Just Ride is terrific. It’s filled with ingots of wisdom, it’s smart, and the plain, direct writing is a pleasure.

First Bikepacking Trip

We boarded the train in Rensselaer, New York and dug into our paperback novels and paper sacks of sandwiches, ahead of us forty-two hours of rumbling clacking where first we’d see rust belt towns inside out through neighborhoods where the tracks pass through, then, after dragging our bike boxes across the station in Chicago to make the switch to the Zephyr, where urban density fell away to plains to the pearly grin of the Rockies. We had booked a stop in Thompson, Utah, which at the time you could do. I have an image now of stepping off onto that concrete platform at 2am, being handed my gear, then the train evaporating, leaving darkness, crickets and an electrical hum from the one courageous bulb overhead. My first trip out west, my first cycling vacation.

Connected

Twenty years ago, long before anyone used the words “adventure cycling” or “bikepacking,” many cyclists did those things* (and many of us imagined ourselves doing them).  This kind of riding was the premise of a […]