Oct 10 | Wish
Left: Vanilla Road Racer, Right: Speedvagen Road Machine (2013)
My wish for all my bike loving pals. I see you out there on your beautiful race bikes… all from big box companies and they’re great. I’ve ridden them and owned them and I don’t think there’s better to be had. But I think if you love the bike and you are at your best on one, that you’re missing a vital experience if you don’t own at least one modern handmade bike in your life. Especially while you’re committed and fit.
I think I’ve had five handmade frames starting with Medici in the late 80’s… and now with my second Speedvagen, via a couple of amazing Sevens and on the list for a Sachs. There’s just something that happens between you and the bike… and you can only get there this way. With this many folks with the skills polished to make so many kinds of bikes in their shops/garages… if you’re riding from a point of connection, passion, and love…
You owe it to yourself to know this experience. It isn’t a retro experience, it isn’t a recreation of the past. It’s completely modern because what’s personal is always new. If you love the thing, deepen the relationship. And if it’s steel, it will weigh as much as any race legal bike and you’ll feel the road through your hands and feet the way it’s meant to be felt. Trust me, do this.
- Invariably the guys on the steel bikes are A) Smart enough to ride together, B) Too smart to pull, C) Having more fun per mile, D) All of the above.
For the amount of bike loving there is here in Los Angeles, you’d be amazed how many guys don’t know bikes that aren’t from the big box. Always a thrill to see Peter on his Firefly, and I’m eagerly awaiting my new Speedvagen and looking to send this one in for some fresh paint. And yes, this is how I roll.
All kidding around aside, I hope you get a chance to ride enough at some point… that for a moment it becomes a focus, and being on the bike feels more normal than walking or doing anything else. Because this thing happens to you when you do… You lose yourself and you become part of something bigger than yourself. It gets cosmic. I’m certainly not doing that anymore, there’s too much other stuff foreground in life, but the bike still reminds me of it everytime I ride, even when my body refuses to take me there. I hope you get to have that too. It’s a joy. In the absense of being there, riding with pals who are clearly in the middle of that experience is the next best thing.
*I stole the title from a psych review. Sacha dropped a note suggesting he wanted me to write stuff that might be a little more conversation provoking and perhaps more intimate. So, lets talk secrets.
Well, lets start here with a lesson I learned from an old teammate named John Slover. John’s been racing forever (back when Cadel and Tony Cruz were on Equip Cheval) and aside from sharing with me many of my favorite moments, (if you can call getting teabagged while asleep in a hotel in Wisconsin a fave) there’s this little tip.
I was struggling in a masters race, in way over my head and killing myself just to hold on. That it was a flat crit made it all the worse. John rolled up alongside of me and handed me a chapstick (of all things)… and told me to say out loud, “I feel good”. He said any time he’s suffering he tells himself he feels good and somehow it passes. I thought, this is the stupidest thing ever, and I did whatever one does when confronted with stupidity. I embraced it. So, once my chapped lips were made better (I wish I were kidding…. but seriously… so nice to have a moment in the dry air to do lip care) I said out loud, “I feel good”. Shit, even when I was puking I’d tell myself I feel good (I tended to be a puker and a quitter).
Now, don’t get me wrong… I was never very good as a bike racer and the goals I set had less to do with getting results and more to do with riding well for what I had to offer… but that “I feel good” thing works. It works well enough that it cuts through any negative self talk even when your limbs are falling off and you’re bleeding out of your eye sockets. It works when you’re getting owned by friends that are fitter than you and you’re struggling to keep up or keep them in sight, and it buys you a boat load of happiness on the bike when there’s usually just room for you and suffering. Try it. I feel good (even though I really feel awful). I feel good. Say it out loud. I know this is stupid… but it’s a rare trick that works. Save it for when you’re about to cave in and sit up and lose the group. Or when your off the front and fading. Shit you not.
This is me thanking the crew at Vanilla for this little space to try and say what I mean, even when what I mean isn’t anything but what we talk about at coffee. I hope the year brings the strength and grace for all of us to keep growing and braving ourself out of the things that are familiar (That Japan trip looked inspiring). It’s my way of saying that it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of all I hope you’re making friends and ever deepening the conversation on the bike. This year the damn bike was beating me down about finding balance. The bike was a lie detector. If you’re local and reading this… hope to see you tomorrow morning at 7:45 for some chatty flat miles. xoNoel.
I just got back from Mantour. A ride with 40 or so buddies ranging in age from 10 year old Ryder (who joined us for a few miles at the begining) to 70 something .. who rides 40 hours a week, has low single digit body fat and who’s medicine chest would surely make Lance tremble with envy. *sorry to out you $$$$$… but man I’d do it too. It’s not anti aging.. it’s making you younger.
Anyway… and so we all flew into Santa Rosa and mounted up and rode home to Los Angeles.The long day was 130 miles…
Here I am, 6 days and 600 something miles later taking an extra day off work because I’m empty and filled up at the same time. I was just thinking about the bike and the learning.
Kevin and Melanie started this thing called Mantour… an invitation only Gumball rally of a sort. Fly in, ride out. Some of the guys are still at the racing… Kevin just grabbed a National Championship on the track, and some of the guys are hot messes (but are fun guys regardless). Long days of shuffling the deck to postion oneself away from the over talkers or disaster makers, hours spent astonished at how strong some guys are, and longer days just feeling happy to be around dudes that have fun in their own flavor. Great guys all suffering uniquely for the discomfort, the miles ahead, the bone fatigue, and the close quarters. A different kind of suffering…. and a different kind of joy. Every guy is strong in their own way and every guy a distinct character. I love them all. I’m lucky to bro out with them.
Point is, racing is just a part of the sport. I don’t even know that it’s the pointy end of the stick. I keep learning so much about my limits and comfort zones and the importance of bumping into them, being forced into that dialogue and if not totally transcending them, or at least having a beer on their dollar.
So, if you’ve read this far… push yourself out of your comfort zone on the bike. Bring friends. Ride the state you live in until you have a new relationship with the place. And then abstract and generalize to all of your life. Man tour indeed.
Kevin.. a national champ, and Marcel, a former pro tri thing.