Smooth as satin, flawless beauty conceals a
strength as hard as steel. Graceful angles deflect slightly backwards
as if to yield to the wind. It is anticipating motion even while
standing still. Rugged enough to tolerate the extreme forces that will
be exerted upon it, it remains vulnerable to carelessness and neglect.
It stands an inch tall for every pound it is heavy. It transmits
energy, yet absorbs shock. Ribbons of steel, crossing each other in
regular succession, radiate outward from a nucleus forming a network of
lines like the cleverly woven trap of a spider. These stands of steel
catch the sun and cast a shimmer of light in a circular spiral at
either end of this well oiled machine as it rolls effortlessly forward.
It's owner is called a racer or a touring cyclist. To the uninitiated,
it is often difficult to distinguish one bicycle rider from another.
Further elaboration on the differences between a racer and a tourer can
be illustrated by comparing Scott and Roger.
Scott in an embodiment of youthful energy and mental toughness. He
dresses in sleek Lycra that clings to his body like a second skin,
revealing more than it conceals a lean, neat figure with muscles taut
like a well trained thoroughbred. His smooth, clean shaved jaw matches
the sleekness of this clean shaven legs, which are as smooth as chrome
steel. It's as though he wants to slip through the air as effortlessly
as a bird on wing.
Scott will spend many arduous hours on a bicycle during the week
training for the upcoming weekend's race. The race, whether it be a
time trial, criterium or a road race, pits one rider's strength,
prowess and grace on a bicycle against another's. All minds
concentrate on the inevitable attack and the ensuing chase. The course
lies before them, from which they must not deviate, while an interested
crowd of spectators cheers them on. It is a game in which one will win
and many will lose. Through the combined efforts of his teammates and
individual strategy he may well me be the first to cross the finish
line and win the privilege of wearing the winner's yellow jersey.
Scott uses his bicycle to achieve a sense of speed. His penchant for
speed defies a fear of death. Riding in close formation of a pack, his
mind must constantly span the actions of the riders around him. He is
always on the lookout for the excessive turn or sudden braking of an
unwitting rider caught off guard in tight curve. He always has in the
back of his mind an abort path for the unexpected spill of a rider in
front of him whose front wheel momentarily touches the rear wheel of
Scott's adversaries are not only his fellow riders, but time itself.
His placing on the team and for the season will depend on how well he
can compete with the clock. He knows he will eventually lose the
battle. Each succeeding year makes it more difficult to sustain the
speed he once achieved.
Roger dresses in a more casual vein. After being on the road for
several days, he can often be seen wearing a tee shirt stained with
juice from an apricot or spotted with a few dried drips of an ice cream
cone consumed during one of his many rest stops. His shorts are not
the traditional black skin tight ones but are baggy khaki colored
shorts with an abundance of pockets. He is anything but
aerodynamically clean. His legs match his face which sports a
three-day old beard, a condition brought on by a lack of electricity at
the previous night's campsite. His bicycle is loaded down with pannier
bags carrying a universal assortment of creature comforts from an
electric hair dryer to a small folding backgammon board and all the
other “necessary” items as well.
Roger will spend many hours each day pedaling at a leisurely but
deliberate pace. Time and speed are of minor consequence to him. His
only concern is to reach a suitable campsite by nightfall. He
perceives his mode of transport not as a means to an end, but an end in
itself. Though he feels a sense of satisfaction after arriving at this
destination eventually, his source of pleasure and lingering memory
will be the journey itself.
His sense of adventure propels him onward along paths new and
unfamiliar to him, through rolling farm country and flat prairie land.
He revels in the challenge of a steep mountain pass. The summit of the
pass rewards him with a panorama that leaves him with a sense of
wonder. He also finds himself to be a source of wonder. His bicycle
helps befriend him to local townspeople and the Winnebago bound
travelers he meets along the way. Many a conversation will begin with
polite inquiries of “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?”
He greets their inquisitive eyes with friendly cheer.
Adverse elements of wind and rain only serve to heighten his senses.
The warmth of a fire never feels so good until after riding fifty miles
in a cold, constant drizzle. An unrelenting headwind can make him
appreciate a deep, peaceful night's sleep. Something about being on
the road makes him savor the evening meal. Even Dinty Moore beef stew
tastes like gourmet.
A sense of rhythm pulses upward from the pedals through his body,
making the bicycle an extension of himself. He avoids the fast moving
traffic of the interstate, preferring to travel as a slower speed along
old highways and side roads seldom used. His bicycle has become a
vehicle by which he more fully experiences the world around him and he
takes delight in the discovery of sights rarely seen by those who
choose to travel in the fast lane of life.
(C) Copyright by Robert Ahl. All rights reserved.