Aptitude and Ability – thoughts on brevets, and ultra-distance riding
The best part about long distance bike riding is discovering a secret world that lies beneath the day to day biking world of well-known races and weekend warriors. It likes to hide from the glare of semi-professional training organizations and adaptive consumer biking technology.
I’m not making a case for it being better or worse than any other ways to recreate and have fun on a bike, but it is undeniably a great feeling to find out on the way through your sport that other people share the same enthusiasm for the crazy things you like to do, and not only that, but they have been doing it longer than and far more intensely that you have yet to do.
Dreaming is a good kernel, but unless you actually do something with that seed it won’t ever be more than a seed. Dreams are like hurt in so many ways – we all spend a tremendous amount of time focused on them without actually progressing them forward through plans or action or through development of any sort. Maybe biking long distance kills both these birds with one stone.
Training for a long distance race this May (Transportugal 2017) has brought me to the threshold of the ultra-distance community, which has always held an appeal, but lately has become more acute in its pull.
Last night I watched a great bike documentary (un velomentarie) about the London-Edinburgh-London brevet which seems to be run every couple of years. The route is apx 1,400km long and allows five days to complete. Wow, where do I sign up?
My weekend’s efforts seem pale in comparison, but that’s the fallacy of the biking ultra-distance “competition” – now you have literal round – the – world races, ultra 4,000km plus races on a regular, and well-advertised basis (Great Divide, TransAm, Pacific Wheel) to name a few. It’s no longer possible to consider a competitive environment, when the nature of the sport ensures that to “win” you have to basically ride non-stop, without sleep for insane distances.
Now, I’m all for it, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if I agree with the competitive nature of those races – maybe I like the idea of a Brevet which is an organized, solo, non-competitive activity better. Having said that, I know that once you pan out past the intense singularity of the organism in motion (i.e. – me on a bike, legs going round, repeat, a lot) that there is something else, something bigger connecting all of us in this endeavour. We can’t hide in our solos.
It’s called community, and every community needs its members too, a community is a place where we can’t all be leaders and “winners”. In this sense I feel that the race becomes a by-product of our drive to go forward as individuals, our need to share it with others and our need to help others succeed. It’s probably why there is nothing quite as satisfying as spending all day on a bike going somewhere new.
The moments of interaction, the stopping to support, or be supported, and the meals during shared with others have been some of the best moments in my life. Some of the most epic bike stories I have involve someone working hard, something breaking and the struggle or quest to get them back on track.
Last weekend it was 400km in two days. Next weekend it’ll be 600km in two days and then two weeks after that it’s line-up for a 1,000km race over 8 days. Almost sounds easy in that context. And that’s kind of been the plan all along. Now, just wish me some good weather!