Berichten weergeven met het label musings. Alle berichten weergeven
Berichten weergeven met het label musings. Alle berichten weergeven

donderdag 26 februari 2009

Cycling life’s remaining period of validity


Age-mate and cycling buddy Hiroshi posted a most interesting observation on his blog as he tried to offer an explanation for the seemingly endless long-distance rides enjoyed by over-the-hill hobby racers like myself.

Hiroshi, who started riding “road racers” as a high school kid and has been doing so ever since (never dare to call him a "roadie" though - that misnomer was invented long after he took up cycling), was wondering why 300k+ weekend rides content a certain breed of middle-aged cyclists and why on earth they don’t seem to mind cycling along boring, ordinary and often dangerous national roads…

To explain these admittedly weird behavior patterns of mine, I have developed my own little theory: it is this “double strength” feeling of extreme happiness and invincibility one suddenly gets after passing a certain milestone on an extra long and excruciating ride. It is what is in learned terms called “endorphin,” some sort of chemical produced by the brain reducing feelings of pain like a drug. Not that I have ever used it or ever intend to use it, but an endorphin rush makes me feel like I’m with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!

As with all hallucinatory and most other drugs though, the drawback of endorphin is dependence…one inevitably gets hooked. Not unlike narcotic addicts needing an increasingly larger dosage of their drug, I feel a strong urge to cover increasingly longer distances in the saddle…only strings of steep hills crested en route can bring that happy milestone somewhat closer…so far I have never experienced multiple endorphin rushes on a single ride though, ha ha!

Hiroshi’s theory is a little more fatalistic but not less poetic I find. He is talking of certain limitations, a “quota of fixed years/miles in the saddle”…within the confines of a lifetime, we unavoidably must cross the Rubicon. Exactly where this finish line is lurking, we can never know with certitude, GPS being of no avail…it could be right behind the next bend.

Since he has been cycling for more than 30 years and I have only been riding for less than 5 years, Hiroshi postulates that I am now desperately trying to make up for the lost years and meet my quota of miles in the saddle! He could be very right.

maandag 19 januari 2009

Machismo vs Stoicism

One thing I like about riding with the people of VLAAMS Tamasai is their observance of traffic rules; you will almost never see them not stop at red lights and rather than rolling up the side of stopped traffic, they neatly and stoically stay in position behind queued vehicles (I never do that when I'm riding solo but maybe I should as a matter of principle and by way of brushing up my own cyclist etiquette...haha!).

I somehow dislike the wannabe macho types who constantly feel the urge to display their manliness through reckless riding blatantly ignoring red lights. (The same goes for the thinking principle that there is safety in numbers…if we all go through the red light together what can possibly go wrong?)

Frankly, I do not think waiting for a red light to turn green in a godforsaken corner of the Higashi-Chichibu backwoods with absolutely nobody in sight makes any sense but this is exactly what most typical Japanese cycling clubs take for granted! Now that I have (“sort of”) grown used to this routine, I’ve started to appreciate those few seconds in stand-by mode just to take a breather, have a sip, wipe my sunglasses or exchange some comments on the weather or road conditions… Moreover, I'd like to believe that by stopping at red lights we can gain the respect of motorists but this is probably an illusion.

Real machismo can be expressed perhaps not by riding red lights but by braving the elements or cresting a good piece of mountain with panache in style. But then again, maybe this is not called machismo but simply Japanese-style stoicism…or wasn't this whole thing called masochism?

zondag 11 januari 2009

Phlegm(atic) ride around Lake Tsukui

Thick, sticky and stringy…all colors of the rainbow…what a snotty ride I had today! Yet, not at all touched by the breakneck menace of icebahns inclined at angles of 12%+, I remained self-possessed, calm and 100% composed…

I am known among some of cycling buddies for my scaremongering antics and by now most of them can instantly tell if I’m trying to terrify, intimidate or simply pull their legs. I must confess that I get my kicks out of scaring the life out of people by blowing out of all proportion ordinary phenomena, turning a snowflake into an avalanche or simply by making mountains out of molehills. Not a particularly pleasing character trait, I know.

When I was a teenager, my father would often call me “Uncle Harry” after the character (Gale Gordon) in the TV-series “Here’s Lucy!”. I never actually understood what he was trying to insinuate by calling me so but in retrospect, I guess he was doing so because I am not easily touched by impressions and sometimes I’m not even capable of producing a reaction to jokes or a display of emotions. Although I may not possess an above-average inclination to work, I work slowly and with perseverance. Another trait which would categorize me as a phlegmatic person is that I do not easily get upset or frustrated by people trying to tease or offend me. I may be cold and sober and lacking intense passions other than cycling but at the same time I like to think of myself as a deliberate and thoughtful person…

Well then, today, I was desperately trying to get that all that phlegm out of my system for once and for good and what better way to do so I thought than cycling 100km over icy roads! I had been down and bedridden for the last 3 days this week with symptoms of the flu…headache at night, aching muscles and joints, coughing…terrible!

This morning though the pain in my muscles was gone and I decided to get at least a little bit in form before tomorrow’s group ride with buddies from Positivo Espresso and TCC. The weekly Vlaams Tamasai morning training starting at 6:30 was too early for me though and I opted to go solo instead leaving home at 10:00 for a climb of Otarumi and Makime followed by a Hiroshi Twist around the deserted northernmost part of Tsukui-ko and got back around 14:00. It surely is a gratifying feeling…all this phlegm (in Flemish: “fluimen”) finally out of my system! Looking forward to tomorrow’s ride!

donderdag 28 augustus 2008

Just the shrieks for the old rich...

Came across this thought-provoking ad (Saxo Bank Group) in the August 2008 issue of FinanceAsia ....

“…Break away from the pack
... Join the winners ….
... We help you leave your competitors behind.”

cycling reaching out to high-net-worth individuals ?

And the road is coming to its end.
Now the damned have no time to make amends,
No purse of token fortunes stands in our way .

(David Bowie, “Cygnet Committee”)

dinsdag 9 oktober 2007

Osmanthus Fragrans

One of the real pleasures of cycling in the countryside of Japan are the delicate, refreshing fragrances of autumn or spring breezes. Last weekend, the aroma of the sweet-smelling kinmokusei 金木犀 was all over again. This evergreen, fragrant olive tree (or Osmanthus Fragrans var. Aurantiacus in Latin) gives off a perfume of a delicacy I have only encountered in this country. Another favorite of mine is jinchouge 沈丁花 or Daphne Odora (winter daphne belonging to the Mezereum family)...its sweet perfume heralds the beginning of a new cycling season in early Spring.