The 50 Greatest things about Cycling

Martin Williams

New Member
Nov 6, 2007
This was in Bicycling magazine about 2002, I remember reading it when I was in High School. Always loved it, hopefully you do too, especially if you've never seen this before.

  • Clicking in. Whether it is the crescendo of snaps that starts a group ride or nothing but you own two metallic pops punctuating the silence of a morning, the sound of a pedal kissing a cleat is the most portentous sound in sport.
  • Riding against type. Road bikes on trails, passing roadies on your mountain bike, hopping a curb on a cruiser, or beating the skinny guy up a hill.
  • The Peleton jumps, insanely. You give everything just to keep your wheel on. Then you look back: no one behind you. No one latched on; you have no business being there, yourself. But you’re there.
  • Getting lost. Enough said?
  • The liter you buy at a deli halfway though a ride, the shin-deep stream cutting across a dusty trail; the last, warm, somehow still refreshing sip from your water bottle
  • Mario Cippolini. Why not Lance Armstrong? Why not – Duh! Eddy Merckx? Because the Lion King has been knighted by the president of Italy and scaled to the podium in a three – piece Armani suit. Because his garage is stuffed with Ferraris and Mercedes, and Audis, because he wears supermodels like other men wear watches (despite being married!). Because he once stopped a training ride to shop for Italian leather loafers. A Star that bright in a sport dominated by skinny technicians with concave chests makes every one of us, each time we slide (or stuff) our behinds into spandex, actually feel good. Of course, all that flair would just be empty posturing if Cipo were not also the greatest campionissimo since Fausto Coppi and his Ray – Bans ruled the road in the 1940s and 50s. The 36 year old Tuscan has 185 pro road race victories (Coppi had136), more stage wins in the three grand tours (57) than anyone other than Eddy Merckx, more Giro d’Italia stage wins than anyone (42) and the record for consecutive Tour de France stage wins (four in 1999). In 2002 alone, he won Milan – San Remo, Ghent Wevelgem, six stages of the Giro d’Italia, three stages of the Vuelta a Espana, and topped it off with a World Championship.
  • The pack. I’m tired of riding on the outskirts of town. But the pack is already in hunt mode, all shifty glances, and clicking gears. Two hundred yard and an eternity later, its all over; another town – line sprint has reaffirmed my status as a top – end sprinter
  • That we thank each other for the ride. Always.
  • Bike Shops. You open the door. A rush of cool, pungent air washes over you: the smell of fresh rubber, the oily heaviness of grease, sharp hints of something else – chain lube? Solvent? Sweat? Fat tubed aluminum bikes nestle against whippet – sleek ones. Frames in solid primary colors blend with multi layered paint jobs. Racks, bushy with bright clothing, jockey for space against walls of tools and rows of hanging tires. A low table surrounded by big chairs is papered with yellowing maps, held flush with clear tape, of local roads and trails. On the walls: framed black and whites of racers, a restored 1973 Cinelli Supercorsa, course tape from the Tour de France, signed jerseys. In the back: meaty DLT rings, townies, all tagged and idle, waiting to be restored to glory by the mustachioed mechanic currently fixing nothing but a grouchy glare on a recalcitrant bottom bracket cup.
  • Resting heart rate in the low fifties. Or Lower.
  • Cut grass, dinner wafting from kitchen windows as you storm past, wet Forrest, fresh dirt, cooking asphalt, new tires, and the sun baked sweet aroma of energy drink, even the stink of a pack.
  • Outstripping dogs. And cars.
  • How, eventually you actually convince yourself you look good in spandex. And Helmets.
  • Pedaling down a street with two inches of fresh snow crunching beneath your tires.
  • Beating your friends in a meaningless town – line sprint that feels – and maybe is – more important than your job, what you own, where you live, hell, maybe even your friendship.
  • Bonking.
  • Starting a ride with the threat of rain, and still coming home dry.
  • Ride chatter, from the long, aimless conversations of a casual spin, to the barking and banter of a race
  • Club jerseys: they’re routinely a fashion felony that defines classlessness – and may be worth wearing just for that reason
  • Bike technology that permeates society: the pneumatic tire, invented by John Dunlop for his son’s tricycle. Ball bearings made for bikes and patented by E. A. Cowper. America’s Highways, planned and built at the behest of the league of American Wheelmen
  • Seeing a spectacular sunset you would have missed if you hadn’t double – flatted.
  • Teaching a kid to ride.
  • The surprised look you get when someone asks “Where’d you ride from?” as you take a break at a store
  • Legs! You may prefer the ultra lean and sexy model or the one that looks like a map of the muscular system, but either way, what’s not to like? There’s the gastronomius, which creates the U – shape of a chiseled calf. And the good old hamstrings, the most direct route to the gluteus maiximus (Which deserves and probably has its own cheering section). And the Vastus Lateralis, which with enough mileage properly applied, forms a hard little rock just above and outside the kneecap. A cyclist’s leg is one of those simply elegant machines, like a corkscrew you wish you could spill over into the rest of the design world. A Kia should look so good. Those without cycling legs do shameful things. Think of those buffed up gym – heads, who hide their skinny, puny sticks inside Jimmy Buttafuoco pants. Think of supermodels who allow themselves to be dressed in more outlandish things. Think, of course, of runners – who run.
  • 53 x 12 (And 22 x 24)
  • Climbs. Foolish mortals, like Icarus, we ascend towards the sun, not on wings of wax and feathers, but on hope and spirit(and shiny wheels), and we never get there, not even close, though from time to time we stumble into luck and clutch at the soft cotton hem of clouds. Is it our arrogance that makes us climb hills and mountains? Curiosity? Because it feels so good when we stop? Our hunger for strength, domination, and a ripping downhill? All of the above for sure, but the endless quest for our own private polka – dot jerseys may best be explained by our deep – seated masochism. What is a hill but Hell misspelled? Suffering is at the heart of every cyclist’s connection to the sport. Not just the acceptances of suffering, but the whole – body embrace – as if you’ve just found your lost child. – And nowhere do we suffer more than on hills. They are the true proving ground. King of the mountains has a better ring to it than king of the time trials. It is as if the metronomic burn of the spinning of the flats isn’t enough – we have to tilt things askew, make it harder, aim for the sky, not just for the challenge, but for the gesture too. Offspring was right: “the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care.” Bare – knuckle fighters, morning drinkers, and hill climbers; their either something really wrong with us, or really right. We push onward, cleaning the uncleanable, seeing spots before our eyes until we run out of up. Thighs burning, lactic acid surging, legs aquiver, we stand at the crest, body and mind united in victorious collapse. Even if no one witnesses your last, exhausted revolution, you know. You know, and you’ll always know, that you cleaned a climb that has thumped you over and over and over. Its revenge, accomplishment and triumph over every bully who ever kicked sand in your face. There is no other feeling like it in the world
  • Bananas
  • Flipping the brass latch on the table sized wooden box that holds a Campagnolo tool kit
  • The Castelli Scorpion
  • Merckx orange, Bianchi celeste, Park Tool blue, Maillot Jaune, the dangerous gleam of titanium, the multi – colored dragon of a peleton streaming by and everything else that makes the spectrum of cycling
  • Yearning for gear. I never how to pronounce the names, but I wanted it so bad. In my mind I’d build never – to – be – bought bikes with Shimano Dura – Ace and Campagnolo Record lingerie. Most of the parts I can now afford, but maybe I’m cheap. Or maybe there is another reason: I enjoy the lust itself. I’m in love with wanting, rather than owning, these hypnotic collections of bikes and parts. Fantasy is more enduring unrealized. It renews itself; it pushes you forward, just a bit faster.
  • Owning a bike that’s worth more than your car.
  • Speed 11 miles an hour: flying. It was one of the days so windy it becomes a personal legend. After taking against 15 – 40 mph westerlies for 50 miles, my friend and I pointed bars right into the screamer and crawled forward at 5 – 7 mph. When the road dipped below a fallow cornfield or cut between cliffs, striated with jasper, our pace would spring to an 11 mph that, after two hours of single digits, felt as fast as I ever pedaled on a bike. I might have been doing 40+ in a Thursday night criterium. Speed isn’t a number, it’s a sensation, and it’s a sensation that, as the wind reminded me and any bar – room physicist can tell you, is relative. On the simplest level, we experience speed against each ride’s context. The sole 50 mph down hill on the local loop feels insane. Corkscrew your way down something, like Mount Ventoux, or L’Alpe d’Huez, or the Cul de Tormalet, and you’ll find yourself down to 50 mph or so, so that you’ll feel safe in corners. Speed also depends on the observer, according to the cyclist Albert Einstein. When you’re riding, because you and your top tube are traveling at the same speed, it isn’t moving relative to you. To the cyclist you’re passing, it might be going at 10 mph. to the kid on the sidewalk; it might be going 30 mph. And since speed is nothing but distance over time, whenever you turn a pedal over in pursuit of one more mph, you blow the stability of the world as we know it into the realm of relativity. Its like this: you cruise down a one mile road at 12 mph, timing yourself on a computer while a friend standing you on a curb times you as well (assume the impossible, that you both start and stop your timers at the same instant). To your friend, you’ve just completed the mile in 300 seconds. But, scaling down from the calculations made by Brain Greene, one of the worlds leading string theorists, and author of The Elegant Universe, we can predict that your clock would read 299.9999999999952 seconds. I don’t pretend to fully understand the science, and I know these blips are impossible to measure or feel, but I believe that cyclist know speed changes everything. It changes an afternoon. It changes the way people look at us. It changes the taste of water in a plastic bottle; it changes gelatinous carbs into fire. It changes us; Add up all those .0000000000048 seconds stolen in the saddle and you get something beyond blurry eyes and town – line victory flourishes and savory danger and frustrated dogs. Like I said, I don’t know what you get or why, but I know this: Shaking the fabric of the universe is a whole lot more fun than letting it cover you like a shroud.
  • Tipping over at a stoplight because you can’t clip out. The embarrassing topple in front of traffic and pedestrians reminds us that nothing is certain in cycling, and some parts of it are inevitable
  • Mid – ride Coffee
  • The Christmas bike. The birthday bike. The unlimited promise of any new bike
  • Eddy Merckx’s solo attack in the 1969 Tour de France. Already a lock to fly yellow in Paris, with an 8 minute lead and a week to go, Merckx rode away from the peleton and up the 6,935 foot Cul de Tourmalet, kept dropping the hammer over more Hors Catagorie climbs, and finished more than seven minutes ahead of his chasers. Thanks to that strategically senseless attack, Merckx owned the race’s yellow, green and polka – dot jerseys, and elevated cruelty, domination, and infliction and embrace of suffering to brutal art. And it was his first Tour de France
  • The Y – wrench
  • The sun cast your shadow on the hill you’re climbing; you sit on your own back wheel the whole way up
  • XTR. Brilliantly named, brazenly functional, and relentless in evolution. We love the fact that a component group such as XTR exist almost as much as we love riding it
  • Presta valves
  • After an epic of mud, blood, grease, and sweat, seeing a gladiator in the bathroom mirror
  • Humility. No matter how bad it is, there’s respect for those who gut it out. Finishing last is not a lesson in humiliation; but in humility; anyone of us might be out there on any day, suffering immeasurably to turn over the pedals
  • Amateur Racers. We hauled ourselves out of bed at 6am on a Saturday, and haul ourselves to a race we have no hope of winning. Its either a noble rage against cosmic meaninglessness, or, like way more fun than mowing the lawn
  • The endo is coming. You know the endo is coming. You endo anyway
  • A trainer in a basement. In its own twisted way, nothing says commitment and love more.
  • Singletrack. From the mosh – pit, bar fight of technical trails, to the smooth seduction of a line that undulates all thought away, the joy of riding that thin strip of dirt never grows old.
  • Throwing a cold soft drink through your glycogen window
  • Risk. Why ride? Why not golf? Sure, I might get struck by lightning on the back nine, but the chance of getting airborne on the links, of getting scrapped, bruised, or scarred, just doesn’t exist in golf, or most other staid adult sports. Cyclists crave risk. Any activity that has you strapping on a helmet is not a reasonable endeavor. And maybe, that’s precisely why we ride. When you clear the single track that had you licked (or licking wounds) forever. It is because you found within yourself more physical skill and guts than 99 out of 100 days. You spit directly into the face of risk. Out – riding risk gives us a purer version of ourselves, the person descends any line with out crashing, and who can bump shoulders in a breakaway with supreme balance to stay and on wheel. And that model of a better us, and pursuing it – makes the risk alluring. We want grace to defy it, But only sometimes because the butterflies in our stomachs, why not just golf.
  • The end of the ride. No matter how much we enjoyed the ride, no matter how much we enjoyed the company we had, or the obstacles we had, we still enjoy the end of the ride. It doesn’t have to make sense, because it doesn’t, but we do it.


New Member
Jul 30, 2006
That was awesome!

Thanks, I'm going to copy and paste this one :)

What a creative mind!!!