what do you do?
i race bikes
i’m not sure
what do you mean? not sure?
cos when i’m actually racing i am usually on the rivet and it’s not exactly pleasant
what’s a rivet
it’s like a bolt. you know, like a rivet in a pair of jeans. they used to use rivets to hold the leather onto the saddle frame, on the old leather saddles. being ‘on the rivet’ means sitting really far forward on the saddle, on the nose, where there used to be a rivet. it’s when you are riding really hard, basically
so you ride on old leather saddles?
no, i use a modern one that doesn’t need a rivet. it’s all glued and stapled and stuff
then why say ‘on the rivet’?
we just do, it’s a throwback
so when you say you’re not sure why you race cos you’re usually on the rivet, you mean what exactly?
i mean, it hurts. a lot. and the pain makes me wonder why i am doing it
cos you’re sat on a rivet? that would hurt anyone, surely. sounds daft
i’m not sat on an actual rivet, i’m on the flat nose of the saddle, but i’m pushing myself really hard. and it is daft, in many ways. that’s one reason i love it
because it makes no sense. that, in itself, is loveable
so there’s nothing good about it, apart from that you like that it all makes no sense?
no, i mean, yes, there are lots of great things. but when you are actually in a race, busting it, you’re suffering. but when you have good legs and are on form, and the road feels like silk, the sunlight dances off the spokes, and the cassettes thrum and hum and buzz like something so wonderfully organic, then – well, then it’s kind of otherworldly. transcendent, if you like. and even when it isn’t like that, you finish a killer race and still want to do it again the next day. like i said, it makes no sense
you listen to music you ride?
what? in a race? no
but then how do you listen to the cassettes? it all sounds very outdated to me, with these cassettes and rivets. did cycling miss the last years of the 20th century?
no, not a cassette like a music cassette, it’s the name for the sprockets at the back that spin about. the thing on the rear wheel with the spikey things, that the chain runs along
you’re legs aren’t too bad now. bit hairless and a bit thin though
no, well, thank you, but good legs means when you have a lot of power, when you’re riding really well
and your legs are hairless because?
so you do all this for money?
god no. we make a bit in prize money but it’s really not a way to get rich, not at this level
oh i see, so – it’s all about the endeavor
er, yeah. i guess it is. it’s more like self-empowerment, in every sense you can imagine that to mean. cycling began as a way for farm lads and young miners to get out of their circumstances – many lived in relative poverty, as a matter of fact – and the best of them became gods. the newspapers wrote about their races and the people couldn’t get enough of it. the road and the bike and the mad races they did, sometimes thousands upon thousands of kilometers long on very primitive machines – these things allowed these men to become noble.
this was a time, in europe, when the bicycle was the main – and in most cases – only form of transport available to all but the very rich. people used bikes all the time. and then along came these young men, riding up these cols and over cobblestones, on unpaved mountain tracks and through blizzards, and the people could relate to it all. at a time when there weren’t so many distractions from the grind of agricultural and industrial life, the adventures of these early pros captured the popular imagination. they were Kings of the Road, and they could be seen by the people, whizzing by over the very same roads they rode along too. what the early racers were put through, the toughness they needed to compete in these races, it’s almost impossible to fathom, even for us racers now. they went into the void and came back to tell the tale. they went to the moon and back, crossed the antarctic and climbed everest. and all on two bloody wheels
huh, but –
see, unlike football and even tennis, with those sports the players were in an arena, within a designated space. but with road racing the fans that turned out to see these riders could actually reach out and touch them – and they often did, on the big climbs, by pushing them up as they suffered. for every Nou Camp, every Roland Garros, every Wimbledon, the same exists in cycling, only it’s on the open road… and you know what? it’s the greatest thing in the world – well, close – to be speeding along on a bike down a hillside, inches from serious injury, dreaming dreams of impossible victories, aware that when you lose it destroys a tiny part of your soul but that the truth is that every time you actually leave the house to go for a ride, you’re winning. it’s furious, ridiculous, inexplicably beautiful and rewarding to the very edges, the very furthest limits of your imagination. you can dance on the border of your own personal stratosphere, and all on a machine that moves because of you. all on a little piece of whatever and whatever, aluminum and rubber, steel and carbon, this little toy that years earlier allowed the same little boy or little girl to escape their neighbourhood. those first bikes open the mind to possibility, to adventure, to travel. damn, i’m getting misty eyed. and it’s still awesome, even if i have to be dressed like a camp action hero when i’m doing it. now, what was the but?
god you can ramble. the but was this – it’s not that popular now, is it, not as it once was?
well it’s interesting, because with the advent of the affordable car and what have you, i guess there was a loosening of that connection between the vast majority and the sport. little by little people stopped riding bikes on a daily basis, and so you could say they lost the reference point that had been there before. but in my lifetime, in the past 20 years for sure, the popularity of bike racing has grown again. not to what it was, but the global reach is greater, i’d say
well it’s certainly all over the news right now
you still love it? even with all this ruckus going on?
hmm. i have a few questions about that. i mean, how-
aaaanyway, why don’t you tell me what you do…