Specialized launched a new Tarmac last week. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering that uses a new “Rider First” method of design that you really can feel out on the road. I could tell you all about how it was the best bike I have ever ridden, how I never felt more confident descending or how I am now a believer in disc brakes on a race bike. I could tell you all of that, but it’s already been said. What I am left with is my experience in California with Specialized and a small group of riders who were in Santa Cruz to test the bikes.
I knew going into the trip it would be hard, sure. Chris Reikert, who I have followed for years, helps run PR over at Morgan Hill and wanted me to come out and be part of the “fast” group of press. We would do about 200 miles and 22,000 feet of climbing over 2 days to put the bikes and our bodies through the paces. I was cautiously optimistic that I would be fine. I was wrong.
38 miles into the first day I was in the darkness. I was getting dropped for the second time of the day, lungs churning hard on hot California air, heart willing, but legs not making it happen. We were only 1/3 of the way through the ride and I wanted to hang it up. Truth is I was outclassed by the people on the trip. I have never denied the existence of my ego, and hell it’s done a lot to shape the person I am today, but on that day, and that mountainside the vision of myself as a bike racer was being compromised.
65 miles later I was getting dropped again, and was riding head down when the van pulled up next to me. Our amazing mechanic leaned out the window and pleaded, “Hey man, you are pretty far behind, want to jump in the van?”
So, I had a choice, the van meant no more pain, no more embarrassment of being outmatched over and over and over. Hell, the van probably had snacks as well! The van had a lot to offer if you were willing to give up.
I look back on that trip fondly. Sure, I suffered like a dog, did my best only to realize it wasn’t good enough. I was dropped over and over again in a multitude of ways. But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t get in that van, and sometimes, that’s all that matters.
(photos by Alex Chiu)
These bikes are so DARK KNIGHT
Happy Birthday James!
June 23rd 1988:
You have the determination and discipline of someone twice your age. You always practice and practice until you get it right. I know whatever you do with your life you will approach it with enthusiasm and determination - you are bound for greatness! You are kind, tender and optimistic about people and life. You will succeed at anything you do - right now you say you are going to fly a spaceship and I can have a ride !
I can never tell you in words the joy you have brought me , it has been a great joy to watch you grow into the man you are today .
Anonymous said: Adorable little girl and a beautiful Grandmother that makes me stop and sigh....
Sounds like something someone I used to know would say……..
CHOO I love you
Cold, wind, twilight, exhaustion = Magic
I feel cold before I notice I am alone.
Hours before we were together, laughing and smiling, the sun hitting our Vitamin D deprived skin. We climbed as fields of cacti gave way to barren desert and we sucked air that inexplicably tasted like sand. But that was all hours and many thousands of feet ago, and now I am cold and miss my brother.
I like to think of pain as a beam of light: focused, intense and beatable. I like to imagine myself in a room alone with it, letting the beam pass through me then laughing mirthlessly and asking more. It’s beatable because it’s defined and predictable.
I wish I could say I let cold sweat run down my legs and slipped my hands into the drops, climbing beautifully, respecting the mountain with my best effort. I wish I could tell you that I stared at the beam of light and was warmed by it, but this was different. The light had hit a prism, reflecting and refracting pain in every direction. So many things were hurting, so many things were wrong that I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to quit.
I start thinking about how nobody ever tells you how appealing quitting can become when you are on the limit; reminded of when I used to be a wrestler and sometimes in the middle of a hard match, I would fantasize about quitting. It’s easy to think that all I had to do was relax the shoulders and count 1, 2, 3 and it would all be over. It is the warm comfort of quitting that makes resisting it so important.
I feel a hand on my lower back and am snapped back to reality. I’m freezing, 27 miles and 7,000 feet into the accent up Mt. Lemmon and that prism-like, unfocused but ubiquitous pain is racking me. Dylan rides next to me and I can’t tell if he is grimacing or smiling. We ride on in silence and while we aren’t exactly winning the fight against the mountain, we aren’t losing it either, and sometimes that’s enough, that’s enough.
Walkabout this morning
Mary Jac and Harry.