When I Get Fast

When I get fast, I’m outta here. I realized this just today. When I get fast there won’t be any reason to write these words, to talk about bikes, to look for ways to get faster or to talk about pros who are fast. When I get fast, I’m done.

Not one time fast, mind you. I’ve been fast on single days in certain ways, fleeting, teasing ways, ways that left me leg-heavy after. Nothing permanent. When I get permanently fast, I’m done.

Or if I get free. Once I escape into that wild blue beyond that we only ever glimpse from the saddle, then I’m cashing my chips. Or actually, forget the chips. I won’t need them.

Yes, yes, yes, riding gives you that feeling of freedom, but then you stop pedaling and it disappears, a dragonfly that lands on your forearm and then darts off. Once I get really free, from responsibility, from gravity, from the bonds of self, then I’m off. Remember me fondly. I wasn’t the best, nor the worst of us.

Also, when I’ve solved all the problems of humans competing against each other with bicycles, then I will locate my deck chair and sail off into the mists of leisure, a destinationless cruise. I have ideas for how to get there, but most of them depend on the better natures of those who would vie for the prizes, and I have found (perhaps your results vary) that mostly when the prizes get big enough, the natures of those who vie for them get compromised in mostly irredeemable ways. Like a ticket for a destinationless cruise, I suppose.

Cycling holds out all these hopes that many of us have spent a lifetime chasing down, like a break we didn’t see go though we remain sure they’re just up the road, maybe around this next bend or over the next rise. We chase and chase and chase, and I do it on the bike, and I do it on this blog, and I do it in my head while other people are talking to me about things that aren’t that chase. My eyes have gone vacant and a little narrow. I am half-smiling and nodding in that small way that says, “Go on. I am listening.”

But it’s a ruse.

I am trying to get fast and free, to work out all the problems. I am on the front and working as hard as I can, turning the pedals over and over, relaxing my grip on the bar, canting my head forward ever so slightly to shade my eyes and relieve the tension in my neck. Staying alert.

And when I can’t pull anymore, I peel off the front and let Padraig pull, because, though I never think it’s possible given the hours in each day, he somehow manages to be working harder than me on all these things, and together we’re definitely going to blow this thing apart. Count on it.

And when we do, when we are fast, we’ll be gone, and there won’t be anything else to ride for. It will happen. Any minute now, or never. I’m sure of it. Just hold the wheel, and we’ll take you there.


Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.

Image:  © Matt O’Keefe

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  1. Walt S


    Having taught literature and creative writing, I have read some good work by many a writer. Your ability to take esoteric and abstract thoughts and make them palpable to those reading your words is an amazing gift. I enjoy your writing immensely! Thank you.

  2. Jeremy

    You have done a fantastic job in the past two weeks of taking up the slack that Padraig has left while on leave. This website is fantastic, and while I expected some “down time” while Padraig regrouped you have done an awesome job of keeping things status quo.


  3. Andrew

    Nicely written. I don’t know why, I am reminded of the Low song “when I go deaf”. Maybe because its winter in MN, when we dream of being fast, and listen to Low.

  4. tinytim

    Nice Robot. I think that truly being fast means that one can transcend all of the things that keep a rider down and then flying. Like working 12 hour shifts on the floor as a nurse, getting off at 11pm, going home to play family man while fitting the new tubeless tires, and then waking up at 4am the following am to race a single speed mountain bike race. Joe Parkins puts it well, ‘when one is on form then all of the inconviences and minor issues fall away; bar tape falling of the bars doesn’t matter, the pain of a saddle sore fades away, all that is left is the feeling of pure speed’. BTW Robot, don’t work on the front, especially before a climb, let Padriag do all the work and then drop him like a stone.

  5. Al

    Based in the UK and as a father to 3 kids, I work hard in a predominantly desk-bound job and dream of the road almost continually. Robots vacant look with the faint nod resonates. This site is a touch stone for me, one that I visit frequently to share a sense of understanding, a passion. The writing on this site never fails to fan the flames of that passion for the road but always in beautiful perpective of what really matters in life.

    Truely amazing work gentlemen. Thank you.

  6. Skippy

    Just finished a comment to ” Steve Tilford ” as a result of his reminicing about ” Gliders ” and his next entry threw me into this article .

    ” Cycling holds out all these hopes that many of us have spent a lifetime chasing down, like a break we didn’t see go though we remain sure they’re just up the road, maybe around this next bend or over the next rise. We chase and chase and chase, and I do it on the bike, and I do it on this blog “!

    Very true !

  7. Dilberto

    For many of us, when we get fast–is when we *got* fast. By that I also mean when we went away… but instead when we gave up, when we quit. Only then you can look back and realise that you were in fact pretty fast. But this feeling is at best bittersweet.

    So in that vein, here also is to hoping that you never get fast, keep up the good fight.

  8. TominAlbany

    When I get fast…

    Holy crap. Look out. I’m doing nothing but ride!

    This would be bad for my family. I’d better not get fast for about 20 more years!

    But wait. If i’m really fast, maybe I could win lots of money and we could live much more easily.

    Just forget. To get fast, I’ll probably have to cheat. Oh wait. That’s not fast. That’s if I get rotten…

    OK. OK. If I get fast, I’m putting my son on the trailer bike and show him fast!!!!! I want to hear his yips and hoots as we reach exit velocity!

    This stream of consciousness brought to you by Fiber 1 and Nine Inch Nails.

  9. Disch

    I’m with Walt. This post is the balls. For the sake of all us desk jockeys leaning on RKP for regular relief and distraction from those non-fast office moments, I hope it takes you a damn long time to get “there”.

    …but as brothers in arms on the bike, we wish you good luck with the chase anyway.

  10. Lewis Moon

    “Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
    When I paint my masterpiece.”
    -Bob Dylan

    This one gets bookmarked and shared.

  11. Pingback: A New Alchemy of Speed : Red Kite Prayer

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