Friday Group Ride #392

Friday Group Ride #392

Yesterday, as I threw shovelsful of snow up and over my head, the wind swirling most of it back into my face and onto the driveway, I thought, “I should write a book called The Cyclist’s Guide to Bombogenesis.” Then I spent the next hour composing this tome in the back of my head as the storm churned and swirled around me.

Chapter One: This Isn’t Going to be Fun, Not Even Afterward

The thing to know about riding your bike during a bomb cyclone is that it isn’t much like riding a bike. It’s more like competing in a ballroom dancing competition after you’ve been hit unexpectedly with a tranquilizer dart. You can’t see much of anything, and your balance gets compromised in multiple ways. If you can manage to stay upright in the wind, which blows from every direction, the ice and snow under your tires, even studded tires, will push your front wheel left and right without warning. The cold goes right through you, but it doesn’t bother you that much, because you’re spending all of your energy trying to stay on the bike and continue forward. You think to yourself, “This is what it was like for the Donner Party. I get it now.”

Chapter Two: Neither Here, Nor There

It is a funny part of the cyclist’s psychology that prevents him or her from returning to a point of departure, even when the external conditions suggest that retreat is the wisest course of action. The type of person who would think of riding during bombogenesis is particularly afflicted with this potentially fatal stubbornness. The thing is, once you have departed, once you have begun to come to terms with the very unreasonable terms of this sort of storm, hurrying is not possible, so you are not able to end the journey until you have pedaled every stroke of the distance, some of them twice. This leads to the very real problem of being neither here (where you started) or there (where you are safe).

Chapter Three: When Even No Traffic Is Too Much Traffic

During a storm of this ferocity, most sensible citizens stay home. This is good, because it means that you will encounter almost no one in a big, heavy, metal box careening down the roadways. However, the one vehicle you can be sure to see during this dark night of your soul is the snow plow, and the snow plow stops for no man (or woman). When the plow comes, you’d better get out of the way, which often means bailing from your tenuously held line into the nearest, safest snow pile. The last thing you want do during a ride like this is stop, but stop you must. You may also need to drop and roll, as circumstance demands.

Chapter Four: Getting Home

If you’re lucky, like me, you have people at home who love you and are concerned for your safety. For some period of time you’ve subjected yourself to an elemental barrage such as most humans will never experience. Now, finally, you’ve arrived. You feel fleeting moments of relief and triumph. You’ve been through something real. There are emotions. Your loved ones cannot empathize with you. They think you’re an idiot. They don’t care that your hands are a disconcerting hue of blue. They don’t want to hear about your close call with the rusty, bouncing blade of the plow. They want you to be quiet. There’s something moderately interesting on the television.

We cyclists love the obscure and ephemeral, so maybe I’ll finish this book one day. Watch out for the Kickstarter.

This week’s Group Ride asks, not whether you want a how-to on dying in a snow drift, but what you do look for in a cycling book? Do you even read cycling books? Do you prefer the rose-tinted biographies of old racers, or the adventure logs of ordinary riders in extraordinary places? Do you ever actually read how-tos? What is the worst cycling book you’ve read?

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  1. Scott M

    The gold standard for cycling fiction would have to be “It’s not about the bike.”

    Since you broached the subject, I’ll bring it around to cycling. The Donner Party’s tragedy is commemorated in a state park near Truckee, California. There, a 22′ tall statue marks the depth of the snow drifts. The park sits on the East end of Donner Lake. At the west end of the lake, old Hwy 40 climbs 3.3 miles of arguably THE most scenic road in California. The culmination is a view over an old curved bridge that frames Donner Lake and the mountains beyond. The original transcontinental railway line carves its way down a solid granite ridge a scant half mile to the south. An original wagon path plays tag with the road. Rugged peaks extend in every direction. While short, it’s a climb you should add to your list.

    About 2 years ago, as I was entering the climb, I saw a green flash out the corner of my eye. “That looks like a team jersey,” I thought. Indeed a few minutes later, Andrew Talansky passed me uphill like I was hot gum stuck to the road. And he was riding repeats.

    If you’re stuck in the snow, I feel for you. Find a (vegetarian) snack and dream about riding the paths that early pioneers forged across the Sierra’s.

  2. Fausto

    Favorites are; Dog in a Hat, The Rider, and The Yellow Jersey. 2 were written in the ’70’s and did a nice job describing the sensations of riding. The body, mind, spirit, nature. Joe Parkin’s book was great because it gave the POV of those that struggle with out the reward of the champagne and flowers. All the others written by riders seem like they are bad writers or their ghost writer just can’t relay the feelings of what it is like. Probably own 50 books on cycling, but the majority are coffee table books with beautiful pictures of races, riders and bicycles. The How To’s; LeMond, Doughty, I stopped in the ’80’s since they weren’t great. Favorite How To is the Park Blue Book on how to fix the thing.

  3. Alanm9

    Love books and articles that tell what pro cycling is really like. Just finished The Rider by Thomas Krabbe, Domestique by Charly Wegelius, Descent by Thomas Dekker, and all of Phil Gaimon’s. Learned more from them than from 20 years of watching it on TV. And, it is absolutely not about the bike.

  4. Aar

    I think you would sell the most books or even make a movie with an epic tale about the human condition with cycling through bombogenesis as a tiny part of the book. What were the epic experiences of the other family members and what great challenge did you all overcome together? It would have to be fantastical and probably fictional.

    I’ve started to read quite a few books about cycling but only finished a few. Four of those I finished were autobiographical. The fifth was a fictional coming of age story in which the bike was used as a metaphor. They were all among the driest books I’ve read. Those I didn’t finish were drier still. I’m done with the “books with cycling as the central focus” genre. There’s just not enough substance there to engage me. A great story that happens to include a torturous cycling journey would be more likely to engage me.

    “The Hundred Foot Journey” is a movie about human relationships and how they mature over time told through the backdrop of cooking and restauranteuring (to coin a word). To some, it’s “the movie about a cook” and they’re right. The reason it’s enjoyable is so much more than the cooking. To me cycling can be no more than a backdrop to or a small part of a greater story. Was “Breaking Away” about cycling or more about three young men coming of age?

    1. Tominalbany

      Any good book is about the people. Create whatever backdrop that you’re able to use.
      I just finished “The Fiinal Season”. About a man with cancer that decides to follow the Baltimore Orioles through ‘his’ final season. It’s a pretty well-written tome. It’s got a lot of baseball in it. But, more importantly, it’s the metaphor throughout.

  5. spiff

    The Rider and Kings of the Mountains
    Must reads.

  6. Lyford

    I’ve read a lot of bicycling books, but none really stand out as especially good or memorable.

    My gold standard for writing about vehicles and the people who use them is Peter Egan, who wrote about cars for Road and Track and motorcycles for Cycle World. He managed to blend humor, techo-geekery, travel, and human interest in a manner that made me want to spend time with him. I haven’t found an equivalent in the cycling realm.

    Here’s one appropriate for this time of year:

  7. WG

    I like stories. Even more, I like good stories.
    I’ve tried several books, but I’ve not found a book that comes close the the blog of Steve Tilford.
    Steve had a unique way of coming at every topic with no facade. Whether it was a race, training, or life story, he could tell them all well.
    After races, he’d recount small specifics, tactics, and events of the race with clarity I didn’t recall as well or realize the potential impact of these events on the outcome.
    I miss his take on things. After Sagan was tossed out of the Tour, I really wanted to know what he would have thought.

  8. Tom Milani

    Does Sheldon Brown count? He somehow made writing about technical subjects entertaining and illuminating. +1 for The Rider. Catfish and Mandala is a good book about cycling through Vietnam. Oddly enough, it will make you look at the U.S. differently (and favorably). Who wrote The Final Season? Couldn’t find a book with that title about the Orioles.

    1. Tominalbany

      I’m going to have to look at the book when I get home. I can’t find it either so, apparently, I’ve written it wrong! Sorry!

    2. TomInAlbany

      Final Season by Richard Frost

      It’s a local author and it may be self-published. So, I don’t know how widely available it may be.

  9. Glenn

    Two “cycling” books come to mind as being very good. It’s been a while since I read either of them.

    * Heft on Wheels
    * 10 Points

  10. tomi

    Tom in Alexandria – You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you’re an old enough fan to remember, it tracks the ’93 season and, I believe, the baseball background is accurate!

    Let me know how you like it. tommysmo (at) yahoo dot com

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