Cycling Books - "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe

On some days, even though it's absolutely gorgeous outside, a day off the bike is necessary. Blame it on the sore ass, the sore legs, the hands that hurt, or on the overwhelming desire to simply sit around on the aforementioned sore ass. Today is such a day for me.

If you're as bike-obsessed as I am (or just terribly one-dimensional, depending on how you look at it) you spend the time you're not riding reading about riding. Which is how I have come to spend some quality time with a little book called "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe.

It was written in 1978 and translated into English from Dutch. The ticklish use of language and addictive readability encourages procrastination faintly disguised as productive research. At least an hour went M.I.A this morning, gobbled up by this book. 

It has one of those "you had me at hello" first paragraphs:

"Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

That was enough. I had read all I needed to know the book would be leaving the store and coming home with me.

The story is an autobiographical account of a one-day amateur race in the '70's. Race food consists of figs stuffed into a jersey pockets ("I forgot my figs. Goddamn it, I forgot my figs."), riders wear suspenders ("Behind the car I put on my racing gear. Racing shorts, sweatshirt, suspenders, jersey."), and cogs are carefully selected after careful consideration - all six of them ("The rider from Cycles Goff picks out six cogs and fastens them to the hub. He nods to himself: the nod of someone closing his final book before an exam.").

Here are few more bits from the book that brought a smile to my face:  

"I stopped doing everything else, I trained harder and harder, my body began achieving things I'd no longer thought possible. I was touched by its loyalty. I had neglected it for so long , but there were no hard feelings, it seemed only pleased to have me call on it again."

"I'm up on the pedals, after five strokes I'm already at top speed, the oxygen shouts hurrah down to my finest blood vessels, there I go hammering past the pack, past the point rider, out into space."

"We are wet, cold, and dirty. Pick someone at random and put them on a bicycle here, front wheel pointing in the direction of Camprieu, and ten to one they'll dismount and go looking for shelter in the nearest farmhouse. Why are we riding on? If you ask an alpinist why he climbs a mountain he'll reply: 'Because it's there.'"

And the last line of the story:

"At the top of the Col de Perjuret I climb out to piss."


Helen said...

No! Not the last line! I haven't read it. The last line, depending on the story, is the punch, the closing bell, the cymbal crash... the wink over the shoulder.... don't tell it.

Natascha said...

Sorry Helen!! But trust me...the last line won't ruin it. It's such a fantastic book.

Chester said...