Ebb and Flow

By: Justin Lindine Dec 7

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So, sometimes I think about selling all my bikes and finding a different hobby; perhaps one in which my self worth doesn’t hinge on so great a volume of variables as bike racing. Maybe something less competitive and more inwardly rewarding, like woodworking or playing the guitar. But hold up, before you click away convinced that I’m about to go on some stereotypical lament of how frustratingly rare success in cycling can be. Bear with me, because while I do think it’s ok to cry about bike racing, and I do engage in existential debate about the meaning of my life while I lie in bed at night, I also find it pretty hard, nay, impossible to stay too depressed about success and failure in cycling.

See the thing is, in the same weekend that I lost any chance of winning the most important series of my career, I also ate dinner in a converted and weirdly cool warehouse with friends; rode bikes for a few hours a day…with friends; had another pretty awesome meal with, you guessed it, more friends; and then got served a shot of espresso from a machine in the back of a trailer, powered by a generator in the middle of a parking lot while still in my kit—by friends. I also saw New England cycling show once again that it’s a proving ground for being the best in the country, and even if I wasn’t the best on those days, I was proud to be a part of something greater than myself. That might appear like a meaningless list of random things, but the point of it all is that my life, our lives—those of us who engage in this traveling circus each weekend—revolve around a set of shared experiences that can be, it seems to me, really hard to find in the world at large. From a personal standpoint, I can say definitively that if it wasn’t for bike racing I most certainly wouldn’t be spending the weekend socializing with a couple hundred other people all doing something intrinsically fun together. I doubt many of us would.


Now, if this all sounds a little cliché in that sort of, “can’t we all just get along and have fun” sort of way, then I have misrepresented myself. I am the first person to admit that when the gun, or whistle, or what-have-you goes off, I am seriously emotionally invested in the outcome. I want to win as much as the next person. I wouldn’t spend the amount of time, money and energy that I do devoted to this sport if I wasn’t. And, contrary to many of the societal norms being preached today that decry the harms of over-competitiveness, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to win. I don’t think there is anything wrong with competition that brings people onto higher planes of experience and allows us to aspire to a greatness that gets lost in the mediocrity of everyday life. Anyone who’s raced knows that feeling, and the telling of our own amazing feats after every race proves that without that arbitrary goal of winning, few of us might get to push ourselves far enough to have something worth telling our friends about. I think most of us can agree that we don’t need a world full of little-league-dad syndrome to make us all better people; but the kind of communal competition I see every weekend is something different altogether. There is a community in it, and a knowledge, like an inside joke or a knowing nod between two friends, that riding a bike is a pretty damn fun way to spend a weekend, whether you win or not. So fun in fact that even those of us who are trying to consider it a “job” can still admit that we’d probably be out doing this anyway.

Winning is, obviously, more fun then losing. That elusive high of realizing you just did everything right is hard to beat—so much so that some might call it an addiction. But even the best cyclists, those we all aspire to be, only win a fraction of the times they race. There has to be more to your enjoyment of the sport in order to justify the hours, and the pain and the training in the rain and cold when every sane person you know is inside asleep. Maybe that’s why, after professional football players or college basketball stars have long since walked away from their sports, those of us who had our beginnings as kids on bikes, and were then teenagers racing bikes, and maybe if we’re lucky became pro’s on bikes—and then inevitably, one day, ex-pro’s on bikes—are still out there killing it every weekend: maybe winning, maybe not.


Maybe in the aftermath of defeat we say outrageously profound things like, “I might sell everything that even reminds me of a bicycle.” Wasn’t me, I swear. But then the very next day find ourselves almost incapable of staying off the bike for a prescribed rest day (Note to coach: I said almost incapable). So next weekend there’s another race, on the other side of the country or right down the street; another chance to go out there and prove something to everyone, to get that chip off your shoulder, to take chances that some might call “unnecessary”; to put it all on the edge, to say you actually did something and gave it everything you had. I’ll see you there.

*Images by David Chiu

**Editor’s Note: Justin is far too modest to supply all of these great pictures of himself, so we arranged earlier this season to have him followed by our staff of freelance photographers. We think you, his readers, will agree it was the thing to do.

 

Playlist: The Shame

By: Justin Lindine Nov 11

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Recently, I had the pleasure (displeasure?) of being made a brief internet sensation on Twitter by none other than the sausage king, Jeremy Durrin, and Evan Huff. This could have been awesome: The clandestine caveman, the humble honey badger takes the Internet by storm. Except that it wasn’t. Mostly this experience of driving a car and having others bring the outside world into it was embarrassing, because the nexus of the electronic discussion was my musical proclivities: the pouring out of Justin’s heart…err, Ipod playlists.


Notably, my “Pump It Up” playlists got a lot of attention. I could lie and say that’s because there was some intense curiosity to see what makes the wolverine-come Honey Badger tick, but mostly it was because you can’t escape the fact that the first page of songs you see when you open that playlist contains both Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. Madonna is not far down the list. To be fair, there are also classics of anger-filled inspiration like Metallica and Offspring, but these get lost behind the pop/hip-hop bubbles of Party in the USA, Just Dance, and Like a Prayer. So what of it? Surely I am not the only one whose pre-race symphony contains the sonnets of todays finest pop sensations.

I know for a fact that my own descent into the depths of musical tastelessness began with a season of driving to races with a racer who shall remain nameless in this column….who am I kidding, thanks Jerome Townsend. Going to Belgium to race cross that year merely sealed the deal as hours a day were spent with the TV playing the only channel with reliable English content: MTV. I was broken down, A Clockwork Orange style, listening to anthems with such lyrical profundities as “I feel so nervous, everybody looks so famous…my tummys turning and I feel kinda homesick….yadda yadda….and the Jay-Z song was on…” (Note, I have refused to look up these lyrics in their complete accuracy online. I am more comfortable pretending that I do not, in fact, know all the words.)

The thing was, I was so nervous, and I was so homesick, and when Ke$ha sang that we were going to go “Hard, Hard, Hard, like the world was ours, ours ours,” I was suddenly pretty sure that she was talking about bike racing and that made sense to me. It’s amazing what the brain can rationalize. Suddenly the ability of my inner literary critic to stretch the meanings of metaphors became that much broader. Of course Li’l Wayne was talking about cross racing when he said, “I got ice in my veins, blood in my eyes, hate in my heart, love in my mind. I seen nights full of pain, days are the same, you keep the sunshine, save me the rain.” Everybody can see that right?

So what does this say about myself and countless others who, whether they like to admit it or not, pulled into the parking lot of the last race with Rihanna blaring? What is it about bike racing and the guise of motivational music, and the anonymity of my own Ipod and earbuds that allows me to suspend what I would say are ordinarily high ideals in the realm of lyrics, if not musical composition? I can’t speak for everyone, so I don’t know if the bike-racing world at large uses the same game of far-flung association with lyrics that I do. It could just be that some of these songs are undeniably catchy, if a little light in the meaning and substance department. It could be that maybe there’s a component of Lady Gaga’s exhibitionist art show that resonates with me because of the similarities to the parts of bicycle racing that are equally ridiculous. Wearing a meat dress versus running around in the mud with a bike on my shoulder. Before you laugh at that statement, ponder the millions she’s made lately. Yeah, who’s laughing now.

Perhaps, and I’ll only go so far as to extend this explanation for myself, part of the “Pump It Up” process is about forgetting who we are for a little bit; about transcending all the things we do in our “normal” lives like work and relationships and listening to good music; and becoming cold, calculated bike racers who think and exist only for the purpose of winning. Maybe the music, so far from what I might be caught listening to ordinarily, allows me to become this other person—to become the animal? (Insert honey badger if you want, because I can’t bring myself to do it more than twice in the same article). I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this is a plausible excuse for these momentary lapses in judgment and taste, and I’m sticking with this defense, as unlikely as it may seem that Miley Cyrus brings out the killer in all of us. The risk that these musical choices pose, though, is that just like the way it tries to take over the rest of my life, bike racing, and it’s associated bad music, seems to be happening on more than just race day. Excuse me, for now, I have to go take a ride on my disco stick, which is to say, my bike. Clearly.

 

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