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Killing Me Softly
WORDS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley | PHOTOS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley
Cycling is sport and transportation and transformation. And cycling is vantage. A position and condition that when combined, offer a Point of View. The position, seated on a bike, slightly bent and pointed forward, is engaged. Moving through time and space at an average speed of 18 miles an hour, engaging the world at just the right speed, the rider experiences great vision, hearing and feeling. Part “zone”, part metaphysical and part synchronicity, the cyclist experiences a powerful Point of View. In the same family as suffering and freedom, this Point of View is one of the fundamental reasons we ride. Riding is fun.
Assuming your bike fits, position is less about the ergonomic fit, but the rider’s fit or engagement in the world around them. The way pedaling and effort lead consciously, or unconsciously, to meditation. Without the noise of lists, missed calls, an ever growing inbox and responsibility—under self imposed but manageable duress, up the side of a mountain, legs firing, breath labored but in control, eyes focused ahead and around all at once, sense and perception heightened—things begin to sharpen. Life in these moments are simple, pure and clear; where you fit for that moment or those few hours becomes lucid.
Positioned atop of the bike, working and alert, all that’s missing is the right speed and experience, the right conditions. Too much effort and pain, and suffering obscures, too much drama or mechanicals and the trance is interrupted. We have learned that at 18-mph the world and day unfold like a story, full of characters, places and moments. 18 miles per hour and the ride delivers conversation, friendships and an endless procession of scenes from a magnificent cinematic event, in which you play a leading role. An incredible Point of View.
Three years ago we started planning and riding 100-mile Continental rides. Planning a ride invariably begins with assessing distance, terrain, elevation, weather and time of year, then ends with applying a deeply fallible factor to your equation: the fitness and ability of the group. It is the subjective, often flawed portion of the formula that you employ to determine how long the ride should take. That outcome is then used to determine everything else; what time to start, where to eat, etc. When the formula fails it does so because of average speed.
We can all pretty easily sustain 22-mph when we need to. Faster even. But try as we might, in response to limited daylight or a long post ride drive we never seem to. This is because average speed like everything else is subject to the law of diminishing returns. And, because memorable and magnificent rides have a set point.
The fact is, a 100+ mile ride should, if done right, be ridden roughly at 18 miles per hour. Any effort to ride faster is a race, while much slower is a march. The universe, provided you're on a bike and working yourself into a meditation and on your way in that magical Point of View - will provide you with all the necessary mechanicals, flats, missed turns, hills, tailwinds, water, encounters and wildlife to keep you averaging 18-mph. This is not a rule or obligation, nor is it even always true, but in our experience it’s a phenomenon we’ve seen play out time and time again.
It was true in Leipers Fork, Tennessee. Led by Grand Fondo’s Lynn and Vida Greer on the 100-mile ride known as “Killing Me Softly” (an allusion to the abounding number of short gentle hills which over time and distance erode a riders fortitude and fitness), 18-mph offered ideal pace to take in the meandering roads, bubbling creeks, southern-style yard art and local flavor that make this little gem a bit south of Nashville a great place for a fresh POV.