I had a quasi-transcendental moment this morning. Gluing tubulars. (It may have been the fumes.)
Consider the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth sentences of The Rider:
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.
From Krabbe's pen to my soul.
And so I've been gluing tubulars. Beautiful, handmade Italian tubes of rubber and cotton. Manufactured by a process that if it isn't a mystery it should be. The men (they better be men) that make these are like elven craftsman of Middle Earth. Their craft a subtle magic and exquisite art. I would sleep with a beautiful bike part.
The hoops? New 808s. They've a fancy red dragon sticker on the side. Apparently they breathe fire.
Technology as old as my grandparents paired with the latest and greatest. And it's held together with glue. Sometimes an unfathomably frustrating process. But when you can relax, breath deep (the fumes), and focus... Well, it can become something of a transcendent experience. The rite and ritual of that elven clan of brothers. An initiation. Then a renewal. A sacrament. The Masonry of Riders.
Not riders, mind you, but Riders! And what is a Rider? Well, a Rider is one who can only stare when outsiders--those tourists and locals with the shockingly empty lives--ask why.
I'll tell you why.
Because it's beautiful.
Because the bicycle is beautiful. Because calves chiseled of miles of pain are beautiful. Because of heart-bursting climbs and 55 mph descents. Because of the dirty road-grime spray of pack riding on a cold, rainy day. Because of the shadows cast by revolving spokes on a sunny one. Because of the feel of wrapped cork under your hands. Because of red blood and street-shredded skin. Because of the uneasy glee of diving into the last corner of a 60-minute criterium with nothing between you and victory but 150 meters of empty asphalt. Because... Because we are Riders!