Translating Bike Racer Talk

Translating Bike Racer Talk

One of the first things you notice when riding with bike racers is that there is an art to the language they speak. Not a high art, but the spattered “Poo on Wood Plank” kind of art. You see, after a while you begin to naturally translate statements of intent about an upcoming training ride, often too late, though.

For instance, a team mate (rider A) calls for a morning ride of medium distance, medium-low intensity, ya know, cause the weather will be good and why not build some more base. You and another rider like this. But, just to be clear you (rider C) say, “I had a pretty hard ride yesterday, and I’m building back from a stomach thingy, so we need to take it pretty easy.” “Oh, of course,” says rider B, “me too, I have to work today and we had a big day Thursday, so we’ll be chill.” Rider A confirms, “Dudes, yeah, I hit it hard yesterday on hills, so this will be a recovery ride for me.” Ok, so you all agree, it’s all set, a good ride for recovery and fitness, nothing hard, certainly no serious hills or killer pacing.

So you meet up and cast off, everyone intent on keeping it cool, of course. Before long you’re out in the land, lovin’ the road, the scenery, feelin’ your legs, feelin’ good, but funny how the pace is up a bit, you think, no biggy, we’re just happy to be here, a fairly brisk warmup, but it’s alright. At this time rider A says something like, “Hey, you guys ever been up whatsits road, back up in that deliverance shit with the great overlooks… should we go check it out?” And the other guys are like, “Uh, no, but I’ve always been curious about that area, uh, sure I’m game, let’s check it out.” Now the road is kicking up some, and it seems to go on, hmmm, that’s interesting, you think, but really you’re out of the saddle and you’re trying to keep pace with the other boys. Next thing you know, you’re all pacin’ pretty hard up climb two.

Now you’re on climb three and the conversation has turned sporadic, one word at a time, between breathing, sweat is building on faces and you can feel a little slobber bead building on your bottom lip.

At this point, you realize this is no chill recovery ride, but the other guys aren’t complaining, though they are breathing kinda hard. Can I continue like this?, you think. So you get to daydreaming… man, they must be feeling great, I’ll just sit right here on his wheel cause I better not push the pace anymore, damn, they’re riding strong, look at those guys’ calves… are they feeling this… wait, he’s groaning a bit, is he hurting, damn, how much more can dude drive the pace up there, he said he wanted a recovery ride… But you press on, and you know you haven’t shown your cards just yet, you’re hangin’ on, in fact, looks like you’re feeling a lot better from that stomach crap, pedals are turnin’ over pretty well, so far. You settle into a nice tempo, you can hear these guys breathing. Somebody says something about the view, the other guy agrees, you hear some labor in their words, you mutter something about the perfect weather, but that costs you some valuable air.

Right about now your hams have some sizzle and your quads are runnin’ hot, but all systems say go, so you decide to pull up in front and set the tempo. They call the bluff and hold tight on your wheel. Talking is reduced to single breathy words, …”whew”… “big”… “hill”… , “yup”… , “killer.” The road begins to pitch up again and you can feel the fire in your legs and you think, mmm, that’s the feeling of those guys getting nervous, you keep driving, now you’re up outta the saddle, they stay on, you settle back and keep tempo, now your legs are filling with lactic acid, they’re heavier and the burn is switching to a numb ache, and you think, this is the feeling of them about to break, so in one seamless move you shift into a higher gear, rise outta the saddle and blast off, you look back and bros are on the chase, hackin’ at the pedals, cursin’ you as they fall back, now your legs are like sacks of oatmeal and wood -on fire!, but you continue to deliver, your heart is in your ears and your taking bites of air for oxygen.

The damage is done, you’re at the top of the climb seeing double. Here they come, talkin’ smack and asking who’s idea it was it to hit these hills. Nice moves, congratulations all around.

So the chill recovery ride everyone agreed on is out the door, left at the bottom of the hill. But you knew that before getting on the bike. You just ignored the translation. When Rider A said he rode hard the day before and needed a recovery ride, what he meant is that he’s feeling stronger everyday and he wants to show off his climbing skills. Rider B said he’s still building base and he had to work in the afternoon, but he really was saying that he wanted to get in a serious workout before he was stuck at work all weekend. You (rider C), said you were recovering from the stomach funk, but a previous ride showed you were on a nice upswing, and you wanted to see just how well you faired in comparison with the rest of the gang when the going got tough.

So there you all are, deciding where to go next. Everyone agrees there have already been enough hills, so you head to the lowlands to pace the rollers. Before long, somebody speaks up, “Hey, you guys feel like going up Amsterdam?” Rider B laughs nervously, “Holy shit… sure, why not.” You reply, “I guess I’m down if we can take it easy,” but you’re thinking, I’m feelin’ pretty good today, I wonder if I can take it faster than last week… “Right turn!”