No One Rides Alone

12.22.2005 | 9:38 pm

I know some people who will not ride unless they have company. I am not one of those people. I like riding with another person or with a small group (or even, occasionally, a large group), but I’m also happy to go riding by myself.

And yet, I never ride alone. There’s always that stupid voice in my head, right there with me, providing a narrative, giving advice, and making remarks about my riding ability.

Frankly, I don’t care for him much.


Meet the Voice in My Head

Oh, he (yeah, he’s male) doesn’t talk all the time. In fact, sometimes he’ll go for long stretches without saying a word. And the times he chooses to talk actually says a lot about him. It’s always when I’m right at my limit. I could use some encouragement. And so that’s when he says things like,

  • “So. This is all you’ve got, is it?”
  • “Any time you’d like to step it up, feel free.”
  • “Come on. Go. Seriously, it’s time for you to stop holding back.”

And, sometimes, he doesn’t say anything at all. He just laughs. Man, I hate it when he does that.


No Comfort, No Help

As near as I can tell, the voice in my head lives to motivate me exclusively through the medium of sarcasm and derision. Why is this the case? I mean, this is just a voice in my head. It’s me, talking to me. Why can’t I say nice things to myself?

For example, I’d love to hear me say to myself:

  • “Hey, you’re headed for a personal best. Keep up the good work!”
  • “Don’t worry about fading. You’ve done your best.”
  • “You can do it! I have complete confidence in you!”

Come to think of it, never mind. That guy sounds like a motivational speaker. I think I prefer the sarcastic, snide guy.


Maybe It’s Just One Guy?

I did extensive research for today’s post, consisting of instant messaging with my friend Dug for a few minutes. First off, I should point out that it’s not easy to broach this topic. Asking a guy if he hears voices in his head is similar to accusing that guy of being insane.

Dug said that of course he heard a voice when he’s riding hard. As near as I could tell, it’s the same guy I hear. Condescending, disappointed, and curious as to why you’re even bothering if this is all you’ve got.

I developed the theory that perhaps everyone has the same voice. That there’s just one snarky, ethereal guy, wandering the earth and whispering mean-spirited remarks into our ears. A disappointed, snide, and sarcastically amused spirit guide for cyclists, if you will.


Or Maybe It’s Not

Then, because I am an extremely intrepid journalistic type who always wants to get my facts straight, I conducted even more research, this time in the form of an instant message conversation with my brother-in-law/friend Rocky.

It turns out that Rocky has got a voice, too. But it’s a way different voice. His voice tells him, in a matter-of-fact way, to cut it out. “This is stupid. You are not getting paid for this. And this in not fun,” it says to him.

And when Rocky really dials it up, a completely new voice barges in. This one doesn’t even talk. It just belts out a primal yell.

I’m pretty sure my inner voice has never yellled. Maybe that’s why Rocky makes all the technical moves, and I clip out at the first sign of danger.


Final Report

Based on my exhaustive research, I make the following assertions about cyclists and inner voices:

  • All cyclists hear voices when they ride hard.
  • The type of voice you hear corresponds to the type of rider you are.
  • None of the voices are friendly.
  • We are therefore all either equally sane, or equally insane.

I am of course, interested to know what kind of voice you hear, what it says, and under what conditions.

Also, I’d like to know if mine is the only one that speaks with an outrageous French accent.


  1. Comment by Tyson | 12.22.2005 | 9:59 pm

    I am do glad to hear that you hear that voice too! I told some of my my non-cyclist friends about him, and they told me that cycling was obviously making me schizophrenic. There is not, apparently, a similar inner voice associated with driving a car…I have named my voice "Sarge" because he sounds like (and has the same attitude as) a Drill Seargent from the Marines. He mostly refers to me as "Little Wimp", or "Big Pussy" (or my personal favorite "Maggot"), and he delights in make fun of me, and belittling my pain. He especially likes rain. If I even think about turning around because of rain, he goes on, and on (and on!) about how real men aren’t afraid of a little water.All in all, I’m glad for his company though, because without him I’d still suck at climbing, decending, going fast, and biking in anything but perfect weather.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 12.22.2005 | 10:37 pm

    my voice is female. i’m pretty sure she’s kathy bates. not the nice kathy bates either, but the kathy bates from misery. except she’s always naked. i ride faster to get away from her.

  3. Comment by ladilynn | 12.22.2005 | 10:42 pm

    Hi FC,I don’t bike, but still have an annoying voice such as yours that manages to push me beyond my limits. Mine is a woman who has a German accent and a whip (like Col Klink in Hogan’s Heroes). "Vas ist dis? You are such a vimp – you call dis (insert physical activity here) – whip – get your butt in gear vooman. Vat a vuss you are!"Take it easy,~D~

  4. Comment by Unknown | 12.22.2005 | 11:25 pm

    Somehow I ended up with Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man in my head, endlessly reciting numbers. "2 hours 20 minutes and 5 seconds down, and you’ve gone 35 miles, that’s not very fast, but then again in another 40 minutes you will have gone, let’s see, 35 divided by 2.3 is something like 15 or something — you’re pretty slow today, why are you so slow? slow cyclists aren’t very cool — so maybe you’ll go 45 miles in 3 hours and then your weekly mileage will be 135 miles — 135 miles and it’s already Friday? By Friday, good cyclists have already gone 200 miles. 200 miles, that’s a good number. 135, that’s not so good. You’ve gotta ride 200 if you’re gonna be good. How many hours would that take? 200 divided by 15, that’s 13 and a half hours or so, that’s not so much. Good cyclists ride 20 hours a week, don’t they? 13 hours, ok, 13 hours…"Mostly it goes on like that forever.

  5. Comment by Daniel | 12.22.2005 | 11:41 pm

    It’s all true. The voices thing.My Bike Voice generally just mocks my appearance while expressing vague shame at being stuck in the head of someone so slow. I placate it by telling it about the next team-sponsor-knockoff jersey we’re going to purchase.I have a Running Voice, too. The Running Voice tells me that what we’re doing is really, really boring, and can we stop now, please?

  6. Comment by Unknown | 12.22.2005 | 11:43 pm

    Yeah, I have one of those voices. When I’m going hard, it mostly says things like "WHEEEEE!!!!" Then again, I’m a track sprinter, so ‘going hard’ means something like 49mph on a fixie behind a motorcycle.Come to think of it, I guess that’s the difference between roadies and trackies: track racing is FUN!

  7. Comment by Kevin | 12.22.2005 | 11:43 pm

    My voice only really ever says one thing: "QUIT"Of course there are variations on this theme."Why don’t you just quit?""Quit now while you still can.""Only a pansy would quit, but you are a pansy."On another note, I think "sane" and "insane" are defined by social norms. If, as your theory suggest, every cyclist hears a voice, that is considered sane. Which means anyone who comments and doesn’t hear a voice is crazy!!!

  8. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 12.23.2005 | 12:39 am

    Muse Monkey is in the hospital, Elden, with respiratory problems. There was a prayer request from her site.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 12:43 am

    I wish the voice in my head were simply chastising my weakness. Mine sings songs. Bad songs.Once in a while I get Pink Floyd’s "Wish You were Here," and when that happens I feel privileged. More often, it’s a really bad pop song. On a mediocre day, it’s a cheesy tune from one of my daughter’s Barbie videos. On a bad day, we’re talking Britney Spears singing "Oops I did it again." And I only know the chorus for that song, so it goes relentlessly over and over in my noggin.The only solution is to go hard enough that the pounding of blood in my head blocks it out. This is fine on a day of intervals, but not so useful on a rest day. And it’s probably risking an aneurism.But a bad day on the bike is better than a good day of most other things.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 3:21 am

    I think my inner voice has three sort of distinct personalities. Yeah, one is the Sarge voice Tyson mentioned, the other two are Panicky Guy, and Rational Guy. Sarge spends most of his time calling me a pussy. Panicky guy spends most of his time warning me that this next hill is really going to hurt me, and I may have to walk, so I should just quit now and call a cab. Rational Guy is okay though. I like Rational Guy. He sounds like Bill Pullman playing the President of the United States. He usually says stuff like "hey, it’s been five miles. Sip some HammerHeed and have a bite of Clif bar to stay fresh." Or, "Hey, slow down… there’s a big hill coming up and you’re going to need to have your legs under you." The weird thing is the voices argue a bit. I come to a huge unexpected hill on a ride through strange territory and Sarge starts screaming, "what is your major malfunction Al! Get your stinking a$$ up that hill!" Panicky Guy starts arguing in favor of turning around, maybe walking a bit, or at a minimum looking into whether Shimano makes a four chainring crankset. "Ooooh, don’t climb the hill. This is going to hurt." Rational Guy usually wins out. "Both you guys, shut up. Al, get up out of the saddle. Start a good breathing rhythm. Upshift. Watch your cadence. And you, Panicky Guy… quit weeping before I have Sarge kick your a$$." At the end long steep hill climbs, I sometimes also hear Gabby Hayes. But I think that’s only because the oxygen debt is making me hallucinate.

  11. Comment by Andrew | 12.23.2005 | 3:52 am

    I used to hear them voices but the Seroquel makes them go away.

  12. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 12.23.2005 | 6:52 am

    I haven’t heard my voice for a while. The kind of pathetic rides I have had the past 6 months haven’t been enough to rouse him from his slumber. Yes, my voice is a he. And he has nothing nice to say. For the past 15 years, all I’ve heard from him is nasty comparisons between my historical self of 73kg (160lb) and the new improved 123kg (270lb) model. He chimes in at the most devastating moments, like when I’m struggling up a pathetic incline that in 1988 wouldn’t have even registered as "up" but in 2005 registers as "where’s the bloody ventolin". And the stuff he says is far from motivational – "You used to beat Robbie McEwen, now I bet you’d be out of breath beating his eggs for breakfast".Sorry Tyson for this next bit. The bike voice has a cousin. The voice that tells me how to drive. The complete opposite of the type of advice my wife often gives while co-piloting on our joint outings. My wife is in my left ear with things like, "stay behind this old lady doing 20 under the limit, you’re saving petrol" while my head voice is in my right ear saying "change lanes, or change roads, or change wives. CHANGE SOMETHING!"Not helpful. Ever.

  13. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 12.23.2005 | 10:51 am

    Mine sounds like R. Lee Ermey! It’s horrible! Glad to know I’m not nuts!(Completely, that is! I do ice ride ya know!)

  14. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 1:14 pm

    One of my many voices wonders what Eldon is do for trainning "man, he is going to be riding hard this year, you better pick it up…"John

  15. Comment by Kelly | 12.23.2005 | 1:52 pm

    It isn’t just when I’m riding that I hear my voice, but when I jog as well. They are, however, quite consistent and I’m grateful for that. Can you imagine the multiple personalities?She (the "Voice") is so loud and nagging that I call her Marge. It just sounds like the type of name that would yell the things she says to me:"Hurry UP! This isn’t a JOY RIDE!" "Does GET THE LEAD OUT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?" and my favorite and oft-quoted"Come on, Molasses! IF YOU WERE GOING ANY SLOWER YOU’D BE GOING BACKWARD!"She’s a real pain sometimes, but I’m never alone in my head. That would just be crazy.Kelly and Marge

  16. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 3:32 pm

    Hey Fatty,Yeah, I have the voices. They’re mostly derogatory and motivating like everyone else that has posted.But the most annoying, as bikedad has pointed out, has to be the songs!A co-worker insisted I had to watch a mike meyers movie. This happened to be a night before a 180 mile ride. Guess what rolled around my head the next day during all of the climbing? S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night…..over and over and over. The worst. Thank you Bay City Rollers……..

  17. Comment by craig | 12.23.2005 | 4:06 pm

    mine sings songs from NWA. The violent tone inspries me and Eazy’s voice is soothing at the same time.

  18. Comment by Loes | 12.23.2005 | 4:30 pm

    I’ve got two voices, one rational and the other emotional, and usually they start arguing whenever I get tired. I get discussions like "You can’t do it" "You must" "You can’t do it" "You must" or "You’re weak" "You’re not" "You’re weak" "You’re not".

  19. Comment by pete | 12.23.2005 | 6:18 pm

    Interesting…If I do have a voice, it’s a whole lot less inspiring than anyone elses. In fact, I’d describe it as "demotivational collaborationist." The kind of things it might suggest are:"12 miles? Well, that’s almost twenty. I mean, if you just turned round now that be more than 20 in total…""M’mm, I bet that cafe sells nice cream cakes.""Trying to spin the pedals this fast is really difficult. Who’ll ever know if you go onto the big ring for a while?""Let’s not go out in the rain. Just get the train."

  20. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 6:26 pm

    man, you’re wierd, hearing voices and stuff. oh wait,hang on a second. i thought i heard someone tellingme to shut-up. no, you shut-up. oh yeah! sorry i gottago, it’s getting ugly inside my head…ow, quit it.

  21. Comment by tayfuryagci | 12.23.2005 | 6:57 pm

    my voice is sick, for real. he (it is a he) either has MPD or bipolar disorder. he has major mood swings, when I ride if the weather’s good and I’m going fast feeling "thin and fit" the voice is either very quiet sort of sleeping or cheering me up. if I feel fat and slow and there are dogs around he insults me. and he cusses like a 17th century sailor!

  22. Comment by Unknown | 12.23.2005 | 8:11 pm

    My inner voice doesn’t talk. It sings Depeche Mode songs at me.

  23. Comment by Loes | 12.24.2005 | 12:01 am

    I’ve just to skated a marathon competition and I’ve been paying attention to my voices and other. Usually I don’t really notice them since I’m just used to it but seriously, they’re awful. They we’re fighting like nearly all competition long."You went out yesterday, no wonder you’re riding like this.""No you didn’t! Oh wait, you did. But you got back early!""You had to get up early.""But still."Seriously. My voices are dumb. And I’m starting to wonder why they speak English while that isn’t my native tongue. Weird, weird, weird.And going out the evening before a competition is not smart, but it was fun though. Just as the competition.

  24. Comment by Stephen | 12.24.2005 | 1:46 pm

    Funny, I have that little voice in my head also. Mine’s a most irritating peckerwood sometimes. Make that MOST of the time. At those times, I usually do my best to ‘change the channel’.Just dropped by to say ‘Thanks’ for all your great blogs, for the giggles, chuckles, and the hearty guffaws you have given me these past few weeks since I began this blogging advernture.Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.steve

  25. Comment by david | 12.24.2005 | 10:22 pm

    Just a note to say I caught a link to your site from I have had a great time reading!


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