A Note from Fatty: This is the second part of a multi-part entry. I say “multi-part” because right now I actually have no idea how many parts it will wind up being. Anyways, today’s post will make a lot more sense if you read yesterday’s post Click here to read Fatty’s Inferno, Part I.
“Choose a road,” The Cyclist said.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“That depends on the road you choose.”
“Well,” I replied, trying to be reasonable, “generally I choose a road based on where I want to go.”
“That,” said The Cyclist, “is total nonsense. As a cyclist, you have ridden countless miles and have, almost without exception, wound up exactly where you started. Like all cyclists, you choose the road for the experience the road brings you, not because you have a destination in mind.”
“OK, fine,” I said, wondering if The Cyclist was always going to be so annoyingly cryptic. “I choose whatever road is the best for riding.”
Frankly, I expected The Cyclist to knock the choice back into my court with some kind of mumbo-jumbo like “One man’s best is another’s bane” or something like that, so I did a mental double-take when he instead merely said, “Excellent. Let’s ride,” and smoothly transitioned from his stock-still trackstand (such was my dream that, until this point, I did not until that moment realize The Cyclist had been trackstanding the whole time we were talking) to a razor-straight riding line.
I got on my bike and pursued.
I rode hard, trying to catch The Cyclist, and eventually managed to grab his wheel. Catching my breath, I looked down at the way he pedaled.
He was turning perfect circles. Not nearly perfect. Perfect. Somehow I knew.
“Hey,” I objected, “I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that it’s physiologically impossible to turn actual perfect circles.”
“For you, it is. And so it is for these riders, too.”
All at once, I noticed other riders, at which point I could not understand how I had missed them before.
They were riding side-by-side, talking and laughing. Riding — some easily, some not so easily — and enjoying the day and each other’s company.
The sun had come out, partially. It was light outside, but with little glare, and the sun was in nobody’s eyes. The temperature was an ideal 70 degrees fahrenheit.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “this is a really nice day for a ride.”
“It’s always this nice,” said The Cyclist. “The sun is always directly overhead here, so it cannot get in your eyes, but there’s always just enough cloud cover that there’s no glare. There’s also always just the slightest hint of a tailwind.”
“Is this guy always monitoring my thoughts?” I wondered.
“Yes,” replied The Cyclist. “However, I only reply to the ones worth replying to. Which you’ll probably find is a lot less often than you’d hope.”
“Speaking of thoughts,” continued The Cyclist, “It surprises me greatly that you have not yet considered the road surface.”
He was right. I hadn’t. Honestly, though, I think I can be forgiven for not thinking about the road ’til that moment, because there was nothing to think about. No road vibration. No cracks. No potholes. No crumbling shoulder. Just perfect, smooth, virgin tarmac.”
“This is amazing,” I said. “This is the most incredible pavement I have ever seen, much less ridden on.”
“And you shall never ride its equal again. This place has the best riding surface in the entire universe.”
“But I’m confused,” I said, with a confused look on my face. “You told me before that I was in hell, and then you take me on a place I’d gladly ride in for eternity. I can see there are long flats, curvy roads, challenging climbs, and fun descents. The road’s perfect and so is the weather. Everyone looks incredibly happy. How can you possibly call this ‘hell’?”
The Cyclist raised a gloved hand and pointed a finger at a passing group of cyclists. “Look at their bikes.”
He was right. Their bikes — and, come to think of it, the bikes ridden by everyone I had seen on this road — weren’t exactly awful, but they were far from great. Entry level steel bikes, some aluminum, a lot of hybrids. No carbon anywhere. No high-end components, either. No bike, in fact, that cost more than $699.
“So that’s what makes this place hell?” I asked. “Riding a bike that’s just OK, instead of incredible? ‘Cuz these people don’t look all that tormented. They seem to be having fun, in fact.”
“But,” said The Cyclist, “they have never ridden an extraordinary bike, and so an adequate one seems just fine to them. They have never fussed over the quality of a high-end chamois, so any pair of riding shorts seems comfortable. They haven’t ridden on enough roads in their lifetime to realize that they are now riding on the most perfect riding surface imaginable.”
“So,” concluded my guide, they’re having fun, all right,” said The Cyclist. “In fact, this place isn’t even hell for the people who are here. They’re very happy. Maybe they even think they’re in heaven. The point is, these are the cyclists who don’t know any better.”
“So this is some kind of Limbo?” I asked. “A place where cyclists who just rode for fun go, and their punishment is that they never realize how good they’ve got it, while never knowing that if they had a better bike, eternity could be that much better?”
“That’s part of it,” said The Cyclist. “More importantly, though, I take every really hardcore cyclist for a spin on this road before taking them to their final destination, just to rub their noses in it a little.”
[To be continued in Fatty's Inferno, Part III]