Lennard Zinn

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Michael W. Austin

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Michael W. Austin

Patrick Vala-Haynes

Peter M. Hopsicker

Steen Nepper Larsen

Bryce T. J. Dyer

Patrick Vala-Haynes

Gregory Bassham and Chris Krall

Scott Tinley

Catherine A. Womack and Pata Suyemoto

Russell Arben Fox

Patrick Vala-Haynes

Robert H. Haraldsson

John Richard Harris

Zack Furness

Patrick Vala-Haynes

Heather L. Reid

Steven D. Hales

Michael W. Austin

Patrick Vala-Haynes

John Gleaves

Raymond Angelo Belliotti

Andreas de Block and Yannick Joye

Patrick Vala-Haynes

Seth Tichenor

Tim Elcombe and Jill Tracey

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Mike McNamee


JESÚS ILUNDÁIN-AGURRUZA is Assistant Professor of
Philosophy, and Allen and Pat Kelley Faculty Scholar at Linfield
College, Oregon. He has published in the journals Sports, Ethics, and
and Proteus. He is a category 2 racer.

MICHAEL W. AUSTIN is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at
Eastern Kentucky University, where he works primarily in ethics.
He has published Conceptions of Parenthood: Ethics and the Family (2007),
Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind
2007), and Football and Philosophy: Going Deep (2008).


FRITZ ALLHOFF is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy
Department at Western Michigan University, as well as a Senior
Research Fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for
Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. In addition to editing the
Philosophy for Everyone series, Allhoff is the volume editor or co-editor
for several titles, including Wine & Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007),
Whiskey & Philosophy (with Marcus P. Adams, Wiley, 2009), and
Food & Philosophy (with Dave Monroe, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007).


Series editor: Fritz Allhoff

Not so much a subject matter, philosophy is a way of thinking. Thinking not just about the Big Questions, but about little ones too. This series invites everyone to ponder things they care about, big or small, significant, serious … or just curious.

Running & Philosophy:
A Marathon for the Mind

Edited by Michael W. Austin

Wine & Philosophy:
A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking

Edited by Fritz Allhoff

Food & Philosophy:
Eat, Think and Be Merry

Edited by Fritz Allhoff and Dave Monroe

Beer & Philosophy:
The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking

Edited by Steven D. Hales

Whiskey & Philosophy:
A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas

Edited by Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams

College Sex – Philosophy for Everyone:
Philosophers With Benefits

Edited by Michael Bruce
and Robert M. Stewart

Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone:
A Philosophical Tour de Force

Edited by Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza
and Michael W. Austin

Climbing – Philosophy for Everyone:
Because It’s There

Edited by Stephen E. Schmid

Hunting – Philosophy for Everyone:
In Search of the Wild Life

Edited by Nathan Kowalsky

Christmas – Philosophy for Everyone:
Better Than a Lump of Coal

Edited by Scott C. Lowe

Cannabis – Philosophy for Everyone:
What Were We Just Talking About?

Edited by Dale Jacquette

Porn – Philosophy for Everyone:
How to Think With Kink

Edited by Dave Monroe

Serial Killers – Philosophy for Everyone:
Being and Killing

Edited by S. Waller

Dating – Philosophy for Everyone:
Flirting With Big Ideas

Edited by Kristie Miller and Marlene Clark

Gardening – Philosophy for Everyone:
Cultivating Wisdom

Edited by Dan O’Brien

Motherhood – Philosophy for Everyone:
The Birth of Wisdom

Edited by Sheila Lintott

Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone:
The Dao of Daddy

Edited by Lon S. Nease
and Michael W. Austin

Forthcoming books in the series:

Fashion – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Jessica Wolfendale
and Jeanette Kennett

Coffee – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Scott Parker
and Michael W. Austin

Blues – Philosophy for Everyone
Edited by Abrol Fairweather
and Jesse Steinberg


Michael would like to dedicate this to Karl, Jake, and the rolling
hills of Kentucky.

Jesús dedicates this to the inventor of the wheel – who got us all
on this path – and to his family, who patiently understands his
cycling passion.



If you’ve picked up this book, there is no doubt that you adore bicycles and the freedom they offer. Whether you love the wind in your hair (okay, through the holes in your helmet), the sound of your own hard breathing and the persistent thumping of your heart as you climb steep mountains, the delicate maneuvering required to steer and power knobby tires through obstacles, the feel of countless impacts absorbed by your arms and your bike’s suspension system on a rocky downhill, or the concentration of hours spent mastering a stunt, you also love the journey your mind takes while on the bike.

Riding bicycles takes us away from the frantic rat race as well as from the mundane and uninspiring. It at times gives us uninterrupted opportunities to muse at length and at other times demands all of our concentration and focus. We are in control of our destiny in the moment, not at the whim of the next interruption coming our way in our want-everything-right-now world.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we embark on a philosophical journey at the same time we embark on a physical journey every time we throw our leg over our saddle. And even when we ride with no particular destination in mind, we still are steering a more defined path on the physical journey than we are on the philosophical one. There are a finite number of places that the former will take us, whereas there is no telling where we will end up on the latter one. That’s one of the reasons we ride, and that’s one of the reasons you are reading this book.

The authors of each leg of the philosophical journey incorporated within these pages are beckoning you down a new road in your lifelong search for great rides. Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Mike Austin have assembled an incredible group of tour guides to lead you down these roads, only accessible to those who travel on two wheels under their own power.

This journey will take you literally and figuratively to the ends of the earth. When it comes to commuting by bike as a way of life, John Harris and Robert Haraldsson could not be much closer philosophically, but geographically and meteorologically, Harris’s Texas could not be further from Haraldsson’s Iceland. Similarly, the leaderless common man declaring that he is not blocking traffic, but rather he is traffic in Zack Furness’s discussion of the Critical Mass movement could not be further from the drive for supremacy of the heroes, quasi-heroes, and anti-heroes of Scott Tinley’s, Gregory Bassham and Chris Krall’s, and Raymond Belliotti’s discussions of Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond, and Marco Pantani. Finally, Belliotti’s, John Gleaves’s, and Bryce Dyer’s discussions of how best to apply rules on doping and bicycle design to bike racing are about as far away as you can get from the gleeful childish discovery of balance and freedom and the adult embrace of suffering, life lessons, and a woman’s touch found in the routes Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Mike McNamee, Pete Hopsicker, Tim Elcombe and Jill Tracey, Steven Hales, Steen Nepper Larsen, Heather Reid, Catherine Womack and Pata Suyemoto, and Mike Austin take us on. And throughout, Patrick Vala-Haynes spices up the journey with creative signposts along the way, some of which leave us gasping for breath before we even embark on the next road that beckons.

The journey calling to you in this book is arguably one you have been on ever since you first got the taste for balancing on two wheels. Physical balance and the freedom to roam far and wide were immediately paired with a sense of emotional balance and the freedom to express the wide range of emotions you felt while riding. The flights of fancy on your bike, dreams of great personal feats as well as of being able to ride in a world where everyone rode and cars were nowhere to be seen, all took you partway along every single route in this book. Now these routes you’ve started on will be further enriched by the eloquent words of Austin’s and Ilundáin-Agurruza’s incredible group of authors. Enjoy the ride!


No matter how dominant and great the cyclist, they all say the same thing: “Cycling is a team sport. Without my teammates I wouldn’t have won.” Well, this is even truer for the book you hold in your hands (which we hope feels as nice as a fine carbon handlebar, if a tad heavier). Cycling & Philosophy is an accomplishment that must be celebrated as the work of the peloton of contributors who have made it possible. They all took hard pulls, and no one skipped their turn at the front when we, the editors, put them to work, revision upon revision, with all kinds of big and minor adjustments to be made on the fly. And they all did this with a smile. This is truly their win.

The team at Wiley-Blackwell has been a formidable boon, not the least because they were willing to line up at the start line before anyone and then make sure we all crossed the finish line. Beginning with their fearless series editor Fritz Allhoff, who got the wheels rolling in the first place, following Brigitte Lee Messenger’s steady lead, and not forgetting Tiffany Mok and teammates who, always the consummate professionals, worked with us to make sure we delivered on time and in style. A heartfelt thank you goes to them all (and our fit cyclist hearts can give a big thank you).

Neither of us had ridden a tandem before (sometimes called the divorce bike for a reason), working so closely on a project that took the better part of a year. But, in our case, rather than discord we have found that it has brought out a true collaborative spirit where we learned to work with each other’s different talents. The only thing left is to decide whose turn it is to be the stoker now…

We also want to acknowledge our families for their unwavering support, cheering us on when we struggled, and never complaining when we went out to do “research” and work on the book, as we spun our cranks at the office or on the road. They were the perfect “team support car,” and without their help we would have had to hitch a premature ride back on the bed of a farm truck.

There are some people who over the years have helped make us into the riders and thinkers we are today. The ride down memory lane would be too long – if pleasant – to reflect here, but we celebrate the many teammates, coaches, mechanics, mentors, colleagues, and even riders we have met in chance encounters, who have left an indelible mark and given us more meaningful reasons to be on the road, rain or shine. This is also their triumph.

And it is also yours, dear reader! You have picked this book up, and without a flicker of doubt are joining our group ride. We are honored to count you as a fellow thoughtful cyclist. Godspeed, and may you enjoy and find wisdom in this philosophical Tour de Force you are about to ride!

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Michael W. Austin



An Introduction to Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone

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Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

H. G. Wells

Life is a like ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.

Charles M. Schulz

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein

Before the days of Wii’s, iPods, and cell phones chock full of useless apps, a child’s Christmas dream gift often was a bicycle. Given that you are reading these words, chances are that a (new) bike would still be your ideal “stocking stuffer.” Or maybe it would be so for someone you know, and for whose sake you are checking out this book. Well, Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone is a lot cheaper than a new bike, especially now that pricey carbon is de rigueur for any cyclist worth her cleats. More importantly, it comes specked with readings that will set readers’ minds on paths as liberating and full of surprises as those first two-wheeled escapades afforded. Indeed, for many our initial forays into freedom – often from parental oversight – rode on the sound of rubber on gravel, pavement, and dirt. The humble bicycle is a vehicle for enthusiastic independence and intellectually embodied inquisitiveness: pedal and probe, spin and delve, ride and discover. The world is a big place, geographically and existentially, and the view from the saddle is a valuable perspective that allows us to cover life’s ways at humanly fit speeds that nurture reflection and bring satisfaction from our very actions. Wells’s optimism in seeing adults on bikes is well founded and better saddled.

Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone takes fellow “cyclophilosophers” on an adventurous spin that explores life from that saddle. Perched on it, the wind on our face, we ponder as we pedal. Bicycles, cycling, and bike races are often the source of metaphors and proverbial quips. Isn’t life like riding a bicycle or a ten-speed bike after all? Maybe. But riding a bike is not enough to understand what cycling is about, much less life. We need to shift to the reflective side of the road. Different disciplines are fond of or celebrate cycling for different reasons. Science loves cyclists. Their masochistic, hamster-like compulsive nature makes them ideal subjects to gather physiological data: put them on a trainer and have them go at it, the more pain the better. Literature finds it ripe for dalliances of many sorts, taking readers for sometimes wild, always fascinating, rides, be it Mark Twain’s Yankee, Vladimir Nabokov’s Ganin in Mary, Iris Murdoch’s numerous suitors in The Red and the Green, or H. G. Wells’s Hoopdriver in The Wheels of Chance. Even film finds it visually, dramatically, or comically rich, offering cult classics like Breaking Away, American Fliers, The Flying Scotsman, or The Triplets of Belleville. So, cycling has been around the block a few times, earning the respect of the arts and sciences. But philosophy? Doesn’t this stretch the elastic to the snapping point?

Voicing this skepticism seems to start the ride on the wrong pedal and into a stiff headwind – reason enough to whine. But it only takes one fateful ride to realize the practical wisdom of riding out into the headwind to return with the tailwind. As we write this introduction, not only do we have the wind on our backs (wind? A gale!), but we are also drafting from a formidable train of cycling philosophers. This anthology’s peloton of contributors shows that cycling genuinely engages the whole philosophical cogset: ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, and more. Indeed, this volume spins truer than a magic wheel by Alchemy Bicycle Works’ Jeremy Parfitt. Cycling is not only a worthy subject matter for philosophic inquiry, but, as you will see, it also brings its own set of philosophic conundrums – some far worse than a chain-wrapped crank. Moreover, it is also a vehicle, metaphorically and literally, for a different and rich way to think – in fact, many an idea in this book has been spun on a saddle. Philosophy puts cyclists in command of the steering again.

The members of this peloton, a group as international and picturesque as the pro bunch, are philosophers and academics from cultural studies, kinesiology, literature, and political science, besides cycling insiders and former high-caliber athletes (sometimes the athlete has become a philosopher or the philosopher taken up competition). These are wheels you can trust to draft as close as a track pursuit team. Camaraderie is one of cycling’s greatest boons, and by the time you finish this Philosophical Tour de Force they will be have become great riding buddies.

With its twenty-one rides, Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone is a veritable philosophical three-week Tour. This introduction is the Prologue by any other name. Just as three-week stage races divide into sectors according to terrain, our Tour splits and groups into six “stage segments” that contain routes of similar philosophic contours that offer shared and unique challenges and insights.

The foreword, our Tour’s first ride, stars Lennard Zinn on top of the podium. Hardly needing introduction, we are very fortunate and grateful to be able to benefit from his legendary and towering, in many a sense, status within the field. A custom bicycle builder for the vertically privileged (he owns Zinn Cycles, Inc.), he has authored several books, such as the different editions of Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance (in road, mountain, and Triathlon versions), Zinn’s Cycling Primer, or Mountain Bike Performance Manual, not to mention countless articles (particularly for VeloNews). To lace this with the least amount of spokes: he has made it possible for many of us to be much better mechanics and riders – particularly those of us who were shocked to find out wheels had nipples. Zinn’s foreword makes for a very exciting opening to this Tour, and points our wheels in the right direction – once again. We couldn’t have wished for a steadier wheel to get us started.

Spanish Tour de France winner Pedro Delgado used to remark on the big disparity between the number of kilometers set by Tour organizers and the kilometers actually ridden. What, with the warm ups, starting city neutral “parades,” rides down mountain-top finishes, or back to hotels, the “ghost” kilometers add up very quickly. We have our own version of these here. Each of the six Tour stage segments suitably opens with a “warm up,” a short narrative penned by Patrick Vala-Haynes, owner of Tommy’s Bicycle Shop in McMinnville, Oregon. The point of contact between these vignettes and the ensuing sections is like that of good tires: minimal, fleeting, yet definitely gripping and opening possibilities. They will take you along for a ride on the wild side, to which Vala-Haynes gives a fresh new meaning. Vala-Haynes is a Renaissance man: a great mechanic; an erstwhile racer who rides, runs, and plays soccer; and a talented writer who also teaches theater-stage fencing (a word to the wise: don’t challenge him, for the face-off might not take place on the road!).

Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride.

John F. Kennedy

In the following three rides, the stage on The Varieties of Cycling Experience, shine the acrobats of the bicycle, fearless speed demons who create impossible openings with their balletic moves. We are all very aware that riding a bicycle is quite a unique experience, but that very familiarity shrouds the magic that lies behind every pedal stroke. What is it that makes a bike ride enriching, enjoyable, such a simple pleasure? Cycling has specific challenges that beg to engage our full range of intellectual and emotional gears. If successful, we are rewarded with the organic unity of body and bike gracefully parting space and time.

Pete Hopsicker, the next to stand on the podium, takes us back to those first pedal strokes, shows us how the magic works, and better yet, how to best understand the experience. Enlisting a bunch of riding companions that include literary greats like Mark Twain or philosophical powerhouses like Michael Polanyi, he deftly moves in the pack on his way to making our cycling experiences more transparent. The following race has Steen Nepper Larsen, self-proclaimed tallest Danish rider (at 6 ft 7 in. we won’t argue with that), steering a phenomenological analysis of the cyclist’s experience that gets us inside the mind and skin of the rider. As his narrative matches his supple cadence, he flies through legendary roads from the Alps to the Pyrenees, giving us insight on just what riding a bike feels like and how meaningful it can be. The third ride, a time trial, shakes things up as Bryce Dyer bolts down the ramp. A dedicated time trialist himself, he pares rig and arguments to their most efficient and aerodynamic expression, and celebrates the purity of the effort against the clock and its agonic challenge. He argues for completely opening the UCI’s constricting brake levers that so tightly clamp innovative bicycle technology.

Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.

Fausto Coppi

It is my thought that clean living and a strict observance of the golden rule of true sportsmanship are foundation stones without which a championship structure cannot be built.

Marshall “Major” Taylor

Next up the road is VeloVirtues. The terrain becomes a tough “leg-breaker” of ups and downs that castigate muscles and minds in four grueling but fun and interesting jaunts. By now those in form show themselves, and we can observe the racers’ ethos: their virtues and vices. Here we find heroes and villains being fatefully marked by actions and character as they write their story pedal stroke by pedal stroke.

With a “take no prisoners attitude,” Gregory Bassham and Chris Krall deliver the next win with a careful assessment of Lance Armstrong’s qualifications as a successful person. To determine his fitness in this regard, they pit him against some pivotal philosophical rivals hailing from ancient and medieval times, such as Aristotle or Aquinas, and especially a contemporary philosopher, Tom Morris, with his 3-D Approach to Life. The following sortie has Scott Tinley, former Kona Ironman champion, bringing us up close and personal with our heroes (or quasi-heroes). No outsider to celebrity status, Tinley gives us the conceptual tools to handle finicky fame: at the hub we find a solid analysis of heroism that laces his own narrative with LeMond’s and Armstrong’s personas. Amid the fray, Catherine Womack and Pata Suyemoto throw plans into disarray when they bring the female perspective to the front of the pack. In this outing, the beautiful gender drops the rough and gruff one with arguments and testimonial evidence that create new spaces within the bunch where the feminine perspective enriches the cycling experience for all. The last cavalcade in this portion of our Tour is led by Russell Arben Fox, who calms things down so we may safely navigate some of life’s trickiest roundabouts (which seem to be sprouting like mushrooms in the rain nowadays). As complexity and a globalized market economy muck up our ability to make independent choices, he cleans the drivetrain and lubes things with “simplicity.”

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.

Iris Murdoch

In the stage of Re-Cycling we journey through the complex rapport between bicycle, environment, and urban landscape. What role is reserved to the bike amid the ecological crisis we face? There is more than one way to re-cycle, and pedaling our way through things is, if not a panacea, at least one of the most visible and ethically consistent: we ride the talk.

Robert Haraldsson is a philosopher who commutes yearlong in Iceland. As he picks his way through bad weather and worse arguments he takes away the grounds for any reluctance to commute. Mercifully, he also gives us the boon of realizing, as we follow his lead, that commuting under a range of meteorological and topological circumstances is rewarding and adds very worthy facets to our lives. Now, what excuse is left for the rest of us? Just in case, in the next foray John Harris takes the air out of car tires to put it in bicycles. He argues that we are actually morally obligated to swap steering wheel for handlebar. His refined arguments filter out our complacent ways, give us more breathing room, and promise cleaner air all around. The last course of this stage brings traffic to a halt as Zack Furness adds a social and political dimension when he takes on the polarizing Critical Mass rides – soon coming to an intersection near you. Furness, a passionate advocate, maneuvers his stance around the morass of today’s clogged cities to open up spaces that free our minds and bodies from the constraints of a car-centered culture.

Cycling is just like church – many attend, but few understand.

Jim Burlant

The big days in the mountains come next with three tough consecutive, but extremely rewarding, routes. At some point it is bound to happen; like getting a flat, the question pops up: Why pedal? Spinning Wisdom stops the heinous hissing of doubt quicker than a glueless patch. Better yet, and unlike a used patch that isn’t good any longer, the resulting insights apply to many other aspects of our existence. These Socratic Team members teach us about ourselves as we read about their insights. Indeed, this is the sweetest kind of draft.

In the opening day, a hilltop finish, Heather Reid covers a lot of ground as she revisits a cycling career that saw her come within inches of an Olympic Team berth in the track sprint. The world may have “lost” a top cyclist when she hung up her racing wheels, but it gained a solid philosopher who learned how to philosophize on the bike. Her discerning words will certainly elicit epiphanies in our readers that, making Socrates proud, will make them wiser. In the next outing, Steven Hales pulls a gutsy and crazy solo breakaway through a bunch of passes, and regales us with a narrative that blends a trove of anecdotes with a veritable philosophic buffet where we can refuel with morsels from the philosophical greats that will power readers for many jaunts to come. In the third and last “date” in the mountains, Mike Austin swaps running shoes for pedals and brings a fresh and keen perspective to the spinning wheels. Clicking into a gear that dials back the obsession that possesses some of us to a sensible level, we learn to appreciate cycling within a larger context that makes it all the more meaningful.

The last time I’d ridden 200 miles, I felt awful the next day, like I’d been hit by a truck. After the Solvang race I woke up and felt hardly a touch of soreness. I also felt like I could easily ride another 200, and I realized that I’d entered another world, the realm of instant recovery. I’ll be frank: it was a reassuring kind of world, and I could see why people might want to stay there.

Stuart Stevens

Three cyclists, while hammering during a late-fall training ride, hit some black ice and fly off a cliff. As one cyclist opens his eyes, an angel asks him, “Who do you wish to be?” “Huh?” says the cyclist. “Look, in heaven, because you rode well and lived well, you get to transform yourself into any rider who ever lived.” Just then a wool-specked racer whooshes by on a green bike. “Hey! That’s …” says the cyclist. “One of your friends,” the angel finishes. “He chose to be Fausto Coppi.” As the angel asks, “Who do you wish to be?” The Cannibal rips by. “Maaan …” says the cyclist. “My other friend’s taken Eddy already!” “Oh, no,” says the angel. “Your other friend lived. That’s just God. He wishes he were Eddy Merckx.”

By this point in our Tour the effort has taken such a toll on everyone, riders, readers, even viewers, that the temptation for a bit of extra “help” is very real. Well, choose a massage and a nice red wine instead. Fair Play on Two Wheels consists of three furious rollercoaster legs where we confront the issues of performance enhancement in cycling, and extreme competitiveness as embodied by Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx. The former bunnyhops the challenges built to test us as cyclists that we’re supposed to willingly abide by (these limit permissible means to achieve cycling’s goals), whereas the latter may put too much tension on the spokes of the sport and beyond.

John Gleaves breaks away from the conformity of traditional views with a bold attack. He argues for a revision of our current attitudes and the punishments levied against “guilty” riders by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Gleaves takes advantage of inconsistencies, astutely distinguishes between penalties and punishments, and displays panache as he drops contending arguments and brings forth interesting, promising alternatives. For his part, Raymond Belliotti manages to police the front of the bunch with a rigorous analysis that, covering any reasons to which “would-be dopers” might resort, dissuades hopeful chasers from even trying. In his carefully argued piece, Marco Pantani’s mercurial figure is the center of attention. With their contribution to the race the Belgian pair of Andreas de Block and Yannick Joye allow us to enjoy the joke about their countryman at a much deeper level, as they ponder whether The Cannibal may have taken his hunger for wins one bite too far. The resulting moral confrontation has the makings of an exciting photo finish: is trying to win at all costs a moral obligation that trumps other virtues such as friendship or generosity?

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

Ernest Hemingway

In Pedaling Circles we reach the end of the Tour. Although the standings in GC are set by now, these last three courses manage to keep the excitement with some atypical tactics and aggressive riding. Circling back, these explore alternative ways of understanding the cycling experience via unorthodox perspectives that, paradoxically, tighten any loose spokes.

Seth Tichenor brings an Eastern flavor to the Tour atop his Bhagavad Gita frame, specked with awesomeness, freedom, and yoga. Pedaling seemingly effortlessly, he calls forth cycling’s potential for the awesome, and shows how deeply transformative and enriching riding can be. Next, Tim Elcombe and Jill Tracey take the inside line, and launch a vicious attack that puts the hurt one last but memorable time. Recounting their agonizing yet satisfying Étape du Tour experience, they bring out the joy of suffering on a bike to its most meaningful expression with the help of teammates like William James, John Dewey, Phil Ligget, and Paul Sherwen – all sans mind-numbing painkillers. Finally, in the closing ride to this Tour, Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza and Mike McNamee come around for a surprise win (a tandem does make it easier!). Making the rounds through the various stages of life and cycling, they set in motion wheels within wheels that delve in, by now, familiar themes. They highlight the inherent worth of things cyclical and their unique contribution to a fun, rewarding life of the mind and on wheels. As Hemingway’s lean and mean prose explains, we come to know certain things best on a bike.

In the name of all the members of the peloton, we, as the editors and organizers of this philosophical ride, wish to thank you for joining this Tour. With the open road ahead, just like before a promising ride, these pages will transport you to new places or help revisit old haunts with fresh eyes, savoring that pleasure without equal that a bike brings to those who come to worship at its temple. Soaring to new intellectual heights on mechanical steeds, we take the inspiring view from the summit, meander our way through tricky switchbacks, and flat out fly, whether it be on silky tracks, smooth and rough roads, or on dirt. Best of all, the fun is had in the riding and reading itself. At the end of the road, this is about getting the most out of this passion we share, and which makes our lives go around. Happy and meaningful pedaling!


Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist (New York: Breakaway Books, 1997), p. 18.

Charles M. Schulz, Life is Like a Ten-Speed Bicycle (New York: HarperCollins, 1997).

From (accessed September 14, 2009).

(accessed September 14, 2009).

(accessed October 5, 2009).

(accessed October 5, 2009).

James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist (New York: New York, 1997), p. 33.

(accessed September 14, 2009).

Stuart Stevens, “Drug Test,” Outside Magazine, November 2003. Available online at (accessed November 13, 2003).

Adapted from (accessed September 14, 2009).

James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist (New York: Breakaway Books, 1997), p. 38.






A Surreal Ride


“I’m a vegetarian, you know,” Jon announced.

“You are not. They aren’t even mammals.”

“They have faces.”

“So you think they have souls?”

The creatures were so tiny we at first mistook them for spiders. Not even spiders, just a shimmer, a trick of light.

We curled into the cocoon of wet forest, cedar, and maple, thigh-high ferns. There was no reverberation of sound here. The whisp of tires on the wet backroad, ca-chink of a gear change, my laughter and Jon’s constant blather – nothing bounced back. Rather, we simply propelled ourselves into the next moment, past the next mile, through broken light, over rippled pavement. The air smelled like ice, the threat of winter. The leaves had not yet begun to change, and wouldn’t in any dramatic fashion. Not here in the North Cascades, so close to the Canadian border. Just a slow fade from green to lighter green, then yellow and … they would fall. Nothing of great drama. Hardly the proclamation of a new season.

Beneath the glowering trees, Mosquito Lake Road disappeared into bracken and rotted cedar. A wooden post warned us to YIELD.

“Who puts a YIELD sign in the middle of the road?”

Jon was right. There was a YIELD sign planted in front of us. Ten miles in on a single-lane paved road, not a single intersection or home nearby, and someone had planted a YIELD sign.

Jon stopped.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“A citizen has responsibilities. I obey the law.”

I rolled up beside him and slid off the saddle.

“Do you see?” He pointed past the sign.

I did see, the faint shift of the road from west to east.

“Maybe I should have stayed away from the mushrooms,” he said.

“You didn’t tell me you had mushrooms. All I had were eggs and potatoes.”

“In the navy. 1969. It was probably the beer more than the mushrooms. Portabella, I think.”

“You don’t experience hallucinations from eating Portabella mushrooms.” I continued to look down the road.

“The road’s moving.”

“Maybe we’re moving.”

“It’s all relative. Motion is relative,” Jon said.

He stepped on his pedal and slid fifteen feet past the YIELD sign. “See? Relative.”

I pulled alongside him. As far as we could see, the strip of pavement was crawling, bouncing, tilting, sliding. We both remounted and pedaled a few more strokes.

“At first I thought it was spiders,” he said.

Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. The road came alive, little masses of green creatures churned through my spokes, some luckier than others. The road was alive. No, not like some bad dream, but actually alive, green with stuff that moved. Not moss, or bouncing rain or scattering leaves, but frogs. A flood of frogs. Frogs?

“Frogs!” I screamed. Frogs everywhere, blanketing the road, hippety-hopping from one side to the other.

“You’re awfully excitable today. Of course they’re frogs,” Jon said. “What did you expect? Just ride slow. Don’t make any sudden movements. Ooh, you got one.”

The frogs continued to pour from the forest. A river of them. We rode more carefully than we ever had. Jon refused to stop smiling. After more than a hundred yards, the creatures began to thin. The road tipped upward.

“Do you have a block plane?” Jon asked. The flow of his conversation was as normal as ever.

I knew Jon was about to offer me his block plane. Not because I’m perceptive, but because Jon was giving away things today. He was dying and he needed to give stuff away. I already had a good plane my father had given me. But Jon’s plane would be better, even if the handle was cracked.

“I could use a good block plane,” I lied.

“You want mine?”

“Didn’t I just say that?”

“This road makes no sense. It dead-ends on top of the ridge. But the
bridges are backwards.”

“How can a bridge be backwards?”

“The first one we crossed was dated 1949.”


“The last one said 1947. That means the road was built from the top down. That’s stupid.”

“No, that’s Zen.”

“That’s what I said.” He smiled.

Simplicity and banality. That was the beauty of the moment. There were frogs. And for the moment there was Jon, growing no closer to his death. Teasing me about my sincerity. In love with ironies. Allowing me to steal his block plane.

“I’m really not a vegetarian, you know. I just like frogs.”