beautiful and fast



You should all run out of your houses, right now, and get on road bikes. Take them to the country. Trust me, it will be great.

Charles arranged for me and some other friends to do exactly that last weekend, and I think I’m hooked. Most of you already understand that I approach city biking with the kind of inflexible zeal most often associated with religious pilgrims or genocidal tyrants. But this kind of biking — cycling, really, as people like the one I am becoming find themselves insisting on calling it — it’s something else entirely.

Charles has an in with a bike shop guy that allowed us to rent Madone 5.2’s. These are very fancy bikes, built of little more than ashes, glue and less metal than you have in your coin jar. As you can imagine, they are very, very fast. Getting onto one, I immediately understood the profound absurdity of “intelligent design” in a new way. Had we been intelligently designed, surely this is how our muscles and tendons would have been deployed: stretched onto a frame that can outrun a deer, and more than a few racehorses.

It’s easy to develop a taste for this sense of power, to seek that Frankensteinian reconfiguration. And yes, you will find that you’ve become an abomination: the villagers will never do anything but recoil at the sight of your spandex and energy bars. But you won’t care anymore, because you will be a very fast abomination.

On a weekend like last one — wow. What better way to be outside? Each pedal stroke was a moon-leap across dozens of yards of bean plants fading to yellow; violet flowers climbing up dried cornstalks; cows wallowing beside me and hawks coasting on thermals above me. I love autumn, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to capture the (probably illusory) intensity of the childhood memories of hay mazes and cider and indian corn that define its mental timbre. Consuming that landscape at speed, though — that just about does the trick.

About the author

Tom Lee


  • It’s surprisingly easy to get out to this stuff from the various cities – I’ve spent all summer doing it here in NYC, and the putative “Escape from DC” movie is even easier, I think, with the C&O trail.

    It’s disturbingly easy to start sinking real coin on getting yourself up to real Frankensteinian levels, though. I didn’t really understand what the big deal was about clip-in shoes, till I got them. If you like hills now…

    I’ve always wanted to do the Pittsburgh-DC trek. One day.

  • […] I rode my bicycle a hundred miles yesterday, and so yes, this is mostly an extended humble-brag. But it is also a mark of how much has changed since my first, ecstatic road bike experience. […]

By Tom Lee