Bring the Pain

No, I’m not talking about French bread, although that wouldn’t be bad either.

I just read this sentence 3 minutes ago in an email from a loyal client who has paid to come and ride probably the biggest bike tour we’ll have ever run (Italian-French Alps). I know him and he likes the pain, so he’s not joking.

This ‘suffering’ thing has been beat to death and I’ve written about it more than a few times, I know, but since we still go out and seek it, there must be some value in talking about it….or not. Either way, I’m going to.

Our tours, in general, are pretty tough. Some, like the Cevennes, are manageable and enjoyable for a wide range of riders, but even there we have 10+ km climbs. It’s not a stroll in the park. The custom tour above will most likely involve 15,000 meters of climbing in a week, with 7 or 8 cols well over 2000 meters. You either relish the hurt or you just know that’s what it takes to get the view from the top.

You see all types of attitudes toward suffering when you watch people, day in and day out, doing it. There are those who obviously love it, and maybe even need it. Then there are those who reach their limit somewhere up the 2nd col of the day and don’t mind letting you know it. Everyone without exception, however, forgets all about whatever personal hell they were enduring by the time dinner rolls around. It’s sort of incredible when you know how much effort people put out to get up a 1500 meter climb. Some look forward to the pain, while others probably lose sleep over it. The funny thing is, even the ones with sleep deprivation keep coming back!

On a related note, I just got back from Canada, where I was yet once again hit by the sense of entitlement (no, it’s not just for Millennials) people seem to have back home (we have it here, too, it’s just not as evident, at least to me). Drive-thru coffee shops and ATMs, bigger and bigger houses with bigger and bigger TVs, and all sorts of meaningless gadgets fill at least some of the lives I glanced while I was there. But out of this culture that desires comfort and avoids undue effort comes basically all of our clients. Is it the greatest of ironies or does it completely make sense? Stay tuned to the next episode…or tell me. I have no idea, really.


5 thoughts on “Bring the Pain

  1. Beyond pain, there is a whole other universe of more pain. And I can’t stop looking for it. I live in a bizarro world.

  2. It’s pain but with tangible results unlike what most of your typical clients’ paid work involves. A sag wagon, bike guide(s) with pre-planned route during –with luxury meals & accommodations after –make it a rather focused & controllable pain.

    There’s also the reward: even non-cyclists understand that alpine climbs are hard, so as soon as the rider (or your guide) posts a pic to FB, IG & Strava atop Ventoux/Huez/Izoard/Tourmalet the likes and kudos will prolong the dopamine high. And let’s not get started with N+1 bikes, and gadgetry, if you want to talk entitlement.

    I’m as guilty as the next road rider of enjoying the soc media recognition for tough cols and epic rides. But it’s always struck me as bizarre how few people react to the _other_ kind of epic rides, those truly uncomfortable and often painful, self-made, fully-loaded tours on a 30+ kg bike. The kind where you can you find yourself ‘wild’ camping beside highway onramps due to a route miscalculation (because you’re figuring out the route with only the help of paper maps, google and local riders’ tips).

    It’s all about avg speed I guess. It’s funny how paid bike tours of 10-15 years ago was generally of the Butterfield & Robinson riding through gorgeous landscapes variety, now it’s seems mainly about col bagging.

    • Funny, I was thinking the other day how many ‘adventure cycling’ pics and articles have been popping up on my Timeline lately! I’m sure there’s a growing audience (when I first did it in ’96 nobody cared or knew what I was even talking about) out there for it, but of course it doesn’t have the bling that light road bikes and big cols have.

      As for pain, I’ve never come close to the suffering I went through on the 3 Haute Routes I rode, and that’s basically a guided tour…with Mavic support thrown in to boot! I have never been reduced to tears on a bike packing / touring trip (although I came close to losing my mind once).

      That being said, your point is well taken. I think we might be looking at the ‘pain’ in different ways. I’m just talking about the physical effort part, not the wild camping bit.

      Your final point is spot on, too, but seems to go hand in hand with the increasing ‘extremeness’ in sport. Why would any sane person choose to run around Mont Blanc for God’s sake!? I am guessing that as John and I get older, our tours will become more or more like Butterfield & Robinson, which would be great as long as we could get away with charging the same prices!

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