16 Feb

From The Ride Journal, “The Swarm” by Patrick Bohan:

“The stillness inside a large group of cyclists is fascinating. To be part of a large body in movement but more or less unmoving relative to those around you is hypnotic. Like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees, the peloton exhibits unity of action and single-mindedness; only the whole is appreciable to the observer while its individuals blur and coalesce. To belong to that animate mass, to feel part of something faster and larger than oneself is one element of the appeal of the sport.

There is also silence. The mesmerizing whirr and the clicks and the occasional shouts are contained, isolated from the muteness outside and beyond the group. Turn your head to look around and suddenly the wind isn’t rushing into your ears. The hushed world slips by. Inside, all is quiet, still. Looking towards the side of the road, I see the outside as a strange, lonely place: fields, parked or stationary cars, hedgerows, gates, some bystanders, a house or school and I feel a sharp pang of pleasure to be inside and to belong.”

One of the very best times I’ve ever had riding was when I got the chance to ride for several miles in a very fast peloton in the 2001 Ride for the Roses in Austin – no LA wasn’t in this peloton. It was an experience like no other and a thrill I will never forget. I could hear that "swarm of bees" coming up behind me so I quickly got up to speed and moved in. It was a group of about 20 guys and they were flying.

I’ve never been in such a fast, tightly packed group – what a rush – and what pressure. Surrounded on all sides and all going the same speed. You screw up and everybody goes down. I loved it, I’ve ridden in groups before but nothing like that.

Patrick Bohan describes that experience – and then some – in The Swarm. Great piece.

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