This week I’ve been reading Paul Fournel’s Need for the bike. Fournel is a member of the Oulipo collective of avant-guard French writers and he brings a literary panache to writing about cycling. Here is an extract from the novel:
“And then one morning I know longer heard the sound of someone running behind me, the sound of rhythmic breathing at my back. The miracle had taken place. I was riding. I never wanted to put my feet back down for fear that the miracle wouldn’t happen again. I was in seventh heaven.In a similar vein, I’ve been listening to podcasts of the UK’s BikeShow on the best of cycling writing. The program discusses the development of a new magazine called The Ride Journal that works to publish such writing. Rather than getting fixated over cycling products, the journal aims to focus on the experiences of the rider. You can also hear about some haute écrit velo in the magazine Rouleur. If only I could read the original in French.
I did a tour around the house, proving to myself that I could do four right turns (for a number of weeks I preferred turning right). I was no longer afraid of anything. I rocketed past the clump of nettles that usually scared me; I rode panic-free down the long lonely road behind the house and came out in front again, in triumph, but still unable to raise my hand in a victory salute.
I’ve never gotten over this miracle.
Learning to swim didn’t move me like this, and it was really only learning to read that equalled the intensity of learning to ride. Within a few months, then, I learned, in that order, riding and reading. At the age of five, that Christmas, I had arrived: I knew what my work would be, and my leisure”