Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sufferictionary: A collaborative effort begins

A basic analysis of this blog, and in fact most discussions of bike racing and go-fast riding, reveals a common thread. To many of us suffering is tied closely with our lovely sport.

To the uninitiated this sounds worse than the reality. In fact working hard and pushing your limits creates great memories, sense of satisfaction and provides all kinds of interesting insights into your character (or lack thereof).

But I’ve often thought that suffering is far too general of a term. In fact suffering on a bike need to be qualified—it needs an adverb to its verb, a Sonny to its Cher, a Bruyneel to its Armstrong.

So with today’s post I’d like to suggest a new type of dictionary. Ideally this will be a collaborative effort to begin defining suffering in more detail. 

After all, Rider 3 has reminded us that a blog, by definition, should be random and whimsical. I’m not sure about the whimsical part because in my experience that’s a word used primarily by HGTV hosts to describe quilts or county-kitchen decorations. But in any case, here's an initial list to get the proverbial juices flowing:

Out of shape suffering: A variety of suffering that is more often than not accompanied by ample self-loathing.

Early season suffering: A combination of wind, cold, and rolling hills that invariably make legs feel especially heavy, thick and uncomfortable.

About to get dropped suffering: The rubber band is about to break. Not fun.

Hypoglycemic suffering: A type of suffering characterized by bloating, tunnel vision and an inability to ride more than 13 miles per hour despite not being out of breath or your legs hurting. Typically comes after multiple bonks (U.S. bonk, not Australian bonk) on a single ride.

Spite suffering: Suffering brought on by digging deep to ensure a rider one doesn't particularly enjoy riding with doesn’t win a town line sprint or a race. There’s a unique feeling to this toxic mixture of lactic acid and anger. Example here.

Pride suffering: Similar to the above description, but rooted more in digging deep not to embarrass yourself.

In shape suffering: Die, come back to life. Die, come back to life. Die, come back to life. And on and on it goes.  

No-chain suffering: The Holy Grail of bike racing. It’s a travesty for any rider that doesn’t get to experience this transcendent state at least once per season. Characterized by a niggling awareness that you are tired and quite uncomfortable, yet none of those sensations matter. A rider experiencing this kind of suffering can easily make other riders suffer much more. Climbing, descending, crosswinds, sprinting…it doesn’t matter. It’s like there’s no chain on the bike. It is said to be a beautiful thing.

Interval suffering: Have you ever wondered how long three minutes can feel? Welcome to eternity.

Trainer suffering: This is often a combination of interval suffering and early season suffering. To make it even more fun, it is often accompanied by extreme genital numbness.

Do you have other examples? Use the comment section and we’ll do our best to figure out a way to compile the list into something cohesive.


  1. Not Being Able To Ride Suffering: When all of the above sound wonderful.

  2. Pretending You're Not Suffering: When I was sixteen, I snuck out until 4:00am with my girlfriend and rode with my Dad's club at 7:00 the next morning. In the Pennsylvania hills. In jeans. On an actual ten-speed. Hi-ten, no less, probably 30#. I kept up surprisingly well. These days, when I am that miserable I go home. Then, I was trying to pretend that I had gotten home at my curfew and gotten enough rest.

  3. Two excellent additions. Thanks for chiming in!