Thierry Crouzet

Automatic translation from french

It all starts with Born to run. In this luminous story, Christopher McDougall tells the story of ultramarathons through his experience and that of iconic champions, including the legendary Caballo Blanco, gradually going back in time to study the art of running hominids first, leading to the conclusion that we were born to run and that we missed forgetting this ancestral art. This book revealed to me my own possibilities as a runner, but he also put an idea in my head: we were born to pedal just as much as to run.

This is of course a paradox since the bicycles were invented only in the 19th century, the first bikes worthy of the name appearing only in the 1890s, thanks to the removable tires and inner tubes. . But this paradox is easy to lift. Biological evolution has made us enduring runners, able to hunt game for hours on end until he dies of exhaustion. To achieve this feat, we have a unique ability: we cool with perspiration while other terrestrial mammals cool by ventilation, which implies a rapid breathlessness. If you push them to run non-stop, they end up succumbing to hyperthermia.

Our ability to exercise can be used for walking, running, cycling and all endurance sports that involves a trip: skiing, swimming, rowing ... In a way, we were born for these sports except that the race and the bike bring us to the same grounds, over long distances and for long periods, regardless of the season and location. Wherever we can run, we can pedal. Of course, biological evolution has not optimized our morphology for cycling. On the other hand, our engineers knew how to adapt the bikes to him.

Biologists talk about exaptation, a retrospective adaptation. For example, some dinosaurs had feathers to warm up, which later proved useful for flying. Another example: when the first hominids straightened up, their larynx came down, which then gave us the opportunity to speak. Without much exaggeration, we can conclude that we were born for cycling. Evolution has made us runners, and suddenly, just over a hundred years ago, we discovered that all this selection work also made us cyclists. In fact, when we run or walk, we often experience the same emotions, even if we do not work the same muscles, this psychological similarity being sensitive when we lengthen distances. The art of racing and biking have more than one kinship, they draw on the same ancestral roots.

The more I think about this relationship, the better I understand why on bike I often feel in communion with nature as much as with my fellow passengers. When we walk, we travel through the African savannahs in pursuit of game. Something similar is being played out, both physically and psychologically. Our senses are tense. Our thoughts are silent. We are not far from the emptiness / fullness of the satori. We feel ourselves living with a tenfold strength.

The four dimensions of cycling

And then, in August 2018, I moved to Florida, without being able to find this state of grace. Obviously, the bike is a fragile art, which requires a subtle balance to reach the sublime. It seems to me that all my bike rides can be evaluated in four dimensions.

Sporting dimension The bike is of course a sport, which requires a training and a lifestyle, all associated with the taste of the effort.

Dimension pilotage Cycling and racing, you have to find your way, optimize your trajectories, control the glide when you go down singles or mountain roads. Cycling is linked to geography, cartography, topography.

Social dimension You can ride a bike alone, but nothing beats riding in a group. We can talk by pedaling. In fact, we talk a lot. The bike is conducive to the exchange, especially since it involves refueling often. He creates the link. When we approach satori together, it's like making love. I am not exaggerating.

Aesthetic dimension When we pedal, we feel the world, we breathe it, we see it, we explore it. The territory is transformed into a playground, also a museum, with lights always changing throughout the day and the year. Cycling brings us closer to nature, also to the city despite its violence for both wheels.

These four axes became obvious to me when I arrived in Florida. I started cycling there alone, taking the bike paths around my home. I only succeeded in working on the sporting dimension, and still without being able to surpass myself. Then I met other cyclists and I gained some points on the social dimension and also aesthetic, because I was initiated to the levees, dikes that delineate the Everglades. I even found a park where I could work driving. Gradually, I discovered that all my outings could be located on my four-dimensional chart.

Les 4 dimensions du vélo
Les 4 dimensions du vélo

Sports outings, with zero steering, collective and aesthetic. Family outings, with zero in sports and driving, but a good score in collective and aesthetic. Magic outings, with a maximum note on all the axes, when we explore in new territories band. I then understood that cycling was becoming an art only at this moment, when we push the four dimensions to their extreme.

I also understood why I was not a happy cyclist in Florida. On the sports side, I miss the climbs. Side driving, I am confined to some roads and roads rather boring. Collectively, my circle of friends is still tiny and does not have a rich history of links. On the aesthetic side, the urban courses are dangerous and monotonous, just as monotonous as the levees, infinite straight lines between equally endless expanses of marshes, sometimes with beautiful lights, it is true, but I have no desire to limit myself to these perspectives, here or elsewhere, I want to turn cycling into art.

So I am embarking on a personal as well as a collective quest, because I hope to take my friends with me, present and future. For starters, it seems important to me to talk about which cyclist I am.

How I became a cyclist

I have always cycled, or almost. For my eleven years, my father bought me a titanium racing bike and I started going out with the local club, about forty kilometers on Wednesday, a hundred on Sunday, often with more than a thousand meters. altitude. Then I grew up, this bike became too small. At fourteen, my dad bought me an enduro bike and I sold my bike. My high-level cycling career was already over.

I waited more than ten years before buying my first mountain bike, it was in 1988. I then made the habit of making one or two outings a month, question of keeping me in shape. I also played tennis a bit, hiked in the mountains and skiing. I continued on this erratic rhythm for more than twenty years. When I was in my forties, and having spent most of my time writing behind my computer, I started to have back pain and therefore went regularly to Olivier, my osteopath and soon a friend.

Olivier is also a marathoner and cyclist. He kept telling me to do more sports. I did not listen to him, convinced that I had better things to do in front of my computer. In 2011, at the age of 47, I made my burn-out, whose story became a book, and I had no choice but to take control of myself. I started running. The first few times, I was a rag. Then, little by little, I extended the distances and increased the pace, but I was unable to cross the average 10 km / h. I had to run with friends to go faster, longer.

To satisfy my chronic hypochondria, I performed an exercise test, the doctor declaring that I had an extraordinary respiratory capacity and a no less exceptional capacity for recovery. That motivated me to run more, maybe too much, to the injury at an urban half-marathon. Nothing very serious, a right knee wiper syndrome, a recurring inflammation requiring long periods of rest. As I could not stand still, I got back on the bike. At 53, I bought a 29-inch mountain bike.

Olivier trained me with his friends. Despite my good physical condition, the first outings were painful. I discovered that running and cycling did not work the same muscles and that the two sports were ultimately complementary. I started riding more and more, at least three times a week, while continuing to run from time to time. I had gone from the camp of idlers to that of sportsmen. For thirty years, I had not been in such good shape.

My new cycling buddies made me discover miles and miles of roads I did not know, but after a year, I felt like I was going around in circles. So I started to spend hours on Google Earth and draw courses with my GPS, opening new tracks, connecting new playgrounds. At that moment, the aesthetic dimension of the bike was imposed on me.

I thought back to Chant des pistes, the cult tale of travel where Bruce Chatwin tells us about the ways in which Australian aboriginals memorize routes through their territory with songs. With GPS, we reinvent an age-old tradition. It is no longer about moving to reach a place, but moving an art, an art of the loop, weaving, mapping. The work is the path that we can share. The work is the map. Technically, it takes the form of a GPX file.

L'art du GPX
L'art du GPX

Since then, I do not just ride a bike just to play sports, but to travel the territory, to take me to points of view, nice tracks, fun paths. I play where others seek only the performance, striving to chain as many as possible in the least possible distance, as to make the outputs and they end as soon as possible. When I see them repeat the same curls day after day, I have the impression that they keep reading the same book.

To trace courses is to write on the map, to cover it with ample arabesques or on the contrary tightened. GPSs raise this art to a height once impossible. An art of the constraint, because it is to avoid the roads with too many cars, also to avoid to pass twice at the same places during the same exit.

Since I arrived in Florida, I have been eyeing bikepacking, a self-sufficient bike ride, as it opens up the possibility of much larger loops, with the prospect of staying away from major roads, and even asphalt, during days and days. That's also why I decided to publish my thoughts. To share my dreams of hiking, my dreams of course. For my return to France in June 2019, I already have a project: connect the Pyrenees to the Alps by paths. I also want a getaway in the Dolomites.