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At first, Ciro Santilli was just cycling to work with an extremely shitty bike he bought on a second hand shop. He knew nothing about bicycles, and the seat was way, way too low, the seller should be prosecuted for selling that to him. Ciro later understood that this was even a woman's bicycle with a low top tube! That's what you get for being so cheap.
But then at some point he bought another slightly less cheap touring bicycle, but this time from a much more trustworthy source: a colleague who was leaving the company and moving out, and this one was actually reasonable. It was the right size to start with!!! And so at some point, out of boredom, Ciro started to adventure out of town on weekends to neighbouring villages, and it just felt so good.
Ciro had started by taking his laptop-computer on his backpack, and stopping at a cafe on some nearby town where he would do some coding over the weekends. Especially during winter, drinking tea with a cake as a break during bicycle ride was the best thing ever. In one place, there was even an electric heater that you could sit in front of. But at some point, those rides start being too short, and you start doing longer real rides without your computer. And since those take more time, you generally don't feel like staying on a far place for a very long time. So you end up creating the "real ride" category and "a small ride to get somewhere nice to code" category clearly split.
He had had the "cyclists high" version of "runner's high". A light euphoria in your head, or a pulsating feeling of pleasure in your legs and lower torso. This reminded Ciro of:
except that it is not as intense, and does not destroy your life.
Like other drugs:
  • it is addictive
  • you will have some bad trips, e.g. went the wrong way on a highway and are afraid you are going to die crushed by fast cars, got flat tire on 1 hour ride and have no repair kit, destination cafe is closed and you are hungry, wind got so strong you can barely ride, half an hour in you find out that it is way colder than what you expected.
    But for every such experience you survive, you learn something to reduce the chances it will happen, and it later feels great to completely master a situation you had suffered previously with.
    Ciro has also come to crave the need to go back to every bad trip spot, with better planning and circumstances, and make it feel amazing, to get the feeling that he has mastered the spot.
  • you will have hangover after a long amazing ride
  • the high become less intense the more you ride, and turns into something you have to do to just to feel normal. And that keeps you fit forever :)
Cycling just gives you an amazing sense of freedom! Ciro likes to imagine himself as a migratory duck when he is riding his bike on cold or wet days.
The prospect of being able to reach nice new places keeps the experience fresh for a very long time.
Ciro likes to decide location on a whim on the day prior. He checks the wind to try and ride parallel to it, and then let's his mind wonder, until an image comes up, some some nice place Ciro was to once. And so the next day, he goes in that general direction again.
Each time you try to find a new cool location, and sometimes you just stumble into amazing stuff without knowing about it. Ciro likes to keep open to new experiences. Keep your eyes open, and if something looks curious, just check it out! Talking to locals for tips is also a great way to find new stuff.
One thing that Ciro often feels is rather excited on the way out, and lightly afraid of going futher at each step because of the return. And during the return, there is a greater feeling of worry and resignation, as you are more tired, you've seen what you wanted to, and you just have to get yourself homehow, often going back through paths that you know better. This reminds Ciro of the ending of the film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), in which the sex obsessed couple plays a strangling sex game, and the man says that it hurts too much when she stops strangling him, and so she strangles him to death. She also cut his penis and carried it around in a bag afterwards, but that not relevant to the cycling analogy.
It is funny, but sometimes this gives Ciro the same feeling that he had as a child playing 2D exploration RPGs such Pokemon and Final Fantasy VI as you explore the wild: Ciro can often hear the FF VI overworld soundtrack, or imagine that a Charmeleon is hidden just around the corner of this new towns he's never been to before. Because in the places you live and have walked a million times, you know there is no magic. But in a new place that you're visiting for the first time? Anything is possible there.
The main difference from video games is that the real world is much much more detailed and diverse, and the freedom is much more real. Also you can't just walk into any house or field like in the games, and there are more empty or repetitive areas that can sometimes get boring since they weren't hand designed. And if you die on a car crash there are no continues.
Another type of game that comes to mind are survival games and roguelikes, where it feels amazing to learn things that actually mean the difference between life and death, and conquering the environment. But also permadeath.
It also gives Ciro the magic feeling of awe that he had as a child when walking around his beloved hometown of Santos, São Paulo, Brazil in the sunshine. And sometimes the feeling of excitement that he had as a child before getting gifts for Christmas. Ciro then once watched a YouTube video where ex-heroin addicts describe the feeling of taking heroin (orally, TODO can't find the video anymore, I think it was this guy) exactly like that: the anticipation of getting Christmas gifts, and he instantly understood.
Ciro also likes to pick random gravel from time to time. He believes that his style of route choice reflects Ciro Santilli's self perceived creative personality: Ciro likes to go where few other people go. And he only needs to go there once to be satisfied, not master and speedrun it afterwards.
Ciro avoids riding at night of course. But when it happens and you are prepared with the safety lights and the route knowledge, it makes for some of the most memorable rides of your life.
As you start cycling, you can feel the endorphins levels rise little by little, and your mind go deeper and deeper into slumber, getting close and closer to the ground, until you reach a point where you feel like you are part of the road. Trainspotting (1996)'s overdose scene comes to mind:
It is amazing how you feel much less cold and hunger when cycling, to the point of being dangerous: always carry some chocolate bars in case you hit the wall! This is especially true at the beginning of the addiction, but with increased drug tolerance and knowledge/awareness/preparation, this starts to feel more normal.
As a friend of Ciro once said: you start to become like a wolf, who knows every cyclable little road in a 30km radius around your home.
As of 2020, Ciro is at that "should I buy a more reasonable road bike" moment. Let's see how it goes. If he does, cycling trips with the bike on a plane are likely.
As a software engineer, trying to repair a mechanical system like his bike reminds Ciro very strongly of how the physical engineering is brutal. Millimetric changes can make huge differences, it is mind blowing! Good lesson to have in mind.
Another thought that often comes to Ciro's mind is that bicycles are not regular possessions because they break a lot. Rather, they must be seen as a kind of transportation tax that you have to pay to feel amazing riding them rather than feel crappy riding a bus or train.
One interesting feeling that Ciro gets from cycling is that it is an intermediate between walking and riding a car. Ciro felt this especially strongly when he lived near work, at a distance that you could either walk or cycle. When you walk, you can just see so much more of the surroundings, it is astonishing. When you cycle, you just go much faster, and you attention is much more towards the front, so you feel surroundings much less. On the other side, cycling allows you to feel different things. E.g. in wider open areas, there isn't much detail to see anyway, so you can better feel those areas on the faster speed of the bike. A similar feeling applies to how pedestrians feel like flies when you are on a bike, just like you must feel like a fly to car drivers. Ciro later learnt that a person of similar literary ability to his, Ernest Hemingway, had a famous related similar quote:
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.... Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
Although Ciro does not run because of his itchy legs issue, he finds it interest to contrast cycling with running, notably:
  • cycling has a much higher setup time or wearing appropriate clothes, unlocking your bike, and of course, bike maintenance
  • running allows you to go into many more small paths that are not accessible by bike, thus offering a different sense of freedom. You can't go as far however.
So maybe the ultimate sport would be to cycle to a good cross-country running location and then run over there?
Ciro's natural work-time rhythm as of 2020 in his shitty Kross bicycle (2017) was a 60/70km ride every 3 days. Or a 35/40km ride every 2 days. Or one longer 100/120km ride every 4 days. Less than 35km does not count as a ride. His average speed on anything above 70km and relatively flat is always 20km. Always. Ciro once read that that one hunt every three days was a common Paleolithic practice. Cycling is obviously a substitute for hunting. Perhaps the imminent danger of being crashed by a car at all times also has the positive side of playing the "danger" part of the hunt: Video "Why football is the most popular sport in the world by Desmond Morris"
Video 8. Running Vs. Cycling | Who Is Faster - GCN Or GTN? by GCN (2017) Source. Talks about the interesting Bingley Harriers & AC "harriers vs cyclists" race held annually in the UK, in which you can either run or cycle! The course attempts to balance rough uphill terrain where runners get an advantage, with less rough downhill where cyclists have an advantage.
Video 9. Final Fantasy VI (SNES) Overworld theme. Source. This is what cycling feels like!!! The song is known in the West as "Terra's Theme" and it was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who composed the entire game, and other entries of the Final Fantasy series.



  1. Ciro Santilli's sport practice
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