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What you’re doing, it’s not suffering

We drag ourselves up and down hills for a few hours, half a day, nudge into the night, emerge out the other side. We ride from one side of the map to the other, wiggle across the country, span a continent, circumnavigate the world. Up to and beyond where vegetation can’t survive, through deserts, tilt at mountains in the rain, we get lost in the lanes and maybe get a bit cold, our water-bottle’s gone slushy look. And we take pictures to show the world how hard it is and how it was a massive struggle of both mental and physical fortitude and there’s a gritty determined face in black and white there and we tell stories full of bluster and heroic pomposity and every time we retell the tale in the warmth of the pub the account gets exaggerated just that little bit more. The hill gets higher, the rain gets harder, the cold stings an inch closer to the bone, there’s an untimely puncture that lathers on another viscous layer of misery that may have been lifted from another tale and merged in the fudge of memory.

Well done us. Well done for enduring the hardship and the struggle. Kudos. Unfortunately none of this is hard. None of this is actually a struggle, not one single grimace into the wind, it’s just mucking about and showing off. Strut and swagger in a comfortable world, a little piece of hollow chest thumping that occupies a few hours in our safe and easy and mundane lives. You smashed it. Hear the ‘Boom’ echo emptily round the valley. Maybe there is a positive to be found in that at least we’re outside doing something, and digging deeper maybe playing to a tiny nugget inside some of us that’s hard-wired to step up to the edge of the comfort zone and annoying what we find with a stick for a few minutes. Then maybe it’s just to secure the validation and adoration of our peers and grasp the air for some long lost attention; look at me, I did A Thing. Lie back on the couch, make yourself comfortable and tell me about your relationship with your father.

That two or three hours a week that you’re pedaling uphill into a bit of drizzle isn’t hard, that little adventure you have at the weekend before you load your five thousand pound bike into the back of the Audi with the heated seats and driving home to your hot bath in a warm house to a lovely supper prepared by your doting partner that you wash down with a couple of artisan beers before settling to fall asleep in front of Netflix isn’t a struggle.

The cycling lexicon seems to have become infected with the canker of suffering. It’s almost become a religion to some. Ex Duris Gloria steers a little too close to Arbeit Macht Frei for comfort, and also too close to Godwin's Law to continue this analogy. We pedal the local loop and the globe in search of self-inflicted anguish, or just stay at home in the garage, sorry, Pain Cave, and inhale it through TV screens and displays on the bars, and then download it to other screens so everyone can see our sufferface. Look at me, sweaty, look how I have Put Myself Through It.

This cult of Suffering has to stop. The word has become diluted and is now almost meaningless. We’ve already lost Epic - once something reserved for crossing polar landmasses on foot because there was no alternative it’s now used to describe home insurance, and a 60 mile bike ride. None of what you do is suffering. It is the tedious rhetoric of a mediocre pastime.

All of this is self-imposed self-controlled hardship. We can start and stop this any time we like, unclip, have a cup of tea. Sometimes we even pay to do this. None of this is hard. There is a planned beginning and end to these voluntary sticky situations, no matter how horrible it gets there is always a finish, a way out. A bit of unpleasantness for a short while. Not hard. What is hard is dealing with adversity we have no control over.

Let’s start with an easily relatable example, something we’ve all been touched by somehow or other - ill health. Let’s just pluck Cancer out of the air as an example, that's hard, we’ll agree there’s a bit of suffering in there yeah? You might have had the misfortune to see or even experience that pain. Cancer can’t be made all better by a nice hot bath and a roast diner at the end of the day, that thing that makes the strenuous effort of your bike ride worthwhile, your suffering earned that. You can’t rub gravy on a tumor. Cancer keeps on going regardless, it doesn’t just hurt a little bit the next day to remind you it was there. It doesn’t always get better. The suffering often strives towards a conclusion.

How about filling your water-bottle, sorry, bidon, with dirty muddy stinking diseased water that might give you a runny bottom or even kill you? Water that’s a ten mile bike ride away. That would certainly ramp up the suffering on your ride wouldn’t it? Lots of people have to do that every day just to get by. Every day.

Just making it to the end of the day basically alive, that's what’s hard. An awful lot of people have to cope with that and they’re not on instagram showing their strained faces. They’re not socially linking and comparing their suffering to friends to see who won at today. #malaria. They are getting up and doing it the next day though, and the next day, and the next day with no end in sight, no recovery days. That's a real struggle. Riding a bike isn’t a hardship so let’s stop with the narrative of torment that’s telling us that it is.

Imagine coming back from a nice cycle to find your house burned down, your children killed and wife violated, and not by people from the rival cycle club, that’s what suffering is, the sort of thing that would suddenly make your ride really hard, and not because the bath’s broken.

If your bike ride started when you had to leave your town because it’s been bombed to shit and you may have lost some of your family in the rubble and you have to pedal through several countries to escape until you can ride no further to knock on the border of a country that doesn’t want you, then that would be considered a tough ride. That would be suffering, real deep down life suffering, a little different and worthy of the word to gritty and unshaven lifestyle suffering.

This so called suffering is entirely of our own volition, we can stop doing this any time we like, we can avoid the hills, we can not go race, we can go the flat and easy way. We can stay comfortably home. Some people don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to suffer or not, it is our privilege.

If we had real hardships, proper life-changing adversities thrust upon us; death, disease, illness, poverty, oppression, tyranny, victimisation, any of the vague horrors that canter randomly across the world, hardships that the victims have no say over, the sort of thing that would really piss on your weekend, would we like a sticker about it? How about a nattily designed t-shirt? Nicely done limited art print? Probably not.

Enough of this ritualised and revered hurt by choice, the ego-massage oil of faux hardship, enough of this Rule 5 posturing and preening rubbish. It is just riding a bicycle. When you have to deal with real suffering all day, every day, you don’t get a t-shirt. Until then STFU. Shut The Fuck Up.

 

Maybe there should be a t-shirt.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

75 comments

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danthomascyclist [347 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes
Quote:

This cult of Suffering has to stop

Quote:

Enough of this ritualised and revered hurt by choice, the ego-massage oil of faux hardship, enough of this Rule 5 posturing and preening rubbish. It is just riding a bicycle. When you have to deal with real suffering all day, every day, you don’t get a t-shirt. Until then STFU. Shut The Fuck Up.

 

Okay mate. Not sure who this tirade is aimed at. Taken from something you wrote in September where you refer to "suffering" on three seperate occassions.

http://road.cc/content/blog/204485-here-be-ye-dragons

Quote:

I have suffered up climbs, I have crossed mountain ranges, I have endured endurance racing, I have not wanted to ever get on a bike again and had to get on a bike again. I have been cold and wet and miserable and had no option but to keep going. I have pushed myself. There have been tears and swearing. A fat back-catalogue of “is it as bad as…?” to rely on.

 

Maybe you can lead by example?

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VecchioJo [410 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

thanks for ignoring the posture free prose and entirely positive outcome of that article and just focusing on three words, but if we're going to selectively quote to make a point then i'll  counter with

"it’s not Epic, it’s just a long way"

"There’s no time for hand-wringing and worry, we just have to clip in and get on with it really"

"It’s actually been surprisingly easy, well not easy, but without any fuss."

"idiotic endeavour"

 

 

is that ok?

 

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

It's just angst. Let him get it out of his system. 

 

You hear this come up time to time, but it's a classic case of myopia. See those guys in their Audis, Beemers etc at the weekends - well they're entitled to any fun they can get in life, and if that's talking about their hard rides and suffering, so be it.

 

Because a lot of them are trapped in a different cycle, a suffocating class struggle, a stressful shitty life with no obvious escape route. Just head down and get on with th rat race in a job full of people they don't like but will have to spend the next 30 years with. Maybe will grind 60 hour weeks. Some 70. I know in finance that's the case. They do the hours 'voluntarily' too, because if they don't, they'll be out the door. 

 

They have an attitude because they have to. Let your guard down for a moment and you'll be shit all over. I treat the Cayman guys the same as I treat the guys getting off the bus. Everyone has different problems, and you can't spot them by looking at their car. 

 

You think people don't suffer because they don't have cancer or are born in poverty? Well I'm glad you think like that, because it means you've had the charmed life. I know a city lawyer who killed himself some years ago because it was all falling apart. Mental issues are the new epidemic in the UK. But sure, no-one suffers and everyone should just STFU about the kicks they get at the weekend, especially if you drive an Audi. Yeah Audi drivers, you no know nothing. 

 

Probably feel a bit childish when you look back on this, and wouldn't blame you for deleting it. All it says is - angst and a lack of life experience. 

 

When I was younger I used to work in youth justice in Lewisham. Pure hell. The lives people live, you got no idea. Wish I could go back and just give them all a bike and tell them to ride the hell out of it and forget all the other advice we were trained to give them. Would be a hell of a lot more effective.

 

Until of course they met you, shitting on them for talking about their hard rides eh. 

 

But of course, you're not talking about other people. You and I both know that.

 

You're talking about yourself. Again, a classic.

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Threeh [35 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
unconstituted wrote:

You think people don't suffer because they don't have cancer or are born in poverty? Well I'm glad you think like that, because it means you've had the charmed life. I know a city lawyer who killed himself some years ago because it was all falling apart. Mental issues are the new epidemic in the UK. But sure, no-one suffers and everyone should just STFU about the kicks they get at the weekend, especially if you drive an Audi. Yeah Audi drivers, you no know nothing. 

 

I don't think he said that, he's talking about perspective...

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes
Threeh wrote:
unconstituted wrote:

You think people don't suffer because they don't have cancer or are born in poverty? Well I'm glad you think like that, because it means you've had the charmed life. I know a city lawyer who killed himself some years ago because it was all falling apart. Mental issues are the new epidemic in the UK. But sure, no-one suffers and everyone should just STFU about the kicks they get at the weekend, especially if you drive an Audi. Yeah Audi drivers, you no know nothing. 

 

I don't think he said that, he's talking about perspective...

 

Yes, he is talking about perspective, but lacks it utterly.

He wants people to be quiet about their suffering on the bike because some people have cancer? That's the crux of it. 

It's angsty childishness. We've all been guilty of talking some bilge, and this should have been a crowd winnter - shit on Audi drivers, social media users, people who talking incessantly about their run or ride, whatever. Had the foundations of a good old witch-hunt. Just a bit unfortunate a couple of guys got in here first and put the dampeners on. 

Jo, honestly. Bet you're not a bad guy, but just delete this IMO.  Personally I won't post more on it, even though I've got a lot of material I could throw at it, but what's the point. I post some stupid shit too and let myself down here and elsewhere. We all do. 

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Edgeley [511 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

I am not sure how not cycling or talking about cycling or talking about suffering when cycling is going to help anyone in a warzone or with cancer or drinking dirty water.

And I am not at all sure how using the same word for different types of suffering in any way belittles involuntary suffering, nor that it prevents us from appreciating how lucky we are.

 

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mylesrants [390 posts] 1 year ago
10 likes

this is phucking awsome. everyone wants to be in black and white at the top of a mountain with the focus ring nailed hard on the single bit if sweat. it isnt hard, it is riding a bike. all the shite has to stop. 

ride you bike, dont look for that pro contract cause your lung capacity is in direct correlation to your ego.

just ride your bike. get on with it and stop making a fuss.

 

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barbarus [502 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

It actually made my day to read something different. Perspective is easily lost and one can easily disagree with the point made yet still be thankful for being provoked to think for a change!

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Tintow [44 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Nurse, quick, one of the patients is out of bed again...

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davel [1969 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
mylesrants wrote:

this is phucking awsome. everyone wants to be in black and white at the top of a mountain with the focus ring nailed hard on the single bit if sweat. it isnt hard, it is riding a bike. all the shite has to stop. 

ride you bike, dont look for that pro contract cause your lung capacity is in direct correlation to your ego.

just ride your bike. get on with it and stop making a fuss.

 

But who is all this aimed at, here? This site, comments and forum has very few 'look at me - I am awesome!' types. It's already pretty 'just ride-ey'. Who on this site 'makes a fuss'?

I'm genuinely missing the point. Someone blogs about doing the TCR and then posts this turmoil... Is this a diary? Who is the audience? Was this meant for Facebook? Is this only to be understood by people who spend 50% of their time uncomfortable in their own skin?

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vonhelmet [847 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Whatever.

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fukawitribe [2041 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

[deleted]

In fact, fuck it. Get over the word Jo.

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MrB123 [78 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Not a fan of the Sufferfest then?

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andymatthews [17 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Well said that man. We're so spoilt we have no idea. Off to speak to my Grandmother for a slice of reality again. BRB. 

 

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Leviathan [2865 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I don't have an Audi. I don't have a five grand bike. My bike cost one grand, or one months wages, or two months disposable income. I don't have a bath, just a shower in my flat. I am not banging on about my achievements, I don't write a cycling blog for a living. If you are tired of your job, find another one. Or are you just trying to stir up some clicks. So yeah, don't be telling me and other readers to shut the fuck up when you are talking about yourself. You whine harder than Donald Trump.

Seriously, I am very disappointed that Road.cc editors let you post this self flagellating drivel. I won't be reading any more of your content.

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Mungecrundle [866 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

Riding a bicycle just makes me happy.

I'm so shallow.

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Sniffer [445 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Jo, I like your writing.

I know it is not an internet thing, but sometimes I wish people would say nothing if they don't have something pleasant to say.

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Sniffer [445 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Double post.

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fukawitribe [2041 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
Sniffer wrote:

Jo, I like your writing.

I know it is not an internet thing, but sometimes I wish people would say nothing if they don't have something pleasant to say.

I'm of course now wondering if you're referring to some of the comments here or the article...

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Ad Hynkel [162 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Yeah, I like Jo's writing too. Keep it coming. More power to your pen.

"All it says is - angst and a lack of life experience."...really? Is that all it says to you? Go create some art that man. Someone might get something from it. Some might not. But the world will be a slightly better place for it, I can assure you.

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ajmarshal1 [417 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

He's right though. It's just riding a bike.  Pedalling a bicycle.  Doing some exercise.  The comments are frankly playing right into the article.  People taking ait all far too seriously.

 

Saying he let himself down with the article...... Christ fellas, grow up.

 

unconstituted wrote:

 

Probably feel a bit childish when you look back on this, and wouldn't blame you for deleting it. All it says is - angst and a lack of life experience. 

 

^ That is hilariously lacking in self awareness and dripping with point missing, patronising conceit.  

 

 

 

 

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barbarus [502 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Anyway what's so bad about angst and self-flagilation?

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vonhelmet [847 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
ajmarshal1 wrote:

He's right though. It's just riding a bike.  Pedalling a bicycle.  Doing some exercise

The part where it's stupid is the part where he moans that just because it isn't the hardest thing in the world means it isn't hard. No, riding a bike is not as hard as having cancer or not having access to fresh water or having your house burned down or your children murdered but FFS did anyone even make that claim? And hey, it's not as hard as those things, but it's still hard because fighting gravity and air resistance is difficult.

Its just a weird thing to moan about.

Suffer means "Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant)". I'd say that could describe a hard ride without it being an unreasonable stretch.

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dottigirl [808 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

To flip it around...

If I don't ride, I suffer.

I have joint problems and chronic pain. If I'm in a bad way, a thirty-mile ride is enough to activate the reset button on my pain receptors. Sixty miles and I'm walking like nothing's wrong, apart from a bit of fatigue. The effects will usually last a few days - better than dosing up with morphine.

I don't want to suffer, so I ride. 

However, I don't want to suffer when I ride, so I prepare in advance. I wear whatever I think will get me through the ride with the least suffering. I'll choose a day and times which'll be easiest to cope with. I'll choose a route which'll minimise suffering or balance it with reward, and to ride with people who'll keep me going, to tick over that magical mark. 

(I'm lucky that I've found something which'll give me some relief. Others with chronic pain aren't that lucky. I still battle the love-hate relationship with my bike - I love it most of the time, but getting up, out of bed, getting ready, hearing the wind and rain outside and still knowing that if I want to feel better for the next few days, I have to get on that bike?)

 

When people talk about how much they suffered in terms of how cold they were, or how wet they got, most of the time, it's because they didn't prepare for it. And as an experienced cyclist, if you didn't prepare for it, you're a fool. If you boast of how much you suffered, you're just proving how much of a fool you are.

I cannot believe that constantly making yourself suffer on a bike will endear you to cycling in the long term. If you have the choice, why go out at 9am when it's icy, when you could go out at 11am and not risk broken bones or bike? Choose the quieter roads if you don't like traffic. And wear and ride whatever will be most comfortable.

Scrape as much joy out of being on a bike as you can. You'll be far more likely to keep cycling than if you just have a suitcase of unpleasant experiences. (IMO, of course.)

 

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davel [1969 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
vonhelmet wrote:
ajmarshal1 wrote:

He's right though. It's just riding a bike.  Pedalling a bicycle.  Doing some exercise

The part where it's stupid is the part where he moans that just because it isn't the hardest thing in the world means it isn't hard. No, riding a bike is not as hard as having cancer or not having access to fresh water or having your house burned down or your children murdered but FFS did anyone even make that claim? And hey, it's not as hard as those things, but it's still hard because fighting gravity and air resistance is difficult.

Its just a weird thing to moan about.

Suffer means "Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant)". I'd say that could describe a hard ride without it being an unreasonable stretch.

Exactly - nobody's claimed it's that binary, so to write an article seemingly complaining that people have is missing that point.

There's one bloke in the club I'm in has seen enough misfortune for several lifetimes. I mean genuine pack-it-all-in shit. Turns out every Sunday ride. Is he allowed to say a climb hurt him? Does he qualify to post pictures of him at the top of Mont Ventoux or of his Pain Cave?

What are you doing the TCR for, you silly tourist?

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tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
ajmarshal1 wrote:

He's right though. It's just riding a bike.  Pedalling a bicycle.  Doing some exercise.  The comments are frankly playing right into the article.  People taking ait all far too seriously.

 

Saying he let himself down with the article...... Christ fellas, grow up.

 

unconstituted wrote:

 

Probably feel a bit childish when you look back on this, and wouldn't blame you for deleting it. All it says is - angst and a lack of life experience. 

 

^ That is hilariously lacking in self awareness and dripping with point missing, patronising conceit.  

 

 

 

 

 

Posts trite comment 'it's just riding a bike'.

Accuses someone else of 'point missing and lack of self-awareness'.

Try reading the thread's points. You'll find Jo's rant has been picked apart for sound reasons, to put succinctly, as you seem to have missed them: no-one considers suffering on the bike as synonymous with disease, (they're talking about type 2 fun - similar language), there are degrees of suffering, he's unaware of the suffering and problems everyone goes through in life (including Audi drivers) and as such shouldn't presume or imply that people who're engaged in the 'cult of suffering' haven't endured real hardships themselves.   

 

Jo made points at the end such as that if you really suffered you wouldn't want a T-shirt from it. That's plainly ignorant.  People are proud of their suffering and do buy T-Shirts celebrating having survived cancer, pregnancy etc. It's human nature to take suffering and deal with it with a dash of humour and pride. That's at all scales, whether it's self-inflicted or otherwise. 

 

Who is Jo to tell a cancer survivor to STFU about their suffering on the bike? Because I know a couple of older boys here in Edinburgh who love the big mult-day rides and banging on about how tough it was. 

The only person I can think of on road.cc who posts anything 'frankly that plays right into' Jo's stereotype is ironically himself, as already mentioned, (athough he umms and ahhs about it). Which is why this article ultimately is about himself, and an attempt to one up other riders with wafer-thin sanctimony. 

Anyway, thanks for the snipe and a chance to go over the material again. 

A sincere post would have been on why people engage in the cult of suffering. There was a curious point made to me by an older rider recently that the stronger riders have the worse problems off the bike. 

 

 

 

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thereandbackagain [173 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

#outsideisfree

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arfa [855 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Gosh. Why so serious folks ? Everyone has different reasons for riding a bike and hopefully there's some common ground. Of course it's not real suffering riding a bike and people who go on about it are generally about as interesting as the dullard in the "19th hole" recounting a round of golf for all and sundry.
Sure, by pushing ourselves we can learn more about our perceived limits but those are lessons for ourselves right, not everyone else in hearing distance?
Anyway, enjoy your rides

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Sniffer [445 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
fukawitribe wrote:
Sniffer wrote:

Jo, I like your writing.

I know it is not an internet thing, but sometimes I wish people would say nothing if they don't have something pleasant to say.

I'm of course now wondering if you're referring to some of the comments here or the article...

I was referring to the comments.  Sometimes I like a blog, sometimes I don't.  When I don't I just generally fail to get to the end and read something else.  Which seems a more balanced response than some around here.

Maybe if I found it offensive I would take a different view, but I didn't in this case.  Maybe others do. 

Shit I am doing balance again.  I'll never get the hang of the forum comments thing.

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davel [1969 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Sniffer wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
Sniffer wrote:

Jo, I like your writing.

I know it is not an internet thing, but sometimes I wish people would say nothing if they don't have something pleasant to say.

I'm of course now wondering if you're referring to some of the comments here or the article...

I was referring to the comments.  Sometimes I like a blog, sometimes I don't.  When I don't I just generally fail to get to the end and read something else.  Which seems a more balanced response than some around here.

Maybe if I found it offensive I would take a different view, but I didn't in this case.  Maybe others do. 

Shit I am doing balance again.  I'll never get the hang of the forum comments thing.

I hope Jo carries on with this stuff. I disagree with or don't get a lot of it, but it's thought- and debate-provoking.

When a contributor posts something apparently (and I may have misunderstood) railing against general fakeness, the rules, 'suffering' etc, and it contains flammables like 'whatever you're doing, it isn't suffering' and 'STFU', there are going to be some strong reactions. It's surely predictable that people will
1 disagree;
2 think he's a hypocrite for posting at least twice about merely signing up for the TCR and then having a pop at the 'look at me/touristy' nature of cycling;
3 have had enough of his internal, existential ramblings;
4 don't understand that 'it's Jo, it's what he does' or that it's tongue-in-cheek, because we don't know him;
5 all of the above and others.

I'm in camps 1 and 2. I might be 4, but I wouldn't know. But I like the perspective and debate it gets going.

Would you sooner have it provoke merely gentle clapping?

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